August 2004 Archives

I'm not in the mood for introspection right now. Unusual for me, I know. Nor do I feel overly inclined to cast my thoughts outwards either, to ponder what's going on in the world at large. Instead I'm just hovering on the edge of my own internal limbo. Waiting.

Of course, I could be telling lies, since that sounds like something dangerously close to introspection to mine ears...

Chasing rainbows

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For about an hour the train seemed to straddle night and day. To the right the sun continued it's slow descent into dusk though a clear azure sky. To the left thick black clouds threatened to flood upon the countryside beneath, still glowing in the light of the falling sun. A rainbow arced gracefully through the skies, a thing of rare beauty shining brilliantly against the darkness. It seemed to follow the train, vanishing momentarily from sight as the carriage dipped behind a low hill, reappearing seconds later. And then, almost simultaneously, the clouds thinned and the sunlight faltered. The rainbow vanished, leaving naught but a memory behind it.

And the result is...

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Well, I'm glad that's all over and done with for the moment. After spending a few days putting myself through the wringer mentally, it's nice to be able to sit back and relax.

To my great surprise, the interview process turned out to be a surprisingly pleasant experience. I'll confess I was extremely nervous when I walked in, and this was compounded back the fact that I found myself sitting in a room with all the other candidates for the position - about eight of us, whittled down from some 120. They all seemed a pleasant enough bunch, though I didn't get much of a chance to talk to any of them before the presentation began (during which the 2 people dressed in suits were duely chastised for their attire) and I was shortly whisked away to begin the first part of the interview proper.

Kudos to the team conducting the interviews, since they managed to make it a painless process, despite the fact I had a video camera pointed at me the entire time. I find it difficult to recall exactly how I presented myself (my mind has a habit of blanking out these things), but I'm reasonably certain I gave them an accurate portrayal of who I am and what I can do. I can do no more really.

After this initial step I had a personality test (cue obligatory "I'm sure I have one," joke that I know the interviewer has heard a million times before, but I couldn't stop myself), followed by a presentation, again captured on video tape, on how I would solve a particular UI problem. This last bit is when I think I let myself down a little. We had a choice of three problems and I chose one which gave me a lot to talk about, but we also had to sketch out our ideas and here I only managed to produce the most rudimentary of drawings. Not only were they poor, but they were being kept to show whoever is going to make the final hiring choice. Had I realised that I'm sure I would have put a bit more effort into them. As I said, though, I did have plenty to talk about, and sketches aside, I don't think I did too badly. Mind you I'm still quite confident that I won't get the job. Just a gut feeling again, though as Kevin rightly pointed out before, it may well have gone better than I thought it did, but right now I don't think it matters much. I went in, gave it my best, and if I don't get the position, no great loss - life still carries on. We were all told that if we do fail, they'll make our tapes available to us and provide us with feedback as to how we performed in all the stages, if we wish. It's certainly an offer I plan to take them up on.

I should here something about it next week, anyway.

I get knocked down...

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During my phone interview (I know, I know - you're thinking "Dear god, doesn't this man ever talk about anything else?". Well for the moment, the answer is "no". We're on my dime here, after all, so you'll just have to put up with it), I tried to fish for a few more details about the job. The description of it I'd read was intriguing rather than enlightening, which is to say it was vague, but contained several tantalising details - more than enough to whet my curiosity. However, my attempt to shed some illumination on the subject went nowhere - I received something close to a non-answer, saying that whatever the role was, it was likely to change within six months anyway.

I went back and stared at the job description I had, occasionally squinting and scrunching up my forehead at in a manner which is probably terribly endearing, if not very helpful. There were two ways to interpret it: either they're looking for a designer with some programming ability, or a programmer with some design skills. I was hoping for the latter. It turns out they're looking for the former.

I'd been promised a pack containing more details about the interview process in addition to what I'd already been told on the phone. I'd expected it several days ago, (indeed, I found myself excitedly running downstairs to check the post each morning) and It finally arrived today, containing a detailed description of exactly what they're looking for. They seem to be looking for someone with proven design skills, and that's just not me. I can coax Photoshop into providing me with a reasonable facsimile of what I originally had in my head, but they state again as essential several skills I simply don't have to the level they're looking for. Like I'm said, I not the person they're looking for.

