David's diary: December 2004
Finally getting the opportunity to "brain-dump" my plans for the next proper version of this software, which will of course be heavily based around the webserver I've been developing for the past couple of months and that I would now like to take to a new level. And Gary says he wants to see the end result of my efforts, which is distinctly encouraging. After all, if the company wants to find its way far into the new year, they'll have to go for it, though convincing them of that fact may not be an entirely straightforward process.
Looking forward to a nice Chinese this evening though, all being well, since we're going out with our friend Graham to the recently-opened Bon East. We had a take-away from there a few weeks back which was great, so our expectations are quite high... Trying to keep off the nibbles in order to save my appetite, though I did have a mini muffin when I arrived this morning. Katy says that was worth ten minutes of walking, so just as well I've just been out for forty. Not that I plan on making up for that with three more muffins, by the way.
Our expectations of the Bon East may have been high, but they clearly weren't high enough. Our meal last night was absolutely stunning. A little expensive, but well worth the asking price considering what we were served, in terms of both quantity and quality. In fact the quantity was just right, whilst the quality was pretty much out of this world. I'm sure there are better Chinese restaurants, but I've yet to find one. One for special occasions, I would say, but we will certainly be seeking such occasions to justify going back - soon!
Bit of a crazy day at work, and my head is gently spinning now. Thank goodness the weekend is almost here, and under the circumstances - and sad as it may be that things never came together properly - I am a little relieved tonight's Christmas party got shelved and that we have nothing else particularly planned. Tomorrow will be a little more busy, especially for Katy, but it should be fun and worthwhile too. Sunday's looking quieter, with no news about the expected visit by some of the Milton Keynes lot, but we're going up there soon anyway, so it won't be a disappointment if nothing happens in that regard this weekend.
Quiet morning here, with Katy busy up at the centre helping prepare for this afternoon's old people's party. I'll be up there later to help with the event itself, but we agreed I could usefully get on with a few more bits of Gareth's website while she was out - as well as get the Saturday paper of course! So I've managed to publish a simple page for the new girlie evangelistic group tbc - yes, that does indeed stand for "to be confirmed", and like thebandwithnoname who went before them, it is officially intended to change but almost certainly won't, despite inevitably clashing with someone else somewhere in the world. Not my problem though; don't shoot the messenger... Sound quite good though - even if they are aimed towards a slightly different demographic bracket!
The old people's party was really lovely as expected, though jolly hard work needless to say - plying the guests with tea and cakes is one thing, engaging in conversation when each of them will tell you the same thing half a dozen times over is something else... Though when it was Olive telling me half a dozen times what a lovely wife I've got, and telling Katy similar things about me, I'm hardly going to complain. The organisers were glad of my meagre help, being a few people down for various reasons, my main tasks being providing background and other music at key points, and donning bobble hat and scarf - even though it was roasting hot in the hall - to augment the carol singing. Katy had some transporting of guests to do, so I stayed around to help with the packing up, but we were both pretty shattered by the time it was all over, and were quite grateful for a nice quiet evening and a bit of crossword solving.
Sunday was a hectic day, going with Phil and Tim for a buffet curry at the Gulshan of all places, buying a Christmas tree, and being sociable with Katy's aunt and uncle who were visiting Katy's parents. The Gulshan weren't quite up to their usual standard, with one large booked party leaving very swiftly when they blatantly ran out of meat dishes, though they eventually cooked up more and delivered it straight to our table, salvaging a modest tip from us! Neither of us had bothered with Christmas trees for quite a long time, but we're hoping to invite a few neighbours round for drinks at some point, so we thought we should be a little festive, and bought a rather nice - and not too enormous - artificial tree and some decorations from the garden centre, spending much of the evening setting it all up. It was nice to see Ruth and Tony also; I'd met Ruth properly before, but Tony only fleetingly at the wedding, so it was good to catch up and have a bite of tea with them and Katy's parents, even if we were both still somewhat stuffed after our extra meat supplies at lunchtime!
But now back at work of course, and nothing much to report it has to be said.
