Volcano's

Apr 22nd, 2010 9:43:45 pm - Subscribe
Mood: appreciative

So, by the title you will understand what this blog entry is all about.
When travelling to a different country by air you may think about many things, however a volcano was never something that crossed my mind. Not once !
So after 2 weeks in the US i now get to fly back home where my wife will be pleased to see me and hopefully my kids will remember who i am.
Of course for me the problem of being stuck was not as bad as some. I had a company that was paying for the hotel, the food, the car etc and so its not cost me anything apart from the loss of time with my family. For some I have read stories of epic journeys that have cost many 100's or 1000's of pounds as well as stories that concern people camped at airports for days with little money or help. Once home I cannot wait to fill in this trip's expense report. This will be littered with red flags all over the place. The volcano has a lot to answer for and may have caused financial losses across the world, but at least i get to own some new shirts and socks. As for the hotel , well it feels like a second home, if i stayed any longer i feel that they would ask advice of the redecocration and ask if i want my mail redirected !!
The hire car company has been happy to let me drive their car for an additional week without any messages or concerns. They clearly are happy that my credit rating and driving is of a standard that they do not to be concerned. (if only they knew). I do however wonder how long it would be before they would consider the car stolen, i mean surely after 3 months they would start to think is he every coming back !
This of course is exactly what my wife has been saying for the past week and so whilst the hire company may be happy to let me drive around the country, my wife and family are a little more concerned in seeing their husband / father returned with out any additional dents or scratches and preferably with a full tank of fuel.
Now where did i leave my car !
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So much for promises hey.

Aug 28th, 2008 5:10:35 pm - Subscribe
Mood: wet

I know you think that I don’t care anymore, you know the expression, you don’t phone, you don’t write, well I do care (but only a bit)
So what have I been doing during the period of radio silence.

Since my last post I have presented my plans, thoughts etc to the managers and have attended the customer conference. Neither of them resulted in me getting pinned to the floor, verbally abused or arrested for unorderly conduct. Although there were a few moments were I was being spanked, but that’s a separate story that will only be revealed with similar amount of alcohol as the original incident. As you can probably tell the amount of time that I have to write is becoming limited, this is partly due to the work, but also due to things like school holidays, family holidays and general events and activities that tend to fill up the weekends and evenings.

For this years family holiday we decided to take advantage of the strong pound (or is it the weaker dollar) and headed for the US. Now with two little ones you might think that we headed for Florida and all things Mickey mouse, but the kids are still a little bit small for most of the rides and so we decided to make that trip another time. This trip we headed for the east coast and explored New England. We are normally adventurous and like to explore different places and this trip was no exception. When I say New England, I mean New England. We went north as far as Canada and Quebec city and as south as Boston and Cape cod, with a trip to lakes, mountains and the coast of Maine throw in for good measure.

I do at least understand why they call it New England, the places are all familiar to anyone living in the UK, with Newbury, Shrewsbury, Bath and Reading to mention just a few. The other thing that seems to remind us of UK was the weather; New England has just experienced a particularly poor period of cooler and very wet weather. Whilst it is nice to not be too hot, I am not sure that a full on water suit with boots and umbrellas was exactly what I had in mind. Not that we packed these in any case. Looking back, we actually managed to avoid most of the rain and found that we had managed to cover and go to all the things and places that we intended.

The worst rain was during our drive back from Canada where I was driving the rental car on a 3 lay highway that had so much rain coming down that I could not distinguish any markings or see more than a shadow, which I hoped was the vehicle in front. Once the rain cleared I realized that it was a vehicle, but not the one I had started to follow prior to the rain and so assume that he either over took, turned off or got washed away and was now on his way to the nearest hydro electric dam.


Although I have been to the states a number of times now, the ability to holiday and have a family exposes you to a number of different experiences and situations. We did find that the meal portions were generally 1.5 or 2 x what we would normally expect in the UK. The exchange rate makes this very affordable, but you can easily end up with more plates, drinks, napkins, straws and food than the table can physically accommodate. This does not appear to be a significant concern of the waitress or server and is more than happy to just add to the increasing pile, whilst asking if there is any thing else I can get for you. Fizzy drinks are the norm and so when the children were asking for Juice (non fizzy) the choice changed from an bottomless, multiple refill, pint (or larger) sized choice of 6 or more flavours and options to a more standard bottle of Orange, Apple or Cranberry. This cost similar or more than the soda and was consumed with such speed that the drinks bill often matched the food bill. Breakfast, when traveling or in a hurry was a choice between the local dinner, or dunkin doughnuts, a sign that my 4 year old daughter is now very familiar with. The choice of muffins, doughnuts, bagels (with a number of fillings) and all the coffee and soda you can drink. How the Americans have any teeth left I do not know.

We also found some very strange rules, which seem to be observed and enforced without question. These ranged from menu restrictions, give way signs, red lights and pedestrians crossing, to what can be taken into or out of a shop or the type of cup used for drinks. The most bizarre was a rule, which was painted on multiple large wooden signs, that detailed what equipment could not be used on the beach. The beach in question was a small “man made” beach area on a inland lake with no tide, strong currents or submerged rocks, at least as far as I could see. In fact it even had a ring of floats attached to a cable indicating the edge of the safe swimming area and to ( I assume) stop boats from entering. The items that were band from use included inflatable boats, fishing rods, nets, bottles (nothing out of the ordinary there), it then went on and listed any floatation devices, goggles, flippers, snorkels.

My 4 year old still wear inflatable arm bands and so we assumed that these would be allowed. However within minutes of putting them on and entering the water to ankle depth, a lifeguard approached and asked us to remove them as they were “inflatable devices” and were not allowed. After a small debate, it was clear that the rule was a rule and that there were no exceptions, we removed the armbands and figured that it was probably fine with only 3 inches of water and a sand castle to worry about. We were not singled out however, during our stay on the beach we saw three other people being told to remove or not to use items, one included a small boy who was just wearing goggles. The three lifeguards clearly spent most of their time enforcing the rules than saving anyone. That is probably why there was three of them, as the beach was no bigger than a football pitch, but with so many hardened crims intent on law breaking they clearly needed reinforcements.

This was the most extreme example that we encountered, but I did get the impression that the rules would be followed without question or reason. It probably would have been illegal to wear a base ball cap backwards, to walk in groups of three or more or to lay towels in anything other than an easterly direction, providing that the board had it in writing.

Anyway that is all the time I have now, more news soon.

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Where did the time go

Jul 5th, 2008 3:03:54 am - Subscribe
Mood: upside-down

Wow, time seems to have flown by, I have just realised that I have not updated this blog for over a month, it must be a sign of me working hard, or did I just have other things to do, like enjoy the sun.
I am once again returning from the US and having just enjoyed another opportunity to fill in forms and stand in lines for the passport control and security at American airports but this time I thought back to when I went to Ireland. When travelling from the UK to Ireland, they were a little more relaxed. You don’t have to complete multiple forms, nor do you have to tell them a week before you go who and where you are. No, on the ticket that I got it tells me that I can travel to Ireland with any picture id including passport, driving licence, work pass or bus pass. Fantastic, I cannot travel to the US without numerous checks and forms but I can turn up in Ireland with a bus pass. Next stop please.

The other thing that I was thinking of recently was things that have changed or dissappeared since I was a kid. Having two kids at school you start to recall some of your school memories. I do remember the school dinners and that they all seem to be the same, at least in my head. I can only ever recall mashed potatoes, peas and some very soggy cabbage. I also seem to recall that the dessert was either rice or semolina. The other thing that I thought of is the Tuck shop, this was a table which sold crisps, sweets and biscuits during lunch time. I don’t know if they exist today, but I have not heard anyone mention them. If they do I suspect that they either sell redbull, cheese burgers and microwave chips, or they offer knife sharpening services, or advice on how to wear clothes that are several sizes to big and conceal arms, face and shoes, whilst exposing your underwear or parts of your body that underwear would normally cover. I went to a fish and chip shop recently where the menu had cod crossed out, it seems that we can no longer rely on cod and chips, we must simply be satisfied with fish and chips. This is perhaps partly due to the fact that I grew up on the coast, and so was used to knowing the fish that I was eating. When I used to go to the fish and chop shop, I had to tell the person serving what fish I wanted as well as the size. There was normally two different posters on the wall showing all the fish that could be potentially offered, with a much smaller menu showing 5 or 6 different fish selections for that particular day. There was also the concept of scraps, these were the bits of batter that had come off the fish or drop into the fryer and represented crispy portions of saturated fat (that was what they were cooked in) and batter. These when added to the chips would provide a crispy soft texture in your mouth. Now I live in a different part of the country and when I go into the fish and chip shop I now have a choice of large or small. (what happened to medium). The poster on the wall as been replaced with Puka pies, or some advert for a fair or circus as well as numerous business cards offering finance advice, home repairs or opportunities to earn ££££’s.

This last week has been quite busy as I have had to present to a number of senior managers. I think it is a good thing that a presentation that at its fastest should take no more than 20 mins, actually took 75 minutes, due to the questions and discussions. At the end they seem to agree with the conclusions and sent me off to do more work. Whilst dealing with this presentation I have also been writing a presentation for a customer technical event that I will be attending next week. I am also assisting someone else to write their presentation as well as preparing some notes and questions for the same event. Previously I had attended this event as a customer, this year the tables will be reversed and I will be attending as a company representative. I hope my previous fellow customer friends will be nice. !

