j4: (admin)
So, the boss's son is temping for us.

"Usability? Is that even a word?"
"Yes."
"What, really?"
"Yes, really."
"[pause] What does it mean?"
"How you use things."
"Huh? That's 'usefulness'."
"No, that's whether something's useful to you or not. Usability is about how people use things, how they interact with applications, systems, and so on."
"Huh?"
"Look, Google for 'usability'. I'm not making it up, really."
"Nah, I'll defer to your professional judgement."
"No, really, why don't you Google for it. You'll see that I'm not making it up, and you might find out a bit more about it, if you're interested. And if you're not interested, well, never mind."

[tappity-tappity]

"Gosh, it is actually a real thing, isn't it?"
j4: (hair)
So I was in the kitchen, making myself a cup of coffee, I call it the idiot drink, and decided to have one of the doughnuts that Anne had provided for her birthday, not that a birthday's anything to celebrate, ho ho, 21 again, another year closer to another birthday. And the man who was standing there whose name I probably still won't know when I shake the dust of this place from my shoes several months down the line said "Ooh, they're not good for you, you know," and I laughed and said "Well, ho ho, it'll cheer me up, and that's good for me," and did that slight breathy laugh that you do for laughing at your own jokes not because they're funny but to tag them as jokes because they're not funny and otherwise you might not notice and then it's straight into the valley of funny looks and sidling past in corridors. Then I tried to get out through the door with a cup of coffee in one hand and the doughnut slowly oozing jam in the other, arsing the door open with a huff of the hips and then catching it on a foot or an elbow or an oh as if it matters, and somehow the doorhandle swung into my back, so that I made an involuntary "ngh" sound from somewhere down in my belly, and then I worried for the whole way back to my desk that it had sounded as though I'd made a hoggy little "mmm" sound at the prospect of a big cheap sticky doughnut all scratchy with sugar and full of pink plastic jam. And that was my morning.
j4: (southpark)
Dentist's appointment this lunchtime, to get impressions of my teeth taken so that they can make me a fake tooth to hide that gap in my front teeth. It's years and years since I've had impressions taken, so I wondered if the process had changed at all. It hasn't, really, except that it seemed a bit quicker. Maybe I'm less impatient than I was when I was 9? It seems unlikely.

The process is fairly simple: basically they fill a plastic dental plate with pink goo, whack it on your teeth, and hold it there until the pink goo sets. It's not painful, and the goo is mostly tasteless, but the fact remains that you're sitting there with your mouth wide open and stuffed with something that feels like rather vile-tasting chewing-gum while the dentist leans heavily on your palate.

(Actually, it's not quite like chewing-gum. The consistency of this stuff, when it goes in your mouth, is almost exactly the consistency that Blu-Tak goes when you chew it. DON'T ASK. It sets harder than even the Blu-Tak that you find in the corner of your desk drawer when you leave a job.)

"What's that stuff made of?" I asked, inbetween impressions. (Obviously. If I'd asked while I had the thing in my mouth, it would have come out as "Och ha ush aygov?")
go on! tell me! )

Today

Feb. 4th, 2005 12:08 am
j4: (southpark)
Just call me Miss Moodswings. Today I have been mostly excited, but also frustrated. But the frustrated is mostly work, and that's boring. No fewer boring than anything else I write, but differently so. See?

So. Today I managed to win a hotly-contested game of Scrabble (not the one against [livejournal.com profile] verlaine, or the one against [livejournal.com profile] sion_a, in both of which I was given the PASTINGS I couldn't play at [livejournal.com profile] addedentry). I also managed to buy useful things at lunchtime, including a proper bag to replace my tattered work bag (an army surplus rucksack that I bought about 5 years ago for a tenner which (the bag, not the tenner) has developed a hole in the bottom THE SIZE OF A MAN'S HEAD [that's the hole that's the size of, etc., not the bottom]). The proper bag is a cunning convertible whatnot which converts, with two unclips and reclips (two of each) of the strap-clips, from a shoulder-bag into a rucksack. (Still with me? Good.) It also has a mobile-phone-shaped pocket into which my mobile phone will undoubtedly fail to fit since it is the size of a small family car (the phone, not the pocket [which is the nature of the problem (that is, the problem is the disparity in size, not the pocket per se, but even more so not the phone [so perhaps after all it is the pocket that is at fault])]). In addition to the bag and all its attendent grammatical complications I bought a stir-fry mix which made a jolly good salad (especially with half of yesterday's can of tuna in it), a haggis, some carrots, and some egg custard tarts.

