Thursday, October 28, 2004
Okay, I’ll bite:
- Grab the nearest book.
- Open the book to page 23.
- Find the fifth sentence.
- Post the text of the sentence in your journal...
- ...along with these instructions.
”The tartan was a bold pattern in amethyst and black.” - Pandora’s Star, Peter F. Hamilton.
Hmm, that wasn’t very interesting. I think this is one meme that can lie down and be forgotten (a junk meme, perhaps?)
So, His Worldtravellerness flew in on Tuesday night. In stark contrast to his departure, he’s looking tanned and fit, altogether the better for five months backpacking in Europe. The bastard. He tells tales of night bike tours of Paris and Berlin, and mentions San Sebastian as the prettiest place he visited. He says Prague is amazing and Berlin is cold and amazing. He got a pitiful number of stamps on his passport. He has several CDs of photos that he has threatened to stun us with.
I hate him.
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So I had a followup session with the work counsellor yesterday. We attacked my chronic procrastination habits, a meticulous planning-based approach that will undoubtedly be effective as long as I don’t – oh, I don’t know – sit down and start writing a blog entry the first thing I do…
Understand that there are no great psychological insights coming out of these sessions. She’s not even teaching me coping techniques that I don’t already know – but she is reminding that I actually need to use them to make them work. Deep breathing, blocking out work plans, giving myself little “you did good” affirmations and so forth. Basic, elementary stuff, but sometimes when I’m stuck in the middle of boring work, office tensions and blind, idiotic bureaucracy, it’s a little hard to get the right perspective.
Anyway, I think I’m now at least sufficiently well-armed to make it through to the end of the year without quitting or going postal.
Tuesday, October 26, 2004
If you don’t feed your blog, it will waste away and die
That’s a very important lesson, and of late I have been guilty of gross neglect. Note to self:Lexifab needs lots of attention, because it’s your most regular avenue of communication with your parents and friends. Don’t be slack, or they may think you are dead. This actually happens: I keep checking ted’s magicdog blog to see what’s he’s up to in Tokyo, and every day he doesn’t post up a blurry cityscape photo or point out how cool the building in which he works looks, I get worried that he might have fallen prey to one of the string of inclement natural conditions hammering that part of the world lately. (Hey, Toad! You okay mistah?)
Of course, he could just be very busy or travelling the world or not have electricity, so shut up, me!
Obligatory renovation report: The wreckage
It was quite a painful weekend, in a satisfying we’re-not-there-yet-but-you-can-see-the-end-from-here kind of way. On Saturday, we recruited Team Gyprock (Gaz, Al, Jimbo, ChrisT and Lindor) to help up attach the ceiling panels. It needed the full crew – each of the sheets was over four metres in length, and highly flexible (well, flexible right up to the point where the plaster just crumbles and breaks, leaving an ugly and permanent seam).
The attachment process involved carefully gluing the back of each sheet, after which it was carefully manhandled up overhead and held in place against the existing sheeting for ten or fifteen minutes at a time while Fiona scrambled about with the cordless drill, screwing the sheets to the beam. This was, needless to say, incredibly painful for the sheet-holders in question. Efficiencies were quickly devised, and we got much better at it during the afternoon. Just as well, too, because sooner or later we need to repeat the process with the lounge, and it has a much bigger surface area to cover (that can wait until after the chaos of Christmas, however).
On Sunday, Fiona and I followed up with our first attempt at plastering, about which I can report that it’s very easy to do an extremely amateur-looking job. It’s only the first layer of about three or four, though, so at this stage it’s not too important that our initial stab looks like pants. We were both obviously improving by the end of the process, so I doubt there’s anything really to worry about there.
We also attempted to fix a leak in the ceiling, which Sunday’s torrential downpours were good enough to reveal. I spent about half an hour lying full-length on three beams in the rafters, craning my neck and poking about with a torch to spot some sign of a drip, but wherever the hole was, it was small. In the end I gave up and set up a fibreboard sheet under where I thought the leak must be, hoping for some telltale spotting. That didn’t work after about an hour’s steady rain, so instead I just plonked a salad bowl up there to catch the drips. It gets so hot up there that I figure the miniscule amount of water captured will evaporate off before it makes the bowl too heavy. If there’s a horrible, roof-rotting flaw in my reasoning, please let me know, but I do plan to confirm my theory the next time it rains.