OK so that should be enough for now. I promise to update this sooner next time, perhaps I will let you know how my event goes, and see if the customers turn nasty. If not perhaps I will update you on the latest adverts in the chip shop. Who knows, its just what I think of at the time

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One meeting and 5,000 miles

May 28th, 2008 3:09:02 am - Subscribe
Mood: wired

A trip to Las Vegas was required according to my boss, he has seen this as a must attend event for two reasons. The first is that it would be nice to go to Vegas and attend a conference. The second being that as a team of 5 geographically dispersed people, this would be an ideal excuse to fly all of them to one place and have a team meeting. For some this involved a trip of 24 hours, for others it was only a couple. I was having to endure two things in order to get to Vegas. The first was Gatwick, which has never been my favorite airport, although considering the news and experiences of Heathrow terminal five may not be so bad after all. The second was the 10 hour flight, but at least it was direct and was on a flight with plenty of space (I had all three seats to myself). I arrived at McCarran airport in the middle of a heat wave, apparently it has been over 95 degrees for the last few weeks. It took almost 40 seconds to decide on the stretched limo that was waiting, this clearly is far more expensive than a traditional taxi or even hotel shuttle, but it had the advantage of being near, available and air conditioned. Myself and three very recently acquired colleagues, all piled in and we arrived in style at the hotel, all of 7 minutes later.


I have been to Vegas before and so it wasn’t a shock to see row after row of machines, tables and various other mechanisms designed to extract money. We duly checked into the hotel (one of the older, less stylish ones of the) and I was allocated my room on the 27th floor (There are over 124,000 hotel rooms to choose from incidentally). I had a few hours to kill before the kick off party and registration so decided that given my body was telling me that it was eleven in the evening, I should probably grab a quick nap, in order to be able to enjoy the evening without looking like I had been the subject of a exorcism and a member of the walking dead. Here is where I discover my first problem, noise. Now given I was on the 27th floor and facing away from the main strip, it was not the street and people that I could hear. No this noise was coming from outside and above my room. On investigation I discovered that there were only 28 floors in total and on the roof of the 28th floor you have the air conditioning for floors 2-28. In the heat of the day these units are running so fast and loud that I assume aircraft would need to avoid the hotels due to the near cyclone vortices that must be generated from them. This is not normally a problem when you are gambling, drinking or generally having fun / working below, but is rather irritating when you wish to have a few hours kip. Thankfully I had purchased a pair of noise canceling headphones a few weeks before, which I had used on the plane and to my delight found them to be very effective at illuminating air-conditioning fan noise.
On waking, I realized that I had enjoyed more sleep than I had expected and now had 30 minutes to get washed, shaved, changed and to the registration area. As you know from my previous blog, I had already checked the bathroom facilities and shower and so had some confidence in that, however I had not given much thought to where or how to get the registration desk. With only minor wounds to my face and with fresh clothes I left my hotel room in search for the registration, which was two hotels along the strip. Fortunately I recalled that a tram service ran between these hotels and so made my way to the tram station. What I now know, but was unaware of at the time, was that the conference hall was about as far away from the third hotel as my hotel was from it, so after what seemed like a 3 mile walk I arrived with a few minutes spare to collect my badge. The only thing left was to find my colleagues and some drink amongst the several thousand people now gathering in the various halls, a task that took sometime, but concluded in a very pleasant evening.

The next day was a free day, it was a day that I had to wander around talking and listening to people I wanted to hear or meet. It wasn’t long before I found my boss (it’s always a good idea to get an early appearance in) and then on to my first session. After the session I met up with some other colleagues and we went on to meet other people and visit various stands etc.

Breakfast and lunch where provided for us and everyone would head for the food hall at the appropriate times. It is quite a feat to cater for 9,000 + people within a few hours and with little queuing or administration, I can see why places like Vegas appeal to such events as they have the space and people to accommodate these numbers with ease. The food whilst not fine dining was edible and did vary between days.


A conference of this size is quite impressive, the products themselves are mostly the same as they were before the conference, a few new bits and pieces here an there but otherwise unchanged. What you do get is what I call the whoop whoop effect, I am not sure that it is a recognized phrase, but I think you will understand what I mean. It’s the ability to become so involved and excited about the situation that the smallest things become an occasion to celebrate and get excited. We did launch a new software product at the conference and whilst it was new, technically there was nothing much different about it. The best things to whoop about was the price, but I am not sure that deserved the attention and excitement, but then perhaps that’s just me.
The other thing that you get is a number of people concentrated into one space, a meeting of 6 individuals from around the world would be difficult to organize on most occasions, but here you had the 6 people all standing next to each other or at least under the same roof. I met a number of people that I had only previously heard on the phone or mentioned in conversation. (good and bad) Of course whilst that’s a good thing, the other thing is that you are somewhat restricted about what you can talk about and the duration, it isn’t long before some other person, customer or colleague comes along and steals the moment or forces the subject matter to be changed.
The evenings where as organized and regimented as the sessions, various reception parties and cocktail events where available for selected customers, departments or regions. Clearly it was my duty to gate crash every single one, just to get the maximum value from the occasion and of course to meet (and drink) with various customers and colleagues. All of the events had free beer and some buffet food, so an opportunity that could not be missed. These events all finished by 9pm and so there was always time to sample a few more bars or slot machines on your way back to the hotel room.


Our team meeting, which took up the remaining 1 ½ days went well and a number of subjects and jokes were shared. The cost of the initial event is partly offset by sponsors, but the additional costs must have been considerable. I know that we would not have been alone in using a conference room during the conference week, our small room had cost over $1700 to hire, this did include drinks, but did not include internet access which was available at $500, although discount was available for 2 or more computers. With the various hotel, flights and other customer lunches (extra’s) the overall cost is quite impressive.

I choose to leave the event on the Wednesday and so whilst I missed the final evening entertainment I did manage to get a flight with space and was more relaxed that they would have been 24 hours later. It also meant that I could get home, and get back to GMT before the bank holiday weekend kicked in. Three films, 1 album, 2 magazines and a few hours snoozing later, I landed at Gatwick ready for a mid morning drive on the M25.
Next year its Orlando, I am sure there will be more whoop, more cocktails and similar number of people and customers, but I am not convinced that it sells more kit or adds the to bottom line, but at least I will get to meet Mickey mouse.

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Where am I

May 14th, 2008 3:53:00 am - Subscribe
Mood: kooky

So this is a quick note before I attend a large conference in the middle of a dessert, more on that when I return.

In the meantime I thought I would let you know of a few stories that caught my attention.
The first is a welcome change to the virtual, magical and software world of IT. This is real engineering and has been developed, not by a team of rocket scientists but probably from a guy called Bob. After years of trying to get rid of data securely and quickly someone has discovered a foolproof way of achieving the same result very simply, Drill the little sucker!! However I am sure that we all have a mate called Bob that would do the same job for a lot less. (probably just a few pints of beer)

BOB

The next one was in a British newspaper and made me smile. Apparently in a recent survey, a significant number of people have no idea where they are in the world. They simply get on the plane, without any concept or care of where exactly they are going. The findings which included the fact that 4 in 5 could not find the Costa Brava on a map and more than half could not pick out the Algarve. However the bit that made me laugh was that just over a tenth could not identify France. Now is this really because we do not know, or are we just saying that because of the French. I will let you decide.

A related travel story was also in the news yesterday, where a family left their 2 year old son at the airport. Unbelievably, they actually took off and had to fly back to pick him up. Thank god they did not fly using BA’s T5, they may have never seen him again.

The last piece I have is an eye catching advert seen on the back of a bus in Holland. (bear in mind this is the back of the bus) Given that the advert was for an insurance company, I would think that a number of premiums went up as a result of this driving around the streets.


If you fancy some sport to help you chill out at the end of the day, try this

PENGUIN

It really is cruel, but strangely addictive as well as being very funny.

See you later

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THe Hotel Bathroom

Apr 23rd, 2008 3:14:40 am - Subscribe
Mood: wet

When travelling you get to stay in a variety of hotels and whilst the rates you pay change and the comfort and the quality of the furnishings vary, there is one thing that remains constant. The magical world of the hotel bathroom. This room is not like your bathroom at home, it does not have your matching towels, your toothbrush holder, the themed carpet on the floor (or around the toilet) or the fish printed tiles. Yet it does have a number of unique features, including at least one bin, a bottle opener built-in to the worktop and a selection of light switches.



The first thing is to work out which switch actually turns a light on that allows you to see yourself in the mirror and the bathroom. One will turn on a fan, which will make more noise than a turbo prop plane and will do little to remove steam or smells. Once you have switched this on however it will require at least 10 minutes before it will either switch off, or make more / less noise and then switch off. In some hotels you get a third switch, this will either not appear to operate anything, operate a light above the bed (what) or switch on a light which is equivalent to a candle, the purpose I have yet to understand fully.
So we now are ready to unpack our array of creams, tools and accessories that have had to be displayed to all at the customs check. The hotel bathroom has a large basin and normally plenty of space around it to put you various items. This appears to be the best place until you realise that during the process of using the basics, such as the taps, you will have to move most things to avoid them falling into the sink, on the floor or down the toilet (which is normally perilously close). At this point you realise one thing that is missing, a shelf or a unit to put things in or on. We all have one of these at home, but in hotels they don’t exist. Now that we have managed to unpack our various items and stored them safely somewhere (normally on top of the toilet, as despite of the obvious danger, it is the only spare flat surface).

