Sunday, October 17, 1999

17/10/99 Return of the Redeye

Monday, 11/10:
Well, we picked up Margo safe and sound from Geneva on Saturday night, as according to plan. Luckily her flight arrived about 10 minutes early and as we arrived bang on time we only had to wait 5 minutes or so for her to finish picking up her luggage and then we were out of the dump. Jeremy was extremely pleased.

Today things didn't go quite so swimmingly. I had to head back up to Vevey to try and iron out the last wrinkles in the test gear for our (excessively rude word) Swiss client and someone had neglected to inform me that today was the opening of the big Telecom 99 expo at Palexpo, just opposite the Geneva airport. I spent an hour inching forward in the tunnel (it's almost 2km long, so the calculation of my average speed is fairly simple) and then another 20 minutes or so getting past the Palexpo/airport exit ramp. Instead of getting to Vevey at 10am, it was almost midday by the time I got there.

Never mind, when I left this evening (just in time for the traditional traffic jam at the Bardonnex customs post, that's only 10 minutes) things were working at about 95%, it proved to be their fault (I can say "I told you so") and on top of it on arriving home I found our lovely central heating burner sitting up in the attic, all plugged into the hot water cylinder and just waiting to be hooked up to radiators! There are minor details to attend to, of course - getting the fuel lines hooked up from the tank to the burner, getting a filling inlet for the tank set in somewhere, getting a power point put in the cellar and in the attic, getting the documentation for the burner in a language other than German ... but I start to feel that things are moving, in more or less the right direction. Too slowly, but we'll have to live with that.

Still working on my big SQL Server application with its Visual Basic front-end, and getting more and more frustrated. The application itself does more or les what I want it to, apart from a few minor bugs and not-yet-implemented features, but it's come time to add the reporting side of things. Microsoft thoughtfully provide a handy DataReport control with Visual Studio, which you can hook up to a database table and use to generate simple reports. Provided you want to do what its designers thought you might want to do, in the way in which they thought you might want to do it, it works - sort of.

Unfortunately, its designers were people (I suppose) of limited imagination, so they didn't think of many things you might want to do, and even what you are allowed to do doesn't work 90% of the time. It is very, very, annoying. I realise that all their competent people are working overtime trying to get Windows 2000 out with only 16,504.2 known bugs before they have to change the name to something like Windows 2010, but why oh WHY do they have to hire cretins fresh from university to write controls that get distributed everywhere and which would be incredibly useful if they actually worked as advertised?

So long as I take my tranquilisers and no-one gets me onto the subject of compiler service packs which require you to reboot your machine three times (a record for something which is not, à priori, an operating-system component) and which break all your existing applications (a big hand here to the Microsoft QA teams -who now utnumber the programmers at Redmond, or so I've heard - for their non-existent egression testing) I'll be all right. But how can any software company employ more software testers and QA people than the entire population of Peru and still turn out such utter rubbish?

End of moan, and rather more time has passed than I thought: it's now the 17th. The usual busy week, although I spent rather more of it than I'd like tracking down a bug in a fixed-point multiplication library. It's been fine and warm - at least during the day - and yesterday I went down and gave the lawn its last short back and sides before spring comes round again. Hot enough to be out there in nowt but shorts and gumboots. Spent this afternoon bashing small boxes into kindling for the fire (really must order the firewood this week) and tidying up under the balcony to get enough place to stack the wood when it gets delivered: Jeremy really enjoyed that. He got to smash boxes with his hammer and then jump up and down on them - definitely reduced to kindling after that.

Somewhat to my surprise Jeremy hasn't regressed since Margo came back: he's still into tidying things up without being told, serving himself at dinner, getting his breakfast ready ... must really have decided he's grown-up. Now if we could just get him to learn to wipe his own bum without leaving brown streaks up backside, walls and underpants, life would be looking pretty good ... I suppose it'll come with time.

Anyway, as you'll have guessed, we're all of us alive and getting on well enough, even Fat Tess, who's laying in her winter grease supplies and is looking more like a furry beach ball than a cat. But she's suffering from a Lack of Cuddles, and I get the feeling that she misses Malyon more than the rest of us. Jeremy's no fun to curl up on at night.

