j4: (orange)
So over the last couple of days I've been thinking about "having it all".

a busy few days, recounted at tedious length )

The thing is... I've pretty much always lived like this. The only difference is that now there's a child in the mix as well. I have always ended up cycling frantically to and from home, work, meetings, pubs, the station, choir rehearsals/concerts, orchestra rehearsals/concerts, whatever. It's always been an endless game of fox/goose/grain with different modes of transport and assorted instruments/laptops/luggage/shoes/clothes/partners. I had to slow down a bit when I was off on maternity leave (I took a long time to get usefully mobile/functional again, I couldn't cycle with Img, and I wasn't going to work), but otherwise basically I've been "trying to have it all" for the last 20 years or so. Even more so when I was going out with Owen and he still lived in London, so we were trying to live together 90 miles apart and go to every gig/concert/film/party available and each hold down a full-time job. Why is "having it all" only used to apply to a woman trying to look after a child and does a not-working-from-home job? Why not anybody who has, say, a job and a time-consuming hobby and a long-distance partner and a garden to look after and... you know, all the kinds of things that people do whether or not they have children? And yes, I know the answer to that "why not" is "because patriarchy", and because if you're looking after children you're supposed to (or at least supposed to want to) do that 24/7 and never do anything else except [vague handwave] child things ... but, well, it's still silly. So let's stop saying it. PROBLEM SOLVED!

(I have a separate rant about the phrase "work/life balance" and the implied idea that your work is not ACTUALLY PART OF YOUR LIFE, but that will have to wait for another time.)


Mar. 6th, 2011 12:37 pm
j4: (baby)
36 weeks today; 4 weeks to my due date, 2 more weeks of work to go, 1 more week until Sprocket is officially at term (not to be confused with 'term' in the Oxford sense, though I think it is 8th week) -- any time before 37 weeks she'd be considered 'premature'.

Long ramble about how I'm feeling, the latest ultrasound scan, my big baby, homebirth assessment, work... as much for my own record as anything else )
j4: (baby)
I had my 34 weeks appointment with the midwife on Monday. Nothing seriously wrong but some niggles )

A couple of days before I saw the midwife, [livejournal.com profile] addedentry and I had an antenatal session from Lynn Banerji (TalkBabyTalk) -- four hours of talking through everything about birth, labour and breastfeeding. Quite an intense morning but she was really good -- friendly and confident and sensible, and she did a great job of demystifying the whole process and making me feel more positive and confident about it. She also said I had a great attitude and she was sure everything would go really well and she wished she could be there at the birth. :-) (Of course then a couple of days after that things turned out to be going not so perfectly smoothly, as described above, which unfortunately has kind of undone some of my positivity ... but I am still hoping that I can sort myself and baby out in time to be able to do things the way I want to.)

O & I are booked on the NHS antenatal course in a couple of weeks' time, too -- always good to have a couple of sources of information to compare (and the NHS one is free anyway). I've heard very mixed reports of them but apparently it all depends which midwife happens to be running the session you go to -- there's no fixed 'curriculum' or anything.

We're also making some small progress on getting the house in order -- with two superfluous desks out of the way we're halfway to having an actual room for baby (there is at least now space for a cot), and in a couple of weeks we're getting shelves built in the front room which will allow us to make lots more space and, crucially, not have so many free-standing bookcases which could easily and dangerously be pulled over by an inquisitive toddler. If we carry on with this kind of efficiency we may even manage to get curtains put up in the bedroom eventually (only 18 months after moving in!), though the first two attempts at that have been stymied by the presence of an infuriatingly un-drillable concrete lintel over the window.

I realise, with... well, with mixed feelings, that I've only got another 3 full weeks left at work (and about 3 months' worth of stuff to do in them). Thoughts about work )

So that's where things are at the moment -- sorry this has been a bit of a long and rambly update. I just wish I could stay awake long enough to think more clearly about things and write more eloquently about them!
j4: (admin)
I suspect this won't apply to many of you, but you never know, and it may be interesting anyway: here's the job advert for my maternity cover. So if you fancy having a go at being me for a year, you know what to do. :-)

