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Tuesday, 6th April 2004

Start the world, I want to get on

Back from my training course and slowly trying to catch up with the world - it's incredibly selfish of it not to have stopped for that one week.

Rather than allowing us to sleep through four days of lectures, there was an exam script which we had to fill out over the week - six modules in all, apparently the equivalent of a (crummy) A-level - with essay questions such as: "Explain how to best develop a good working relationship with your team, your colleagues, your manager, and your customers." "How would you analyse a report to determine the key information, in order to best assess priorities?" "Why is personal development important for members of your team? How would you deal with a performance problem in your team?" "Explain why it is important to balance performance objectives against resource availability."

Oh, the fun we had. We did learn a few things, though. We learned that 300 operations per week on the NHS go wrong (which generally means something being left inside someone). We learned that McDonald's is a pinnacle of world class standards and excellence, and that the potato market is an incredibly complex one. We learned that Parker Pens are not, in fact, in the pen (or ink) business.

We learned that cutting out the middle man is called disintermediation.

I got back on Thursday, a fair bit poorer for food and phonecalls and disconcertingly unable to type properly after a whole three days without a keyboard. There weren't too many mishaps during the week, apart from inadvertantly boarding the wrong bus on Tuesday morning - it took me a while to realise this because this bus shared the beginning of the route that I should have taken. I eventually discovered I was on the wrong bus, leapt off and crossed over to the other side of the road in order to wait for a bus coming the other way. When it did, ten minutes later, it was the same bus that I'd just leapt off, with the same driver, giving me a strange look as I climbed back on again (who'd have thought?). I believe I kept my head down after that.

In any case, in about ten weeks I should be the prou— the, erm, owner, of a certificate proclaiming my worthiness in the role of manager (my line manager told me that I'm destined for management - something that is probably, I concede, depressingly true). Yay me.

Tuesday, 6th April 2004

Of presents, and socks

Knowing that I'm a huge fan of the two Godfather films, Kevin bought me the trilogy boxset on DVD, complete with stunning bonus materials and such (partly as a bribe in order to blackmail me into not whingeing unfairly about the course last week. What can I say, it worked. How easily I am bought...). Unfortunately, this is going to make it so much harder for me to deny that Part III exists - it's awful, awful, it completely ruined the perfect tragedy of Part II's end scene for me, and once I saw it I spent months trying to blank it from my mind. Doubly damning is the fact that I've spewed so much venom in Part III's name in front of Kevin that he's now curious, and intent on seeing it. And although it's on television next week when he could watch it without me, I'd feel compelled to ridicule him for watching it on Channel 5, poor quality and with adverts galore, when I have it on DVD. So I'm going to have to suffer the anguish - again! - and watch it with him...

And speaking of anguish, this brings me rather neatly around to the subject of Kevin's socks. (Forgive me for blogging about your socks, dear. But, well, I just had to.) There was a quote in last week's episode of Six Feet Under which gave a rather good overview of the issue at hand:

"I'm trying to pair up my socks."
"But they're all identical."
"That's the dilemma."

You see the problem. Kevin spends time in the mornings comparing lots of individual socks from the large sockpile in order to find a pair. The fact that all his socks are indistinguishable merely increases the difficulty of this task. Being a bright spark (and having a mother who, years ago, implemented a similar scheme for me), I suggested sorting them all out into pairs, all at once, and then sewing a small piece of coloured thread to the top of each sock with a distinct colour for each pair.

This idea was not welcomed joyously and jubilantly as I had hoped.

Kevin explained to me that his socks frequently go missing for periods of time and subsequently reappear, and they don't have the decency to do this in whole pairs. Thus there are times when the sockpile contains many individual socks, and not one pair between the lot of them. He is therefore sometimes compelled to take two different (indistinguishable) socks which don't make up a pair, and to convince himself that he has a whole pair, thus sparing him an anguish lasting all day long.

Were I to brutally commandeer his sockpile and sew in the coloured threads, he would no longer be able to labour under the pretence that he was wearing a pair of socks. He would instead have to suffer the indignity of mismatched socks, even though no one but him would know. (I think Kevin may be slightly geeky. Don't tell anyone though.)

So, now... to sew or not to sew? Sometime over Easter I may launch a sneak attack on the sockpile, armed with needle and threads. Be warned, Kevin's socks. I am coming for you.