...And I get up again

Or am I?

On the other hand, the package also contained a cd with several videos on it. Feeling funked out after having read the job spec, I set it to one side for a few hours before I finally plucked up the courage to have a it's contents. As I expected, many of the videos were typical corporate rah-rah fare (of the sort that Disney proved particularly expert at producing), but others delved into the rational for the new development center, as well as showing the team leader talking about what he expected from the role Gratifyingly, he talked about the various types of people he thought might suit the role (notice the plurals: types, people). Most these of these were not me. But the last was.... well, go watch Groundhog Day again. There's a scene where Andie MacDowell describes here ideal man as Bill Murray stands by, repeating "me" to each point she lists. It was rather like that - he listed several qualities, and to each I responded with a hearty "me!" to each. It was me to a tee, in fact.

So I'm feeling cautiously buoyant for the time being. I still suspect I'm a marginal candidate given my skill set, but I'm not ruling myself out of the running. And, if worst comes to worst, I still come out of it with an extended weekend in Edinburgh.

There are worse fates.

That Friday feeling

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It's not Friday yet. I know this because at the current rate time is passing for me I expect Friday to finally arrive sometime in the latter half of the next century. Or possibly early the next. It's rather like the interminable wait on Christmas Eve during which time slows to an absolute crawl to allow Santa Claus to deliver his bundle of presents (admit it, you always suspected a similar explanation), except in this case the feeling of anticipation is supplemented by a not inconsiderable dollop of dread. And there are fewer presents.

Ah, anticipation and dread, the twin axles upon which my world slowly revolves, until I near the edge, at which point it invariably picks up speed in an attempt to spin me off into the void.

It's going to be another long week.

I swear I'm continuing my slow and gradual transformation into my mother. I had to go into work today and so left my sister, Claire. and niece, Brianna (who's 4 years old today), to their own devices, giving them as much advice as I could on how to get to the destinations they wanted to see (Hyde park, Harrods and The National Gallery). They already had my mobile number, but I gave them my work number just in case and told them to call me if they were having difficulties finding anything. For those of you who have ever questioned my sense of direction, I have to point out that Claire's is noticeably worse. On this basis you can understand my trepidation at sending them out to navigate the seething streets of London.

The morning ambled by, and as I hadn't heard anything from them, I thought I'd call and check how things were going. Except, when I called I got nothing more than a message telling me that the number was not available. The most likely explanation, I surmised, was that they were on the underground, somewhere out of the reach of mobile phones (this is normally a blessing, as I'm sure all those of you who have ever sat next to someone talking on a mobile phone will testify). I called back 15 minutes later and received the same message. And 15 minutes after that. In fact, at regular 15 minutes throughout the day I was informed that the number was unavailable. I knew that the most likely explanation for this was that the battery on Claire's phone was running low, and that she'd turned it off to conserve power for when she needed it, but I was struggling to prevent my imagination from running riot. My mother, for those of you who haven't met her, is something of a worrier. This most often manifested itself whenever anyone turned up late, particularly at night, by her uttering the now immortal phrase "You could have been dead in a ditch somewhere!". It's the sort of expression which eventually takes on unintended comedic value through overuse, and I'm sure we've gently mocked her about it over the years. Still, I knew exactly how she felt today.

I'd arranged to meet Claire back at my flat at 6pm, which I'd hoped would give us just about enough time quickly get something to eat before dashing onwards to the airport, where I could see them safely off. That left me with little recourse until, finally, the appointed hour came... with no Claire and Brianna in sight. Fortunately, just as my overactive imagination was about to kick into an even higher gear, I received a call from Claire, who had indeed turned her phone off (I knew it!), and who'd manage to find herself in Islington. Islington of all places! A borough noted for it's complete lack of proximity to my flat (North London as opposed to my cosy West corner). Claire was quite adamant that she was heading back to my flat when she found herself in Islington, but looking at the maps I really can't see how. I've never even been Islington, that's how far out of my way it is! Like I said, worse sense of direction than me :) But, we all finally managed to find ourselves in the same place at the same time, and began one final mad cap scamper to the airport, which, after a weekend of running around, was not the leisurely end to their break I'd anticipated. But safe they were and safely I saw them off. Mission accomplished. Take a deep breath. Count to 10. And... relax. Much better.