This weekend, the kitchen is getting demolished, top to bottom. A few days after that, the new kitchen will start to be installed. Oboy!
Obligatory work report: The centre cannot hold, mere anarchy is loosed, yadda yadda yadda
So the political turmoil and chaos continues largely unabated at work. In an interesting development, the Prince of Darkness (which is to say, the self-styled Chief Information Officer) has surprised exactly nobody at all by announcing his resignation to take up a no-doubt-more-lucrative position in another government agency. Actually, no, I tell a lie: the popular money had him squatting here scoring cheap points until he could con an executive appointment elsewhere for 12 to 18 months, whereas in fact he has managed it in less than 9. Well, I for one won’t miss the sour, intimidating bastard, but his sudden and graceless exit does present more problems than it solves.
For one, he has an elite team of super-geniuses with zero human interaction skills in charge of the Agency’s primary business application, who will now be completely unsupervised and probably unscrutinised as well. For another, going on his previous form, it’s reasonable to expect that before he goes he will attempt to ram through a whole raft of critical infrastructure changes, which will stretch the already-overworked IT group (and in the process probably squeeze out other priorities, such as the stuff I’m working on) and cram an assortment of ill-fitting, unpalatable technology solutions down the Agency’s throat.
In the meantime, the Branch Head who oversees our area is also moving on, and we found out yesterday that the Director of the section to whom we have direct responsibility has also had enough and is leaving in a fortnight. In other words, all the managers with responsibilities for oversight and decision-making are vanishing in the space of six weeks. sigh
On the plus side, I’m feeling oddly positive about the whole thing, probably because I have a week off at the end of November to look forward to.
The Return of the Simonster
Si’s plane gets in tonight, thus ending his six-month sojourn to the wilds of Europe. I want to feel jealous of him, but since he’s coming back to a small room in a half-renovated house with (soon) no kitchen, a strange housemate and nowhere to put any of his stuff, I am forced to feel sympathy instead. Especially when we move in a few weeks from now and Fiona makes him keep the place clean…
Return of the obligatory cricket report
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Summer’s back, and like the migration of the bogong moths, that means the seasonal return of my traumatic relationship with the green and pleasant passtime For those who can’t stand to hear a grown man moan about his aching shoulders, grass-stained knee scabs and dodgy ankles, let alone endless commiserating about inconsistent line and length and idiotic stroke selection, it’s time to delete your browser’s link to Lexifab until next March. The first match is on Sunday after next, so you have until then.
For the rest of you (hi Mum!), I have been placed in the unlikely position of having to be forced to accept the team captaincy, despite the wealth of evidence to support the contention that I am unqualified at best for such a role and, at worst, a grotesque joke. Still, since the autocratic appointment by my predecessor Gus has not been opposed by the rest of the regulars - who should by now know better than to entrust me with any more responsibility than keeping the scorebook – I have no choice but to accept gracefully and exploit my position for personal glorification. At least this means I’ll get to bowl a least a couple of overs every game, fulfilling a lifelong dream that was ruthlessly crushed in under-12’s cricket all those years ago. But I want you all to know that I’m not going to let the power drive me mad and do anything rash like move myself up the batting order. That would be both blatant and irresponsible!
Someone else can set the field, though. I don’t know squat about that shit.
Monday, October 18, 2004
Tired and a bit queasy
I’m a bit under the weather today after the weekend’s exertions, about which more below. My condition isn’t that surprising – I spend the entire week doing not much more than sitting in front of a computer, then come Saturday morning through Sunday afternoon I labour mightily until I am wont to be sick. And then I am. QED, really.
Walls come tumblin’ (carefully) down
Fi and Alastair and I demolished the wall between the kitchen and dining rooms over the weekend, with a quick cameo by Jimbo as ‘guy who devised the smashing-in-the-plaster-wall-with-a-crowbar” demolition technique, which was less effective than it was cathartic…
Apart from Al’s concerted scaremongering campaign with regards to the electrical wiring (which appears to be old-fashioned, but not as immediately life-threatening as he insisted), everything went reasonably smoothly. We extended the job over two days to make absolutely sure we weren’t about to pull out anything with keywords such as ‘critical’ or ‘structural’ or ‘load-bearing’. Once we’d got a look at the whole arrangement from above – necessitating an uncomfortable series of forays into the roof cavity – and determined what all those bolts and things were for, it was pretty much a case of “saw this/sledgehammer that/pry the other” until the whole thing came apart.