Friday, 16th April 2004

Atonement

"Bad Cathy," I thought to myself. "You haven't blogged in x days, where x > 9." See, even I have some semblance of standards when it comes to blogging frequency.

So I sat down and thought about what I might blog about, what's been going on in my world since last I blogged, snippets of information which I think are interesting (but which I'm sure, ultimately, aren't), rants I might rant about and such. To tell the truth, I was tempted to either do one of those very long and pointlessly rambling entries, or one of those which has lots of small disparate items in bullet points, but then I realised that neither of those tend to work out well for me, seeming to make for rather flat blog posts.

I would like to mention a couple of things, though, one of which is my sheer joy that summer is apparently just around the corner. (I apologise for jinxing things if it pours down with rain all next week, okay?) Nothing in my general surroundings is more guaranteed to affect my mood than the weather - sunshine and blue skies lift my spirits immensely. This is also one of the few good points about the fact that I've now switched desks in the office - I now get to look out of a window (at the delights of the car park) rather than having one at my back.

After the Easter weekend, one thing has become very apparent - everyone around me thinks (well, okay, knows) that I have a weakness for Galaxy chocolate. And I've just rediscoverered my joy of Galaxy since, when they redesigned the packaging last August or so, they changed the recipe. Suddenly my glorious Galaxy chocolate was rank, inferior, second to Cadbury's Dairy Milk, of all things! I was dissatisfied, and lo, I ate it not. A couple or three months ago, though, I was given some and was delighted to find out that they'd reverted back to the old, wonderful, patently-better-than-any-other-common-chocolate Galaxy chocolate.

So for Easter, I got (in various bits and pieces): a normal-sized Galaxy chocolate egg, with two small bars of Galaxy. Two bags of Galaxy mini eggs (of which I knew not before this week). Two large (400g) slabs of Galaxy chocolate. The hugest Easter egg you've ever seen - about a foot tall, and weighing 400g (from Kevin - you know your boyfriend loves you when he gives you a chocolate egg that you can hardly lift ;-) ), and another of those large slabs.

And they'll all be out of date within six months! Help...

Minor things:

  • Regular expressions rock. Thank you, Dorothea.
  • I'm afraid Kevin's socks didn't get done, even in four or five days over Easter. I'm still determined to ambush them at some point though.
  • I now own Pirates of the Caribbean and may use force to allow people around me who haven't watched it yet (a distressingly large number of such) to see it.
  • Shaun Of The Dead (in case Kevin's recommendation wasn't enough for you) is a brilliant, brilliant film. Go, watch, ROTFL.
  • After doing another test for my gap-year maths course, I can confirm that I haven't forgotten differentiation, even the derivatives of trigonometric functions. Yay.
  • I've made my choices for the halls of residence at Warwick university (the list of options, if you're interested). Hopefully, applying at this time of the year, I'll get my first choice. Luckily all the rooms have a high-speed internet connection, so at least I'll have that :-)
  • Kevin's starting to wreak his revenge upon me for piling him down with about a dozen books to read, six months ago. So far it's The Far Side Gallery (book 1 of 6) and a Tom Holt (book something of goodness knows how many), and if those work then I'll have entire series to catch up on... Gah. Evil plans are the best, aren't they?

How about that - after not being able to write anything, and forcing myself to write about how I couldn't write anything, I managed to write both a long, pointlessly rambling bit and a list of short bullet points. Without ever intending to. How depressing is that?

Thursday, 22nd April 2004

Ceçi n'est pas un blog

Just to let you know...

I don't think I shall blog this week. And I don't have to. So I won't. (Note, by the way, precisely how far my standards have slipped - blogging once in a week is enough to keep me satisfied that I'm on track.)

I can confidently say this now, that blogging prospects for this week are nil, since I'm heading off to Essex tomorrow for another long weekend. And while it's perfectly possible for me to blog whilst I'm at Kevin's, I don't tend to—well, actually, never have done—since the majority of my blogposts take a lot longer to write than they should do. Much staring blankly at the screen and so on. Granted, most of this can probably be attributed to how tired I am at time of composition (and the fact that I seldom change a word once I've written it, so it has to be right first time), but it has led to me being less enthusiastic in general about the writing of blogposts. I've reverted back to not immediately thinking, "Ooh, I must blog that," when something interesting or notable happens.

And I call myself a blogger...