Next on the list is the shower or bath, normally one in the same thing unless you have paid big bucks. This is the first thing that I try to check. I need to understand how hot and cold can be achieved and mixed, I need to make sure that the water comes out of the shower and not the tape and finally I need to make sure that the pressure is enough to introduce a spray effect but not so strong as to remove skin or bodily parts. This can be a bit of a challenge and is certainly one way of measuring the standard of the hotel. Never mind 3, 4 or 5 stars, the quality and number of the restaurants or the friendliness of the staff. What you need is a shower that is easy to use, maintains a constant temperature and pressure and is taller enough to stand under, yet able to be adjusted and removed to ensure complete coverage.



Ok so now that we have the basics, we are ready to use the bathroom. Here we have the next challenge, which tap dispenses the hot water. ?

Now it most cases the initial few seconds has similar temperatures, but how long do you leave your hand under before deciding that the other tap must be the hot one. Maybe there are laws or protocols on which side the hot or cold should be, or in the case of a mixer tap which direction you should turn. If there is, I am not aware of it, but why they cannot simply put H or a red dot on one of the taps is beyond me.
Using the basin sometimes requires stopping the water from disappearing down the plug hole, so that you are able wash or shave. Once again when you at home, you have a simple device which is attached to a chain that fits the hole perfectly and does a fantastic job. However hotels have a problem with using these and insist on using a device that con only be described as a cap which hovers above the plug hole. Now clearly this is much nicer than gazing down the plug hole, and it does stop that whirlpool effect and the noise that is associated to it. However for these benefits you appear to have to accept one fact. A metal cap on laying top of a metal plug hole does not provide for an effective water tight seal. The result of course is that water is permitted to stay in the basin for a period of time. However as time ticks by you find the water level disappearing before your very eyes. Now I for one don’t like to spend to long in the bathroom, but it is still a challenge to have a shave without endangering the top layers of skin in a time frame determined by the speed at which water is escaping down the semi closed plug hole. Of course sometimes even this may not be possible. The lid may be damaged, corroded or even missing. If it is intact then the small lever arrangement may be bent or broken so that the lid movement is either non existent or so small as to make no difference. In which case a degree of bathroom surgery is required to either, remove the lid, push / pull the lid or mechanism into place, or find another object to replace the function of the traditional plug. I have used glass tumblers, plastic bags, combinations of soap and towels and coins, with differing results.

Assuming that either the wash was not an option or successful, or that the shave resulted in multiple wounds a shower maybe the best bet. Having tested the pressure and temperature previously, it is not long before you are ready to go. At this point you pull the shower curtain, barrier or door closed and get in. Not forgetting the soap, shower gel or other free bottles that were left for your use. Generally there is a place to put the various bottles, soap, but almost always these soon fill with water and the contents of the soap, shower gel and other bottles all get mixed up into a yellow gunge which flows down the wall making that bath slippery. Providing that you manage to stay up right, and that you saved enough soap, gel to get the job done you now feel that you have finally made it. You step from the shower onto a floor that has 1.2mm of water evenly spread across it, with the mat acting as a large sponge and limiting the depth and spread. Providing that you have booked a reasonable hotel and you didn’t spend to long in the shower the bathroom should be big enough to avoid over spill into the bedroom, the corridor or that stairs or floors below.



I think we have just about covered the hotel bathroom now, but there is one last thing. It is a kind of unwritten rule whiles staying at hotels, but you feel compelled to take all of the soaps, gels, and various accessories provided for your use. Even through you brought your own and that you have numerous types at home, they just have to be taken. Sometimes it is difficult to stop, I think that pens, note pads are all fair but TV sets, remote controls and furniture usually are out of bounds. You may be tempted by the drinking glasses, the bedside radio or the contents of the minibar, but most of us must have considered the towels or the dressing gown.
I can now reveal that I have and this visit I managed to relieve them of a luxury bath towel. This will go nicely with the various shampoos, mouth washes, soap bars, pens beer mats, trays, bottle openers, light bulbs and of course the bedside radio.

Just the TV and remote to go.

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Report from T5

Apr 7th, 2008 4:42:46 am - Subscribe
Mood: weepy

Here is a report from the new terminal five. I did not experience this personally, however the report does come from a reliable source and goes to prove two things.

1) I am not the only one that finds flying challenging, frustrating and funny all at the same time.

2) There are other people in the world that can moan just as much as me.

Enjoy

So I'm typing this whilst we sit on the plane delayed (as usual)...

Didn't start well :-

• Yesterday one of our team was due to fly at 17:00. His flight was cancelled and he was put on the 21:00, which in turn took off at 23:00. Upon arrival he was told BA hadn't loaded any baggage and they didn't know when his bag would be forwarded to him. Indeed this morning he still has had no update at all.

My experience :-

• Arrived at T5 at 04:30 for 07:30 flight (wary of delays thought better allow a lot more time than normal)

• Nice shiny, quiet & well lit terminal (must however have been tricky for the 100 or so blanket & sleeping bag ocupiers to get any sleep - either BAA are looking after the homeless or this is now part of the 'T5 experience')

• Nothing operating for check-in at all!

• 11 flights already cancelled in next 2hrs

• 100s of self check-in machines, but they don't boot-up until 04:45 - goodness only knows why as internet check-in is 24hrs!

• 100s of check-in desks & 'fast bag drops' but not one open, and no indication of when they will open

• No BA staff anywhere to be found

• A few BAA staff in 'can I help?' sweatshirts, but they roam in packs in order to avoid customers

• Eventually at 05:10 some unionised BA trolly dollys saunter up to 6 of the 100+ counters and start doing their nails & make-up.

• After a further 5 mins they decide to start doing their jobs and open the desks

• Progress is slowed by the 'can I help?' mupwhits constantly interrupting the check-in dollys with questions (in broken English as it would appear no employees are actually from the UK)

• Eventually through to security... Where progress is now delayed by the 'requirement' to take pictures of everybody on internal UK flights - hence creating another queue as only 2 of the 8 counters are open and photography is not a strong point of the nightclub bouncers hired to grunt their way through this task

• Never one to miss an opportunity to create a queue BAA have decided only to open one of their 20 new x-ray scanners. But this does give time to note the rather unfinished nature of the terminal interior - black gaffer tape appearing to be a critical structural construction item, and lots of odd holes and bits of wooden things that messers Heath & Robinson would have been rather proud about....

• So eventually on to the new x-ray scanning system - now with a double deck tray cart system, lower for empty carts to use, upper for your carts full of stuff. With 3 'stations' per conveyor - meaning people carts now get interleaved with each others. Another great QCS (queue creation scheme) courtesy of BAA at the other side of the machine.

• But BAA have now decided to automate the conveyor of carts on the far side, meaning that nobody understands when to collect their stuff and when not to. And God forbid those who try and lift their cart of the conveyor!!!

• In a great cost saving measure (no doubt to pay for all the 'abstract' (ie poncy & f'ing expensive) artwork 'installations' around the terminal) BAA have chosen to have no chairs for people to sit on whilst putting their shoes back on. Still at least the people having to sit on the floor saves on floor cleaning costs...

• The one area that BAA appear to have focused all of their efforts on however is the 'retail experience' with lots of shops selling all the stuff you never needed...

• Food (ie money extraction) 'appears' to be ok, but, and its a big but, try finding a bin! They make BA staff look positively available and easy to find.

• Oh and the general signage is terrible, hunt the toilet is a whole new game certainly requiring gps & satnav... And if/when you get there expect much fewer / smaller than at the old terminal (an impressive reduction on something that was already under-resourced) - but at least the taps are 'modern' sad.gif((

• Sadly BA chose to locate our plane on the core 'A' of T5 so we didn't get to experience either the lifts & train to B or C terminals (note no ability to 'run for it' anymore) or the busses to the plane.

• Our 07:30 flight eventually took off at 08:10, not too bad for BA and they blamed the Dutch (too many planes in air over the Netherlands - as if these flights just appear as random surprises....)

• Goodness only knows what the electricity bill for the place is - everything is electronic screens and gizmos, wonder what happens with a power cut?

• Good news is that my bag was waiting for me at my destination! happy.gif



Overall
• An ok-ish building but NO staff, NO processes, NO effort being made

• Might be ok in a couple of months if they sort out the people bit AND work on the process side

• Despite the architecture glitz & glamour, it's actually quite shabby & well worn upon closer ispection in many areas.

• Glass, stainless steel & flat screens certainly alone don't make for customer service & satisfaction

• Gormless unionised staff with no eye contact or sense of drive, motivation or energy

• A lot less (ie none) 'customer survey' people around than normal - suspect they are in hiding or off ill...