Oh, a small hint for the bus driver that held us all up this morning:
Those groups of three coloured lights on poles - you know, where the top one is red, the middle one amber (often yellow) and the bottom one green - do actually apply to you. I particularly refer to the first of those three colours, that is to say, red. Red in this context - as indeed in many motoring and highway contexts - means "stop". It does not mean "go". Had you been able to observe this small distinction, I am sure you would also have been able to observe the large coach bearing down on you through the stretch of roadworks in question. Alas you were quite unable to do either, and this, frankly, caused a problem.
Quite often, Katy and I will go for an evening stroll around the block, perhaps up through the cemetery - not for morbid interest but because it affords good views over the town and surroundings, and we can gaze upwards at the wonders of the universe without interference from as many streetlights - but not generally too far. A year ago, quite apart from my not living down here, that would have been unthinkable with Katy's illness at its worst, rendering her unable to do anything much of an active nature without needing hours of rest to recover. So last night it was really pretty good that when I suggested we might wander down into town to have a look at the Christmas lights, and come back the long way around, Katy not only agreed without question, but managed it just as well as I did. She's still not working full hours, and is negotiating how to take things ahead in that regard in the new year, but things are definitely looking up!
As for the Christmas lights, well I can't say we were wildly impressed. Hard to quite put our finger on what was wrong with them, but they just didn't quite manage to convey a seasonal warmth and festiveness. But it was nice to see them, even if we'll be quite happy to content ourselves with our own tree now.
A possible silver lining is that Workthing were recently acquired by HotGroup, so there is quite a good chance they will be assimilated in the near future, which would make things a couple of orders of magnitude easier, though Gary is very keen to get it up and running in its current form. Why? Because there's money resting on it, a deal we can close. For just over a thousand quid, that is... And the sales girl dealing with it is on second interview and looking very unlikely to show her face here again, so I can't help but sense that in every possible respect I am completely wasting my time on a hiding for nothing.
Yes, I'm naming names, and giving more of a modest insight into what we're up to here than I have previously let on, at least without beating about the bush. I don't entirely hate my job, but I hate a lot of what we have to do, and the lack of resource and expertise available to do so. It's just such a complete waste of time, and there is no inclination from the management to do anything apart from just muddle along with our heads barely above water, when we could be doing really well. Chasing piffling thousand pound deals when we could be helping ensure that the company is still afloat in six months' time is plain madness. Unless, of course, the plan is that by then we won't exist any more, and that they would rather cover as many of their inevitable losses as possible in the immediate term, without investing anything at all in the future. Yes, that would explain a lot of things now I think it through. Maybe they're not as stupid as they appear at first sight, but a little honesty would be good.
But why not then fold it now and save the wage bill and rent? That would link in to what I was told about a few weeks back, that we're trying to be bought out; indeed that was the reason we moved offices. That would be worth a little bit of a gamble on the off-chance someone else will pay off our debts, I guess.
And why don't they listen? I suspect all of that was planned before I joined.
Mere conspiracy theory? I hope so. We will see.
Richard overhead one of the sales team talking to someone about Workthing's assimilation into HotGroup, and it sounds like it's happening in February. Of course, he may have misheard, so that may not be accurate. No-one's actually thought to tell me directly. After all, it's not as if it actually affects me in the slightest, and it's not as if I'm the one who asked in the first place. The most important thing to a salesperson is their sale, and their commission. Communication with anyone on any other matter is of secondary importance. I was going to say the most important thing was their customer, but that's not true. They can talk sweetly and make them sound like king, but the customer only means sales and commission. If they really cared about their customers, they would communicate with everyone better, and sell them a better product.
Last week, one of the sales team left. He gave us all Christmas cards, walked around and shook everyone's hand, before disappearing into the sunset without further comment. He was one of the good guys. There aren't many of them left.
And one of the others is surely on his way out too. His wife also used to work here - albeit in the part of the company that's propping up our loss-making bit - but apparently walked out a few days ago. He's openly expressed how fed up he is, so it really would be quite unthinkable that he stays very much longer.
Still working on getting this Workthing thing to work today, and really not quite sure what I need to do next. At least it's keeping my mind off further trouble down't pit, leaving me even less certain of anything round much here.
I came home ill in the end. My skin was sore yesterday, which is often a sign I'm going down with something. By three o'clock my sore throat, streaming and whatnot meant I simply couldn't carry on. I want to be better for the weekend.