This evening I tidied up the mountain of paper-based stuff on [livejournal.com profile] sion_a's chair, and did some mending that had been sitting around waiting to be mended for about FIVE YEARS, while [livejournal.com profile] sion_a played Sonic Spinball. (That is, I did the mending while he, not it sat around while he, if you see what I.) This makes it sound like I did all the work while he slacked, but really, normally he does everything while I procrastinate too much to even slack efficiently. The conversation (if you can call it a conversation) went something like this:

S: "Nooooo! That's not fair!!"
J: "God, I've completely messed this up. I'll have to unpick the whole row."
S: "Phew, I've bust through the door, now I've just got to get back up the barrels."
J: "It's only back-stitch, how can I make such a mess of this?"
S: "Aghh! Now I've got to get ALL FOUR HEADS again!"
J: "I'd have to darn this, for fuck's sake. I can't darn corduroy."
S: "OH FOR FUCK'S SAKE!"
J: "GRAHHHHH!"

Men are from Nintendo, women are from haberdashery. After much thread-related frustration on my part and hedgehog-related frustration on his, we went to the pub and drank beer. I came away with one invitation to pancakes, one promise of a cgi tutorial, one plan for a party, and one absence of cornet music. And two pints' worth of drunkenness.

Now I am going to have a bath. Drunken conversations make more sense than normal conversations:

J: "[livejournal.com profile] sion_a?"
S: [silence]
J: "[livejournal.com profile] sion_a!"
S: [silence]
J: "MISTER [livejournal.com profile] sion_a!!!"
S: "Hm?"
J: "Are you having a bath?"
S: "Huh?"
J: "ARE YOU HAVING A BATH?"
S: "No!"
J: "Can I have a bath?"
S: "Yes!"
J: "Great!"

It's like Beckett, but with more baths in it. I have run a bath. My bath is going cold while I type this. It is like Molloy, ONLY WITH BATHS. Really. Take my word for it. Or not.
j4: (kanji)
FIVE PEOPLE YOU MET IN OXFORD

On Saturday I travelled to Oxford with [livejournal.com profile] addedentry, to visit [livejournal.com profile] smallbeds and Kate, and to go (with them) to [livejournal.com profile] truecatachresis's flatwarming. Okay, that's only four people, but all the other people we met there can count as the fifth between them. No offence. I tried to introduce [livejournal.com profile] addedentry to [livejournal.com profile] cleanskies, but I barely know her myself, and wine made me misquote her username. Only by one letter, but the social damage was already done. I think [livejournal.com profile] addedentry would benefit from someone more popular than me to introduce him into exciting new social circles.

MATERIAL, MOSTLY TEXTUAL

Since 1999 [livejournal.com profile] truecatachresis had been hanging on to a bagful of things which he believed to be mine, which I had apparently left when I moved out of our Marston-based seven-person student commune.
> inv
Your knapsack contains:

Unopened junk mail
Chinese-style folded paper wall-hanging
small ladies' wallet (new, empty)
alphabet fridge magnets
The junk mail was opened and mostly thrown away, the rest has accompanied me back to Cambridge. The wallet is, I am fairly sure, not mine; unless perhaps it was cheap or came free with something and I was tempted to keep it. It's possible. The wall-hanging features trees, or perhaps birds, and calligraphy; the lettering is so pictorial that you are tempted to try to read meaning into the shapes of the wildlife. There used to be another matching wall-hanging, blue where this one is red, each 99p from Booksale, both equivalent defence against the magnolia woodchip.

The fridge magnets used to say "FOOD TRANSFER PROTOCOL" where they held the takeaway pizza menus to the boiler, and "AXAXAXAS MLO" (with multiplication signs pressed into service against the deficiencies of ordinary English letter-distribution) across the top of the lesser of two fridges.

REDISTRIBUTION

Saturday morning's shift at Oxfam was unremarkable, except for acquiring some Famous Five hardbacks which I can hopefully re-sell at a profit on eBay. Apart from that, the usual; books were moved from one area of the shop to another, and Roger demonstrated his peculiar gift for the excluded middle:
me: "What shall I price these [modern paperback novels] at?"
R: "Oh ... £4.99."
me: [surprised] "£4.99? They're a bit on the tatty side..."
R: "Well, throw them away, then."
I priced them at £2.99 in the end and put them on the shelves. No, before anybody whinges about Oxfam's prices, I don't actually think 3 quid is an unreasonable amount to give to charity in exchange for a book that would be 7 or 8 quid new and is only a bit worn on the outside from having been read before. Some people buy books because the shiny covers will set off their Ikea furniture nicely: Borders and Waterstones cater more than adequately to their needs. Other people buy books because all those funny black marks inside tell them something interesting.

Lingering in Oxford on Sunday afternoon allowed us to visit the QI Bookshop, which organises the books within its single circular room according to oblique thematic principles, rather like (not remotely coincidentally) the section headings in this post. It is a bookshop for browsing, and we browsed.

