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David's diary: April 2006

 1/4/06 16:56 by David Gosnell
Saturday 1 April 2006 

Well I survived the rest of Friday, but some work to do would have been nice. However I would probably have fallen back in amazement had any materialised, even if a faint chance of it had been expressed earlier in the week. Meryl came round in the evening as planned, and we cooked up prawn spring rolls and our "signature" (albeit ripped off from the Sainsburys magazine) Vietnamese-style caramelised chicken, rounded off with a yummy lemon meringue dessert courtesy of Meryl. We played silly games for a bit, and were glad when Meryl reminded us we could still play CDs on our DVD player pending the replacement of our proper stereo. Not too late a night for anyone, thankfully, and today's lunch out with Rachel, Mark and Daniel was reasonably low key. They were supposed to have been on holiday at the moment but Daniel had an accident at school during the week that put paid to those plans, so they were glad to get out and do something for a little while even if they were understandably fed up from not being able to go away. They were running late thanks to traffic so we met up with them at Millers, who certainly seem to have sorted their act out with cooking up decent food, even if the wait was a bit poor consider how busy it wasn't. They were heading off to go shopping, so having let Daniel have a (careful) run around for a bit in the play area there, we went our separate ways. Although we'd thought maybe we'd go for a walk or something, we decided it was just too cold when the sun all too frequently went in, so called it a day for now at least.

 2/4/06 18:20 by David Gosnell
Sunday 2 April 2006 

We got out for a bit of a walk in the evening, mainly with the objective of purchasing chocolate - and also another bottle of Hardy's Crest while it's still on half price offer. Church this morning was actually (shock, horror) pretty good, although about as far from conventional as is possible. It was the latest in our "sabbath" theme, and based around the sabbath being a time to play, so what better way to spend the bulk of the meeting? I got the impression it was much needed by a lot of people, which really shouldn't be surprising. We drove into Farnborough to get a bite to eat and also to buy a few cables needed for our rearranged office, but with Katy having helped lead the children's work this morning, and with me having played rather too many EyeToy games, that was enough. Consequently nodded off this afternoon, waking without a clue what time it was, and worrying (?!) I was missing work or something. Obviously I wasn't. I'm not sure I'll be able to stand another week like last week, kept sane only by spinning out the puzzles in the daily paper for as long as possible. Monday is of course the latest in the series of promised delivery dates for the system I've been allocated to help work on, but face it, it's not going to happen.

 3/4/06 10:08 by David Gosnell
Monday 3 April 2006 

Today: no. Tomorrow: outside chance. Wednesday: remotely feasible. Thursday: maybe. Friday: distinct possibility. Next Monday: actually quite likely.

What's the betting I can simply duplicate this entry in a week's time?

That is assuming I am still working for these incompetent wastes of space then.

When I started here almost six months ago (during which time I've done about a fortnight's good honest work), there was heavy indoctrination into the "company way". Time has proven what twaddle that was, and what that "way" really is.

At least my decision to bother coming in today has been vindicated. Not.

Excuse me while I go and sob in a corner as another day of my life is wasted.

 3/4/06 10:46 by David Gosnell
Monday 3 April 2006 

How wonderful that scientists have just discovered that neutrinos do, after all, have mass. According to the BBC article on the research, this will require a complete revamp of the "standard model" underlying all our understanding of how matter works. God, meanwhile, is banging his head against a heavenly wall.

It's great we have been given such an amazing universe to explore, but we have to chuckle as science is again demonstrated to have got it badly wrong. Science may well eventually be able to explain everything - and still not have any opinion on its Creator - but the arrogance of so many involved makes me laugh!

 3/4/06 10:50 by David Gosnell
Monday 3 April 2006 

Maybe today is worth it after all. My mint Kit Kat has no wafer in it! Well, for three quarters of its length anyway. The small pleasures in life...

 3/4/06 11:23 by David Gosnell
Monday 3 April 2006 

The powers that be have decided to toughen up our password rules again. As from the middle of this month, all passwords must contain at least one digit (though may not contain any of the other characters I like to spice mine up with) and the system will have a memory of last six passwords used. These rules add to a scheme that more often than not already rejects pretty much any proposed new password for no particular reason. Combined with enforced changing of passwords every couple of months, I can only really see this resulting in yet more PostIt notes stuck on to monitors than we already have. It's not as draconian a scheme as that devised by a friend a few years ago, that imposed requirements such as disallowing letters adjacent to each other either in the alphabet or on the keyboard, but it's not far off, and I hope the network administrators don't read this, lest they start getting ideas... Yes, it is indeed shocking that in some companies up to 75% of passwords can be trivially cracked, with either a rudimentary "dictionary" or knowledge of the target user's date of birth, car registration number or favourite football team, and I would hope we do better than that here already, but there is such a thing as "going too far", you know.

 3/4/06 12:10 by David Gosnell
Monday 3 April 2006 

How marvellous that is. At the end of last week I thought I would show willing and have another look at our internal vacancies list, despite having been told there really wasn't a lot going. So I was quite encouraged to find perhaps half a dozen vacancies at least worth obtaining full particulars for, even if I had a hunch that some of them might be duplicates. However it turns out that the vacancy list appears to have been an old one, erroneously re-posted. And I've just had a call from the internal recruiter bloke showing a degree of surprise at the positions I had requested information for that were still available. Then he asked which I would prefer out of the role I had the internal interview for the other week, and another really quite different one about which I know next to nothing - the reason I had requested further information about it in the first place... Sheesh. Really no better than idiots the who leave messages saying things like: "I've got a job for you, 35k, are you interested?" No, he's no different to most other recruiters, who make a lot of noise while providing not a shred of useful information and ultimately managing only to annoy people so they accept what dross is going simply in order to get them off their back. So long as they get their kickbacks and golf, they really don't give a monkeys. I might be being a little harsh here I know, but suspect it's close to reality.

 3/4/06 12:31 by David Gosnell
Monday 3 April 2006 

No kidding. None of the vacancies have a start date of after last summer, and a few of them date back a couple more years than that. There's a high chance that I requested further information on the position I was originally recruited for! Gee thanks. With regard to vacancies that perhaps look surprisingly different to what I'm notionally doing at the moment, is it really such a surprise that I am pondering something as far removed as possible, short of scrubbing the bogs? "Oh but the role you had the internal interview for looks really good - I know some of the guys there!" Is that supposed to be an endorsement or the final nail in this particular coffin? Either way, he would say that, wouldn't he...

 3/4/06 15:19 by David Gosnell
Monday 3 April 2006 

Katy's just had to field a call from a lying recruiter scum who reckoned he'd got our home number off my CV. It's not been on there for ages. To make it worse, she'd just gone to bed feeling pretty lousy after her morning at work. And then the scumbags from MBNA phoned. I am close to fuming, believe me.

 3/4/06 15:33 by David Gosnell
Monday 3 April 2006 

The Times' coverage of yesterday's University Boat Race puts Cambridge's failure down to their decision not to install water pumps. Oxford on the other hand had four pumps on board which were switched on just after Chiswick Eyot. Yes, switched on. Why not go the whole hog? I'm sure Cambridge could have beaten them fair and square if they'd bothered to install an outboard motor.

 3/4/06 16:12 by David Gosnell
Monday 3 April 2006 

I said I wasn't sure if I could face another week of this nonsense. Now I'm damned certain I can't. I feel painfully close to doing something highly regrettable; I just haven't got the presence of mind to decide exactly what. Maybe that is the secret of being able to grin and bear it, as so many of my colleagues seem to manage. It's like breaking the sound barrier; things get harder and harder as the barrier approaches and it feels like everything is going to shake to pieces, but breaking through brings release. But what's on the other side for me is not supersonic ecstasy, merely delusional bliss. And that really is something I do not want to experience, at almost any cost.

 3/4/06 16:57 by David Gosnell
Monday 3 April 2006 

Oh well, last few minutes of this "working day". Utterly meritless in every way, and my brain is clearly frazzled as a result because I didn't even manage a dozen numbers in the gentle (11 minute) killer su doku before screwing up. My notional team leader has gone now anyway, so I might as well call it quits.

 4/4/06 09:13 by David Gosnell
Tuesday 4 April 2006 

There were 21 emails in my webmail inbox this morning. Let me tell you about the ones that weren't out-and-out spam.

End of message.