• If I worked at BA or BAA in people or process mngt I'd be worried about my job - as its clear nothing has improved on this side at all, and the new building merely highlights it further sad.gif

Can't wait for Thursday night's return experience happy.gif
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Aircraft, Guns and Rubbish

Apr 7th, 2008 4:27:40 am - Subscribe
Mood: confuzzled

So here I am once again in the states and this time you will be glad to hear that I have avoided the school children, at least on the plane. As I sit in my hotel room the TV news is informing me of a number of aircraft related stories. The first is the fact that a US pilot accidentally fired a gun which punctured the cockpit of the aircraft. (Apparently whilst he was putting the gun in its holster.) Quite what he was doing with the gun before hand I can only guess. I am not aware of any Hijack accident and so can only assume that he was doing an impression of dirty Harry, whilst showing the stewardess how well the autopilot can function.

The second story was related to Boeing 777 aircraft (the same type that I have just got off, and will be getting on in 5 days time). Apparently, similar to airbags in cars, they have a form of explosive to activate a fire extinguisher in the hold. This needs to be replaced at certain intervals, and apparently this has not been done for several years. Then there was the report that a number of aircraft (not sure which type) have had their brakes wired incorrectly causing the aircraft to skid off the runways. Finally there was a report that some airline, which had contracted out the maintenance of the aircraft had discovered that some falsifying of maintenance had been uncovered. All in all I now feel that I am I trapped in the US with no option other than a boat ride home. Even if I were to brave the airplane journey my mind is going to have visions of an aircraft with bits flapping about in the wind, a cargo bay full of fireworks and explosions and a pilot running down the aisle shouting “do you want to make my day, punk”. I will just have to keep my fingers crossed.

The hotel today has a number of sports people staying. Apparently it is some form of tournament (hockey I think) where various teams come from around the world in a form of knock out contest. The strange thing is that the sport must be a lot rougher than I imagined. A large majority of the people are in wheelchairs, have serious walking issues or have legs missing. Now I don’t know, it may be a guess on my part, but the contest could be for people with disabilities. However if it is not, then I suggest you do not take up hockey as clearly it is a very serious sport and is likely to result in some loss of walking ability or limb.

Before I came out to the US I took my kids to see a film at the cinema. The film was called “Horton hears a who” and I did not know any more about the film other than it was an animation which featured an elephant. I was to soon find out that this film was based on a story by Dr Zeuss, the man behind cat in the hat. Whilst I did not read Dr Zeuss as a boy I am now becoming a bit of a fan. I have no idea what this guy must have liked to live with, as clearly he had some imagination, but the stories are just fantastic. The idea of the this film was centred around a elephant called Horton, who during his normal daily business of sing and dancing in the jungle, picks up a small flower. He hears a voice from the flower, and it then shows that the flower has a speck of dust attached which contains a world or small people called the Whos. I cannot do the story justice with words alone, but it really is a very good film which I enjoyed probably more than the kids. Some times I think that animation today is a bit bland and is not as good as the original Jungle book or winnie the pooh stories, but this film simply could not have been made in a traditional way and so comes alive with modern effects.



Apart from the cinema the TV is normally the other source of entertainment and normally I find very little to watch, except F1 or car programmes. I was particularly amazed by the number of police type documentaries that where being shown. They vary from being a fly on the wall to a themed and focused collection of video clips. In a week of TV I counted 7 separate TV programmes. These included Police with cameras, shops robbers and videotape as well as motorway cops (which actually had two episodes within the same week). I accept that the police have a tough job and that they have to face a number of situations, but I do get the impression that we are arming our police with video cameras, not to protect them or to provide training, but to enable them to become stars in their own right and to sell the footage around the world. How long will it be before the criminals start getting jackets and hats with sponsorship. I can just see it now “this arrest has been brought to you by Yate locks, your not going anywhere !!!” or perhaps “this escape has been sponsored by pnike, when you need to be one step ahead”

One last thing before I go and that is the latest story in the UK papers regarding our waste. The dustcart, bin men, rubbish collection, what ever you want to call it, they appear to be ready to start charging for it. Not that it is free at the moment, I believe that it is one of the things that our local taxes pays for. Apparently we can save the planet if we stop dumping so much rubbish. The best way to stop us dumping rubbish is to charge more for it, so if we continue to dump the same amount at least there is more money to spend on getting rid of it (a nicer hole perhaps). Whilst this appears to be reasonable there are a few problems. The first is how do they measure it. If they limit you to one bag of rubbish, then that will result in some very neat little gadgets becoming available. These will take any size or type of rubbish and reduce it down to the smallest size. The result will be a weeks worth of rubbish in a bag that weights the same as two or three bags previously. If they measure it using weight, then we will all be buying plastic containers and drying our waste so that it occupies the same space as a small car but weights the same as a small child. Of course that assumes that you don’t just burn it, put it in next doors bin or dump it on the road or in a carpark. All in all it seems to me that it will not reduce the amount of rubbish, it will become yet another tax and it will simply move the problem to other areas. Why don’t we tax the supermarkets and manufacturers that cover our food and goods in plastic containers and send us on our way in our 2,3 or 4 layers of packaging before we even start to consume the products. Perhaps then we will have less rubbish to put in the bin in the first place. (now I needed to get that off my chest).

What next, oh yeah hotel bathrooms, now there is a story but I think that will have to wait till next time.

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Aircraft, machines and stuff

Mar 31st, 2008 6:19:22 pm - Subscribe
Mood: interested

This past week or so we have had two aircraft related stories, the most recent being terminal 5 opening, and thankfully I was not included in its inaugural and troubled first few days.

The other was the first commercial flight of the new super jumbo. Compared to the 747, it is a bit slower, a lot heaver and goes a bit further (about 500Km). Although it needs more space to move around it does use less runway to take off than the 747. Although it is still amazing to me that they manage to get airborne in the first place. More worryingly it is made of plastic, well to be truthful; roughly 25 percent of the plane's overall structure is made from a carbon-fiber reinforced plastic. Believe it or not some pieces of carbon-fiber were stitched together by computerized, industrial sewing machines. Lets hope that the ends where tied in a knot before they cut the thread.

However this feat of engineering is nowhere near as impressive as some other machines. Imagine an aircraft that can fly at a speed of 30,000 kmph, and is perfectly stable at a height of just one meter above the ground. OK so this particular craft is fixed at one end, but it is able to see and memorize the equivalent of every blade of grass that it fly’s over. Incredibly this is an every day device and is sitting in your computer right now, whirring away and keeping all your pictures, documents and entertainment ready for action. Yes the everyday disk drive that is finding its way into every device from video recorders, camcorders, music players and game consoles. Of course we expect it to be totally reliable in all temperatures, regardless of the amount of times it is dropped, switch on, switched off or used.
I was discussing the other day about disk drive reliability, and if turning them on and off affect their life. As part of this discussion I looked at a product spec sheet and discovered that a normal drive has an expected life of 50,000 stop / start events; that’s the equivalent of switching the drive off and on each hour for over 5 and half years. Still some achievement for a device that is expected to fail at some point and costs only a few pounds.
A hard disk drive however is still considered slow and unreliable when compared to solid state components. I recall a course that I went on some years ago where the instructor was attempting to demonstrate to the class how slow disks are in comparison to memory. It was something that I thought I had already understood and accepted, but his explanation has stayed with me and I often remind myself of it.
He took a clock on the wall and suggested that it was the CPU clock inside your computer. Each second represented one cycle or one operation within that CPU. This now gives you something real that you can equate too, lets face it how many of us really measure things we do in milliseconds. !!
So now that we have a base to work from we can start to think about other devices, such as disk, memory etc. The fastest memory available today has an access speed of around 25nS, typical memory in your laptop is around 50nS. In our ‘clock on the wall’ world this represents about 1 or 2 minutes. If we take a disk drive then again we could expect somewhere in the region of 9mS access speed for an average drive. Once again using the clock on the wall we can calculate the speed. What would you expect, a few hours, 10’s of hours, possibly a day? Incredibly it works out nearer to two hundred and fifty days; that’s over 8 months. Remember that is just the speed to access, not to read or do anything with it. I won’t go on to calculate tape access speed, but its safe to say that if I asked for the data using this model I would have retired before it would be ready.



To finish this post I thought I would let you know about a site that I came across the other day. It is a bit American and probably a bit to biased towards its cause, but it does have a certain amount of truth about it and gives you something to think about. The video presentation is 20 min’s long and contains some very simple and comical drawings, however they do a very good job of getting the message across. Perhaps we should consider a similar style for our party political broadcasts.STUFF


Sorry that this post has been a bit of a tech indulgence on my part, but hey its my blog. I am sure that I will have a few things to rant about next time, In fact I need to moan about rubbish collections and TV programs. I bet you can’t wait. 

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Bluetooth watching

Mar 18th, 2008 4:25:26 am - Subscribe
Mood: sunny

I have recently returned from the US again, but this time I went to the much warmer side, California. I had been to San Francisco as part of a holiday some years ago; but other than that I had not experienced California and certainly never been to the Silicon Valley. Following the snow of my last visit to the East coast it was nice to see the sun, in fact it took some effort not to pack a coat, gloves and a scarf.
The other factor that was immediately noticeable was of course that it is further to fly, although I must say it was eased somewhat with an upgrade to BA’s world traveler plus, not quite business class but more civilized than economy. So after 2 films, a trip around the ipod, a couple of comedy’s and a magazine I arrived at the AVIS car rental depot 3750 miles away from where I started. This time I get a Nissan hybrid thing, which whilst looking nice, took me at least 10 minutes to find how to start it.