(If anybody's seriously interested, feel free to ask me more about the job, here or by email -- in general though there's lots of scope for doing interesting and fun stuff, and the department is a good place to work!)
j4: (hair)
There's feeling full of fail, and then there's feeling full of existential fail. I've spent most of today wanting to curl up under the desk in a little ball and howl like an over-tired toddler. I was working for the Department of Fail, which always saps my will to live -- they're not really inherently full of fail, but I and my colleague J. are contracted to work a few days for them and so all the problems they save up for us are the things that are either a) completely intractable and/or incomprehensible, b) sufficiently bitty and faffy that nobody has ever had a chance to sit down and really get them, or c) enormous cans of worms (these are invariably simple-looking tasks, and for all I know they may be given to us in all innocence, but they turn out to be many-headed sharp-fanged fail-hydras from the Dark Places). It doesn't help that the DoF is also located in a vast open-plan office, flickery-fluorescent-lit, and dry as a desert; being there makes me feel exhausted and drained and even more queasy than I was already starting to feel.

[Yes, I know I'm lucky to have a job at all, and I shouldn't complain. And I know I'm lucky that I'm not suffering (yet, so far) from all the horrible things that can go wrong in pregnancy, so I should be practically rejoicing at tiredness and a bit of recurring queasiness. And depression is all in the mind so it can't be that bad. And the Tories will fix everything if we just let them get on with it.]

Today was a day of cans of worms involving javascript and CMS horrors )

During all this fail-wrestling I was keeping a vague eye on twitter in the hope of getting some voices of sanity filtering in through all the madness, but in fact it just made things worse: it was a non-stop stream of rants and shouting, flickering away in the background like the last TV fuzzily broadcasting the apocalypse, showing the world falling apart while I was stuck inside designing better deckchairs for the Titanic. And outside it got darker and colder and I didn't want to stay in the Department of Fail but I didn't want to go out into the cold either, and every time I get home I feel like I don't ever want to go out again, but every time I look around me here I feel as though everything is a reminder of some kind of brokenness (inside or out) which I should have either fixed or got rid of, and I want to hide from it, and there's nowhere left to hide except going to bed, and even that doesn't help because I'm uncomfortable and I sleep badly, and going to sleep just means waking up into another day of fail.

And there's not enough time left before everything runs out of time. Working days, days before Christmas, days before the baby arrives ... days before the end of something, of everything. When I die they'll cut me open and find nothing inside but small charred fragments of to-do lists.
j4: (admin)
Last night I had a variant on the "late for work" anxiety dream, a more specific one in which I was late for the meeting I was supposed to be going to this morning. classic anxiety-dream nonsense )

In practice (back in the real awake world) I got into work on time, quickly wrote up the notes I'd made last night into a more readable form from which I could refer to them in the meeting, checked my email, went to the meeting, and had a constructive 2 hours (!) discussing my job, my role on the team, where I want to go, what I want to learn, how we can make the team better, etc. with my two new line-managers (I haven't moved role, we've just had a bit of a middle-management reshuffle, & they are enthusiastically and laudably being very proactive about taking responsibility for the team and setting its direction rather than just letting us all keep drifting). Anyway, I came out of the meeting with useful specific short-term goals and a better picture of some possible longer-term goals and directions (as well as some helpful input into the decisions about maternity leave and coming back afterwards). The notes I'd made were useful, and I managed to mention everything on them. Over all I ended up feeling much more positive about work than I have done for a while.

The silly thing is, it's not even as if the anxiety dreams spur me to do better; I'd already done the prep for the meeting last night (over a bagel and a large hot chocolate in G&Ds, between work and choir) because I knew I'd get more out of the meeting if I was prepared for it. The dreams just make me feel fuzzy-headed in the morning (fortunately the freezing cold cycle ride in helped with that) and worried about things where I don't need to worry.

Now to deal with all the things I do need to worry about.
j4: (badgers)
I took Friday and Monday off work with no more concrete plans than "catch up on sleep and chill out a bit". so how did that work out? )

Every time I take a couple of days off like this I'm reminded how much easier it would be to keep all the 'life admin' tasks under control if I didn't have to go to work, and how I wouldn't actually get bored because I still do plenty of other stuff (and would be able to commit to doing more). This is either a very good time or a very bad time to be thinking "what would I do if I didn't go to work?" -- on the one hand I am intending to go back to work after maternity leave (and will have to go back for at least 3 months otherwise I'd have to pay back all the maternity pay!), but on the other hand, am I just doing that because I feel I have to? Financially I'd have to do some kind of work, but there's nothing that says I have to spend the next 30 years doing what I'm doing now. I'm not going to go into detail about this now because it's late and I'm tired (and anyway I think it would be foolish to try to make too firm a decision before seeing what it's really like for me spending at least 9 months off work), but it has made me think about the extent to which I'm defining myself by my work (or by the fact that I go to work), and whether I'm doing what I want to do or what I think I ought to do, and it's probably good to be forced to think those things a bit more clearly. Otherwise, you know, I might wake up in 30 years' time and think "is that what I wanted to do with my life?" and by then it'll be a bit too late to change anything.