 4/4/06 09:14 by David Gosnell
Tuesday 4 April 2006 

So yesterday daytime was pretty lousy all round, and I am struggling to imagine how today can really be much better for me at least. But in the evening we had that favourite combination of a bacon and pasta salad with chocolate croissants for afters, followed by a walk out to the Bat and Ball for a bevy or two, which certainly went a long way towards saving the day as a whole. We also fired off another couple of job-related emails (including a bit of a nudge regarding the interview I had the other week), so all is not necessarily completely gloomy.

Today is the day that our replacement DAB stereo is supposed to be arriving at the shop, though I must say I'm not over-confident of the likelihood. Part of me hopes they haven't managed so we'd be justified in returning the whole lot, getting our money back and buying from someone holding more than one in stock, but we like to support local businesses over the Comets, Currys and indeed the Amazons of this world when we have the opportunity and their prices are fair.

 4/4/06 10:20 by David Gosnell
Tuesday 4 April 2006 

Two "cards" fell out of the company magazine yesterday. One was a reference with phone numbers etc to use in the event of an emergency, and the other was a reminder of the company goals in a typical buzzword-bingo-meets-WordArt style. No prizes then for guessing which was a flimsy bit of glossy paper that will fall apart in five minutes flat, and which was in laminated and pre-punched credit card form for storage in one's wallet or easy addition to one's existing neckful of company passes etc. Admittedly, in the event of a fire, say, I would be more likely to yell "fire!" and get the hell out, than decide which of three national telephone numbers is the most likely to have a human operative on the other end to advise us to yell "fire!" and get the hell out anyway, but this is a somewhat sad reflection on the priorities held by this business as a whole.

 4/4/06 11:16 by David Gosnell
Tuesday 4 April 2006 

Ouch, my right arm and ribs are really painful today, making it quite difficult even to lift a cup of water. No idea what I've done to cause that - hmm, unless I was getting a little too energetic with the EyeToy boxing on Sunday, perhaps?

I've just been advised that this next bit of work might just be available later on, with the bloke setting it up supposedly on the case right now. But if it's not ready today, it won't be for several days because then he's off on leave. Even if the box is made available to us, what's the betting it won't be in a suitable state for us to use in any case so we'll still have to wait for his return? We already know we can't build the software for it because the version management system is severely stuffed, so the portents really aren't too good for actually being able to do anything much to fix it, one way or another.

 4/4/06 16:58 by David Gosnell
Tuesday 4 April 2006 

Not too bad a day overall, even if it took the afternoon to rescue it. The morning was typically dire, but just as I was sitting down to read my lunchtime paper I got a visit from the bloke heading up the technical writing group here. It may surprise, but it's an area I've got a certain amount of interest in getting involved with, so we had a fairly fruitful chat and I think there was an understanding that he would give me serious consideration when some new positions shortly become available. He was also aware of a group specifically involved with computer based training materials, which is an area in which I obviously have good experience, and is going to mention me to them too. The last hour of the afternoon was taken with a presentation on where the current project is going next. All enthusiastic and positive, but although it seemed like a light of clarity had been switched on, it's only about a 10 watt bulb.

But anyway, that's another day done with, so I just need to rescue some parma ham from the fridge and it will be time to head home - and hopefully have a good play with the replacement stereo Katy successfully picked up earlier!

 4/4/06 20:08 by David Gosnell
Tuesday 4 April 2006 

So far so good with the replacement stereo. The real question though is whether it can pass the "being left in standby overnight without crashing" test... One of Katy's colleagues apparently took three attempts to get a working Pure radio - I hope we can do at least one better than that! They may be the leading brand but it doesn't take a lot of digging through real-world reviews etc to find that there certainly does seem to be a bit of a quality control question mark.

 5/4/06 10:18 by David Gosnell
Wednesday 5 April 2006 

Surprise, surprise: 13 out of 13 spams today, and not a dickie-bird back from any of the job related enquiries I made the other evening. Actually, we did get a reply back from one, but it only proved the recruiters in question to be as useless as I expected, even if Katy had initially given them the benefit of the doubt. And as far as this current "job" (sorry, must try to stop using snigger quotes) is concerned, no news yesterday or this morning, so that's that hope dashed for the week. Lousy journey in today, but on the bright side that means slightly less time to spend twiddling my thumbs, given that I'm blowed if I'm going to make up time I should have spent doing nothing by doing more nothing.

In better news, the replacement stereo survived overnight without locking up, though we need to try and replicate the terminal conditions of the last one if we can - albeit this time using a CD we don't care so much about! The stereo fairly clearly wasn't quite as unused as the first one, but we're giving them the benefit of the doubt that they fired it up to make sure it worked so as to avoid wasting any more of our or their time, rather than that they fobbed us off with an ex-demo unit or something - and there's certainly no sign of grubby fingerprints or anything! Though, like with cars, at least you can be sure an ex-demo unit probably basically works. Annoyingly though, as we were trying again to position the el-cheapo antenna as well as possible, we found that our lounge curtain pole is in rather direr need of repair than we had thought, but we have Katy's mum and dad coming round tonight, who'll bring their drill!

 6/4/06 09:43 by David Gosnell
Thursday 6 April 2006 

Nice evening yesterday with Katy's parents. We swapped their hammer drill and accessories for our jigsaw - though it's a picture of the Eiffel Tower, not a Bosch or Draper - and Katy's mum got a music book into the bargain too. We went out for a belated Mother's Day meal at Zizzi, after our success there a few Sundays ago and remain thoroughly impressed with their food and service. Once again they were packed to the rafters and turning people away (so we were glad we'd booked) but unlike Pizza Piazza coped admirably and unflustered. Back at home we further surveyed the damage to the curtain pole fittings, supped fine fair-traded decaf coffee, listened to "crystal clear" and "distortion free" (quotes in deference to the ASA's recent adjudication) radio, and perused the pick of our photos from Bruges. We found an annoying hum on Classic FM, but it only affected that station, and others on the web seem to be complaining about the same, so we can be pretty confident it's not another fault with our stereo, and I have (as a responsible citizen) contacted Classic FM to let them know.

 6/4/06 10:49 by David Gosnell
Thursday 6 April 2006 

Ahhh, I have finally discovered the option to turn off Flash altogether in browser windows here. Internet Explorer is far too locked down to be able to uninstall it or anything, and Flash conveniently forgets its preferences. But I've found an option called "Manage add-ons", from which Flash can be disabled. It has to be done in a couple of places because it goes under two names, but hey, it's worth it. If all I can do to keep me remotely sane here is surf the web, I can at least help make such a small pleasure a slightly more bearable experience. I just wish I'd persevered in looking for such an option months ago... Still, this tip may help someone else having to suffer the increasing number of adverts featuring video clips and other gratuitous animation, via multiple levels of terminal services or other such crippled access systems!

Now, if only everyone could be persuaded to do similarly, web browsing speed for everyone could well improve by an order of magnitude, and the powers that be wouldn't have to keep adding to the alleged pool of terminal servers!

 6/4/06 11:44 by David Gosnell
Thursday 6 April 2006 

Looking into finally upgrading my mobile phone - cue shock and horror from most people who know me! But Orange pretty clearly don't want to keep me as a customer: I can log into their shop as a prospective new customer and get the phone I want at the price I want and with a reasonable tariff for the money. However, as soon as I admit I'm with Orange already, that is grounds for an "error", because I should use the upgrade route. Needless to say on the upgrade route, the phone I want is "out of stock" and - by comparison with similar models - they want about a hundred quid for it! What a fine reward for someone who's been propping them up out-of-contract for several years now, and who has hardly used his phone at all for the last couple of them... I probably wouldn't go with Orange anyway, because they toughen their terms and conditions every other month such that I am sure it will soon be prohibited to use one's phone at all, and Katy's work mobile is on O2 - who just happen to offer some of the best deals around at the moment. But it was worth a look. Sort of. OK, no.

 6/4/06 16:41 by David Gosnell
Thursday 6 April 2006 

Just got back from my second PowerPoint presentation in three days. Really nothing too exciting, but thankfully it didn't drag, thanks to not having been written by the unfortunate given the responsibility of presenting it. It was scheduled to take two hours but when run by an even more hardened cynic than me it was never going to take anywhere near that. So that was about the highlight of the day really. Sad, innit? I missed a perhaps slightly amusing presentation yesterday afternoon though. I'm sure not amusing in and of itself but the email exchange that went on up until the eleventh hour was vaguely humorous. The original invitation had gone out to everyone, but then it was realised that so many people had signed up for it (clearly boredom is rife) that the project in question couldn't afford to have all their time logged to its booking code, so it was largely retracted. But eventually some compromise was arrived at and everyone who had originally signed up and then withdrawn was encouraged to sign up once again. All good fun; it's amazing anything much ever gets done here. Hmm yes, well maybe it doesn't. Certainly not round this neck of the wood, with "Monday" being the latest estimate (heard many times before) for my next work.