Margo and her partner Monique are going to close up the shop as soon as they can do so and get out of it without losing too much money: what with the explosion and now the fact that people who would normally be clients have found that they can order stuff direct from the US (without paying import duties or TVA, if the quantities involved are small enough to be classed as "for personal use") it's just not worthwhile carrying on. Never mind, they had fun while it lasted.

And now goodnight - I'm back off to Vevey tomorrow for another day's farting about, with any luck I'll miss the traffic jams this time.

Sunday, October 3, 1999

03/10/99 Autumn Blues

A lovely autumn day here: started off grey and raining, kept it up through lunchtime and on into the afternoon, and as I write it's still going strong, grey and raining. The stream is up, and a dismal air of dampness is around. Mind you, that's most Sunday afternoons.

Not that things were helped by last night's little effort. As usual on a Saturday, Jeremy popped in to see Sophie and Renaud on our way back from the market and stayed on for lunch, and as we were leaving Sophie suggested we stop by that evening for a little apéro - not dinner, she was too tired, just drinkies. So we went home and I went down and cleared out the cellar where the fuel-oil tank is going to go and made a bonfire with useless old bits of wood and did our little bit of shopping and then we got our glad-rags on and went back to Sophie and Renaud's, bearing a bottle of hydromel as our contribution.

We got there about 19:30 to find Bruno Fontanel and his wife Patty there as well, and they'd bought two bottles of Bordeaux, and Renaud had opened a bottle of his extremely strong Swiss white, and when we'd finished the apéritif it was after midnight, we'd written off all the bottles and were on to the vodka that Sophie had hidden away in the broom cupboard. Jeremy and Lucas and Thibaud were still happily playing upstairs (Rémi had crashed some time earlier) but the grownups were rather written-off and decided to call it a night. It made getting up this morning a bit of a chore - especially as Jeremy crept into bed with me about 8, but happily went back to sleep - without wriggling, thank God - and we managed to grab another two hours of sleep before getting up, blearily getting a baguette for breakfast (with lots of coffee) then making a tart and heading off to see Hervé and Jocelyn for lunch. Drank Perrier.

Right now Jeremy is busy vacuuming the playroom. He keeps saying that he really wants to help, so that I don't have to do things. Quite sweet - it'd be even better if he were actually capable of doing what he tries to do. Mind you, there's not too much that can go wrong with a vacuum cleaner, except perhaps my having to open it up and pull Jeremy out of the bag.

At least we've had a couple of fine days this week so the vendanges have finished. Unfortunately it was the whites that got left on the vine while it rained, so with the first fineish day everyone was out hurriedly getting them in before they rotted. They're still promising a good year: we'll have to see. I really must take the time next year to go down south to Courthezon and Orange to pick up some more Chateuaneuf-du-Pape now that we have a bit of spare cash: the stocks are running low and the oldest bottles I have down in the cellar date from 86, and at 13 years old they really need drinking so I shall have to replace them. Maybe in Spring I'll find the time to take a couple of days off.

As far as I know the world hasn't ended: can't be sure, as I haven't watched TV for a month or so (no time) and I may have missed it. It seems that Jospin is trying to shore up his socialist credentials by talking tough about new laws punishing businesses that make a profit and yet lay workers off: I doubt it'll come to much, he's playing to the gallery. At least in the last budget the 10% surcharge on the ridiculously high company profit tax of 33% is to be removed, which will knock 4% off what Upstart has to pay at the end of each financial year.

Unfortunately the tax loophole whereby I got reimbursed the difference between what I actually owed in tax and the tax credit from our dividends (on which Upstart had already paid tax) comes to an end, so I can no longer look forward to a nice 15000F cheque in the mail every August. Bit of a shame. It's now in my interest to pay myself a bit more so that I personally owe more tax so as to get some use out of the tax credit, which will also reduce the tax burden on the company. Accountancy is so much fun.
Anyway, I'm going to get an early night tonight, so goodbye and love to you all.