Siblings, who'd have them?

I doff my hat to you

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I have a new found respect for parents. Until this weekend I don't think I fully appreciated the exponential level of difficulty involved in going through everyday activities with the addition a small child in tow. It's been an extraordinarily busy couple of days, filled with laughter, much excitement, the occasional brief bout of tears and probably more walking than is good for the temperament of a small child. I think both child and mother and quite exhausted now, but they seem to have enjoyed themselves regardless. Truth be told, I'm also a little fatigued after this weekend's somewhat frenetic pace. I'll fill you in on the details when I get the chance, but give me a until the following weekend at least. I've got a few other things on my mind at the moment, so I've hope you'll excuse me if I trade wit for brevity until things settle down some.

Goodnight for the moment...

But they might be

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One of my favourite albums in the entire history of the whole wide world ever is Flood, brought to you courtesy of They Might Be Giants. The name of the band comes from a strange old film, about the adventures of a latter day Sherlock Holmes let loose upon New York. Or more accurately it's about an judge driven insane by the unfortunate death of his wife who comes to believe he's Sherlock Holmes and escapes from an asylum in order to continue, and perhaps finally end, his battle with Moriarty. Dragged along in the wake of his madness is his doctor, one Mildred Watson. I once caught it on tv, late one night more years ago than I now care to think about, before I'd ever encountered any of the eponymous band's songs. It's a certainly a unique sort of film, filled of humour and whimsy, but tinged with tragedy throughout. Many of the finer details are lost to me now, but I recall much enjoying it, as well as ultimately being greatly frustrated - this wholly due to the ending. Suffice it to say, that the ending is entirely open to interpretation, something which never sat quite well with me in the days of my youth. I may have had (and likely still have) a preference for happy endings, but it's more true to say that I preferred endings period. Stories should be finite, and those that leave strands of their plot strewn messily around were somewhat discomfiting to me. It rather makes me want to view the film again, if purely to see how my attitudes may differ now. Anyway, the title of the film (and the group), stems from one scene in the film, when Holmes (or his unreasonable facsimile) defends the mania of Don Quixote. It's an explanation I've long been fond of, and I present it here for you now:

Dr. Mildred Watson: You're just like Don Quixote. You think that everything is always something else.
Justin Playfair: Well, he had a point. Of course he carried it a bit too far. He thought that every windmill was a giant. That's insane. But, thinking that they might be, well... All the best minds used to think the world was flat. But what if it isn't? It might be round. And bread mold might be medicine. If we never looked at things and thought of what might be, why we'd all still be out there in the tall grass with the apes.

I've lost count of the number of times I've told various friends and family members that I'm not getting my hopes up over my immediate job prospects. Each time, I've taken a deep breath and explained that I've reigned in my expectations, and that I'm being realistic about what the future may hold. But I fear I've been slightly dishonest. The truth is that I can't help but get my hopes up - it's just how my nature runs. It's not that I'm relying on a positive outcome, I tread too gingerly where the future is concerned for that, but at heart I'm a dreamer (though I'm not the only one), and when I stop to ponder matters I can't help but consider the most rose tinted of outcomes. Of course, I'll consider an entire gamut of alternative consequences too, not all of them stained so colourfully, but I know in which direction my heart will be tugged, I know what I want to believe will happen. I am an optimist, even though I often refuse to admit it where my own life is concerned. And why fight it? I like the fact that unknown possibilities lie ahead - I positively revel in them, in fact. It doesn't matter that there may not be a happy ending directly in front of me (or better yet, a happy continuance - endings are too depressingly final when it comes to real life), for the moment it's enough to be able to consider such things as may come to pass.

So yes, I have a job interview, and yes I am getting my hopes up. At the same time another part of me will also be preparing for the worst, but it's a smaller part (about the size of a kidney), and I can conveniently shove it to one side for the time being. And hopefully (with a little bit of luck), I shan't have any need of it.