In positive news, Katy's managed to get my car mended. Again. This time you may recall it was the rear washer that stopping working, at a suspiciously similar time to when it went in to have the reversing light fixed. Hopefully there will be no further surprises though. Just need to remember to drive home a Peugeot!

 7/4/06 09:30 by David Gosnell
Friday 7 April 2006 

Friday morning, and nothing more expected (or even promised) to happen today than for the last three months. My team leader suspects this episode is going to end in a fist fight - though not necessarily directly involving me. I've merely asked if I can be there when it does so I can get some good photographs to submit to the company magazine. I'm sure that, given the goals presentation thing we had yesterday, they would love to do a piece on how attitude change can be proactively effected from the bottom upwards. Might even make the cover!

 7/4/06 09:30 by David Gosnell
Friday 7 April 2006 

I plucked up the courage to phone Orange last night, to get my PAC number in order to start the ball rolling changing to a different provider. No obligation involved thankfully, and although they now consider me to have given my thirty days' notice, if I don't use the PAC, nothing will happen. Nice enough lady on the end of the line and quite understanding; my only grumble was that it took a whole twenty minutes to get through, and I was sung to on-hold by James Blunt. All a bit silly though: she obviously wanted to know if they could keep me, but for the phone I wanted they were in fact asking for well over a hundred pounds, and it made no difference if I changed tariff. Upgrade costs are apparently based solely on past spend, whereas when you start with a new provider, they take you on at their "risk". But the really silly thing though is that although I've certainly not been a big spender over the years, they've had excellent value for money out of me, given that I have never upgraded before, and for the last couple of years I've hardly used the phone at all so my subscription has been 99% profit! You'd have thought on that basis I would be a reasonably model customer, but I guess they also (rightly) see me as a skinflint who's never going to spend significantly over and above what I do at the moment, so it will take years to recoup the cost of anything but the most basic upgrade handset.

 7/4/06 09:31 by David Gosnell
Friday 7 April 2006 

We also sorted out our curtain pole last night, though as we had suspected it wasn't very easy. The last owners appeared to have made a rather half-hearted attempt to screw them into the wall, but the walls are so weird they might have done it properly but time has taken its toll. There seemed to be quite a thick layer of plaster, which the drill through pretty easily once in hammer mode, but there seemed to be metal or something in places behind it, such that some screws would go in fine but others wouldn't. We eventually had to saw one of the screws in half so it would go in properly, but are acutely aware that it's only really going into plaster so are glad that the other one is more secure. Overall, we think it'll be OK, with the weight of the curtains distributed quite well, and we plan to replace all the poles in the near future anyway when we will give better consideration as to exactly where they attach to the wall!

 7/4/06 16:11 by David Gosnell
Friday 7 April 2006 

Some time ago an email went round lamenting that our office maintenance people had declared that the dripping tap in the upstairs kitchen was "supposed to do that". Indeed there is an official sign above it saying as much. I noticed just now however that it's stopped dripping. Do you think I should report this?

The small things that bring entertainment in an otherwise so dire environment.

Such as also, for example, Katy emailing me details of a job she'd spotted on JobServe. I thought it looked familiar, realising it was a recruiter-speak enhanced version of an internal job description on our intranet. Indeed it was a job I had applied for weeks ago and that the so-and-sos involved didn't have the courtesy to get back to me or my line manager regarding, such that my line manager took the proactive decision that they were a waste of space not worth pursuing any further. So not funny ha ha or funny peculiar, but funny because if I didn't laugh I'd probably cry and that might be a bit embarrassing.

I heard vague mutterings earlier that we might finally have a machine to work on, but as far as I am aware nothing is happening yet and certainly no-one has told me directly, and I think I heard that Monday is still the target date to start on it. So I guess that means it might actually happen as promised, but I feel so completely out of the loop here that it's impossible to tell for sure. The only thing that's particularly funny about this is that I'm booking my time to it even when I can't do it, so am costing someone somewhere a reasonable amount of money for old rope. After all, that is what I am currently contracted to be doing according to our workforce management system thing, and I really wouldn't want to upset anybody by not doing so... Just a shame that ultimately it's the tax-payer who's footing the bill for all this utter incompetence.

But anyway, into the last hour of the day and of the week, and it should be quite a good weekend coming up. We have our friend Graham coming round tonight, back in the country, unusually, and there's the OAP Easter party tomorrow afternoon at which (amongst other activities) we're projecting lots of photos from the last year or so of these events. Well, so long as no-one's made off with the video projector, that is, but we've been assured it will be there... And then the next two weeks are short weeks of course, praise the Lord (for being crucified and getting us a bonus secular holiday into the bargain), so perhaps even if work gets little or no better, life should be more tolerable!

 8/4/06 22:09 by David Gosnell
Saturday 8 April 2006 

The OAP party went very well, and took a slightly different format to usual. We vary things from event to event a bit anyway, but I think there was a sense that this somehow was bit more different than average. There were slightly fewer guests than usual for various reasons, which made for a slightly more intimate atmosphere anyway. The highlight perhaps though was the PowerPoint slide show that Katy and I had put together, depicting the group's events of the last year or so, from Easter 2005, through to the Christmas party, via our trip on the canal and our old-time music hall. An encore was requested, nay, demanded, so it got shown again once we had got through the intended programme.

And today I got my new mobile! We popped into town after we had set up for the party, and decided in the end to be incredibly un-daring and buy it at the O2 shop. There are some financially better deals on the web, but it all seems to be swings and roundabouts in the end, so we went for a nice phone on a cheap tariff at a price that will end up much the same as we're paying for my current phone, and twisted their arm to make it an even more compelling deal for us. It will take a few days for my old number to be ported across, so if anyone phones me in the next few days, they will get my old phone, but don't be too surprised if I call back from my new phone's temporary number in the meantime... Oh, and the salesman almost fell over when he heard what Orange wanted for the same!

 9/4/06 16:25 by David Gosnell
Sunday 9 April 2006 

Well we timed that about right! It's chucking it down with rain and hail now, when half an hour ago we were working outside in the garden, giving the lawns their first mow of the year, oiling the patio furniture etc! But it can do what it likes now, and let's face it we really do need some decent rain - especially after South East Water went back on their assurances of a couple of weeks ago that there would be no hosepipe ban here. It was quite funny to see the BBC weather forecast for this area though, predicting that the predominant weather for today would be hail. Umm, hail just doesn't work like that, you know!

After church, which was a short Palm Sunday service complete with "donkey" (it was a Shetland pony really, with rides for all the children who wouldn't scrape their feet) we went into town for lunch, making good use of the Hogshead's usual deal, and popped back to the O2 shop. The case we bought with the new phone was a good example of "form over function" - good looking but not very well designed, especially in the belt clip department. So we swapped it for a slightly cheaper one that isn't as stylish but should overall be better - and if this one proves to be no good either, they've promised us a refund, though I really do like to have my phone in a case and this is the best we've seen...

 10/4/06 10:32 by David Gosnell
Monday 10 April 2006 

Ooh, possible progress: although we were told on Friday that there was a system ready for us (but my colleague I'll be working on it with wasn't available then so we were waiting until today anyway) it wasn't actually, but it should be in "about an hour". In the meantime, I have music! And have finally found "in-ear" type headphones that are comfortable and have half decent sound - indeed these are the ones bundled with the new phone. For security reasons we're not allowed to have mobiles turned on here, but this one includes the increasingly common feature of a "flight mode", with all prohibited functionality disabled. Indeed until I realised there were phones with such facilities, I was going to get a separate mp3 player for the purpose, but now I've managed to get a "free" one - even if a slightly bigger memory card may be on my wish-list at some point in the future! The only mild annoyance is that the automatic key-lock, a welcome feature on the phone in general, also applies in the music-only mode, requiring multiple key-presses just to skip tracks or whatever. Not too much of a problem when it's accessibly sitting on my desk, but not so great hanging off my belt. Ultimately I might just switch off the automatic lock - my old phone had to be locked manually and I was fine with that, only concerned thanks to its tendency to randomly reset itself to an unlocked state, a problem that hopefully won't afflict this new one... Oh and the mp3 playback isn't gapless, but there are only a couple of players in the world that manage that anyway, so no big deal.