The subject line of this post, by the way, refers to a game I used to play with my best friend Kerry when we were about 4 or 5. I had a toy farm with lots of different animals (including some things that were from a 'zoo' set, so the 'farm' had elephants and a panda and a walrus and all sorts of other miscellaneous animals), and in our game, the animals would all ESCAPE! Oh noes! So we'd round them up and make them go back into the farm, and then we'd shout "STAY THERE FOR DAYS!" at them to make sure they stayed put. But then they'd ESCAPE again! ... and thus the whole sorry cycle would repeat itself. For hours on end. Would it be cynical of me to try to relate this to the experience of work in some way? Probably.


Nov. 2nd, 2010 11:46 pm
j4: (admin)
I'm going to try to post every day this month again. I mean, I'm going to try again; I failed to do it last year, because of fail. In the past I've called this attempt NaBloPoMo, but it's not really a National blog-posting month, it's a Not-very-national-at-all blog-posting month: hence NoBloPoMo. In fact, I'm also probably not going to write very much or very fast; so it should really be SloMoNoBloPoMo. And I figure I can probably manage to be a bit post-modern about it once or twice, at least enough to justify calling it SloMoPoMoNoBloPoMo. (HoHo!)

My main reason for doing this is to try to stop me procrastinating so much, or at least to try to break some of my procrastination routines. I will never say the word procrastinate again... oh OK, I lied )

So one of the purposes of this month's writing is to make myself sit down and Do A Thing until it's Done (and 'Done' doesn't have to mean 'brilliant' or even 'good', it just means 'completed'; sometimes it even just means 'bounced into someone else's court for the time being', though it's a bit hard to do that with blogging). No word-limit (oh, OK, it has to be more than 140 characters, otherwise I'd just post it in the other place). I suspect a lot of it will not make particularly interesting reading, so apologies in advance for that, but I'll try to make it not too dreary and not all just whining. Let's see if I can keep it going for another 28 days.
j4: (popup)

I write like
there's nobody watching

I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!

I did this twice with old LJ posts; once it told me I wrote like Nabokov, the other time like Orwell. My new memoir, Down and Out in Paris and Lolita, is being published later this year.


Back in the real world, I'm panickedly preparing for a conference tomorrow where I'm running one workshop (chairing a panel discussion, i.e. herding cats who are cleverer than me), timekeeping for another, and on the organising committee for the whole thing. I suspect that running through my notes for what I have to say in my workshop would be a better use of time than creating an .ics for the conference programme. On the other hand, I also know that if I was trapped on a desert island with nothing but the notes of a presentation I had to give the next day, I'd probably come to the conclusion that the grains of sand on the island really could do with counting.
j4: (popup)
This was emailed to webmaster:
I'm a sudanees man graduated from sudan
university of scince and technology department
aircraft engineering deploma. My dream is
travelling by high speeds throug glaxies, and my
idea by using protons. the problem here in sudan
i can not try my idea so i hope to help me please
and sory for my bad languege.

We didn't reply, of course. We then got a followup email (quoting the RT ticket number that the original message had been allocated, which is more than most users manage) from the same person two days later:
In fact it's not faster than light, but it may be more than 10,000Km/s.
j4: (admin)
I was thinking about trying to do a post a day for October instead of the now-traditional NaNoNoNoNoNoThere'sNoQualityControl November thing, but the Black Dog of depression got me by the ankle and wouldn't let go. However, consider this a slightly delayed, slightly bruised and slightly frayed-metaphorical-trousered opening to the slightly tedious (for reader if not for writer, and that's a big if) task of trying to post something every day in October. Why? Because I want to get back into the habit of writing; because I have a few things I want to talk about; because you've got to do something other than sit in the dark rocking gently and chewing on a teabag, sometimes, haven't you? ... haven't you?