Finally I realised two things, the first is that it doesn’t have an ignition key just a button, (which only works when you push the brake and have it in Park). The second is that it doesn’t start, it just moves, without any noise or clue to how.
With the SATNAV primed, I soon arrive at my destination via several multilane highways. On the way to the hotel I passed an amazing array of computer company’s all situated along one road. I saw every vendor, Yahoo, SUN, Netgear, HP, Citrix, you name the company, and they had an office on this road. I Knew it was called Silicon valley, however I didn’t realised that it was all on one road.

After a few days in Silicon drive, I popped down south, (Los Angeles to be more specific). Another flight, AVIS depot and one all American Cherokee Jeep later and I find myself in an altogether different world. No shinny corporate HQ’s here. It’s a cross between London, the M25, a dessert and Basildon.
The place I was visiting was a small office, in a shared office block with no name over the door and a solitary telephone as a receptionist. Inside I meet some familiar faces, and of course the grey pod’s that appear in any office building I visit. I setup my laptop and then spend the next few hours on the phone with various conference and telephone calls before finally getting around to the main meeting.

You will be pleased to hear that I have not escaped from the school groups, this time they are in my hotel. I therefore decide that the bar would not be a good idea and hide in my room, order a pizza and beer and watch some drag racing.

Returning to the airport I find somewhere quiet with a socket nearby and get my laptop out. I always like to check what wireless / Bluetooth networks are available, just in case there is a free one that I can use to surf the web. I was disappointed this time; however it can sometimes reveal some interesting names. It can turn into a bit of a game in trying to guess which phone, Blackberry or laptop is advertising itself as “sexy lady”, “big dog” or “hot potato”.

When people set these up I am sure that they believe it will be only their friends that see these names. Perhaps they are unaware of the fact that this is on and broadcasting, perhaps it was not them who set the name up in the first place.
This reminds me of a time in a German airport in which the same exercise revealed a laptop or phone which was know as “Chris is a fuckwit”. I cannot believe the he knew or set this up for himself and so can only conclude one of two things. He was not popular with his mates, or that the IT department cannot be trusted. On surveying the immediate area, there appeared to be a number of candidates that fitted the bill, so I never did get to meet Chris or find out if he really was. !!

Of course F1 racing is back and I was delighted to see both Ferrari’s retire and to see the Hamilton / Mclaren combination come 1st.
Whilst not a great fan of Coultard he does come out with some great quotes and this weekend was no exception. He was being interviewed about his demise on live tele when he was asked if he was to blame for his accident. He said that he was not and he was expecting an apology; he then followed this up with “If not I am going to kick three piles of shit out of the little bastard”. It’s good to see that the heat of Australia was not affecting him. !!

OK, so I better go. I don’t have much to rant about this time but I am sure that I will have something by the time the next entry is written.

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A Review and a new word

Mar 11th, 2008 5:06:37 pm - Subscribe
Mood: foggy

It has been a few months now in this new job and probably a good time to look back and see what has happen and how things have turned out.

The first few weeks are a bit of a blur and really just resulted in me getting to grips with the basics; collecting and filling out forms or requests, plus trying to find stuff on the company intranet. Bizarrely I am still trying to find stuff on the intranet, but now realize that it isn’t just because I am new, in fact most employees cannot find things on it. The previous company had an intranet that was next to useless when trying to search something and this one is equally challenging. To be fair they have several intranets and some are easier to use and find stuff than others, but that still is not the point. In fact I now find myself being one of the people that actually are trying to make the intranet easier to use and find. How successful I will be, only time will tell.

The first trip to the US was good, but to be honest I don’t really recall that much got done from my perspective, lots of different people saying welcome and hello. A good way to get to see the place and to be introduced to various people, but I am not sure that I remember all of them, or if fact that they remember me. I do recall a large meeting that had a number of important looking people in, however now I must say that I have spoken or heard about most of them and whilst it appeared intimidating at the time, it does not appear so now. Then we had the end of year sales rush and of course Christmas and New Year breaks.

Come January, just as I thought I was starting to understand where I was and what I should be doing; my boss informed me that he was in fact moving on to a new role within the company. It was a role that had wider scope and was a step up, so all good news for him. However this left me with a new boss, some 6 weeks after I joined. This was followed by a small departmental re-org. I then find myself in a different place in the org structure reporting to a new boss. This was complicated by the fact that the new boss, whilst knowing something of my background and role, was not really sure what to do with me.
This left me in an interesting position. On the one hand I had a boss who understood my role and wanted certain objectives, but was now involved in other things with interests and time both becoming scarce. My new boss on the other hand has a number of new people to deal with and I was the only one 3,000+ miles away and with little history or previous form. The result of this is that I was allowed to manage myself for a few weeks, which I did. I seemed to get away with just emailing and talking to various people about a number of subjects which interested me. This clearly did not include things such as Formula one, Politics (unless they where US presidential elections) and football, of which the English version does not interest me, and the American version I don’t understand. However I did manage to speak to a lot of different people with only a few asking why or who or go away.

A couple of weeks ago a received a call from a person I hardly new, it turned out to be my new boss and he asked what I had been doing. Fortunately he only had 30 mins, so I was able to cover my tracks and not reveal how much fun I had wandering around the org structure.
He has now had a few meetings with me and whilst I still do not believe he fully understands what to do with me, he is allowing me to continue with a number of my original ideas. I cannot be sure, it might be too early to say, but I think that the fact that no one has told me to go away and that I am being allowed to continue with a number of things, means that I must be doing something right. He did mention in our last meeting that he believes I have now met more people than most within the department (collectively) and probably more than him, (and he has been there for several years).

I think I have arrived. !!

Ok so now time for some ranting and other stuff.
I did read that a new sport has been created, not sure that it has reached Olympic status yet, but I am sure its time will come. To take part in this new sport you need two things, an iPhone and a nose. One of these should be naturally occurring; the other will require some money and your local telephone store (plus contract). The first-ever iPhone nose-dial challenge has already taken place so you will need to get practicing for the next event. Basically it is the ability to use, navigate and operate an iPhone which nothing more than your nose. I am not sure what physical fitness is required although I am pretty sure you will need to be free of any colds. You can see the video Here (you will need to fast forward to near the end)

Finally I have a new word for you. You may not have heard of it before and you probably won’t find it in the Oxford English dictionary. However I can guarantee that you will be able to find a use for it, probably within days, possibly hours or minutes. The word is Dilligaf. Just in case you have not come across it before or if you want to check the meaning, then you will need to look at the following link.

DILLIGAF

Enjoy

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Business or pleasure

Feb 18th, 2008 10:19:55 am - Subscribe
Mood: sleepless


So here we are again, on my 2nd trip to the US and waiting at the airport for my return flight. It is actually an American holiday here on Monday and so the airport is especially busy due to the long weekend and the half term holidays. Still I managed to find the airport and the car rental depot without damaging the car, me or upsetting the residents. (Well there was one green car, but he deserved it)
Still having a job getting used to the size of some of the trucks here, but at least on this trip I did have an insight to why. We had several inches of snow probably about 4 or 5 inches, but it came down fairly quickly. This resulted in me having to dig my car out of its parking space (well clear enough so that I could identify that it was my car and that I could get in and see out). Now I assume that if you had a big truck, then you need more snow before you have to do that, and I guess that you are able to simply drive away (over any thing in your way) until the snow clears. Perhaps they look for the biggest mound of snow, assuming you have the biggest truck !!. Speaking of big trucks I did see a mention of a new Hummer. It’s called the warthog and boy oh boy the snow better look out with this. Come to think of it everyone should look out, except perhaps another Warthog or a tank.



The flight over here was busy with a group of school children on a skiing trip. It must be a sign of me getting old and miserable as the only thing I wanted them to do was sit down and go to sleep. Of course a group of 16 year olds are not going to go to sleep. In fact they appear to have some difficulty in finding and staying in a seat. It appears that moving around a group of friends every 45 mins or so is the standard protocol for this group. The funniest bit was when the aircraft doors closed. A flight steward said that they (the group) could swap seats if they wanted; I have never seen 30 kids all stand up and start negotiating seats with friends in all directions. Why the hell they didn’t attempt to allocate the seat before hand I don’t know. Anyway they all ended up roughly where they started as it suddenly dawned on them that 2 free seats would not actually be enough to allow them to all change, and that they couldn’t all sit on each others lap. I managed to change seats just before this and so was quite happy to watch knowing that I did not have some spotty teenager with trousers that are half way down their arse and what appears to be rivets in various parts of their face, sitting next to me. I made it my mission to get off the plane and through customs before them, something that I managed successfully.

US customs, the barrier to this great country, (I think that is what the motto is) anyway it appears that the best way to prevent any dodgy people getting in is to make them stand in a line for at least 20 mins. This clearly is not enough to deter someone who has already spent 6+ hours on a plane and so your finger prints are taken, together with a picture. Hang on that cannot be enough, let’s ask a question to see if they crack under pressure, Are you here on Business or pleasure. ? One last thing, lets get them to fill out 2 forms and ask them for their name 4 times just in case. Yep that should do it, please step forward and have a good day.
Incidentally if you were a bomber or some one intent of killing or causing damage what should you answer to that question. I mean it must be considered business and pleasure to blow yourself up if you are that way inclined !!.
Finally I get to my hotel and I need a drink, so after throwing all items in my room I go downstairs to get some Samuel Adams. On the TV (of which there are 4) is baseball, basket ball or hockey, to be honest I cannot really remember. I had only taken one sip of my beer when I nearly choked, the TV was set to subtitles and the subtitles detailed everything. This included the adverts, the commentators, but funniest of all was the fact that the actual contact was being recalled through the subtitles. It had words like Ohh, errgh Arr, blah. They seemed to believe that the subtitles should reflect all aspects of the game and so they inform you when a shot was missed (MISS) and when someone shouts encouragement or advice (PUSH IT UP) or what ever it was. Then they had a lady singing something, I assume that it was a new match, but could not be sure. This was also subtitled so that you could sing along at home, or in the bar etc. It appeared that the person doing the subtitles assumed that you were not able to hear or see the action, but could somehow be aware of the magical words at the bottom of the screen.