 10/4/06 10:55 by David Gosnell
Monday 10 April 2006 

Quite bizarre weather really. Blue skies at the moment but bitterly cold out (echoes of Bruges there!), but coming into work this morning I passed cars with snow piled up on their bonnets and there was snow settled once out of the Wey valley Farnham lies in. And I gather from the BBC news website that the weather has been treacherous in Sussex and Kent, with trees fallen under the weight of half a foot of overnight snow. But Katy and I have had it pretty lucky really this weekend, weather-wise - several of my colleagues also chose this as the weekend to mow the lawns and sort out the garden furniture, and all of them got caught in the rain and hail storms we cunningly finished half an hour before!

 10/4/06 16:50 by David Gosnell
Monday 10 April 2006 

And lo, there really was progress, and consequently I've been spending most of the day working on the machine, trying to work out what is going wrong and why. Not so successful in that regard but then we didn't expect this to be a five minute job, and let's face it there's stuff all else for me to do anyway! It's pretty horrid working conditions upstairs though - but although we were at one point told the machine might be down here, we're counting our blessings that we've got it at all. It's incredibly hot with dozens of machines running 24/7, and the atmosphere consequently seems to be pure 100% recirculated body odour.

Anyway the day's nearly done and has dragged the least for weeks if not months, but I'll be glad to get home to my lovely wife, so I'm not hanging around!

 11/4/06 11:43 by David Gosnell
Tuesday 11 April 2006 

So, my second day of proper work in the last couple of months, though it's just ground to a halt somewhat. A few hours of experimentation yesterday and this morning revealed why we can't get the system working - though whether it's the same as the bug we're supposed to be investigating is hard to say since the extent of that is, helpfully, "it doesn't work". However, my colleague with the best chance of sorting it out is overloaded with work and had to bend the rules a bit to give me an hour or so of his time earlier to confirm we were at least looking down the right avenue, and I've now got to wait an indeterminate amount of time for him to finish what he's supposed to be doing. Still, a couple of hours twiddling my thumbs rather, versus a couple of months? No competition!

 11/4/06 11:56 by David Gosnell
Tuesday 11 April 2006 

Ah, I've found an easier way to skip tracks on the mp3 player while the keypad is locked, even if it's distinctly back-to-front. The volume control does track skipping if it's held down rather than tapped, though for some reason "+" goes backwards and "-" goes forwards. I'm sure it's been in the manual all along...

 11/4/06 16:33 by David Gosnell
Tuesday 11 April 2006 

Just half an hour to go and nothing much more happened today - and not much more time for that to be rectified, thankfully. The weather looks a bit foul outside, so bracing for a grotty journey home, and we've got to go out again this evening to do some food shopping. Still, almost half way through this short week, followed by a long weekend and another short week. Could be worse!

 11/4/06 16:50 by David Gosnell
Tuesday 11 April 2006 

A possible breakthrough earlier, though. When I met with that bloke about technical writing last week, he said he would forward my CV to a group more directly involved in the kind of stuff that is my speciality - i.e. computer based training materials. My line manager did similarly by the looks of it. Anyway, today they have got back to me and have some opportunities coming up requiring my "type of resource". When it wasn't too bogged down in politics and change of the sake of change, and the academics stopped bickering (i.e. when we could get on with producing good quality software to help people learn), I loved my work at the Open University. Now there is no guarantee the downsides at the OU won't be manifest here, but hey, it's a possibility, and one of the best possibilities yet to become apparent. The company I had the interview with a few weeks back has gone silent after an enthusiastic start, but I would say that if anything comes of this, it could be at least as good an opportunity.

 12/4/06 09:29 by David Gosnell
Wednesday 12 April 2006 

Nothing's ever entirely straightforward is it, at least when human intervention is involved? I got my welcome pack through from O2 yesterday, but it made no mention of my having signed up with a promotional double minutes package, and my details on the web confirmed this omission. I phoned customer services, but there was nothing they were prepared to do without a faxed copy of the signed contract (I guess it's too soon for them to have it on record themselves), and they recommended approaching the shop directly. So I've done that, and should get a call back any time now to update me... and lo, the phone rings (obviously not my mobile, that's prohibited here as you know) and it should be sorted as from tomorrow and a new welcome letter sent out reflecting the change. So thus far I remain reasonably impressed with O2: their deal was a good one (and they guarantee their upgrades are just as competitive as for new customers, unlike Orange) and although there were foul-ups they have all been dealt with swiftly and courteously. No, the customer services isn't free, but when it's answered by a human being within two rings and they don't waste my time (there wasn't anything he could do, but he was clear and to the point), who's complaining?

 12/4/06 09:45 by David Gosnell
Wednesday 12 April 2006 

What is it with floral roadside tributes? I fully endorse the right of people to grieve as they see fit, but I don't necessarily understand the increasing trend of depositing flowers at the sites of loved ones' deaths. It's something I've only noticed in the last few years, so something must have started it as a trend that people now feel obliged to follow lest they be perceived as not showing due respect. Contrary to popular believe, not that many people die on Britain's roads each year, and I would hazard that a sizeable proportion of accident sites are now adorned with such flowers in varying states of decay. I'm not arguing rights or wrongs here, merely expressing a certain puzzlement.

What I wasn't so happy about though was such a site last night. I had noticed the day before that there was a police presence there, presumably a forensics team or something, because the accident itself had been cleared. But last night there were various cars parked in the road (on an evidently dangerous bend) and people wandering around aimlessly with yet more bunches of flowers to add to a growing heap. As I said, I respect their right to show grief as they wish, but how long it will be until the first person dies doing so? Indeed it's probably already happened, given the dangerous places these memorials inevitably are.

 12/4/06 13:34 by David Gosnell
Wednesday 12 April 2006 

Definitely spring weather today, if not distinctly summery. For the first time this year (indeed probably the first time since I've been "working" here) I went for my lunchtime walk without my jacket - and didn't regret it. Though it still felt roasting back in the office, but that's probably just dodgy air-con. No wildlife of note today: yesterday I saw a cute bunny rabbit and a goldcrest; today just a dog undergoing obedience training, so only "wild" in one sense.

 12/4/06 13:35 by David Gosnell
Wednesday 12 April 2006 

Meanwhile, my diary entry of 3 April about neutrinos prompted some interest, in particular questioning why I consider many scientists to be arrogant. This is a good question, and I thought twice about adding that particular comment, but I stand by it. As a scientist myself I am intrigued by all that is discovered in the universe, both huge and tiny, and support the majority of the research that is carried out. But where I see arrogance is in the number of scientists who believe that they have all the answers, so it is amusing when they get it wrong as appears to have been the case with the neutrinos, undermining some of the most basic tenets of their beliefs. True science is and probably always will be silent on the matter of a creator god, at least if that god is transcendent - i.e. outside the created system. Whether neutrinos have mass or not isn't the issue, but the attitudes of those who believe that in a completely explained universe there is no room for a god to have started it all and who might still be able to influence minute details of the system. This is not even an attempt at the proof of the existence of a god (bearded and sitting on a cloud, or in some alien lab peering down his microscope), but there is nothing in science to disprove such a being, and all good scientists know it. And I still personally think God's laughing his head off in between head-bangings, and all the more because of those who think they can disprove his existence with a dud equation.

 12/4/06 16:54 by David Gosnell
Wednesday 12 April 2006 

Well we've made a little more progress today on sorting out the problem, though we're still not sure if we've got to the point at which the originally reported issues were occurring - if that makes any more sense to you than it did to me. I successfully worked around (but did not properly solve) one issue, but there is another one now that goes deeper into increasingly evil code that everyone is understandably washing their hands of - and who knows how many more to come. Still, at least as I come to the end of a day that has been half-way bearable, it's keeping me mainly out of mischief. I really don't see fulfillment on the horizon, though, and this particular task will eventually end with nothing much better on the other side of it, so it remains imperative that I get out as soon as possible. Quite a few things are "coming up", opportunity-wise, but nothing that is both concrete and compelling as yet, and that's mightily frustrating.