RHYTHMS

To the bewilderment of J-P and Kate, Owen and I took bongos to Ian's party, where three other sets of bongos were already plugged in to the Gamecube. Four-way Donkey Konga madness proved even more fun than the one- or two-way variants we'd already experienced, though I was a little concerned for the health of my bongos after watching one over-enthusiastic participant. (My plea for him to be a little more careful fell on deaf ears; it reminded me of why I normally play computer games selfishly, on my own, and why I refrain from lending many books: other people don't give a damn if they break things that don't belong to them.) When we weren't playing, we stopped for a moment to watch the four lines of rhythms and coloured patterns weaving in and out of each other like maypole dancers.

And it snowed this morning, because the seasons have their own rhythms. Nearly every year, snow in January comes as a total surprise -- completely out of the blue (or the grey) -- to the rail networks and the road-gritting lorries. It surprised me, but only because I hadn't realised it was that cold until my fingers went numb in the 3 minutes it took me to de-ice the car windscreen. Driving in the snow feels like playing some kind of space-based videogame; I pilot my small craft along the ribbon of tarmac and the snowflakes stream past like light, like years.

LIGHT

J-P and Kate have a tiny prism hanging on their window, which is caused to spin by a small solar-powered motor. It fills the room with rainbows, unlike Owen's mirrorball, which only fills the room with specks of light. Near the mirrorball these are small, focused, clear squares; further away they are more blurry, more indistinct, their light softer, their corners fading into the walls. Similarly, the rainbows vary from tiny nuggets of vivid, intense colour to vast, diffuse, swathes. Sometimes I saw a rainbow creep over a face or a hand while its owner was talking.

This morning I looked in the mirror and saw a person I did not know. Whether it was a trick of the light or a trick of the mind I don't know, but I have aged overnight, and my eyes are shadowed, and while my hairstyle makes me look slightly like Virginia Woolf (provided I don't open my mouth) this only serves to make me check my pockets for rocks.

My dad had a seizure on Saturday, the second in about 15 years. The last time it happened he was mowing the lawn on a hot summer's day, and said that the last thing he remembered seeing was sunlight coming through the fence in sharp flashes. He's been tested and tested for epilepsy, but all the ECGs have returned negative, though apparently there's a history of epilepsy in the family. This time he claims it was just that he was dehydrated and full of adrenalin as he started broadcasting his new radio show, titled "If she's eclectic...". He says he's fine now, and he's probably right, though I swear he'll be saying that at his own funeral. Still, I wouldn't want to stop him living in order to keep him alive.

This morning's snow has melted, and the sky has finally brightened. Don't tell me this picture is beautiful, don't tell me it makes you ache, don't tell me it makes you remember, for I'll have no sympathy; just for once I would like to see something that didn't mean anything. The sun flashes its beams through the trees. Every picture has its shadows, and it has some source of light.

Bathetic

Jan. 21st, 2005 12:05 am
j4: (southpark)
I've been trying to get more sleep lately, but I'm glad I got to bed so late last night; if I hadn't done, I might have already been asleep when the giant over-door storage thingummy on the back of my bathroom door decided to descend in an ear-wrenching, metal-twisting, stuff-clattering heap, spewing medicines and toiletries all over the room. The bathroom, for those of you not acquainted with our house, is just about big enough for a toilet, sink and bath; so the hanging drawers (oo-er) on the back of the door are the only thing that fits.

The whole assemblage is currently leaning up against the not-airing cupboard (where the hot water tank used to be when the house was still a house of two halves, with a split-focus central heating system, and ... am I boring you?) opposite the toilet, because there's nowhere else for it to go until I can hoist it back onto the door (having twisted the metal hanging thing back into shape and screwed it on to the door this time) or just given up and bought a new one, which means that in order to use the facilities I have to sit at a peculiar angle. It doesn't make any practical difference, really, but it feels awfully precarious.

The interesting side-effect, though, is that the twisted wreck of the metal drawers is blocking the toilet-roll holder, so the roll is currently sitting on top of the radiator. It's winter. The heating is on. This means that, for the time being, I have heated toilet paper. It's surprisingly pleasant. Perhaps I've finally found my get-rich-quick niche: toilet roll holders with built-in heating mechanism.

The other positive result was that Candia McWilliam's A Case of Knives, which is frankly unmitigated toss and about as much 'the natural successor to Iris Murdoch' (or whatever inflated claim is made by the blurb) as I am the natural successor to Einstein, fell into the bath and is now sufficiently water-crinkled that I will feel justified in throwing it away. Okay, so it's not very water-crinkled really, but we take what excuses we can get. I'd kept it in the bathroom for years on the offchance that I might actually, during a protracted poo, be bored enough to finish reading it; but having waded through half of it I think I'd rather read the ingredients on the indigestion tablets.

