Wednesday, December 16, 2009

British Airways

I'm off on holiday this Christmas... thank goodness I'm not flying with BA. Even so I have to say the union do seem to have their heads in clouds without any need to get on an airplane. Why haven't the unions got it into their heads that if they bring down the company, they'll lose their jobs. If they cost the company millions during the strike action, there's even less assets to meet their demands and BA management would have to economise even more which will impact their jobs even more that the current proposals. If I've got things right there are no proposed pay cuts, just a pay freeze on the levels that are already twice what Virgin staff are paid for doing the same job. They are being asked to work some flights with one less cabin crew, where Virgin already run a similar flight with 2 less, and the senior cabin crew are being asked to actually serve passengers!!! My God, you don't mean they will actually have to work for the money they earn? Again senior Virgin cabin crew already serve passengers on their flights.
And the message that the unions sent to their members? "One ruined Christmas will be forgotten very quickly, but the benefits will be with you for the rest of your career". I paraphrase a little, but that was the message. I think if they ever had any public sympathy, it's going to quickly evaporate with statements like that.
Living in an area where the average wage before the collapse of places like Corus Steel was about £14k, I would say to the BA cabin crew who are already on twice that and extremely well paid for their industry:
"Get your f***ing heads out of your arses and stop your pathetic complaining."
You're lucky to still have your jobs. You're lucky to be paid the high wages you get. You're lucky to have working conditions better than other companies even if BA management do get their changes through"
Rant over.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Beer and food

Just a couple of things going on in Stokesley soon that might appeal to fans of good food and drink. Firstly, this weekend (Oct 23/24/26) the White Swan are having a Winter Warmers beer festival with a range of guest beers to taste. Hopefully Ash won't mind me reproducing the list of Ales here (Click on the picture to enlarge) :

Secondly on November 7th Chapters are having a Greek night with a special menu based on the Greek cuisine that their chef picked up while working out there for a year. See this link for details:

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Multilingual Mayhem

I've never been a great student of languages. Out a hundred or so language students at my school doing O level in either German or French, I had the lowest mark of all of them, managing to get a U grade (unclassifiable - that's lower than F for fail!) in both the written and oral exams.
It's a same really as when I started out at "big" school I was really keen to learn German, but a couple of years in an the teacher switched and I lost interest.
Now however, I'm still crap at learning languages but they do fascinate me. So even after 10 or 20 years of trying to learn Greek, I can compare the grammar to Modern Greek to Old Anglo Saxon, trace pronunciation shifts of Greek alphabets from ancient to Modern, and decipher the weird and wonderful world of the effect of noun cases on articles, but am still only just capable of ordering a meal in Greek and asking for the bill afterwards.
German I haven't really spoken since those disastrous exams at school, yet I now suddenly find I'm trying to use German in anger far more than I've ever had to use Greek. I'm in Hamburg and working on my own at a customer site. Each time I arrive I have to collect a "dead-man" telephone from the Shift Manager, and return it to him when I leave. Basically if I fall over and stop moving for any length of time the phone sets off an alarm. Anyway, most of the Shift Manager's have about as much grasp of English as I have of German, so the onus is on me to make myself understood. It's come as quite a surprise how much I've been able to communicate and how much of it I haven't had to look up on BabelFish. So if Mr Clokes (or Cloakes - can't remember how it was spelt) is still alive and by chance reading this, I may have been your worst pupil ever, but it wasn't all for nothing. And by the way, sorry, I cheated in every vocab test you ever set.
The real problem I'm having is the inevitable slip from German into Greek so I'll be on the phone to "der Schiftmeister" and start the sentence in German and end with Efkharisto, the Greek for Thank You. It's as if my brain just decides that if it's not English, any other foreign language will do!