But anyway, today's nearly done with, and this evening we're entertaining Ted and Kay, as we demonstrate how we've been getting on with developing a website for them. I emphasise "we": although it was me who agreed to do the work for them, Katy's creative input from the start has been really useful and together I think we've come up with something that will work well! A few people have said I really should be setting up in business myself, as I have contemplated at various times in recent months in particular. Part of me would love to, and projects like this one have given me renewed confidence that I am technically capable, and I certainly have some good ideas, but it's all the financial and marketing side that scares me - i.e. turning workable ideas into a viable business. I think it will happen eventually, given my proven disenchantment with being a commercial employee, but I'm not sure the time is yet right.

 13/4/06 09:34 by David Gosnell
Thursday 13 April 2006 

Had a bit of a scare that the changes to my phone contract hadn't gone through as promised, but a short call to O2 customer services (again answered within one ring, and no James Blunt) ascertained that it has been done but won't show up on the on-line billing system until my next invoice date. Obviously we will be keeping a close eye on it all, and shouting loudly in a month if they have tried to charge for calls they shouldn't have done, but that sounds promising.

Yesterday evening went very well, entertaining Ted and Kay as well as running through the work to date on their website. Being blessed with a fairly large family, life so often seems to have to revolve around their children, so it was good to get them on their own for once - and I hope they enjoyed that too! The web stuff done so far (and our cooking come to that) went down well, happily to say. We're all on the same wavelength, and hopefully the work needed to bring it to a point where at least a first version can go public will now be minimal.

Anyway, it may only be Thursday, but thanks to Easter it's the end of the week, and a long weekend coming up of course, followed by another short week. Shame it can't be like this every week - even if it was for quite a while with the OU thanks to outstanding holiday entitlement and little other way of using it up! This weekend should be a nice blend of socialising and relaxing, and it will be great to have enough time to make the most of both aspects! So long as Katy can survive this afternoon, when she's looking after Daniel for a little while...

 13/4/06 15:24 by David Gosnell
Thursday 13 April 2006 

Nothing much happening today. Got out for my lunchtime walk and remembered to buy a "new arrival" card I had promised to get, as well as some nice treats for dessert later - so long as Katy doesn't object of course! And that's about it. My line manager popped by earlier and commented that at least I have some work now. That may be technically true, and I am apparently down as doing this until mid-May (whereupon something else will hopefully have materialised, inside or out), but the evidence on the ground tends to suggest otherwise. I'm glad that I also bought a paper, even if I have cracked the cryptic crossword with almost two hours still to go before I can head out of that door and not come back - for four days, at least. I must remember not to hit the door release button too hard when I do though; apparently we are releasing too much pent-up aggression and it's costing the company a small fortune in repairing broken buttons!

 14/4/06 22:47 by David Gosnell
Friday 14 April 2006 

A reasonably gentle start to the Easter weekend. We decided to hit Tesco first thing this morning, which may or may not have been a clever idea, but it was hard to guess whether today or tomorrow would be better - or whether there would be anything much left on the shelves by tomorrow if we did hold off. It wasn't too bad though, and we should now have enough to see us through! When we got out of the store though it was absolutely chucking it down - and we suspect the Walk of Witness taking place at the time may have had to change a vowel!

This afternoon Ian and Jo were supposed to be coming over to see us, bringing hot cross buns, but a last minute change of plan saw us going over to their house instead, so we had to pack the coffee we were contributing to our Good Friday feast. It was good to see them, anyway, especially given that it was at one point a bit touch and go whether we would meet up at all, and there was not only hot cross buns but really scrummy chocolate and brazil nut cake. That saw us through quite happily to our dinner of chicken wrapped in parma ham, mmm!

 15/4/06 16:07 by David Gosnell
Saturday 15 April 2006 

Try as we might, we've still not managed a proper lie-in this weekend, but hey at least it's meant we've made the most of the days! Today we've been out to Frensham, and completed the two-and-a-half hour circuit there in more like an hour and half - including a short picnic stop. Obviously sponsored by the AA's route finding technology. I suggested we could go for a lap of honour. Instead we decided a victory roll would do. A victory bacon roll from the kiosk, that was... Mmm, very nice. So much for the sunny weekend promised, but it's still nice out and at least there was no repetition of yesterday's torrential rain!

 16/4/06 18:58 by David Gosnell
Sunday 16 April 2006 

A quiet Sunday, apart from church obviously - at which I was given a nice Green & Black's Easter egg, about half gone now. This afternoon we baked nice bread, programmed up a shopping cart in PHP and did some of the puzzles in yesterday's paper. We'd hoped we might have company this evening, but instead we can keep the wine all to ourselves and look forward to the bank holiday tomorrow when we have visitors all day. Chicken kievs well on their way now, better finish this!

 17/4/06 22:17 by David Gosnell
Monday 17 April 2006 

I wondered whether I should save writing this diary entry for tomorrow, but figured that since I will have loads of work to do, I'd better do it now. Well that's the hope anyway - after all, the colleague I'm working with on this task is off for the latter part of the week anyway, so if anything's going to happen it will be tomorrow and Wednesday. Two days of scatter-gun problem diagnosis and resolution coming right up, alas. Hey, at least we've had a long weekend!

Today we have mainly been entertaining Darren, Ceryn, Lois and Ruth. Well Lois and Ruth seemed to think we were quite funny anyway. Not that Ruth was terribly happy, being decidedly poorly, but she put a brave face on anyway and enjoyed the swings at the park. We convened for morning coffee and Lego, before driving into town and walking up to the park to muster some appetite for lunch at Caffé Uno. Back to the cars via another park (though Ruth was asleep by then and it was a bit "little" for Lois) and then home for Monopoly, tea and more Lego. Then once we'd packed the others off home, we popped round to Katy's parents for a little while, to show them some of the finer points of using their new camera. Finally back here again where I've spent the best part of the last hour catching up with a friend from Milton Keynes! A very well spent day, methinks.

Time for bed now though, I think. "School night" and all that.

 18/4/06 16:23 by David Gosnell
Tuesday 18 April 2006 

Oh well, I might as well have waited until this morning after all, because jack diddly's happening here at work right now. Seems there was some kind of power outage over the weekend, and as usual key systems didn't recover properly - and of course the network support guys are only just arriving. I think there's been some modest improvement in the last hour given that I can now at least log on to my own PC without any errors, even if it can't even fetch my internal email let alone connect to anywhere exciting and/or useful. At least, given the last three months of thumb-twiddling, I am well practised in being patient... It's just a shame, given the nice breakfast we had this morning, that the chances of any of my lunch remaining after the next hour or so are pretty minimal. Still, at least I have music on tap if required, which might help keep me sane.

Needless to say, this diary entry can't be posted until everything's back up!

 18/4/06 16:24 by David Gosnell
Tuesday 18 April 2006 

Almost two hours on, Outlook and ClearQuest are back, but that's about it. One of the newly-arrived emails was quite funny though, expressing concern that meetings are being held in the rest room, with implications for confidentiality and those "wishing to use the room for its intended purpose". Do you think we should tell those in charge what the outside world means by a rest room? Or maybe they do know, and we really are holding important meetings in the loos! More seriously though, they cannot be too surprised at the kitchen's secondary use, given that it's been equipped with chairs and tables, and almost all the other meeting rooms have been turned over to office space, making it nigh on impossible to book anywhere at short notice. But I guess that's just the price to pay for having a recruitment drive of the scale we currently do, without anywhere else to accommodate new staff - let alone anything constructive for them to do once they're shackled to their (hot-)desk, even six months on...

 18/4/06 16:24 by David Gosnell
Tuesday 18 April 2006 

Yep, it's now near as darn it six months since I started here - well it would have been yesterday had it not been a bank holiday. Six long months of waiting, waiting and more waiting. Waiting for proper network access, waiting for a PC, waiting for a desk, waiting for correct pay, waiting for work, waiting to hear anything back about alternative opportunities... When realised early on that things were perhaps not going to be as wonderful as I had hoped, I said I would stick it out six months for the sake of my CV - but the trouble is, I've done that now, and for almost zero professional development, merely world-weariness.

 18/4/06 16:25 by David Gosnell
Tuesday 18 April 2006 

Three hours on, no change. And no advice as to when that might differ. We want to look at some C++ code, but the ClearCase repository's nowhere to be seen.