Feeling a little better this morning, having slept surprisingly well last night considering, but decided work could manage without me for one day in over six months. So keeping warm, fed, watered and well out of the way of anyone else, whilst taking things nice and easy. Probably going to design an invitation to our forthcoming drinks and nibbles evening, but I emphatically do not intend to spend more than a tiny fraction of the day in front of this wretched computer.
Kept in the warm for most of yesterday, but we decided a few minutes' fresh air after tea would do no harm, though I wrapped up warm nonetheless. We had cell round later in the evening, since we had already volunteered to host, and that was "just" a time of sharing, praying and so on, which worked out just fine. I slept reasonably well last night and didn't feel too grim on waking up - well, no more grim than usual - so made my way in to work, and here I am... Not too much of a disaster area upon my return, though I did have to field a phone call yesterday when the servers went wrong for customers - but that turned out to have been due to some DNS configuration issues after we moved the machines last weekend; just rather a sad indictment that no-one had noticed for four days.
Coping OK thus far, and pretty sure I'd just be getting bored if I was stuck at home again anyway. With neither of us anywhere near 100% at the moment, whether we'll get along to this evening's Acoustic Fridays "Big Xmas Bash" remains to be seen, but it's still our intention! We've just had our usually-overrunning end-of-day meeting, just before lunch, so I should make a fairly prompt getaway if nothing else. Busy though the weekend may be, I've rarely needed one more.
Now five minutes to go, after a pretty productive day after all that. Not that much progress is obviously visible, but I've hardly been slacking, and this Workthing portal is basically working now. Time to start shutting things down.
Sitting here at work, having finished my lunch and listening to a nice bit of Apollo 440 on my shiny new headphones. I could go for a walk, but I'm really still quite under the weather, and I'd frankly rather keep in the warm...
It's Tuesday, which means I must have had the day off yesterday. Ah yes, of course, I was up in Milton Keynes. Been a pretty busy weekend, actually, with a largely unsuccessful (apart from getting my headphones) and rather stressful shop in Farnham on Saturday, then the last two days in fact in Milton Keynes.
It was the first time we'd been up to Milton Keynes since the wedding - that's almost six months ago now - which is rather longer than we'd intended to leave things, but perhaps the new year will bring better health all round and we'll be up for a few more trips like that. When one moves, it's not possible to keep in touch with everyone - and it's not always helpful to try, frankly - but there are a few people we feel quite committed to, and we thought we could kill two birds with one stone by doing the bulk of our Christmas shopping too, so...
After a flurry of planning the evening before, we drove up in time to collect Sarah, Claire and Rachael to go to church on Sunday morning, where it was good to catch up with at least a small handful of folk even if it was a little thin on the ground. We took them out for a light lunch at The Lakeside afterwards and had a walk by the canal and a natter, before we needed a bit of a rest and decided it would be a good opportunity to check in at our hotel. The hotel was rather at the other end of town, but being close to the A5 it was still fairly accessible, and it was pretty comfortable for a budget one. In the evening we'd been invited for dinner with Jam, Simon and family (Simon was my Best Man, remember?) which worked out really nicely, being able to spend some quality time with them for about the only time we could remember outside a party/event context, and we were able to enjoy not too late a night back at the hotel!
Monday daytime we had reserved entirely for Christmas shopping, and we needed every bit of time we could muster for that in the end. It seemed that after a couple of hours we'd got most of what we needed, but it was of course the last few bits and pieces that really took the time, and by the time we'd finished we really had had quite enough, and I was starting to feel as I was on Saturday, which wasn't too good. Thankfully I still had the energy to drive us to my parents' house - about an hour and a quarter's journey - and we were well fed there with hot and healthy food and had most of the evening to catch up with them before Katy took on the final leg of the journey home. Back home in fair time, but still pretty late by the time we got to bed, and I for one didn't get the good night's sleep I needed, getting up very unwillingly this morning it has to be said. Reserving judgement on whether it was worth coming to work...