I have an urgent need...

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...for a new pair of shoes. And a smart jacket. And a new shirt. And a belt.

Yay me!

Here comes the rain again

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It's raining outside again. It's nothing much compared to the downpours that have assaulted the countryside over the last few days, just a gentle patter, filling my room with the pleasant sound of white noise. I closed my eyes and listened to it for a few minutes earlier. It's not a loud noise, but sufficient enough to drown out all those inescapable background sounds you're not really aware of until you stop and focus on them: The faint sounds of traffic in the distance, the hums and creaks that inhabit the crooks and crevices of old buildings, the beating of your heart and the rush of blood through your ears. And my general uncertaintly about the immediate future.

It was a strange sort of quiet - loud but peaceful. And most welcome.

Whistling in the dark

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How did it go? Honestly, I have no idea, and yet I still have a vague feeling of impending doom hovering over me. I've already forgotten half of what I was asked and most of how I answered. I was nervous, I remember that much, and I'm certain I committed the cardinal sin of not knowing when to stop talking. I also think I answered some questions somewhat tangentially, although given that they weren't technical, that may or may not be a bad thing (goes to show character, your honour?).

At least the interviewer was friendly and good natured, and she said at the end my company had been a pleasure. That she sounded like she meant it, regardless of how I'd just performed, brought a smile to my face and I thanked her for it. She told me that they are hoping to hold face-to-face interviews next week, so I imagine I'll be put out of my misery before too long.

Still, I'll try not to dwell on any dark thoughts too much, and instead attempt to take Kevin's advice to heart: It didn't go as badly as you thought it did.

I hope not.

Tock, tock, tock...

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Ok, now I'm nervous...

Tick, tick, tick...

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Hmm, perhaps that title should read "tic, tic, tic..."

I hate waiting.

Eww

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It's just as well I'm not superstitious. I left work slightly early today, largely because I really couldn't concentrate on what I was doing, and decided to go home, to wait for the call (and to not concentrate on other things instead). Along the way I encountered a flock of geese. An especially mean flock of geese, including one particular goose who decided express it's general dissatisfaction with it's lot by choosing to shower me with poop. Goose poop, I discovered, is not a pleasant substance. It's viscous, brown, and runny, and it's unpleasantness exacerbated by the fact it was delivered in copious quantity. I have to admire this goose's aim. The streak started on my right shoulder, ran over my hair (ick, ick ick), across my left shoulder, before petering out down my left arm.

I got home and showered immediately. On the plus side it took my mind off my interview...

Apparently what we need is a plan to persuade as many Americans as possible to take an international holiday before November:

Zogby also found that voters holding passports preferred Kerry 58 percent to 35 percent for Bush. Voters without passports favored Bush 48-39 percent.
Fascinating statistic, isn't it? It's taken from a brief article of which that particular factoid is probably the highlight. Well, aside from the fact that the poll was run by Zogby, which is just a fantastically groovy name.

Is that Zogby yes, or Zogby no?

Famous last words

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Courtesy of the Tombstone Generator.

Feel free to do better. I may even offer a prize for the best epithet.

As an aside

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I've been to Mount Holyoke, and I can hardly believe I failed to notice this sign. Utter genius. I really must start paying more attention...

These endless days

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My telephone interview will take place Tuesday evening. Last Thursday I had a rare outing from the office when I was taken along to meet and impress a client. Today I did a fraction of the amount of studying I'd intended too without feeling guilty about it. Tomorrow I'll feel guilty about it and try to do too much to compensate. On Saturday my sister and my niece are coming to visit for a few days. One Wednesday I'm spending an evening in the company of colleagues past and present. On Monday I'll worry about Tuesday but recall that I did well on Thursday and that I'm perfectly capable of meeting with people and presenting myself in a positive light. On Thursday I'll have time to wonder if I presented myself in a positive light on Tuesday. On Friday I'll realise that I've still to organise things for my sister and niece's arrival on Saturday and panic about that instead.

These are my days.