Work Travel When Credit Gets Crunchy

Once upon a time the account I worked on used to support IT all over Europe and most of the work was handled from the UK. So there used to be a lot of travelling round the world, installing systems, going to workshops, giving training etc.. In those days it seemed that, although it wasn't a case of "money is no object", as long as the account was making a healthy profit, then common sense seemed to prevail - If there was big heavy servers to install, two people were sent. If the work was at all sensitive, you extended the travel to cover being on site at the start of the following week to make sure the customer was happy even if the work finished on a Friday night. Consequently, travel used to be one of the major draws of the job, even though at times you spent more time away from home that at it. OK, lots of trips were a case of flying out, sitting in a taxi for a bit, spend a load of hours in an office basement computer room, fly home. So often you didn't exactly experience much of the country's culture, but in between there were also a lot of trips when there was free time to look about, and especially when you were with a colleague you could enjoy the time.
Mind you, back in those days (and "those days" is beginning to take on the status of myth and legend, rather than history) I worked in a team that numbered well into double figures, and the staff on the account numbered 30 or 40 just on the Wilton Site were I work. Now there are 3 of us there in total, and I am a team of "one". Fair enough, the customer has got smaller and the amount we support has shrunk too, and some of the support is now run out of India (but that topic is a whole other post - don't get me going about off-shoring here), but I wonder now about the tight control of costs.... it used to be that we travelled to the problem - sometimes it wasn't essential and the work might have been accomplished remotely, but nothing ever beats being able to see an issue up close and talk directly to the people involved. The accountants say it's not the cost effective approach, but perhaps a happier customer with a system working quickly is more likely to continue buying support from you that a pissed off one who has been dealing for days or weeks with various remote support teams to try and get a resolution to his issue.
So, I am writing now sitting in Hamburg on what is now one of the rare occasions where so much expense is risked by not getting the job done right, that all the hoops and red tape has been gone through to approve having a real person on site doing the whole job. Of course these days I'm on my own, my hotel room is the size of a postage stamp, and there's so much work crammed into the weekend that it's just sleep and back to the office, but I am experiencing some of the Hamburg culture (or at least I'm getting lost in Hamburg central station trying to find the right Metro line from Hotel to Office, and then playing human sardines in the rush hour crush).
Of course if the job were not quite as important to say some cash, the process would have more likely been one team sending an engineer to physically install the hardware locally in Germany, then the team in India trying to talk the software install through with a different local team who would provide hands and eyes on site (but with no knowledge of what they were doing) and then the Indian team finishing off whatever they could do once they could remotely connect back to the servers..... and then escalating to me once they got stuck.
Anyway, what I am really beginning to wonder about is this. The current way of running the show is often termed as "being run by accountants" and the defense often given is that in these credit crunch days it's the only way a company can survive. But which came first, the chicken or the egg? Did companies start running in a penny pinching way because the economy shrank and force it on them? Or was it actually the other way round? If companies had kept people with a business eye in charge, who look to the real future of there company rather than just the next quarter figures, would the economy have been in better shape to maintain itself?
I know it's not all as simple as that, but it might just be another contributing factor in this modern ethical tale on the wages of greed.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Mmmm...nice baps!

New Arrivals

we couldn't wait any longer....there was a hole in the home that was cat shaped and since Apollo was such a large cat it had to be filled with 2 kittens. So welcome to Spartacus and Djedefra who we picked up from the Cat's Protecttion League at the weekend. They are only 10 weeks old and as with most kittens have the energy equivalent to that of a small strategic nuke. The house now smells of cat poo and the curtains seem to be a far more interesting thing to shred than any pet toys we've bought but .... they're kittens and adorable!
Djedefra on the left and Spartacus on the right.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Passed on to the relief of birds

'Tis with not a little sadness that I have to report the death of my cat Phoebus Apollo at the age of about 12ish (one can never quite remember with cats as they don't make quite such a fuss when you forget their birthday). After surviving the bout of cancer a couple of years back, he recently decided to start growing his heart to enormous proportions until after an X-Ray a little after christmas it was revealed to be virtually filling his ribcage forcing the lungs down into his belly and not giving them much room to inflate. The problem was that his heart wasn't running efficiently and hence it was pumping too hard and therefore the heart muscles were being built up too much. As it got bigger and bigger the valves widened and fluid started building up in his lungs too. By last week the fluid build up was making him look 9 months pregnant!
Still apart from a few obvious low points where he found eating anything cheaper than £1 per 50 grams totally impossible, he's been fairly comfortable for the 4 months and given that he'd just stuffed breakfast down as heartily as ever only an hour before we found him coiled up in his bed sans the mortal one, I can only assume it was a fairly quick heart failure in the end.
I've said before, he was a crap cat, but it's still a tad sad each time I walk past where his bed was and there's no head rising up to see if there's any food to be had from me. Just a big cardboard box there now, and his lordship himself buried out in the back garden.
Not everyone is sad at his passing though as we did observe some of the blackbirds out there jumping up and down on the fresh mound of earth. I fancy I can hear a faint cry of "Halelujah" from them!

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Law, Order and Intel

I was quite looking forward to the new Law & Order UK series, not because of the previous US version as I'd never seen it, but reading the blurb in TV magazines etc, it just looked interesting, and having watched the first one, after a little while to get used to the whistle-stop style of telling the story thought it was rather good....except for one thing that makes me rather loathe to continue watching. Each time the scene changes from one location to another, the screen goes black and text is displayed to tell you when and where the action of the next scene takes place. Now this isn't unusual in itself and is used on many shows I watch and enjoy. No, the problem on this particular show is the use of "chimes" as if to alert you to the fact you should be reading the message! It's only marginally less annoying that the Intel jingle that every computer advert has to include if it mentions an Intel processor, and is kind of like trying to watch a TV show while some mobile phone in the room is constantly receiving text messages. Please ITV, cut out the chimes, and you've got a good show.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Wine Alert

One of the best wines I've had in recent months was the Hardy's Nottage Hill. They do a few wines under this label but the particular one I liked was the Shiraz Tempranillo variety which is a shame as the one normally on offer is the Cab. Sav. version. However it's my lucky day as Tesco have knocked £1.70 off the price at the moment so it's down to £5.49 until Feb 3rd.
Now I know this still isn't cheap, but if you like the rich, heavy reds that have loads of fruit and throw in a bit of choccy charm then this is a really good wine at a reasonable price while the offer is on. I got 3 more in today, but I'm very tempted to go down and buy a full case to fill in a worryingly large amount of gaps in my wine rack ("Good Lord, Jeeves! We're under 20 bottles left! Has the world come to an end?").

Anyway, if it's of interest, he's the link to it on the Tesco site. And remember there's another 5% off for six bottles or more with any wine you buy which makes it about £5.22.....

....honest I'm not getting back handers from Tesco. :)