Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Weekend In Devon

Last Thursday evening we went down to the Lodge to open it up; the site that it is on is closed from January 15th until Match 15th, this is a Dartmoor National Park regulation. We made good time, just under four hours driving, and when we arrived we found that all was OK. This was greatly to our surprise as temperatures fell to -17 degree Centigrade some nights and many of the other lodges had suffered burst pipes. I think that what helped us, apart from having the heating on low, was that Lawrie and Emma were there early January in the snow and that they were there for some of the coldest nights. They did have to get a tow from a local farmer and his tractor to get them up the hill though. The water supply on site froze when they were there and so they had to melt snow to flush the toilets etc; not quite my idea of fun!
We did find on the Friday morning that somehow one of the double glazed window units had leaked and had half an inch of water swilling apart between the two panes of glass. I have had the seal in units go before resulting in condensation, but have never seen anything like this before; neither had the man who came to fix it!
We spent Friday pottering about, fixing things, giving the place a clean and general tidy up. Saturday we went to Dawlish and a couple of mile walk along the promenade to Dawlish Warren, the ground was too muddy to contemplate walking across the moors, at least it was for us. We had a great day out in overcast, but dry conditions.

Dawlish has a lovely green with a stream running through it and is famous for its black swans.
 All in all we had a most enjoyable day out, nothing exciting just very relaxing. In the evening we or rather I suffered the trauma of watching England play rugby, they played well but still lost!

On Sunday after Mass we went to see our friend Jenny Peel who runs a pub, The Lymmington Arms at Wemborthy. The food there is excellent and reasonably priced, then back to read the Sunday papers, a great way to spend the day.
Monday was spent on tidying things up and driving home in the afternoon, all in all a good weekend.

That Diet!
No doubt you are all wondering how I am struggling with my diet, well I am just about holding my own. The trip to the US and several business dinners have not helped. neither is the fact that I managed to get cellulitis in my big toe. This has made walking very painful and so prevented me (any excuse) from doing much exercise!
A course of antibiotics has helped so hopefully the weight loss will increase, currently I am x stone 9 lbs!

Sunday, 14 March 2010

Some thoughts on computing

A friend called me to say that his daughter was having an interview with IBM for an industrial year placement and did I have any advice that I could give. This set me thinking about all the changes that there have been in business computing.

I think that there have been different "waves" of computing from a business perspective. Scientific and Technical is slightly different in that modern computing is allowing them to simulate experiments and field trials so that when they have to do actual real life studies they have a better idea of what the results will show - it stops them (to an extent) going down blind alleys. I hesitate to use the example of the Met Office as they seem to be getting things wrongs in spectacular fashion recently; I guess that this is all down to th models they use rather than the computers they use and the thought that they are politically motivated to follow one stream of thinking! From a business perspective:
  1. The first wave was replacing repetitive tasks; payroll is an obvious example.
  2. Then there was the rise of databases and data mining; a good example is the analysis of loyalty card data. Supermarkets could work out what customers bought together so that could layout stores to encourage buying patterns
  3. Business process automation; work-flows so that an order can be automatically tracked for receipt to dispatch is one example. Scanning of insurance claims and the automated processing of claims is another
  4. Then came the internet and the rise of easier communication - the "paperless" office
  5. The current waves in business today are "Web 2"; business being transacted over the internet, mobile computing and all that "stuff". 
  6. The other wave is business analytics which is the joining together of various pieces of information to help predict external opportunities and threats to a business. You can read about this here.
  7. The other really exciting event is the Smarter Planet initiative that IBM is spearheading there are some really innovative ideas here. Andy, the guy mentioned in the article, is one of those people with a brain the size of the planet who also has the ability to put his complex ideas across in an easily understandable form. even I manage to grasp them when he is explaining them! (Note; This article seems to have vanished from the Sunday Times website, they probably only keep them up for a week. Look here instead )
  8. The trend within IBM is how hardware revenues are declining as a percentage of IBM's total revenue. You can read about that here
There are many exciting things happening, my problem as I get older is trying to keep up with them. I sometimes think that I am morphing into Boxer in Animal Farm, always harping on about the old days as along with all the technological changes IBM is changing as a place to work in. I guess that over the past twenty six years all companies have changed, not always for the better I am afraid. Still folks like Andy will ensure that we never run out of ideas.

Sunday, 7 March 2010

Mixed Emotions

You're not the only one
With mixed emotions
You're not the only ship
Adrift on this ocean 
Just how I was feeling on Friday, full of mixed emotions. In the morning Julia and I attended the funeral of the 22 year old son of a friend of ours. He had been tragically killed in a car accident. The funerals of young people are always so sad, it seems such a tragic loss. The church was full and the service was very moving. Julia helped welcome the congregation into the church and I was helping as an altar server. Having a role to play certainly helps on occasions such as this. You feel so vulnerable and pray that something like this does not happen to your own children. At 22 you feel invulnerable, sadly this is not the case.

In the late afternoon and evening we met up with old friends from college. We meet up a few times each year, usually for lunch. This time the morning funeral meant we had to delay the proceedings. There used to be six of us, Martin and Maureen, John and Maria (best man and bridesmaid at our wedding) and Julia and I. We had all been to college together and have kept the friendship up for some 40 years. 
It was the first time that we had met since Maureen, who was the wife of Martin, had died. It was good for us all to meet again; we were joined by another Julia, the widow of an old college friend of ours, Stuart. Julia lived close to the pub where we met at Chobham and it was good to see her again. What could have been a mournful occasion was full of laughter and happy memories. It certainly lifted my spirits as we reminisced about our college days, our families and looked forward to the future. We even fixed a date for our next meeting, July 4 when we shall celebrate losing our American friends; they never could make a decent cup of tea!
Maria, Julia, Julia, Martin, Barry, John
One thing that we all agreed on, do not put off doing things that you really want to do. You never know what is around the corner and life is too short to have regrets.
Live in the present tense, facing the duty at hand without regret for the past or worry over the future.