One last thing to moan about before I go. Tea stirrers, well any kind of drink stirring device I guess. Now I believe in things being designed and I assume that before embarking on a product you would so some research and understand the marketplace and the requirements. For a stirrer, it should be simple, it must not melt, it must be light, it must not be made of things that will kill you, but the main thing is that it must stir. So why do we have small sticks in a box labeled as stirrers, when clearly they are not able to stir anything. They do cause some waves if you froth it around a bit, but it does little to move the sugar or anything else from the bottom of the cup. I did manage to solve the problem however, if you get 7 or more of these stirrers together you can get some form of whirlpool effect and so by repeating this in different directions you are able to mix things up. Not sure that the box will last long, come to think of it, perhaps the box would be better than the contents in the first place. I must remember to pack a spoon next time.

Ok must go now, my plane has just been called. Oh no what’s this, more school kids brilliant just what I needed.

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Speak English

Feb 5th, 2008 6:15:43 am - Subscribe
Mood: troubled

Speak English

This title does not refer to people that do not have English as their native tongue or people that use where, were, their and there in the wrong places, although I know it can be annoying to read. Indeed I am only able to converse in one language (just) and my utmost respect goes out to anyone who can use multiple languages. Nor is it related to my previous post of acronyms or ability to understand accents. No this title is relating to the use of written words and the care in which those words are selected and used. I have a number of cases where this is becoming increasingly annoying and they can crop up when you least expect them. Take this as an example.
I was traveling home the other night on the motorway when one of the new road information signs came into view. Now these signs are to advise motorists of events, delays or information that may be of use to them and to allow them to take some action or decision. They are made up of a matrix of lights so that they can choose any word or symbol. A good idea, especially when you consider that I want to get home and the road is busy. So what words did they choose from the expansive number of possible English terms that would be found in any dictionary or scrabble board to describe what was ahead.

Obstruction ahead

Brilliant, what a waste of electrons and photons that was !!. I could work out that some form of obstruction was ahead, due to the large number of brake lights, the speed I was traveling and the fact that I was not alone in this situation. I could also determine that the obstruction was ahead, as I had not passed an obstruction and was previously unaware of any issue prior to coming across the slowing traffic. What would have been helpful was some form of indication of where this obstruction was located or the type or size of it. Considering I was currently on a motorway section 6 lanes across, with a major junction ahead, any clue to which section or lane(s) were affected would have been something additional that I could not have been aware of and may be able to make some use of it. After a number of minutes of slow traffic I finally discovered that the obstruction was in fact a queue of vehicles waiting to join the other motorway and that my journey, straight ahead, could continue without further issue. I did think to myself at the time what would have been the difference if they had not displayed anything on the sign, or if they had provided some more detail or chosen a more informative word. Did anyone benefit from that particular piece of information ? I guess I will never know.

Back at work and this lack of care or use of words appears to be on the increase. I recently received a mail with 6 typographical errors in a mail which has only 41 words in length and comprises of 2 sentences. (less than the two sentences you have just read)

This is not a unique or unusual event it appears to becoming increasingly common and I am having difficulty in understanding why. I am not confident with spelling or grammar and always rely on the spell checker to help me out. As I type this I am getting red and green lines appearing under words and phrases warning me of my inability to strike the right keys, spell or put a comprehendible sentence together. Even in mail and Wiki’s you often have the ability to spell check words or for them to be highlighted before sending or committing. So how do these mails escape from people’s inboxes without detection?
Its due to people being busy I hear you cry, and yes people are busy, but I would rather spend an extra few seconds / minutes to check that the reply is readable than let people see that I am actually a mad dyslexic and incompetent fool who cannot string two sentences together. (you wouldn’t hire anyone like that, but apparently its ok if they run our departments or companies like it). Do me a favour, delay the reply by a few minutes, hours of even a few days, and send me a reply that you have taken some care to craft and that does not resemble a suicide note from a demented psycho planning world domination.

Speaking of world domination I did come across a couple of sites the other day that were very interesting. Now, I do not belong to a virtual world, I have enough things to moan about in this life without needing a second chance. However I was not aware of the number of virtual world sites or their registered users. This site claims to have done some research on just that and as this chart shows the current and predicted landscape of such worlds.

Virtual-Worlds

What I find amazing is that second life, (the most famous one that I had previously heard of) does not come close to being the most popular. In fact it appears that unless you are under the age of 15 you are unlikely to be included in a number of virtual worlds. With young children myself, this is a real insight to how children are and will communicate as the years go by; most of which is invisible and difficult to monitor and detect. Come to think of it they use their own language anyway so there really is no hope when they get promoted to management. !!

The other site that I have come across has a map which is similar to the London underground tube map. It shows named lines which crisscross in a logical semi physical manner to represent the World Wide Web. The stations are websites and they have a number of related stations and sections defined. Clearly this does not contain or list every site, but sticks to the most popular and influential sites. Apparently it is able to be downloaded and printed on A0 paper, and so it is possible to for you to literally say to your boss that you have mapped the WWW and provided an easy to follow guide to navigate in cyberspace. For those with a plotter and are eager to please their boss the map can be found here.

WWW_Map

OK so that’s enough writing for now, I notice that someone has commented on my ability to update this blog and so I hope this goes someway to satisfying your need for me to moan and babble on. I am also suspecting that some smart arse will point out all the typographical and spelling errors in this blog entry, but of course this is a complete waste of time as I deliberately added them to see if you noticed. (well that’s my story and am I sticking to it.

Bye

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It has arrived

Jan 18th, 2008 6:03:25 am - Subscribe
Mood: baffled

Yes at long last I have a Blackberry. !!

Its been a while since I left the last company (and my last blackberry) and being a former crackberry user, its hard to get used to life without constant buzzing on your hip !! So now I am back into the mobile world again and no longer have to get my laptop out in order to find out when and where the next meeting is, see who is being annoying or play a game of solitaire. (what do you mean there are real cards available )

Anyway back to work now after the Christmas break and everyone is just about up to speed and looking forward to the next holiday. I have avoided traveling this month, mainly due to my boss being away, and mainly because its cold and wet, and why should I leave my nice cosy office at home. Which I must say is now fully functional with Printer, fax, hands free telephone headset and even a new mouse mat. Its amazing how many things you can think of that you need, when there’s an expense account waiting to be used. Still trying to get used to things here, lots of people, organizational and process things to learn and understand. The one thing that I have found is the number of acronyms that are used here. I know that IT is normally very good at creating and using acronyms but this company seems to excel at it.

I attended a meeting the other day and was taking a listening role. The purpose of me being there was to observe and not to participate directly. It is quite amazing how different departments and companies have their own little language. If you are not involved in that particular area, department or company, you do not understand the world of MLA’s (multi letter acronyms) that they speak. In my meeting I noted down 3 pages of notes, most of which were related to specific terms, people and acronyms.

My wife often overhears telephone conversations and she says that I speak a different language, and of course you dismiss it at the time, but you really do have to know the terms to fully understand the conversation.
I often wonder, especially in large meetings, if everyone is understanding and following the conversation.
Just consider this, you have a meeting with a number of departments and people which are a mixture of techno heads and managers. In addition to that you also have people from different companies, ages and accents. Throw into this mix people that a have do not have English as their native or 1st language and you have a not unfamiliar situation for most international companies.
With the example above, it is easy to see and understand how 10 people can leave a meeting with different understandings to what has been agreed and what actions and conclusions have been reached.
Anyway I left without any actions (I think) and without actually understanding what the outcome was, other than another meeting would surely be required at the same time next month.

So this is enough writing for now, I now need to get on a few conference calls and see if I can find out what a CCS is ? ( WTF or is it TTFN )

Comments: (2)

Christmas words

Jan 8th, 2008 8:05:18 am - Subscribe
Mood: cheery


So here is the first post after the Christmas period and the new year, with lots of predictions, good intentions and renewed enthusiasm. Well that was yesterday, today the kids go back to school and it’s back to the get everyone ready and out of the door routine.
Christmas seemed to sneak up on me this year, I think partially due to the new job, but also due to the recent traveling and weather (why don’t we have snow anymore). The other thing with this time is that you need to fit in the christmas shopping. Its no longer enough to buy each other some new socks, underwear or talc, the pressure is on to buy something so there’s a response slightly better than “oh no not another one” or “ what the hell is this” or “who sent me this S*#~”. But you don’t want to go to the expense of getting the “Oh my god, we should have spent more on him / them” or them feeling that they need to visit and phone you each week to make up for their lack of generosity, or may be its just me being mean !!. Either way we are all equally frustrated in getting the response “oh nothing really” or “I don’t know” when asking what they would like for Christmas, knowing that when they turn the question back to yourself, you have to respond with either a similar message or go for the 50” Plasma and the “ill try my luck tack”. The other response, which I find increasingly difficult to resist, is the “how about a voucher”. I know that in this day of relative high standards of living and disposable income that you have already purchased a number of things, but surely seeing and opening a few envelopes is not as nice as some presents, which are all wrapped in different paper and come in different sizes. A voucher is only slightly more a present than hard cash, and whilst this does give the recipient the flexibility of purchasing something in the sales (that’s a rant for another time), it is another thing that is eating away at the traditional Christmas. If we all adopted the voucher or cash option, then Christmas would be a time of standing orders and BACS, and would culminate in a bank statement not lots paper and smiling kids.