 18/4/06 16:25 by David Gosnell
Tuesday 18 April 2006 

I think things are half-working now, but funnily enough I've been on lunch for the last hour, so have been more concerned that the internet access is still broken so I can't verify any of the crossword clues I'm tackling... But it's probably now time to see what, if any, progress we can make with the task we've been given now that it looks like ClearCase at least is back up and running. Still no official word on what the situation is, when it's all going to be up and running properly, or if it's "safe" to use what appears to be working, but communication of genuinely relevant information round here is a proven rarity.

 18/4/06 16:26 by David Gosnell
Tuesday 18 April 2006 

Woohoo, with about half an hour of the "working" day left to go, we appear to be back to full function. But someone else is now busy on the machine we need to work with. At least I can finally get these entries on line now though!

 18/4/06 16:59 by David Gosnell
Tuesday 18 April 2006 

Had to feel a bit silly earlier, phoning Katy at lunchtime. Needless to say I forgot what day it was and that she wouldn't be in the office, and must have amused the receptionist at her company. I was most insistent that she should be there, until I thought it all through logically! I knew it was Tuesday but got all confused because she got up when I did, if only to have breakfast with me before she went back to bed again! Meanwhile, my old mobile has lost signal, so I'm hoping that my number has now been ported. One quick call to my number from my desk phone here gets the O2 voicemail service, confirming that is indeed the case! Bye bye Orange, it was nice knowing you, but it just didn't work out.

 19/4/06 13:35 by David Gosnell
Wednesday 19 April 2006 

It's being a fair day at work so far. Having got a few more people on the case, we're beginning to make some progress with getting the software working on the machine we've been tasked with fixing. Well at least it now starts up, which is progress in itself; we now need to determine whether it's working properly, with pre-existing unit tests being a good starting point. So far the latter is proving questionable, though in fairness we wouldn't necessarily expect it to be working entirely properly since after all this is a defect we're supposed to be investigating! However, I am not convinced that the problems I am hitting aren't present on all the other installations we have of the software in question, so quite a bit more investigation on varying system configurations will be called for before I can say for certain whether it "works" or not... That should keep me busy for at least the rest of the day, and hopefully I can somehow spin it out rather longer since I believe I'll be on my own for a few days as from tomorrow and really do not understand the system sufficiently (and have no great wish to, given my lack of plans to stay) to do anything much more than the most mechanical running through of test scripts and so forth. Anyway, that's my lunch break done with, so three hours or so until I can head home - and we've arranged a little Alpha reunion for this evening that should be lots of fun, especially since I think everyone invited has said they'll come along!

 19/4/06 15:52 by David Gosnell
Wednesday 19 April 2006 

Well I borrowed one the reference machines for twenty minutes, but even by the time I had set up the prerequisites for the unit test I planned to run, I realised it was no better than the system I'm trying to fix. And managed to get though precisely two steps of the script before it proved it was in fact much worse, to the extent that there really was no point continuing because data was being lost left right and centre. This from a "known good" system... Methinks those who raised the defect that I am currently investigating can quit their whining and count themselves lucky it works at all! Actually no, it's all quite unacceptable, indeed frankly shocking given who's ultimately using this stuff.

 20/4/06 09:57 by David Gosnell
Thursday 20 April 2006 

Our Alpha reunion drink out last night didn't quite work out as planned, with both our guests being poorly so unable to make it after all. Thankfully there were enough of us still keen to have a pint or three to make it worth going out, though we changed plans in order to go to the Bat and Ball rather than the Hogshead. The Hogshead is perfectly all right and easy to find, but the Bat and Ball certainly sells a better range of beers and is an altogether much more homely environment, so there were no arguments and almost all of us were able to walk there easily which was good and healthy! Sadly I didn't get ill enough to justify not coming into work today, so I'm now facing my first of four days of really not having the remotest clue what I'm doing but pretending that I do.

 20/4/06 10:30 by David Gosnell
Thursday 20 April 2006 

Hmm, trying to build some code, and apparently reasonably successfully. Plenty of errors and warnings, but nothing fatal, so I assume it's all OK... This is one of the problems with the shoddily-written code here: since no effort was made to solve compiler warnings from day one (usual best practice is to treat all warnings as fatal errors, therefore to be fixed a.s.a.p.), it's impossible to guess which of the messages are "inherent" and which are me having bodged it up in this specific instance. Though to be honest I increasingly barely care, so long as I have something to do, which this just about tenuously counts as.

 20/4/06 11:33 by David Gosnell
Thursday 20 April 2006 

Stupid emails ahoy. Nice to get occasional emails addressed to me (at least as part of a group smaller than several zillion), but not when they're utter tosh. In order of arrival, something relating to a future project, asking whether it's the kind of thing I want to get involved with, which has about a 50:50 acronym to English ratio. Needless to say I cannot make a remotely informed decision, and I'm sure that's the best they have. Then an email asking me to project how much holiday I intend to take each month until March 2007. Umm, hello?! OK, so it's not demanding a commitment, but this is complete rubbish. I simply do not know, so I said so, which prompted the response that surely I know whether I'm taking time off over the summer or whatever. Errm, if I did I would have said so, you know. I'm not being bloodyminded, I'm being honest - though I would be even more so if I said I don't plan to hang around that long! Finally an email complaining that I had logged an hour to a closed off booking code, and asking for an alternative. Well it's hardly my fault if they tell me to book time to a code and then close it off without telling me, is it? What's more important, fully accounted time or accurate time? Same old timesheet issue that has afflicted every company I've worked for in recent years. Dammit, I've been sitting here idle, faking time records through no choice of my own for the last three months, and you want to quibble over one hour was genuinely logged but the system couldn't cope with? I know all the people directly concerned are only the messengers, so unshootable (and I do sympathise), but this sucks. That will be my lasting memory of this company when I get out, that it's a company run at the ground level by people really trying to do their best, but thwarted at every stage by outmoded procedures and management too distant to care.

 20/4/06 16:06 by David Gosnell
Thursday 20 April 2006 

My code build proved unsuccessful, and for what looked like the same reason as my colleague hit a couple of days ago. The order of things he gave me to do should, we hoped, have avoided this, but it didn't. So I am now left probably none the wiser for the next three days. There may be a few things I can do in terms of proving that the code isn't any more knackered than expected, but I really can't foresee anything other than sitting around twiddling my thumbs in yet more imaginative directions. Why, oh why, oh why did I ever accept this job? My ethics were torn in even considering it, but I had some notion of this being some kind of noble responsibility - now proven to be utter baloney. With hindsight I really should have listened more carefully to that little voice expressing caution, and not deluded myself into somehow thinking that I could have an impact in helping make the world a better and safer place. Instead I am an unwilling and dysfunctional part of a system that seems to exist in order to perpetuate mediocrity, indeed mediocrity that ultimately costs lives. That alone should be enough to make that withering ethical part of me hand my swipe card in without further delay, but unfortunately we have a mortgage to pay.

 21/4/06 10:36 by David Gosnell
Friday 21 April 2006 

Ever get the feeling people aren't being entirely truthful? Especially when they are recruiters? Believing that miracles can happen, I keep an eye on our internal vacancies list, though was a little disappointed it hadn't been updated in three weeks. So I contacted the person who updates the web page, and she confirmed that what was published was the latest she had, but advised who I could contact to see if there was anything more up to date. Namely the internal recruiter bloke partly responsible for getting me into this mess in the first place, so I must admit I'm a little biased. Anyway, he got back to me, with a list about half the length of the one from three weeks ago, and with his name as the contact for all of the vacancies. I queried whether this was the full list (given that there are normally half a dozen different contacts), but he insisted it was. I have thus far stopped short of directly accusing him of being a lying git not prepared to admit that there are other vacancies that he won't get a kickback from, but that's primarily because of the anti-L'Oréal principle, not my alleged good nature or even a shred of benefit of the doubt.

 21/4/06 11:14 by David Gosnell
Friday 21 April 2006 

In better news, we finally have some more sounds for the car! Having bought a 64-disc case pretty much when I got the car, over two years ago, it really was about time it had a few more occupants, so yesterday evening was a good time to copy (for personal, private use, obviously - give or take any passengers) a few more discs. The freeware CDBurnerXP Pro software we normally use turns out not to properly support "disc at once" writing in its current release version, so although it was fine for most of the discs we wanted, I had to brave Feurio for a couple that really didn't want the dreaded two-second gaps between tracks. Feurio is a little-known but rather good bit of shareware specifically for audio CD use, with its speciality being dealing with gapless audio much better than anything else out there. It's rough around the edges, and popped up lots of warning messages about it really not knowing what our rewriter drive was and wisely guaranteeing precisely nothing, but in the end it seemed to work fine. Anyway, that's half a dozen more discs to keep us entertained on the move, and still most of a pack of 50 CD-Rs left to help fill the remainder of the case!