Speaking of days off work, I seem to have had rather a lot of them since I began work in September. However, nearly all of them have been due to Flexitime (whereby you work an average of 37 hours per week and can shuffle your hours around however you like, taking days and half-days off if you've worked the equivalent hours) and only 3 days came out of my annual leave. This means that even after the four days' leave I've booked during May, I'll have 15 days' leave to use up through June/July/half of August. Now, I know I've been hoarding my leave days preciously, but I didn't quite realise that it meant that I could take off one day of every week until the end of my contract, including a full week off somewhere in there, and still using my Flexitime wisely.

Wow. This could be an idea.

(Since I'm not blogging this week, that wasn't a blogpost. So I don't have to end it properly. I can just leave it hanging if I like. So there.)

Friday, 30th April 2004

And lo, there was water

It's raining. It's been raining since Tuesday evening, and hasn't stopped.

What happened then was that I walked out of work at 4:30pm to wait for the bus (to get to the station, to catch the train, to get to Woking, to wait for a train, to catch the train, to get to Walton, to walk back to the house that Jack built), and it was warm, and certainly bright if not particularly sunny. The weather didn't change in the 18 minutes before I caught my train, but when I sat down at Woking at 5pm there was a bright flash followed by an incredibly loud peal of thunder. It then began to rain very hard (but mercifully stopped just long enough for me to walk home).

Tuesday night brought us the freak thunderstorms that hit London, which caused major flooding in many parts and hellish traffic the next day. Since then... it pretty much hasn't stopped raining.

Now, my weekend is set to look something like this:

Saturday
get free Ben & Jerry's icecream in Portobello Market
wander round London
attend a Terry Pratchett signing (or, as Kevin so uniquely put it, "maybe get some bloke to scrawl in a book or two")
Sunday
possibly go to a local steam fair (that is, a fairground with rides powered by steam. Not exactly adreneline-rushing rides, but still fun enough)
possibly hunt out Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, since it looks interesting

Note that, unusually for us (well... actually, I'll come back to that later), this involves spending lots of time outdoors. And the weekend weather was actually looking to be fairly promising, given the week we've had, but no! We grew arrogant in our abundance of fair and sunny weather, forgetting that this weekend is an English bank holiday weekend (which traditionally means: miserable). Gah.

I'd rather not repeat the spectacle of my last-but-one Terry Pratchett signing, which was in the rain - I generally arrive up to 2 hours before the signings start, to secure a fairly decent place in the queue and ensure that I get round fairly quickly once the line starts moving. This particular signing took place a couple of days before the book in question was to be published, so I bought my copy from the shop and settled down to read in the queue. (Knowing that I'd be there for some time, I had actually had the foresight to bring a little fold-out camping stool just for the queue. This gathered strange looks aplenty, but no sore feet.)

Of course, as said, it began to rain. Thus occurred the amusing (to bystanders, at least) sight of me sitting on said stool, balancing a hardback book on my lap, holding an umbrella in one hand, and reading with the other. Once the queue started moving, however, it was: hold the umbrella with one hand, hold the book with the other, and panic when it came to turning pages. My, that was fun.

Anyway, "...unusually for us, this involves spending lots of time outdoors." In fact, Kevin and I defied the Geek Club Code the last two weekends in a row (when it was nice, sunny weather) and actually went out for a walk, for no other purpose than to walk round pretty places in the bright sunny sunshine. We're pretty confident of retaining our membership in said Club, though, since about an hour and a half of gentle walking led to us collapsing when we got back to the house. (Look, there was sunshine, and heat, and lack of water, okay?)

Plus a few sidenotes:

  • Stuart is right (in my opinion, of course), The Little Friend by Donna Tartt is not really worth reading. I abandoned said tome after about 250-300 pages, which consisted of about 200-250 pages of character notes and little else. It's arguably well-written, if you take, say, an individual paragraph (that is, if you can find one without parentheses... yes, I know, irony, hypocrisy, but I'm not publishing this professionally, right?), but it's just dull. I very rarely give up on books, but this was one of them.

    The other two books I can remember giving up on in the last few years are: the first of Robert Jordan's "Wheel Of Time" series, after being assured by a few people that it gained little more plot, and the first of Robert Rankin's books. I rarely enjoy purely silly fantasy, but in contrast I liked the Tom Holt book that Kevin lent me. That struck a good note with me; the Robert Rankin struck a weird note.

  • After last year's very expensive cut and blowdry (£16.50 for the cut, and the same again to have your hair dried properly), I can confirm that this is no longer the case. It now costs £17.50 for each of the above services. I left with damp hair.

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