Music's keeping my sanity; playing now is Mr Norman Cook. Struggling with work a bit, with not much of a clue why some of my servers failed while I was away - though I have to say I suspect accidental foul play (i.e. my colleagues broke it through pretending to know what they were doing) and have implemented better logging. Come to the end of the line on Workthing - the account we were using to do our development has been blocked. Not much of a surprise, really - in fact the only surprise is that it's not happened a heck of a lot more often...
As our sales-people shout when they get a sale. Except we've not actually got any money yet as such. Well, until today that is. We've just been paid the best part of six grand, apparently. For my webserver version. Go figure...
Though admittedly they suspect it may have been a mistake.
On the 7th, I suspected one of my colleagues mightn't be here for a great deal longer. I wasn't expecting him to go today, but that's what he's done, alas...
The weather really can't decide what it's doing today. Half an hour ago it was chucking it down with rain and I decided to have a lazy lunch-hour rather than go for a stroll. Now of course it's sunny, but I really wouldn't rely on it staying so for long enough to be "safe" to go out. Oh well. Perhaps we might get a little bit of a leg-stretch in before we go out to cell group later?
We had Katy's grandma round yesterday evening for some dinner and to generally give her a bit of a break from her usual surroundings. Didn't quite go to plan initially though, with Katy due to collect her at about five o'clock, but then being stuck in the traffic home from Weybridge for a further hour and a half. I was able to collect Grandma instead, thankfully, and a good evening was had, not least introducing her to the animated delights of Wallace and Gromit.
Fairly uneventful day here at the office so far. No major crises, no-one else has resigned, and in actual fact there's really not that many people here at all. Indeed, I think there's more Slovakians than Brits. Although things are perhaps looking up a little from the cash-flow point of view, I can't help but continue feeling we're merely treading water to tide us over to the inevitable.
Hmm, still sunny. I really should have gone out.
Not much sun left now though. Not much day left, indeed. An hour and a half until home time, so I should just about last out, despite feeling a bit lousy now. Mind you, I wonder if the powers that be will let us go a bit early this evening given that it's the Christmas party tonight. Not that I will be going, of course. After the recent departures, this is even less of a bunch of people I particularly wish to go and be unnecessarily sociable with while they get embarrassingly drunk at the unlimited bar. Will be interesting to see just how hung over people are tomorrow morning, assuming half of them make it in at all.
A bit depleted and subdued here this morning, as I would have expected. The photos are up on the web already, and I have to say it looked downright dull - not helped by the terribly fascinating Slovakians definitely outnumbering anyone else. Much happier to have gone to cell group, and we were healthy and walked there and back. Far more healthy than drinking ourselves stupid, anyway!
I note today that the BBC are reporting that Raytheon are planning to fire missiles at the Moon. This is the same Raytheon involved in repeated failures to shoot down test ICBMs as part of the USA's controversial defence systems, the most recent failure coming within the last week. Obviously they reckon a predictably moving target a couple of thousand miles across and with a dirty great gravitational well is likely to be a slightly more attainable challenge.
ExecutivesOnTheWeb must be the slowest job website in the world. OK, so Reed's Freecruitment website is inclined to procrastinate a little, but that has a few excuses. ExecutivesOnTheWeb has no such excuses. I am glad I have some decent music with me today, because waiting ten minutes for them to do a simple search - and not really much I can do in the meantime but twiddle my thumbs - frankly takes the mick. I assume even fewer people use the website in question than our software, because I certainly wouldn't pay money to access such a crock. Unless of course they have real human operators leafing through their filing cabinets every time someone submits their search form; that would be excusable. Even more so if the operators were small furry animals or something; that would actually be clever as well as novel. But I doubt it. They're just rubbish.
Gary's just gone. As he did so, we asked when we could go tonight. "When your conscience says you can." That'll be as soon as I can shut down my PC, then...
Busy weekend, but a good one, and thankfully only a short week this week for both of us - today, tomorrow and Wednesday for me; just today for Katy. Yay!
We had Cate and Sam round on Friday evening, for a nice veggie meal and Katy and David's Exclusive DVD Premiere of Shrek 2. Given that Sam's teetotal, we got through a rather surprising amount of wine between us, but a good time was had by all, and we won't mind in the least watching the DVD again with our next interested visitors - whenever that might turn out to be, Mr and Mrs Watson!