Hopefully, too, the process of putting the bathroom back together will force me to get rid of some of the outdated medicines and superfluous toiletries. In case anybody is reading this who might be tempted to buy me a present any time in the next 20 years: I don't need any more soap. I know I'm a slob; I know sometimes I smell. (Terrible.) Besides, fancy soap is nice; Lush soap is, well, lush; and I'll forgive my sister for buying me the coffee-scented soap called "Flick the Bean" because it made me laugh. But honestly, I could wash three times a day for the next decade and still not make a dent in the soap mountain. Likewise, disposable razors may make it on to our anti-shopping-list, the list of things we absolutely don't need to buy even if they are on the Speciallest Multibuy Reward-Point Extravaganza Ever ("No tuna. No gin. ABSOLUTELY NO MILK."), unless I am faced with the imminent prospect of being responsible for the personal hygiene of a yeti.

*

But why am I still awake? Have I, overnight, been conditioned to eternal vigilance against falling furniture?

*

Perhaps sleep will come soon.
j4: (southpark)
Last night I was among the last to leave the office; that is, I scrambled to get my things together and leave before the last person capable of setting the alarm left the building. Another girl was doing the same, a newish employee whose name I don't even know yet. As we left the building together, she said "Is it safe walking here at this time?"

Slightly odd phrasing aside, I wasn't at all sure I knew what she meant. "Safe in what way?" I ask, seeking clarification. She looks at me blankly. "I mean, safe from what?" More blank looks, before she repeats "Is it safe?" and I really don't know what to say.

The site where we work is extremely dark. The cycle path I take to get home is dark, poorly-surfaced in places, and bounded by woodland and scrubby bushes. Most of the nearby buildings are university departments (though there may be some student accommodation around there as well) and are more or less deserted after 5:30pm. Is it safe? I have no idea. I don't feel unsafe; I cycle with a light on the front handlebars and a reflective jacket, and it's about 2 minutes' cycle to the main road. If I walked (as I have done) I'd carry a torch and probably still wear the reflective jacket.

My main worry is that I'll be run over by an unlit cyclist. That would hurt, but would be unlikely to be fatal. The other (less likely) worry is that I'll fall off my bike or trip over an unseen obstacle in the dark, break an ankle or wrist or leg or something, and be unable to get back to a building -- but I've got a mobile phone, and nobody ever died of a broken ankle, and even if for some reason the phone didn't work I would probably be able to drag myself to one of the nearby buildings with the sort of relatively minor injury I'd be likely to get from just falling over.

There are advantages to this dark and treacherous route, however. It makes my journey home considerably shorter, and does so without introducing the need to negotiate busy roads or junctions. It also allows me to cycle past the Co-op on the way home if I need to. These are useful things. Alternative ways of getting home will carry their own disadvantages: driving is more expensive, involves more damage to the environment, takes longer than cycling (though longer in the dry, which is sometimes an advantage) and is probably just as hazardous (though in this scenario there's more danger of me running over the unlit cyclists than vice versa). Walking has most of the disadvantages of cycling and takes three times as long. And so on, and so forth.

I have, in short, done a personal risk assessment and weighing up of the pros and cons which leads me to the conclusion that cycling that route is the best fit for the factors that matter to me. I can't do this for other people.

One worry is perhaps conspicuous by its absence, however; I am not worried that the Bad Man is hiding in every bush, waiting to leap out at me and do unspeakable things to my person or my property. Should I be? Or rather, should I be more worried about that on a dark bit of university land (which isn't even on the maps) than on a London side-street?

This morning, chatting to another colleague over coffee, the conversation turned again to dark cyclepaths (it's one of our favourite gripes); "It does make me scared, you know, especially after that poor student," she said. My turn to look blank now, before guessing what she was talking about. "You mean Sally Geeson?" "Yes, yes, that poor student, so horribly murdered." I made appropriate noises, but I was confused.

Sally Geeson, as far as I could tell from the patchy accounts in the news, was abducted when she got into a car which she believed was a taxi. This was in the centre of town, on New Year's Eve. Her body was found several days later. (Her murderer, once suspected, committed suicide by setting fire to himself and jumping from a high window.) The only way I can see that her dreadful story has any relevance to how scared one might be to cycle home from work at night is that it reminds us that there exist people in the world who will do deliberate and fatal harm to other people. Am I unusual in being consciously aware of that fact already?

As for the specifics of our workplace, I have heard no recent reports of any crimes taking place on this patch of land, and I certainly have no statistics on what proportion of crimes take place here as compared to elsewhere, even elsewhere in Cambridge. Some places may be safer than others, but nowhere is 100% safe: if people can get there, crime can take place there, for any value of "there" and most values of "crime". And if you can't get there, does it matter if it's safe or not? What if a poisonous tree explodes in a disused quad? There are sensible measures I can take to increase my own safety, but as far as I'm concerned hiding in my house (or workplace) until it gets light isn't one of them.

May 2017

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