Of course Kids are so much easier, as they simply get the catalogue out and a list and detail each and every item in priority order, with any attachments, accessories or options including the battery type and quantities. My own daughter this year was able to tell me how many and the type of battery that was required, and then promptly found them in the draw. (Only to put them in a completely random orientation).
Then you have the wrapping and distribution phase, where you have to co-ordinate the purchases, the intended recipients and wrapping paper and labels so that granny gets her olde world marmalade set and little Jo gets her burping, weeing, talking princess baby mermaid doll set. (with accessories, batteries, not included).
Am I the only person that’s wraps something up, with some care it must be said, but then promptly forgets what was in the present, leaving you to deduce from the remaining presents who and what is was.

As we have relatives that live in opposite ends of the country, we then have to ensure that we gather all of the presents together and drive in one direction to swap different shaped presents wrapped in different paper, to bring them back ready for the big day (or morning). When I grew up both of my parents families lived within a few miles and so it must have been relatively easy to swap and conceal presents and keep the Father Christmas story alive, albeit I remember my father telling me that with three children of different ages it was difficult to get the timing just right on the night. He would go out with his father in law, brother in law to the pub and have a beer (or two), then come home and have to assemble or wrap the last “big” present (I remember a climbing frame one christmas) and then check to see if we were a sleep before filling our sacks with presents. Of course every time dad put his head around the door to check, one of us would sit up and say “has he been yet”. So at 02:00 AM he would finally be able to lay the presents out, eat the mince pie, drink the milk, make the foot prints in the carpet and go to bed. Only to be woken 3 hours later with three excited kids pleading with him to eat chocolate, Turkish delight or use the climbing frame (with a hangover just about to kick in).
Now however we seem to be traveling, swapping, loading and buying presents, with the kids nearby and so I am not sure that the Father Christmas story will be able to be maintained for as long as it was for me.

Finally the day is here, we are now all together with a mountain of presents in a order of sorts, ready to un wrap, say wow or ooh and then move on to the next !!. This is definitely the time of year when kids are a must. The faces of delight, bemusement, and determination in opening the presents, followed by the ordering, assembling, playing and repairing of the presents amongst the sea of paper, plastic and instruction booklets makes it all worth while. This finally brings me to my rant, what is it with the people who make the packaging for toys and games. They must spend lots of time and computer generated simulations to come up with the combination of plastic, wire, folded cardboard and sticky tape which is optimum for encasing the toy, rendering it almost impossible to remove. Clearly it can and needs to be removed, however if left to the kids would result is far more pieces than originally designed, or at the very least pieces that no longer have the same shape or locating bits. You therefore (with the aid of sharp knife, pliers, wire cutters) then proceed to extricate these various pieces so that the kids can add to the increasing “things of interest” pile and so that you can add the remaining packaging to an assortment of recycling piles of wood, plastic, metal, paper and cardboard.

In addition to this is the toy that comes in a box that requires a degree of assembly before it can be used. Now clearly the box has been designed with a toy that is in its basic component state, this box looks fine when it is in the shop. However once the toy has been assembled, the resultant component(s) can no longer be accommodated in the same box without it being shaped into some form of cone or cylinder and the addition of some sticky tape and or a plastic bag. This now of course makes small components of the toy more likely to be lost and also prevents the box being stored on a shelf without rolling off or being stacked.
Anyway I must stop there, as I have lots of things that I could cover but not the time or space to write it all now. I have to get my enthusiasm and focus back so that I can start working and look forward to what the new year will bring. In my next post I will update you on the job and reflect on the last few weeks, but for now its time I done some real work.

Speak to you soon and happy new year

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New Place of Work. Part 3

Dec 13th, 2007 4:33:19 am - Subscribe
Mood: unstable

After 5 days in the US I am now on my way back to London and looking forward to adjusting to a new time zone over the weekend. I have a large amount of notes and thoughts that I will now need to organize, digest and attempt to put into perspective. I must have met 40+ people on this visit, with a number of characters, personalities and accents. I have no idea how i am going to remember who they all are, what they do and if I need them or they need me. (Or if I should avoid them)

The people all tend to be located in small “cubes”, these are partitioned area’s which are open at the top, so you get the feeling of an office, but without the privacy and sound proofing. This results in a number of people talking on their own phones and you get a combination and a one sided perspective of all of these conversations. Some of which are more heated then others, and are a mix of customers, colleagues and mates with carefully worded conversations mixed with rants and joke telling.

The American / British language issues did cause some conversation topics (mostly around the fact that we (British) have a more versatile way of pronouncement). Words that came up included Car park, route, crisps, chips, salad, spotted dick and Knocking shop !!!

One thing that was very evident is the sales driven focus that comes of attending the corporate office. Various levels of management that all have various responsibilities but have one single focus “sell more”. This is not really a surprise, but I guess that it is because I was surrounded by Americans (and Canadians) all shouting it at every meeting I attended that made it more striking.
The other aspect that I am still finding it difficult to comprehend in America is the size of the place. Coming from a small island, which you can drive from one end to another in a day (2 at most), and where a trip abroad for holidays need be no more than 1 hours flight, it is difficult to fully comprehend. I was mixing with people that live down the road (literally) and people that live in the next state (several hours drive away) or in a different part of the country (2+ hours on a plane). I mean, can you really just accept that going from one end (side) of the country to the other involves 4 time zones and a flight time of 6 hours, Heaven knows how long it would take to drive. (I did work out that the US is 38.25 times larger than the UK) This leads me to the other difference, cars and driving. I am used to driving 2 cars, a Fiat and a Ford, the fiat has a 1.2 litre petrol engine and the Ford has a 2.0 litre diesel engine. Both of these are small compared to the hire car I had, which I believe was considered small (3.5 litre V6 with 219 BHP). All this engine and horsepower and you get to drive on icy roads and a top speed of 65MPH, still at least it started every morning.



Driving is fairly painless, lots of space (most roads are wider and more straight than the UK), and the junctions tend to be spaced so that a simple interchange from one road to another takes up two separate slip ways (signed as A and B) depending on the direction you wish to travel. Lane control is interesting, as the only control required is to pick at least one, didn’t seem to matter which.

The last point to mention is the dependence on cars, parking is a given and there appears to be an endless number of spaces and areas to park regardless of building size. Pavements are limited to getting from the car park to the building, occasionally to a 2nd building, but rarely along entire roads. There were shuttle buses, that move between buildings, but unlike the regimented eco friendly buses that I was familiar with in my previous company, these shuttles consisted of V8 people trucks (calling them vans does not do them justice). Which as far as I could tell, never switched off their engines and had drivers permanently waiting to drive you to the next building or street. What climate change !!

Ok that must be enough for now. Christmas shopping is the next item on the agenda, that and a wife + 2 kids who are expecting presents.

Comments: (2)

New place of work. Part 2

Dec 5th, 2007 10:42:29 am - Subscribe
Mood: keen

So here I am into my 3rd week and I am sitting on a plane on my way to the US. The 2nd week was fairly painless and consisted mostly of attending a training course, for a new software product. The course was one that had been done before, however this was a new version which attempts to pack in more information into less time, a accelerated learning experience, as I would put it, or a deep dive boot camp as the guys in the states seemed to describe it. The course material and the software seems to be reasonably well thought through and has a history of successful deployments and real life users. However on our course the PC’s that were used had been found in a box the day before and so were in no real state to practice labs on. In fact we had to rebuild each of the PC’s before we were able to use them as well as installing and configuring the DNS server and a backup server. Still we did demonstrate that you could easily accommodate more into the time frame as long as you were prepared to improvise on some of the labs. Typical short cuts like doing the practical 1st with diagnostics, followed by the tuition and then repeating the practical but with the added benefit and pressure of speed and workarounds that were gained in the 1st stage.
Another aspect of attending the course is that I get to meet different people that work for the company. There were a number from the UK, but most were from other European countries such as France, Italy, Spain, Germany and Norway. I took the opportunity to ask them what they thought of the products, what experiences of customer sites they had. Most of the people attending the course were techie sales types, and so they were mostly focused on the “opportunities” and the “revenue recognition” of the product, rather than the nuts and bolts of how it works. The final benefit of attending the course is that we get lunch paid for, although the French guys did not see this as a benefit, as they had trouble recognizing the contents of the meals that were being offered.
Once the course was over, and a quick summary report to capture my thoughts and points had been written, it was back to more standard matters. I now have business cards, with the title and the department vague enough to cover a number of areas and hopefully to survive a number of re-orgs. I now have all of the Microsoft office suite installed on my PC (It seems that Project, Visio and Acrobat are weird programs that no one else could possibly need as a standard), after a quick visit to our local IT department.
The next adventure is to try and master that corporate animal which sole purpose appears to be to hide information and to demonstrate why search engines are necessary. I am of course referring to the company intranet. This is a home page with 9 menus and 7 submenus which then take you to 9 different sites (all of which have a different style and typeface) which have a similar number of menus, some of which take you back to the 1st originating page. (The endless intranet loop, were you can literally disappear up you own portal)
One of my introductory objectives is to take a number of web based training modules. These modules start at the basics and then progress so that you have a good understanding of the company’s products and approaches. I thought that I would start with some of the easy ones 1st as these should be a breeze. At first I was fine, the first two courses were obvious and common sense and as such I passed the end assessment with 100% success. However the next two were to be a little more difficult. This was not due to the subject matter being more difficult, but it was due to the fact that some of the questions in the end assessment were wrong, misleading or impossible to complete. One question ask for a single answer, but gave 6 choices of which 5 were correct, yet none appeared to be judged correct. In fact the only way that I managed to get the required 70% pass was to retake the exam several times and eliminate the answers until I got the pass. I was offered feedback at the end of the module, but it seemed to be interested in the appearance and speed of the training and not the quality of the subject matter or the accuracy of the assessment at the end.
Anyway I need to get some coffee, as my flight is nearing its destination and so I will have to put the laptop away, and enjoy the US immigration process. (Who came up with a form that asks you for your name and date of birth three times, on the same card) Still at least they should know who is coming into and out of their country. !!!