Saturday... Umm, what did we do on Saturday? Ah yes, avoided going anywhere near any shops other than to pick up a paper and some bacon roll ingredients, and wrote and posted a few last Christmas cards and wrapped our presents. Just as well it was a slightly quieter day, because Sunday turned out to be hectic.
It was the last Sunday service before Christmas, so there was quite a nativity theme to it, albeit typically unconventional, and it didn't run too late. Our cell group then piled up to Millers for our Christmas lunch - very nice food on the whole, but the service was slow and we didn't get away until four o'clock, though we got a fair few quid knocked off the bill thanks to Katy's excellent negotiating skills. Having dropped Tim and Phil back home, we joined Nick, Sarah, Bethan and Jake for a healthy walk - well, nice for the grown-ups in any case; Bethan slept through most of it despite my inexpert buggy-pushing and Jake mainly bawled. Back home just in time to clear away a bit of clobber from the lounge in expectation of at least a few people coming along to our drinks and nibbles evening. And thankfully we did get a couple of people in the end, which was nice because it meant we could actually talk to them properly - and left us with plenty of mince pies and wine for the next couple of weeks...
Nick and Sarah commented how "natural" Katy and I looked pushing the buggies along yesterday afternoon - even if one of them was temporarily empty due to its occupant being happier being carried by his mummy. Not sure whether I find that observation scary or comforting... Still all feels a little unreal to me, that there really are things like that to think about now, when only two years ago it seemed like I was destined never to have my own proper family to love. But there's no hurry, either, thankfully! All in good time, all in good time.
Bah, three hours' work this morning (plus a few on Friday) to copy and paste precisely thirty characters. It's that kind of thing that makes working here just so thoroughly worth it. Still, at least this portal now returns useful candidate summaries rather than just things like "Sales sales sales sales sales sales sales sales" - which would be fine if searching for Spam, Skol or that wretched Tile Warehouse place that advertises on the Eagle now and then...
Oh, I have to laugh. A few weeks ago I commented to one of my colleagues that when I clicked on the "View CV" button in the main version of this software, Word was launched twice. Apparently it had been noticed before, but no-one had bothered reporting it, in the knowledge that nothing would be likely to get done about such a cosmetic bug. That's laugh-worthy enough in its own right, but it gets worse. In actual fact, the function concerned is getting called anything up to four times, and it's rather lucky Word isn't getting launched twice more. But every time the function is called, it requests a copy of the candidate's CV from the job website concerned. In the case of the portal I am currently working on, they charge each and every time a CV is requested, even the same one more than once. I do hope this customer doesn't mind their credit account being eaten away four units at a time while we polish their portal...
Oh, I have to laugh. Part 2. I've managed to reduce the number of requests per view by 50%, and am working on repeating that feat. Obviously I have switched to using a job board that doesn't charge per request, namely our own. So I perform our standard modest search for "perl" in the Reading area. Four matches: one for a candidate who ensures their conference room is properly set up for meetings, one who's made a hyperlink to Lunn Poly's website, one whose company refused to invest properly in many activities (I know that feeling all too well) and one who ensures cargo is properly secured to prevent damage in transit. I'd recommend anyone seeking Perl programmers to look elsewhere.
I managed to fix that final problem last thing yesterday evening. It was down to some Slovakian code, such that near-simultaneous events overwrote each other and rather than triggering two different actions caused the same one to happen twice. I am sure I will be accused of breaking good code, like the last time I fixed a glaring problem of his like that, but I am frankly way beyond caring now. This morning I have mainly been wasting my time following up fallacious bug reports. I wish that if customers don't want our software they would just say "thanks, but no thanks" rather than concoct stories of problems that don't exist. It's not the first time it's happened, and I doubt it will be the last.
Josh just showed me a dusty sound card he'd pulled out of Caz's PC, expecting me to throw my hands up in horror at some random antique. Of course, it was a Sound Blaster AWE32, the very first PC sound card I ever had. Well, in fact it was a slightly more recent revision, with a single IDE CD-ROM interface rather than the triple one mine had before Creative, Mitsumi and Sony stopped arguing. Ah, nostalgia. I might not be where I am today, had it not been for my AWE32!