Missing things

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When was the last time you saw or heard a reference to The Laughing Cavalier? It's variously described as one of the most famous portraits in the world, and I recall it being alluded to and parodied often in my childhood, in numerous media. But, needless to say, that was an increasingly long time ago, and I cannot honestly recall the last time I came across a mention of this painting. Several years at the very least. By comparison the Mona Lisa still pops up with near alarming regularity, along with a host of Van Goghs, and Michelangelos and other assorted famed artworks.

I'm given to wonder what has changed. Two possibilities spring to mind:

The first is that information now comes to me through sources that I either had no interest in, or were unavailable to me as a child, and perhaps the good cavalier and I simply associate in different info-social circles these days.

The second, and more melancholy, is that perhaps our dashing cavaliers' time in the sun has passed. Could it be true that fame is fleeting even for works of arts? Perhaps a little less fleet than for us mere mortals, but fleeting none-the-less. Would, I wonder, children in schools today be as familiar with this particular masterpiece as I was? Maybe they are, but if not, does that mean it's started on a slow spiralling descent into obscurity? 'Twould be a sad fate indeed.

I hope it's the former.

Morality play

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I like to think I hold myself to a fairly strict code of conduct, albeit one that is probably far more malleable than I'd acknowledge. I suspect I simply have a strong streak of idealism when it comes to how the world should operate, and I try to make sure I don't contradict that.

It's probably because of this that today I confessed to my manager I'd applied for another job. I hadn't brought it up with him before, largely because I considered my chances relatively remote and therefore not worth mentioning. I still do, of course (and thank you all for your support, but, trying to be objective, compared to the experience they're asking for I'm only a marginal candidate), but since my c.v. appears to have done what it was supposed to, they're perhaps a little less remote than before, and so I felt it only fair to inform him - regardless of whether I get the job or not. I do get the feeling that he's not quite used to people being so open with him in this regard. Certainly, when others I've worked with decided to seek employment elsewhere, they went about it in a rather clandestine fashion, at least as far as management were concerned, holding off announcing anything until a position had actually been secured. I only partially understand that point of view: not announcing your intentions lest you don't find anything and have to stay in your current job, looking rather foolish and possibly having killed your chances for advancement.

But it just doesn't work for me. I have little stomach for guile and equally little aptitude for deception. It doesn't sit well with my nebulously defined code of morality, so I try to be as transparent as possible when it comes to such matters. It may not always work out for me, I know, but I've been lucky so far. Today, for instance, Howard, my manager, managed to throw back one surprise after I told him what I was up to. I'd already discussed with him my intent to move back to Edinburgh at the end of the year and he told me he'd been talking with our MD and HR department about the possibility of retaining my services by allowing me to work remotely from Edinburgh. I've got to admit, depending on how things work out, it could be a tempting offer, at least in the near term. There are some interesting things going on with the company just now, but the truth is that I want to move on - I want the experience of working with new people in a new environment. Things have gotten a bit... staid recently and I'm hankering for a change (for many changes, in fact). But we'll see. If it does come to pass it will be nice to have at least one option open to me, so I'm not going to sneer at it.

Too much future to worry about just now.

Or downright terrifying:

We are delighted to advise that we will be contacting you within 5 working days to arrange a telephone interview with you on behalf of [name of company that I really, really want to work for deleted] . Please reply by e-mail if there are any times that are unsuitable for this interview.
Help?

The secret of comedy

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For the last three and half years, my PC at work has been set to play the same sound everytime I receive a new email. I don't have the exact file to hand, but I found a reasonable approximation - it goes something like this. Mine is perhaps a little shorter, and mayhap with a bit more punch at the end, but you get the gist of it.

I forget the reason why I chose it - there may have been a dare involved - but I do recall that initially proved to be a surprisingly effective deterrent when it came to dissuading those around me sending emails to me. For example, one day somebody sitting just opposite me sent me a mail, I received it, triggering the sound effect. He just put his head in his hands, shook silently from side to side (with just a hint of a tremble), then swore never to mail me again. Of course, it's surprising just how quickly you become immune to even something as distracting this. These days I don't actual register the comedy value of it, just the fact that I have mail (and the great thing about it is is that I can tell I have new mail even from the other side of the office!).