 21/4/06 11:54 by David Gosnell
Friday 21 April 2006 

Oh joy, our ClearCase system's gone belly-up. Mine hangs as soon as I try to access a stream, whereas a colleague's complains that he's not even licensed to use it! The probability of me doing much work today has consequently tumbled.

 21/4/06 15:43 by David Gosnell
Friday 21 April 2006 

ClearCase is working again - our RUP servers crashed, apparently - but so far I've been spending the entire afternoon using it to do a build that I am about 90% confident won't work. I'm pretty sure that if my colleague couldn't get it working, I won't be able to. He said if I had any problems to talk to our team leader, but he threw his arms up in horror and muttered something unspeakable about our ClearCase set-up, so I think I'm basically stuffed until Wednesday at the very earliest. Still, only just over an hour to go, hallelujah. Ooh, stop press, ClearCase looks like it's on the final leg of this build, given the kind of messages now whizzing past at high speed. Though now it's gone back to the slower digital diarrhoea I've been vaguely monitoring for the last couple of hours, so who knows. Even if it builds OK, that's merely the first hurdle...

 21/4/06 16:01 by David Gosnell
Friday 21 April 2006 

Boom, boom, boom, boom. Not the Vengaboys, or even Basil Brush telling an extra funny joke. Nope: four build errors. I've just started clearmake again with the "unconditional" flag, which sometimes seems to improve things, at the expense of taking much, much, longer. Good thing I have some puzzles left in the paper!

 24/4/06 10:08 by David Gosnell
Monday 24 April 2006 

Monday morning, and not entirely surprised that the build I left running over the weekend failed just as spectacularly as the one I tried Friday afternoon. Not at all sure where to stab in the dark next, not really helped by being no more certain where I've already stabbed, such is the unavoidable randomness of what I'm doing - and if the input from my (absent) colleagues would bring any real clarity, I'm sure the job would have been done and dusted months ago...

We've had quite a nice weekend though. Going to Bruges with my parents a few weeks ago was lovely as you know, not just because the city is so pretty but because it was good to see my parents well away from troublesome computers and other such distractions. But back to earth with a bit of a bump this weekend, visiting them at home for the first time in several months. We managed a fair balance between work and play, though, going out for a good pub lunch and walk on Saturday, and having a coffee-fuelled look round Wycombe on Sunday. Oh, and I soundly beat Katy and Mum at Scrabble - unusually, it has to be said! Our motive for going into Wycombe, however, was "work", since having tried mainly in vain to sort out their computer problems, we decided it would be a good idea for them to get an external hard disk - to relieve pressure on the rather small (by today's standards) internal disk, and to pave the way for a system rebuild and/or upgrade at some point in the near future. So we were delighted to spot a Staples advert in Saturday's paper, for a 250GB external disk at half price. We had to get a PCI USB 2.0 card too, but it still worked out at astonishingly good value compared with anything else we saw in PC World, Staples or on-line. The USB card took a little more effort to install than expected; it came without a CD, but with assurances that it worked with all relevant versions of Windows, but without scavenging the web for individual DLLs etc it would only work in low speed mode which rather defeated the object! But we got there in the end and the whole set-up seems to work really well, backing up well over sixteen gigabytes while we had our lunch, and Dad's USB scanning is quicker too now. Alas though, this was the last such discounted external disk in Staples, otherwise we would have bought one for ourselves too while we were at it!

Delighted to return home to no pizza leaflets or credit card offers on the door-mat but Katy's new Jack Johnson CD. Not so delighted, though, to find that Play hadn't shipped the UK edition as described, so back that should be going imminently. Given the nature of their operation, it's too much to ask for them to double check track listings for all products against their actual stock, so the proof of the pudding will be in their response to our return request - which we are still awaiting, at the time of writing, but I am fairly hopeful.

 25/4/06 09:34 by David Gosnell
Tuesday 25 April 2006 

Tuesday morning, and had a headache since I got up. Better see if I have any paracetamol stashed ... phew, yes, two tablets, hope they do the trick! Should be my last day of going round like a headless chicken with respect to this current task, with my more clued-up colleague back tomorrow. Not that he was necessarily being massively more successful than me, but even my boss agrees that "safety in numbers" is a key principle when working on this nonsense. This afternoon though, I have a meeting with the bloke heading up the computer based training group. I was made aware of the group's existence earlier this month, and they are apparently likely to be requiring a "me" in the near future, so there's certainly nothing to lose from paying them a visit to confirm they're doing the kind of thing that would appeal. It will be really good if they are, since it could really turn around my approach - far too much of the time I fear I have come across as desperate to get out, to "anywhere but here", whereas it would make a massive difference to be able to positively want a role on offer! Not that I haven't genuinely wanted many of the jobs I've applied for, but to be able to do so with no bitterness about my current situation would be great.

 25/4/06 16:30 by David Gosnell
Tuesday 25 April 2006 

Well I'm back from my meeting, and it was both enlightening and promising. It was primarily an introduction to the group and an opportunity to take a look at some of the stuff they've produced, so I'm in the process of arranging another meeting with one of their staff, for the nitty-gritty matter of determining if I'm the right person for their specific needs, and vice versa. But even on this limited basis so far, I'd say it's the most promising internal opportunity to date, I think I said all the right things at the right time, and if we did decide to go for it, things could start moving very quickly indeed. Anyway, if nothing else it salvaged an otherwise pretty lousy and uneventful day, though I gather we are having roast gammon this evening, so soon it gets even better!

 25/4/06 21:58 by David Gosnell
Tuesday 25 April 2006 

Mmm, roast gammon was extremely nice. Massive Attack were fairly nice. No DAB reception, not so nice. Me beating Katy twice at Tantrix, my lips are sealed!

 26/4/06 15:07 by David Gosnell
Wednesday 26 April 2006 

The DAB tuner was OK in the end, though I wonder if a bug report to Pure might be in order. When we last used it, we turned it off whilst tuned into a channel with poor reception. Last night, reception on said channel was even worse, so bad that it couldn't even pull up its name. Consequently, it seems the tuner didn't know which channel it was tuned to, so also couldn't determine which channels were "above" and "below" it in the list - hence no channel navigation at all. As soon as there was enough of a glimmer of a signal that the tuner could determine the channel name, the navigation started working and reception quality on the other channels turned out to be 90 to 100% as usual. If the tuner had remembered which channel it was tuned to, I don't think this would have happened - though it's still a little mysterious, because surely all detected channels get an index number and it's all done electronically so it must have known which index numbered channel it was trying to tune to, which should have allowed it to determine everything else it needed to know. Anyway, the moral of the story in advance of any fix for this is a) to be careful which channel it is left on when turned off and b) to set some presets to allow us to change channels without using navigation relative to the current "dead" one.

 26/4/06 15:26 by David Gosnell
Wednesday 26 April 2006 

Well things do move quickly when departments other than this one are involved! I've got the follow-up meeting to yesterday afternoon's in just a few minutes' time, after which it should be much clearer whether that's the direction for me to pursue for now. Indeed the lady in question apologised for apparently having ignored my email for two whole hours. A slight blow though is that the project manager for the stuff I am currently working on has unilaterally decided that it's far harder than initially thought and that he therefore wants us for a further fortnight - and annoyingly didn't think it worth telling me directly. However those of us who actually understand (to an extent) what is involved in getting the system working properly are sceptical the extra time is needed, and my line manager remains happy in principle to release me when previously agreed if necessary, if I'd be thumb-twiddling again otherwise. So it could have been much worse, but it is a little rich that they've found nothing much for me to do for six months but now are being at least a little bit funny about letting me out. Still, all still totally hypothetical anyway, but I might have a better idea in an hour or so, even if there would still be some rubber-stamping to do. My only real concern on the basis of what I saw yesterday is that there might be too much Flash for my liking. However, every project is different, they are certainly not "Flash-only", and I have used it before so if it does represent a significant part of the work involved and my limited experience isn't an issue as far as they are concerned, then that needn't put me off in and of itself.