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New place of work. Part 1

Nov 19th, 2007 3:12:24 am - Subscribe
Mood: alright

I am on my 3rd day now and it has been fairly easy going and predictable. The 1st day I actually attended a partner seminar and so had an opportunity to meet a number of jolly nice sales people, with their holiday tans, smart suits and burgeoning expense accounts. Still it was good to hear (and see) what and how the partners get information that they then take to their customers. It also highlighted that the level, quality and consistency of the information that people need or have presented to them, reflects on the ability to sell, advise and for want of a better phase, get excited about the products and services that they offer.
After the standard business buffet, with the chicken spicy wrap, egg sandwiches and 7UP it was off to the head office.
I collected my badge (the photo actually looks like me) to get into the building, car park etc; my laptop and phone (basic but functional) and a number of forms to fill in. During my various trips to different floors and departments, I get introduced to people that I will be working with; of course I don’t have the advantage of being given a business card and so promptly forget their name, face and function. (never mind, I will soon meet them again in the restaurant, car park or cyberspace !!!).
The next day and it is time to attend an HR presentation and then listen to a couple of elearning courses to teach me how to keep secrets, avoid insider trading, adjust my seating and monitor position and what constitutes sexual harassment; Glad we’ve cleared that up.
Then it’s down to the important things, like expenses, travel policies and company credit cards, followed by advice on how you can bend, flex or gain from, expenses, travel policies and company credit cards. (The later was not supplied by HR)
So on to the 3rd day where I attempt to get a grip on the intranet site(s), with their multi search, multi layout, multinational nuances, and to try and work out how to order software, book holidays or submit an expense claim; some things never change.
Also have to start thinking about performance reviews, not a new concept as I have had to do these in the past; however this one forms part of my reward. Its amazing how interested you suddenly become in these.!!! Before I break for the weekend and my 1st full week, its time to start planning for the next few weeks, with courses, flights and people and agenda’s to prioritize and fit in, as well as the all important holidays !!

So far so good, let’s see what a full week feels like.

Comments: (2)

Thanks for all the fish !!

Nov 15th, 2007 4:41:11 pm - Subscribe
Mood: reflective
Optimism level: high

Some of you may well recall that this is a phrase from the Hitchhikers guide to the galaxy, where the dolphins leave earth after repeatably trying to warn us of the impending demolition of earth. It’s also the subject line in the mail that I sent out to all of my friends and colleagues informing them of my departure and inviting them to a farewell drink and at local pub. It was great to be able to spend some time having a beer and talk about things past, as well as catching up with all things present and speculating on what the future may bring. I figure that I have attended enough “leaving do’s” to make up for the fact that it was my time to pay the bill.
I would like to thank everyone for the card and the various comments and kinds words. It is very much appreciated and I hope that this blog entry goes some way to show my appreciation. I would also like to thank everyone (that contributed) to the collection; I am planning to spend the money on something that I will need in my new job, a larger suitcase.
It is my intention to keep in touch with everyone, and will use this blog to keep you updated, so please keep checking and commenting!!!

BTW, the dolphins are still here, so we should be safe for a few years yet!!!

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Is anybody taking a register

Nov 4th, 2007 8:33:52 am - Subscribe
Mood: incredulous

A recent news story in the UK regarding immigration, revealed that the government got the numbers wrong when estimating the number of immigrant workers in the UK for a given period. Ok so we cannot be 100% accurate on these things, but it then went on to reveal an unbelievable fact.
Apparently the government doesn't actually count people coming in or (presumably) going out of the country.

WHAT !!!!!

They estimate these figures based on survey’s. The survey’s are voluntary and are mostly performed at airports, not all, just some. Apparently anybody traveling by boat, train, car or bus are free to pop in or out.
How can this be right. ? I cannot walk down any high street without someone wanting to “chat” to me about their dog charity, Orphaned children in some country or joining some “stop the blah blah” campaign. Every time I go to an airport, get onto a channel ferry or travel on Eurostar I have to book (maybe hours, days or weeks) before I arrive. I have to queue in order for my passport to be inspected, and recorded and I have my baggage inspected and have my movements recorded multiple times on CCTV.
I cannot believe that we do not have the ability to simply count the numbers of people going out or coming in to the country.

It must be possible to reconcile, at least with some degree of accuracy, which people are british passport holders and which are not. It must also be possible to assume that if 120,000 people arrive (that are not british passport holders) and only 80,000 leave, that they must be staying !!!.
I am not a big fan of the big brother world that we have to belong to, but surely we should be able to get some advantages out of it. If this were a business, it would have a powerful database full of names and details. It would be able to predict the area we live, the food and newspapers we would buy and from where. It would even give us special promotions just at the time we need to buy our sun cream or book our holidays.
Perhaps we should ask Tesco’s or Sainsburys to conduct our immigration surveys, they could give everyone a club or Nectar card and simply swipe in, every time they fly, shop or use a school or hospital.

Comments: (0)

Surprising subject

Oct 17th, 2007 5:04:22 am - Subscribe
Mood: recumbent
Optimism level: wayward

The internet can throw up some things that you simply would not have known or seen. I was sent this link the other day and it is an example of how someone can engage and hold an audience. The subject is not one that you would search about or stumble on, but I could not help but to listen all the way through.

The site has a number of other discussions / talks and there is something for everyone.

Have a look and see if you agree.

http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/view/id/161
Comments: (1)

Very rewarding; I think Not !

Oct 11th, 2007 10:12:10 am - Subscribe
Mood: disconnected

Recently I was sent a "rewards statement" this was located on a website and the website link was sent to me via my email address. What is wrong with that ?, well not much as it stands.
But the way it has been arrived at goes to illustrate what is wrong with companies that become detached from their employees or reality.
The Idea was probably presented by a consultancy company as part of a review of business practices and workforce motivation. Which in turn was prompted by a survey, conducted on behalf of the company, by an independent polling firm. The actual rewards are hosted by an external hosting company, specializing in the publishing of rewards statements. There is also an email address to voice concerns and ask questions regarding your statement. Once again this is an external “management” company that may or may not be affiliated to the previous hosting, consultancy or polling companies. Finally the email and the rewards campaign has a number of posters, announcements and art work, that presumably has been designed and generated uniquely by one of the companies or consultants, or heaven forbid another company specializing in promotion and companies.
At the end of the day, what has been achieved is that they have informed you about something that you probably already knew. It was the lack or size of the rewards that you actually complained about in the survey, anticipating that they may consider increasing or giving you additional rewards.
What they actually did is spend all the money that could have been used to give you those rewards, and employed a number of other companies to tell you what you already were unhappy about.
Of course the companies that they employed have all increased their revenue and then rewarded themselves with your reward !!!
This makes even less sense when you know that the company concerned has a strong IT and communication presence and could have simply listened to their employee’s concerns and used old fashion man management to achieve far more.

Comments: (1)

I don't believe it

Oct 8th, 2007 3:19:56 am - Subscribe
Mood: overloaded
Optimism level: Nervous

I cannot believe that in this day of a technology driven and monitored world that we still get caught out on the simple things.
Take this weekends F1 GP, You would have thought that Maclaren would have enough staff, budget and experience to know when the tyres are worn on one of their cars.



And Then to "Crash" into a gravel trap close enough to wave to your team in the pit lane !!!

Now I have to wait for Brasil.

Bring it on
Comments: (1)

This is the 2nd text entry to test Rss feed

Oct 7th, 2007 6:00:24 am - Subscribe
Mood: zany

Hello

welcome to my blog and here is a link

LINK

see if that works
Comments: (0)

test entry No 1

Oct 6th, 2007 5:20:01 am - Subscribe
Mood: fidgety
Optimism level: high

This is a test entry
Comments: (0)

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