Curiously enough, though, in all this time, no-one has ever complained about it, or suggested I change it, which, of course, I would do immediately were anyone to ask.

Anyway, it was brought to mind today when I was having a discussion with some co-workers about various projects that were going on. Someone mentioned that there was a lot to juggle right now, and I immediately responded with a graphic demonstration - I keep a small pile of oranges next to my desk for just such occasions. After a short period of showing off, one of my oranges fell to the ground (I'm out of practice these days) just at the precise moment I received an email. It took me a few moments to work out why everyone around me cracked up at the same time...

I want this book. I stumbled across a display copy in Waterstones yesterday and spent a few brief minutes pouring over it. Alas, I had to be elsewhere, otherwise I would have spent much longer. It's a lovely, glossy book containing some 7000 photographs and diagrams detailing contemporary architecture throughout all the continents. It's typical of the coffee table genre, except in this case, nail a few wooden legs into it and you'd arrive at a fairly good approximation of a coffee table. It's an enormous volume - the fact that it comes inside it's own plastic suitcase should tell you something - with an equally enormous price. But it's also exceptionally beautiful.

Like the Earth From The Air exhibition it presents a series of photos that make me appreciate how much beauty there is in the world. The fact that the subjects in these are man-made does nothing to lessen their impact. Whilst I'm familiar with a goodly portion those found in London, I'm almost embarassed at just how many of them have escaped me - including some I'm almost certain I've passed by without noticing. I'll need to go and hunt them down.

And once I'm done with London, I'm sorely tempted to start on the rest of the world...

I should chart my angst levels on my blog, really I should. Perhaps not for any rational purpose other than to create a suitably chaotic graph apropos of nothing in particular. I do worry a little that I occasionally give entirely the wrong impression of what's going on in my life or in my thoughts, purely for the sake of having to something to write about. Oftentimes I'll sit down to write about a particular happening and then churn out something else entirely, something I later look back on and think: "I wrote that?" I'm a bit concerned that such postings seem to spewing forth with increased frequency, though as a consequence of what, I'm not entirely sure. On the other hand, it's not as though I've gone through everything I've written to see how true that is. It may well not be. Which brings me back the charting. There's nothing like pretty graphs filled with lots of confusing lines and figures to take one's mind of one's angst is there?

Anyway, I suppose this is my way of apologising for coming across as a bit of a whinger recently. In future I'll try and reserve it until I have good reason. Though in future I'll also try not to have good reason too. If that makes any sense...

Who, then, am I?

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How often is it we learn who we are? Or discover something about ourselves we didn't realise before? Something that, if it doesn't exactly shatter our carefully conceived notions of the type of people we are, at least puts a dent in it.

Chris, one of the other developers at work, asked me a question two days ago. He only started a couple of months ago, and I, as one of the senior developers have a considerable amount of say as to what he should be doing and how. In short, it's within my remit to veto Chris's work. Without boring you with the technical details, having listened to his question, I came to the conclusion that he was going about things in the wrong way - what he was proposing was workable, but ultimately more complex than the problem demanded. In my opinion. That last is the important bit: in my opinion. I explained to him what I thought he should be doing instead, and he disagreed with me. I nevertheless suggested that he at least consider my proposal before going down the route he wanted to (which always begs the question: why do you even ask if you're not going to listen to the answer?). And he said no.

Like I said, I could have made him do it my way. And I so very nearly did. I'm usually wary of enforcing my opinion on others, but by several objective measures I was right and he was wrong. And that he'd chosen to ignore me rankled. It was within my power to make him. And, to be honest, I wanted to.

And then I realised I'd been in this situation before, only from the other side. I'd once ended up in an argument with our technical architect over what I considered to be a trivial point., but which he viewed as being something altogether more serious. Neither of us were prepared to back down over it, and in the end, he played the seniority card with the immortal line "well, I'm technical architect and you're not." Quite frankly that comment was beneath him, and I was furious over it, especially since he'd abruptly terminated the conversation and left me without any means of appeal. And I hated it. It may not have stared breaking things, yelling or thrown a tantrum, but I l walked away seething inside. How dare anyone treat me so?. With the benefit of a couple of years of hindsight, I can look back and see how that situation came to pass. By simply refusing to back down or consider an alternative point of view (why should I when I was so obviously right?) I'd left him without any means of recourse. The eventual outcome was quite possibly the only outcome. Of course, that doesn't change the astonishing lack of tack he displayed, which had a considerably negative impact on our working relationship from that point onwards.