I cannot tell you how satisfying it is to be granted an opportunity to destroy something to useful purpose. Somebody should get together an adventure tourism concept, where jaded thrill-seekers are given hammers and crowbars and hardhats and pointed in the direction of a sturdy-but-unwanted dwelling. It’d be a winner, I tell you.
I’m not so sure the next phase of our little project will be as satisfying or (I hope I’m wrong) as successful. We now have to resheet the ceiling in the dining room with gyprock panels and plaster over all those holes and gaps we made. I hear it’s just like icing a cake, but to be perfectly frank I’ve never been as good at that as I should be. Hope this isn’t going to really, really suck… (As an addendum, other skills it looks like we will have attempted to learn by the time this project is done included concrete rendering, tiling, air conditioner installation, window frame building and elementary bookshelf carpentry. This is a fun new hobby).
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So, having endured years of beating myself up for feeling bad about not wanting to work, I finally went to see a stress counsellor last week. Her disappointing but hardly unexpected advice was to try an assortment of stress-lowering and procrastination-eliminating exercises. I don’t know what I was hoping – maybe that she’d sympathise with my self-imposed morose insanity and advise me to get another job or hit some idiot with a plank. No such luck. But I have to admit, actually making a conscious decision to just do something about how bad I’ve been feeling about work has had a marvellous effect. My capacity to feel productive and actually do some work is slowly crawling back up towards average, which at this stage is probably all I need to keep going. Long-term, I’m going to need to find some other career, but at least at this stage I can probably make it through to the end of this project (Feb 2005) without the need for confinement in a mental institution…
Tuesday, October 12, 2004
Still alive, just a bit distracted
…not the least by the fact that I got no goddam sleep at all last night. Stupid insomnia. I’m actually feeling pretty alert and positive right at the moment, which is a sure sign that as soon as that first coffee of the morning wears off, I’m gonna crash harder than the Nikkei. Oh well, until the inevitable, I will tidy up some tedious contracts and update my blog.
The ultra-secret destination for our second wedding anniversary (one week ago today) was the gorgeous Yarra Valley in Victoria, home of mountain streams and abundant wildflowers and about thirty thousand wineries. We stayed at Forget Me Not Cottages somewhere near the top of the valley, and made numerous forays out into the world to buy ridiculous amounts of incredibly good wine. We particularly overdid things at Domaine Chandon, makers of our favourite sparkling whites (you’re not allowed to call them ‘champagne’ any more, thanks to successful legal action from some ticked-off French vintners). Try the Brut Rose, it’s delicious.
There was also an indulgent dinner planned at Eleonore’s, the unutterably classy restaurant at Chateau Yering, a venue so splendid we were obliged to dress up in finery lest we sully the place with our common presence. Fiona wore her wedding dress, I wore a suit (no tux, alas, but then I think they usually look silly). Unfortunately Fi felt ill, so she had to sit there and watch me get through a rabbit-and-saffron filo on a bed of pine nut risotto, followed by a main so good it’s completely erased itself from my memory. Lovely night, spoiled slightly by me being the only one able to really enjoy it.
Need I add that a mere few days of idle luxury is simply not enough, and I wish we’d never come back? Yeah, I thought that’d be pretty obvious.
Disappointed. Still, you can’t argue with the will of the (brainless, spineless, selfish, blinkered) majority. And, yeah, sure, Saturday night left me with a sour taste that experience has taught me will only deepen and become more richly bitter over the forthcoming 3 years, but, eh, what can you do? The people have had ample opportunity to look this government in the eye and see it for what it is, and yet they returned it with an increased majority. Since this outcome is wholly alien to my most closely-held values and aspirations for myself and my country, I can only conclude that I am completely out of touch with reality. In that spirit, I will gracefully accept the way things are and try not to get too upset about it (barring the odd bursts of resentment and incredulity, such as the crushing sense of defeat I get from the realisation that Alexander Downer will continue to steer Australia’s foreign policy, a role for which he is almost divinely unsuited).
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The return to work was an arduous affair, about which the less said, the better. Suffice to say that I am looking at alternative options. It may take a while, because my wife has vetoed the “storm out in a fiery tantrum and underscore my resignation by punching some richly deserving peanut in the face” option.