Part of the reason for the unexpected and unwelcome Act of Dog was the ongoing restructuring shenanigans which seem to be going on at work. I didn't expect to be so unsettled by what is effectively just a minor internal game of musical chairs, it's not as if my job is at risk (or if it is, then there are plenty of people ahead of me in the firing-line) but a) some of the specifics of the intended reshuffle didn't look like much fun from my point of view (likely move to less-interesting work; possible change of line-manager to someone I would probably find harder to work for/with) and b) more importantly, the ongoing uncertainty, rumour-mongering and indecision was making me feel as though everything was provisional, everything was planning-blighted, and everything was more pointless than usual. Being given the impression that it's not worth starting anything long-term is not good for motivation or avoiding avoidance. But a big part of the problem was that it felt as though the whole question was hanging on the whim of one or two people, and my attempts to ask serious questions about how those people were going to decide how to redraw the lines (show working!) were all met with "it's obvious, we'll take everything into consideration" (what, everything, including the completely irreconcilable wishes of lots of irrational individuals?), "how should I know?" (well, duh, it's your job to know, that's why you get paid 10K a year more than I do) and "oh, stop taking everything so seriously".

It was the last of these that upset me most, really, because a) it was said by someone whose opinion of me matters somewhat more than it should (~sigh~) and b) I really don't see myself as the sort of person who takes everything deadly seriously -- quite the opposite! I worry that sometimes I'm too quick to jump for a pun (usually innuendo) and don't always think whether it'd be better to keep my mouth shut; I'm not labouring under the delusion that what I do all day counts for tuppence in the much-vaunted Grand Scheme of Things (why isn't this Grand Scheme documented anywhere, eh?), and I don't make much secret of the fact. It is all a game; if we make a mess of it, nobody dies. But if a game is being played, I want to try to play the game, or just say "no thanks, I'd rather not play" -- not sit on the sidelines sniping at the participants, or play in a way that spoils the fun for everybody else; if I'm playing, I'll try to play within the context of the rules (playing by the rules is not breaking the rules; playing within the context of the rules is breaking them only in ways which will be understood by the participants as breaking the rules -- it's the difference between slipping an ace up your sleeve and, say, breaking up the card table with an axe, or getting up and going to the pub instead without a word of apology when it's my turn to play). I guess I do take what I do seriously, in the sense that I try to do it to the best of my limited abilities; and that applies to the process of working as well as the individual tasks of work. If you're going to have a meeting at all, don't make it a waste of everybody's time; if you're going to write project plans and report back to someone on progress, you have to at least pretend that the reports mean something. Otherwise it's like running a roleplaying game where people can just say "What are you talking about? You didn't cast a spell on me, you just rolled a couple of dice". You have to have some kind of collective suspension of disbelief; you have to believe in the fourth wall, even just a little bit, in order to break it successfully.

Maybe for some people it is more fun to undermine the game to the extent that nobody can enjoy playing it. Maybe that's their game. I don't want to play their game. But not wanting to play their game is a move in their game. (R. D. Laing totally had this one nailed. I wouldn't dream of trying to compete.)

So, I don't like being called humourless; and I don't like feeling that everything I spend my day doing is under some kind of managerial planning blight. But apart from that, Mrs Lincoln...?

Perhaps you're hoping that all this was a digression and that the real point of the post would be How I Made The Black Dog Lose Its Grip (in which the Heroine kicks the DOG in the teeth & sends it Howling into the Outer Darkness without so much as scuffing her patent-leather SHOES, &c), but no. It's still scratching at the door, and work still feels like an unstructured mess, and I'm still feeling as frayed as those metaphorical trousers (or should that be TROUSERS). The ability to weave a spun-sugar web of words around the problem doesn't change the hard centre. Traces, as they persist in saying, of nuts.

Of course, thinking about it probably makes it worse. I guess the same goes for writing about it.

Perhaps I shouldn't take everything so seriously.

Bloke calls

Jun. 9th, 2009 09:01 am
j4: (admin)
This was sent to webmaster:

I enclose an email from the telecoms people. It
is virtually illiterate: is it real?? And why
cant you sort out these sutomated calls that are
so irritating?...please! AD.

Date: Mon, 8 Jun 2009 09:23:23 +0100

Good Morning

You're Administrator will have to officially
request the number change.
I'm afraid there are far too many company's doing
cold calling we can not
bloke them all and they regularly change the
outgoing number. We only bloke
calls in serious cases such a threatening and
abusive calls.