 27/4/06 10:23 by David Gosnell
Thursday 27 April 2006 

Yesterday afternoon's meeting went well I think. It was supposed to have taken about an hour but ended up getting on for two, a reflection I hope on how much we had to talk about and how well we "clicked". Anyway, this has all increased my sense that this is the right internal opportunity to be pursuing, one that I positively like the look of rather than being the least worst option. There may be trouble ahead though, because despite being based in the office over the road and working closely with colleagues here, they are not actually part of this region. That may mean that the transfer isn't strictly internal, and there may be some red tape to be tackled. We are not really supposed to move around within the first 18 months, but I would maintain that my circumstances are a little unusual (well I'd certainly hope they are!) and I have been assured by a third party that if I'm really unhappy the company shouldn't be obstructive. We weren't sure what happens next in any case, but I would hope that the lady I met with will report back enthusiastically, and we can take things from there.

In the meantime though, I've been encouraged to meet with a couple of people here regarding the work my line manager envisages me doing if I were to stay. It's incredibly hard to get enthusiastic about this though, especially since one of the key people involved is one of a small clique that has made no effort at all to be even remotely friendly over the last six months. But I'm going through the motions of showing willing, whilst making it very clear that I am hopeful that my days are now numbered such that I'll be out before it happens.

 27/4/06 10:24 by David Gosnell
Thursday 27 April 2006 

We spent yesterday evening round at Geg and Michael's, for a curry and a chat about the post-Alpha small group we're setting up. The curry was late being delivered, but that gave us a good chance to talk about the group stuff before we were too overwhelmed with (ultimately very good) food. I think we have a workable plan, which - all being well with our guests, which we can't entirely guarantee - we should be able to kick off in early June. We still have grave reservations about the way all this has come about, and are involved as much as anything out of our friendship and support for Meryl and Vicki, but are fully behind Geg as she probably takes the lion's share of hosting the group. What we do when this group has run its natural course will remain to be seen, but that decision is hopefully now deferred for a while yet, giving a good opportunity for wrongs done to be put right - and that may be a two-way thing of course.

 27/4/06 10:24 by David Gosnell
Thursday 27 April 2006 

Having been tactfully reminded 72 hours into their promised 24-hour enquiry turnaround period, Play finally got back to us about the CD order they botched. However they cheekily described it as "unwanted" rather than "incorrect", so we'll have to make doubly sure we make this abundantly clear in our covering note so that they refund our return postage costs. I think we will be making much more use of CD-WOW from now on for this kind of order. I don't know how much better they are if and when things go wrong, but they are generally both cheaper and quicker, and isn't that 99% of what internet shopping's about?

 27/4/06 12:06 by David Gosnell
Thursday 27 April 2006 

Amazing True Fact Heard On The Interweb, number 87524:

On the 4th of next month (May), at two minutes and three seconds after 1:00 in the morning, the time and date will be "01:02:03 04.05.06". That won't ever happen again in our lifetime. In fact it will be approximately 400 generations before it happens again.

Well, unless you hot-foot it to a different time zone. And so long as in 2106, 2206, 2306, 2406, 2506, 2606, 2706, 2806 and 2906 they use a more sane way to represent the year, dumped just in time for the next millennium rollover. But it was on the internet so it must be true - and the bumble bee that flew in through our bedroom window this morning was the mere figment of my imagination.

 28/4/06 09:30 by David Gosnell
Friday 28 April 2006 

Nice evening out yesterday with Cate, who we see far too little of. Cate needed beer-tokens and my car needed go-juice (perhaps its last tank for under a pound a litre?) so we decided to go via Sainsburys to the Shepherd and Flock for a perfectly decent change. Katy kindly did the driving, so that Cate and I could enjoy a fine pint or two as we all put the world at least partly to rights. Not too late a night, but neither of us slept at all well so we are very glad it's more or less the end of the week now, with a long and not too hectic weekend coming up. Just a curry with Meryl and another attack of the lawns specifically planned - though we need to do some shopping too, and Katy's keen to blow her (modest) company share dividend on a breakfast out somewhere, so I expect there will be a trip into town at some point too! But for now, I'd better go see if I can make any more headway with sorting out this wretched system. Oh well...

 28/4/06 14:13 by David Gosnell
Friday 28 April 2006 

I believe "GAH!" is the correct technical term under these circumstances. Having messed around with the machine we're trying to fix but now having a pretty good idea what was wrong and what needs to be done in a more ordered fashion (and finding we had pretty much wrecked it in the process) today was a very good time to request a re-image so that it's back where we started. "No problem, I can do it now and it'll take about half an hour," I was assured. "OK, go ahead!" I confirmed. Then about an hour later an apology: "Sorry I've got this afternoon off, I'll do it first thing Tuesday." I will give the bloke the benefit of the doubt and assume that in the space of that hour he came down with a sudden and contagious infection requiring him to take the afternoon off quite unexpectedly, rather than that he's simply reverted to type as I have been accustomed for the last three months. I guess Tuesday morning I'll find out for sure, and I'm glad I picked up a paper to amuse me. But still, GAH!

 28/4/06 15:37 by David Gosnell
Friday 28 April 2006 

I've just seen the email expressing the wish for me to work on this task for a further couple of weeks than originally scheduled - the email I had only heard about via the grapevine, despite, as it turns out, affecting me much more than anyone else. Yes, the ignorant fool seems to believe that I'll be working the extra fortnight on my own... When this task was originally conceived, back in January, there were going to be four or five of us, but my team leader shrewdly reduced the number of people he would offer, the longer they messed us around for. As it turned out, there were two of us left by the time we were actually able to start. And now it looks like it's just me. Needless to say, I simply haven't got the background or technical knowledge to work on this task alone, though we're still hopeful that we can get it completed within the original timescale anyway - well, at least so long as we don't have even more of our time wasted like we did for three months, plus this afternoon of course... Of that I really cannot be certain. My prospective new boss in the computer based training section may not be too worried by any delay, being on holiday for the next week and unable to progress much until his return, but it's my last few shreds of sanity I'm concerned about. It's easy to suggest that when I've been messed around and dithered with for as long as I have - and we can go back to my previous job to this one too - that a couple of weeks here or there won't make any difference, but believe you me, once you feel that the end really might finally be nigh, anything that delays even for a moment is excruciating.

 28/4/06 15:51 by David Gosnell
Friday 28 April 2006 

Meanwhile, Jack Johnson's gone back to Play, accompanied by a quite assertive covering letter explaining for the third time now that it's their foul-up, not ours, so they'd better pay us back fully. I know the difference in the refund involved is next to nothing, but it's the principle of the thing. We bought from them because they described the product we wanted but it wasn't what they actually stocked and delivered. We would have ordered from somewhere cheaper and quicker if we hadn't been bothered which edition we got, and from the Tesco round the corner (as we did in the end) if we had. Occasional mistakes will always creep in to any sales operation, but due responsibility must be taken when mistakes happen, so this must be logged as an error on their part so that someone somewhere at least has a chance of taking notice. As I have said many times before, good customer service doesn't necessarily mean being perfect all the time, but being gracious and learning from mistakes when they happen. I'd better put my soapbox away again now; it hasn't been out for a while, has it?

 28/4/06 16:29 by David Gosnell
Friday 28 April 2006 

Woo, an emailed reminder of our company dress code contains a barely visible mention that "Casual Fridays" are being partially reintroduced, specifically on the last Friday of each month. Like today, for example. This introduces a small conundrum, in that today is also a "Global Casual Dress Day" to celebrate some contract win in Kentucky (not Fried Chicken, I don't think), and if we already have Casual Fridays we are to (quote) "coordinate with our leader to celebrate on a different day or in a different way". How about by really not caring less?

 29/4/06 19:06 by David Gosnell
Saturday 29 April 2006 

Nice day of getting up fairly late, driving into town to have breakfast at Caffé Uno and have a look at new sunglasses and bedroom furniture, followed by a bit of shopping, then mowing the lawn, and finally chilling (well, actually getting rather warm) in the garden with coffee and chocolate biscuits for our patio furniture's first proper outing of the year. Tea wasn't quite so good (failed spring rolls, but at least they didn't burst into flames this time) but that's history now, and the evening is young and the weekend only just started.

 30/4/06 18:27 by David Gosnell
Sunday 30 April 2006 

Bit of a turning-point day today, but we had a nice curry out with Meryl and have booked ourselves a weekend away soon, so all in all we come out smiling.

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