And here was I, about to pull the same stunt on someone else. I stopped myself. Instead I just said nothing and looked at Chris. Eventually he got up and went back to his desk. A few minutes later I went over, apologised for having been so inflexible and sat down with him to consider alternatives. Everything ended well.

But when did I become this person who was prepared to ride roughshod over someone else? I know I didn't in the end, but that doesn't change the fact that I wanted to, that I'm capable of it. My perception of who I am doesn't allow for me to act that way. And if I wrong about that, about me, what else am I wrong about?

Things are mounting up behind me again. Emails and letters left unwritten. Phone calls unreturned. People left uncontacted.

I wish I had better reasons as to why. It's not a time thing. If it were I wouldn't be here writing this now. I still maintain that there's always time if you look or try hard enough - it's a rare circumstance when I genuinely don't have time to do something. So it's something else.

In many ways I am a classic introvert. I like people, and I enjoy their company (well, certain people, present company included, at least), but I usually can't keep it up for too long. As a general rule the longer I spend in the company of others, the longer I have to hide and be by myself. Being sociable is an exhausting business. I still remember the first time I went on holiday with a group of friends. I was terrified beforehand - two whole weeks spent in the company of other people, with nowhere to run to or hide. I could think of few things so frightening. Thankfully I had a wonderful time, discovering, to my surprise, that I didn't miss my company as much as I thought I might.

Where am I going with all this meandering train of thought? I'm not sure. I seem to be shuttering out the world, but without good reason. Not the most healthy of behaviour, I know, but not too atypical for me either. The simple fact is that I've got a pile of things to do and I'm looking for excuses not to do them. Why put off 'til tomorrow what you can do today?

I'll try to clear out the backlog. Starting tomorrow.

Weather we go

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On Tuesday the amount of rain normally received by August over the course of the whole month fell in the space an hour. Today the weather gods decided to send us an encore.

It was an enthralling spectacle. Virtually everyone in the office laid down their tools and wandered over to the window to gawp at the raging weather outside. And rage it did. The view outside resembled news footage I remember watching of a hurricane in Florida. The sky had blackened, only to be pierced by wondrous flashes and flares of lightning, and the rains looked like a solid wall of water descending on the world. Trees bent to breaking point in the wind, and branches were torn to the ground. The noise was incredible too. Winds roared and thunder crashed - nearby enough to make several people visibly nervous. Someone close to me remarked - with a skittish smile - that it felt like the end of the world.

And it did too. Fantastic stuff.

Roaming in the gloaming

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A bishop ate my jelly baby and refused to cackle. But more on that in a moment.

The fates decided to show me some leniency after all. Thank you fates. The theatre company was only too happy to offer me tickets for tonight's performance after yesterday's literal washout. Not only that, but the beautiful summer night I'd expected the previous day turned up at last - it was a glorious evening. Weather reports threated stormy weather at random points throughout the day, but these managed to hold off until the very last tonight. In short, things were just how they should have been yesterday.

The play itself was well put together and faithful to it's source material (from what I remember at least, it's been some 15 years since I last read the book). Parents of you children should be warned that it is perhaps a trifle long, given the attention spans of much of it's target audience, but it felt just right for me. The cast were uniformly excellent, throwing themselves into their parts with enormous enthusiasm and handling some of Lewis Caroll's torturous verses with aplomb (including the punishing Jabberwocky, which itself made an impressive entrance at the end). I almost felt sorry for Alice, since she alone had to restrain herself as the sole voice of reason in the topsy turvy looking glass world, but she came across as being likeably down to earth nevertheless (especially in comparison with her plummy voiced Disney counterpart). As I mentioned yesterday, each scene took place in a new location in the park, and the audience had to dutifully uproot themselves and play follow the leader each time a scene change took place. It was a somewhat unusual experience, but the crowd took to it with good spirits and it's testimony to someone's organisational skills that moving such a large volume of people, including a considerable number of children, was accomplished swiftly and with a minimum of fuss. As the evening drew on, and dusk descended into twilight, the routes were lit with candles and torches and the atmosphere became increasingly surreal, almost dreamlike, which suited the mood perfectly.