Best Regard

I did laugh at "bloke calls", but note that 'AD' (who also can't type, doesn't understand punctuation, and for some reason thinks webmaster is the person to contact about getting a phone fixed) is a professor.
j4: (admin)
Recent spam:
My name is Frank M. Ahearn, I am a privacy expert who teaches people how to disappear, and my partner Eileen C. Horan is a skip tracer who locates people. If you ever need experts for a project about people disappearing, pseudocide, missing persons, social engineering, finding people and other related topics please do not hesitate to contact us.
I can't imagine how they got together.
j4: (orange)
Email to webmaster address at work:

with due respect,iam the student of b.com
part-I.And i want to do ACCA from oxford
university.because i want to get batter
But,sir i have limted resources kindly
give me scholarship for further study.i will be
thankfull to you."

Just in time for Pancake Day, I suppose.

I will get round to writing about the wedding & everything soon, honest.


Jan. 7th, 2009 05:05 pm
j4: (admin)
Has anybody else noticed that KML in Google Maps doesn't seem to work any more?

e.g. try this: http://maps.google.co.uk/?q=http://www.chiark.greenend.org.uk/~janetmck/oucsmain.kml

For me, this example (very simple KML) shows my pointer, but the map doesn't show -- I just get grey tiles saying "We are sorry, but we don't have imagery at this zoom level for this region. Try zooming out for a broader look." Zooming out doesn't make any difference.

This used to work. We haven't changed anything. I can't find a single KML file on the web which does work in Google Maps. Have Google broken this? Am I going mad?

ETA: In fact, it's not just KML. Any search in Google Maps seems to be broken for me, e.g. searching for 'Oxford' -- it finds it, it shows the pics and so on in the sidebar, it puts a point on the map, but doesn't show any map tiles.

And while doing searches for Oxford I got a sponsored link from Google pointing me to "Oxford Homeopath". Grrrr. More than homeopathic amounts of map data, please, and fewer sponsored links to charlatans.

ETA 2: Really, no amount of zooming out seems to make the map appear for me. :-(
j4: (work)
Crowdsourcing my brain....

I am looking for a good introduction to sensible relational database design.

where I'm starting from... )

Any suggestions, comments, constructive ridicule etc gratefully received.
j4: (work)
If someone told you they could offer you Support for learners, teachers and researchers using "Web 2.0" technologies and mobile devices to access institutional systems ... what sort of things would you be asking them for? Please assume that they have reasonable quantities of time and money at their disposal, but that they would really prefer not to use up too much of that time having an argument about what "web 2.0 technologies" means. :-}
j4: (dodecahedron)
Those of you on my flist who are involved in academia: have you used www.academia.edu? Do you think you would be likely to do so?

It's quite hard to evaluate a social networking site for which I'm really not part of what appears to be the intended demographic...
j4: (badgers)
Yes, hello, I have been hiding under a rock for a while. In lieu of tedious diaryism, here are some things I have done for the first time in the last couple of weeks:

Installed Ubuntu. What feels like several hundred times, though I've actually only done two installs, and the rest has been booting live CDs/DVDs, and CD images in virtual machines, testing boot times. ... I have now been in the new job for two and a half weeks, and I've got so little done, and my colleagues are all cool and interesting and frighteningly clever, and I sometimes feel like they must have hired me out of pity.

Walked to the top of Boar's Hill to see the dreaming spires. Okay, we only walked from Wootton, but still. And you can't see the spires unless you're nine feet tall and have a telephoto lens the length of a telegraph pole. I am five foot one and a bit and have a point-and-click Canon Ixus, and got a photo of my feet, though that was deliberate. There is a thing you can stand on, which you're not meant to stand on. I will post photos. ("The photos are in the next post" is the LJ equivalent of "The cheque's in the post".) We saw llamas mating on the way back down the hill. I won't post photos of that, don't worry.

Tried to fix my grandad's hair... in Second Life. He's inspired by the whole idea, and currently determined to build a virtual Switzerland, and to recreate the voyage of the Titanic. We had trouble getting the "dignified" look he wanted for his hair. He turned 80 last year.

Bought a computer on eBay. It doesn't have a hard drive. I may have to buy another one. Or a hard drive. Or both. I'm hedging my bets.

Executive summary in pictures: [Ubuntu | Standing on maps | Scary llama ]
j4: (admin)
Overheard in the office:

"What does your software do?"
"It's a management information system."
"Ah, I SEE."

[a few minutes later]

"Basically what we produce is a technology-based learning solution."
[Everybody nods sagely.]

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