Nice quiet evening in yesterday, apart from a chilly stroll round the block - this time just by ourselves. This evening should be generally nice, quiet and in too, though we're celebrating our first six months of marriage, which will make it somewhat more special needless to say. The traditional first wedding anniversary present is paper, so for six months can I just have the TV, music and film section please? The astute will of course realise that six months actually passed on Sunday, but we were rather busy with other things then, and besides, I'm finishing work for the year this afternoon - Christmas will then really be on its way - so that made this evening the ideal time to celebrate!
What've we got to celebrate with? Stir-fried beef and oriental vegetables in black bean sauce, and a very nice-looking bottle of red wine to accompany. Oh, and a stack of profiteroles. Did I mention that they have Belgian chocolate sauce all over them? No, there's only enough for two. It's our celebration.
Ah, it's time for my monthly laugh at the expense of the idiots at Huxley Associates, seemingly incapable of sending me details of appropriate jobs. This time perhaps a little closer - last time it was for C++ programming in Milton Keynes, despite my specifying Java programming within 20 minutes' drive of Farnham - but still woefully unsuited to my exact skill-set and experience. Of course, with my "inside knowledge" of the recruitment industry and sales in general - thanks to my current work - I know exactly what's going on. The recruiter I talked to a couple of months ago in considerable detail and with whom I built up a fair understanding in those few minutes will have left Huxley for not being productive enough - i.e. not filling enough posts regardless of whether the candidates were right or not - and my contact details have become fair game for all his more stupid and/or less scrupulous colleagues.
Just a couple of hours to go now, then bye-bye 2004 here. Hmm, it's actually vaguely light outside, unlike this time yesterday afternoon. I know we've had the shortest day now, but I suspect it's just that the weather's a bit perkier today... Today I have mainly been converting job-board portals from the main client version of our software to my webserver thing. In most cases it's been reasonably straightforward, but there have been a few exceptions that have had me tearing out what little hair I have - especially after I cut it last night!
I've just this moment got back from a meeting with Piran, where we discussed a bit of where we'll hopefully be going in the new year. Nothing's been decided for sure, but - after a frankly pretty disastrous 2004 - Piran is determined to turn things around in the first quarter of 2005 and is insistent that he wants me to take a leading role in that. Yes, it may well be currently about 50:50 on any given day whether I love or hate my job, but the prospect of a bit more self-determination really can't do any harm in pushing towards the positive...
Half past five, meetings over, current tasks completed, how-tos printed off.
That'll be me done for the year, then!
How remiss of me for not wishing all my readers a happy Christmas before the event, but let me assure you it was only because of being in a bit too much of a rush to get out of work and then packed and away for a few days. Strangely enough, this being married business leaves a lot less time for keeping this up to date, but we've declared today to be a "bits and pieces" day, and my diary is one of those bits and pieces I've decided to spend a little while doing.
As planned, we were away for Christmas itself, joining my parents for a few days at the holiday cottage near Ross-on-Wye that they've been renting for the last couple of years. It was just a really relaxing and sociable time for all of us, with plenty of opportunities to eat, drink and be merry with various members of the family, as well as to enjoy fresh air and beautiful countryside. We even managed to talk my parents into coming to church with us on Christmas morning, though we all agreed it was rather "higher" than we expected, and will be glad of the worship style back with our own congregation this Sunday! Alas due to ongoing kitchen improvements we didn't get to see my brother or his partner, but Mum and Dad left Pete with their present when they called in on him on their way home yesterday. But we saw plenty of Ali and her children, so it was certainly worth our while making the journey west, and I am sure we will head that way again sometime soon and hopefully fill in any remaining gaps!
We came home Monday, and spent much of Tuesday with Katy's parents, including a good circular walk out from Cranleigh, uncharted territory for us all. Quiet days yesterday and today, though all being well we finally get to have our meal with Nick and Sarah tonight - postponed from when Jake was ill - and tomorrow's likely to be somewhat on the manic, but hopefully fun, side. All too quickly it seems that the holiday is slipping away, though; when we returned from Ross it was lovely to think we'd been away for five days and still had a week to go, but that's no longer the case. At least I've managed to avoid barely thinking about work, and I've had no panicked support calls to attend to, thankfully!