Along with the torches and lanterns, several small vignettes were performed by a few characters en route, to help guide the audience along the correct paths. Most amusing of these was a small congregation of bishops (replete with mitres and placards) protesting their lack of representation in the play when compared with the other chess pieces . They also turned up to amuse the audience during the interval, and to harass me a little as I was trying to teach a Spanish lady the correct way to eat jelly babies. Which is. of course. to throw your head back whilst cackling loudly before devouring the jelly baby whole (it's important to feel no remorse as you do so. It may be difficult at first, but with time and practice you can overcome this initial emotional hurdle). The bishop took my jelly baby, but refused to cackle, declaiming that such behaviour was not befitting a clergy member of his standing, before biting the jelly baby's legs off - which, as everyone knows, is the cruelest way to eat them.

Some people have no respect for tradition.

Anyway, almost enough fun was had to make up for yesterday's drenching, and the whole experience gets my hearty recommendation.

The moral of today's tale: Never trust a five day weather forecast.

I'd organised a picnic for this evening, in a nearby park, with just a small group of friends (from whence sprung my recent obsession with the fine art of cucumber sandwich preparation). Not just a picnic, in fact, but an outing.

Several weeks ago I chanced upon a review of a production of "Alice Through The Looking Glass" performed in parks throughout London by a company named "London Bubble". The review was glowing, as were others I found, and the concept of following Alice's adventures (quite literally - the audience trails the characters around the park as scenes wend on) sounded quite delightful. I saved the review, and promptly forgot about it until last week, when I fortuitously discovered that the production was due to shortly play in a park just around the corner from where I am now. A quick check found the weather report singing merry songs of long and lazy and bright summer evenings. I could hardly resist. Events fell neatly into place, just so, and with a minimum amount of effort I found I'd arranged a picnic. The fates were obviously on my side, I thought.

Actually, the fates were just lulling me into a false sense of security.

Leaving work this evening, I noticed a few small splashes of rain water on my face. Nothing serious, and certainly not grounds for concern. Unlike the torrential deluge that followed moments later. The walk to the train station from work takes me 13 and half minutes. By the time I approached the station, a full blown thunderstorm had developed, with terrific bursts of lightning flashing across the skies every minute or so. The rain, if anything, had increased in intensity - it's fair to say that I waded along the last part of the road. This was not the balmy summers evening promised me by the bbc. And worse was to come.

Flash flooding along the lines, combined with a junction taken down by a lightning strike, ground London's already shaky transport infrastructure to a complete halt, adding two extra hours of monotonous travelling to my journey home (bear in mind that I was quite literally soaked to the skin this entire time).

I didn't make it to the park in time. It had stopped raining by the time I got home, so there's a possibility the show might have gone ahead, though I hope it was cancelled so I can reschedule tickets for tomorrow instead.

Considering the high hopes I had for tonight, it turned out to be a somewhat disappointing evening...

This made me laugh.

This made me think.

This I found interesting.

P.S I've decided the secret to cucumber sandwiches is to add lots of cheese. And to cut the slices of cucumber really thinly. And to apply it frugally. If at all.

I don't think I like cucumber...

All work and all that

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I made the most of a gorgeous weekend by spending the largest part of it indoors, studying and looking up recipes for cucumber sandwiches. So far I've polished off The Design of Everyday Things, the majority of Programming Interviews Exposed, brushed up on C again, followed my way through a Dreamweaver tutorial or two and made some rather atrocious cucumber sandwiches (like brewing cups of tea and coffee, it's a deceptively simple task for which I show no aptitude what so ever). However, I didn't spend entire time ensconced away in the dark - I spent some time studying outside as well.

Strangely enough, I've enjoyed the experience (sandwiches aside, at least). Long may it continue.