4 smartarse remarks
Thursday, March 31, 2005
My life in dot points
Lately I have been too busy at my plate-spinning, juggling job to spend the time to keep track of it all in rambling blog entries. While I have a ten-minute lull between urgent, wrenchingly awful phone calls, I’ll summarise what’s been going on:
- Project Porkpie - continues to fill my every working hour, and seems intent on making a play for the rest of my waking ones. The past week has been all about the selection of a position I shall call King of the Codemonkeys – basically the lead developer and person to whom, in theory, I will delegate all the actual hard parts. This process has not been without its fraught moments, as previously mentioned, and these have continued, albeit with fewer histrionics. In particular, I have been dwelling with (probably unwarranted) dread on a forthcoming meeting in which I will have to inform someone with whom I work that they were not as good as the Young Punk to whom I will offer the job. In my imagination, this will be a tense exchange which will spark a slow and murderous smoulder of humiliation and rage that eventually will culminate in an explosive outburst of bitter recrimination. I may be projecting a little more than necessary, however.
- Missing in Azeroth - This cartoon probably tells you all that you need to know about my preferred non-work pursuits. Apart from my gun-wielding cow-monster (Jimbo’s preferred debasement of the noble and spiritual character of the tauren folk), I now have half a dozen other characters floating around on various iterations of the World of Warcraft, impatiently awaiting their turn for large blocks of my undivided attention. It’s true – they waste away if you don’t look after them. Why, just last night I discovered that the dwarf priest I created on the Hellscream server has been deleted without trace, just because I haven’t played him in thirty days. It’s a heady responsibility, looking after so many digichildren, and one I don’t take lightly.
- Fiji - did I mention that in three weeks I’m flying to Fiji for a conference peripherally related to Project Porkpie? Because I am. That’s just another thing that’s filling me with (again, probably completely unjustified) dread. I will be speaking there. I will need to have something to say that is (a) true, and (b) encouraging. Reconciling the former and latter will be…challenging, let’s say.
- Birthday 1 - It was Ev’s birthday on Friday. I missed calling him - due to his no doubt rich and full social life and not anything to do with the fact that I spent as much time as I could get away with glued to the computer slaughtering kobolds - but luckily he’s coming to visit in a few weeks (I’ll actually still be on my way back from Suva when he arrives). He’s coming for a science fiction writers’ convention, at which I would like to put in the odd appearance, depending on the schedule. But just in case I can’t, he’s staying for an extra week, which will mean we will have plenty of partying time. Oh yeah.
- Birthday 2 - Sonia’s birthday was on Saturday. Outdoor cafe in Kingston, good wine, family and history’s most diabolical chocolate cake (but it didn’t defeat me, oh no, except that it did really) – good day. Highlight was three-year old Flynn’s superb timing in extinguishing the candles just as we got to “Happy birthday, dear Son-nie”, thus saving his mother the potential indignity of missing one…
- Houses - Not much getting done on the renovations at the moment. This is mainly due to the fact that the next big job is to rip up the remaining slate flooring so that we can lay down the faux-wooden slats in the kitchen and dining room. This is back- and wrist-breaking work, and there is no reason whatsoever to look forward to it. On the plus side, the timber doors have been stained, sealed and finished. And they look really good, what’s more.
- In other news - I am married to the bestest, wonderfullest person in the whole wide world. This assertion is final. So there.
Thursday, March 24, 2005
That wasn’t so bad
0 smartarse remarks
In fact, I probably think that – to the extent possible – I completely nailed that interview. Since it is very out of character for me to get my expectations up about career-related developments, you can take it as a good sign of my self-confidence at this point.
BUGBEAR OF SELF DOUBT: Now begins the countdown to the shattering yet inevitable disappointment…
HEROIC SELF-ESTEEM: Shut up, you! Say another word - I cut you!
Sick to stomach
3 smartarse remarks
I have an interview in a little under an hour. Despite the constant reassurances of myself to myself that I know the material likely to be asked and that in any case I am acting at this level for at least the next six months anyway, I am, naturally, a bundle of nerves.
There is no doubt some karmic element to my situation, since I spent all yesterday afternoon interrogating a pack of hapless prospective IT technicians in a recruitment exercise of my own. I don’t think I was excessively cruel to any of them, but it seems nevertheless that the universe deems me in need of humbling payback of the stomach-churning kind.
Of course, I could be overthinking it. Not obsessing though. Oh no.
Friday, March 18, 2005
I think I’m beginning to grok wug
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Having cheerfully lexifabbed this exciting and useful new word at the start of the week, I now perceive that it has greater dimensions than I had originally conceived. After a week of learning what it is that a project management job actually involves, culminating in an essential but extremely distressing confrontation yesterday, I now have a fond new appreciation for the condition of wug. I am, definitively, pretty bloody wug today.
Since I’ve been back at work, I’ve been running myself ragged recruiting key technical staff to do the actual work of Project Porkpie. Of a necessity this has involved a certain amount of involvement from our contracts experts. Understand that it is only with the greatest trepidation that one interacts with our pool of contract specialists, for they are an obstinate species; methodical, pedantic and utterly inflexible in all circumstances. The almost religious fervour with which they pursue their passion for ruthless adherence to Process (capitalised to indicate the stone in which it is set) is frightening and strange, and numerous are their victims, shredded by red tape and drained of all light and hope. One beards the Contract Lion’s den armed with all of the work already done, or not at all.
The problem I have increasingly be facing as this fortnight has worn on is that my particular provider of contracting “advice and assistance” in this instance did not appear to give a fuck about actually getting anything done. That’s not their problem, you see.
I, however, am charged with a deadline which does not have a luxurious six-week window for the hiring of an IT specialist on a short term contract. Yesterday, having put off the inevitable all week, I finally had the nerve to explain to said provider of assistance that her particular approach to the task at hand – which involved the signing of formal declarations, step-by-step agendas, special briefing meetings, formal interviews and follow-up feedback sessions and signoff from senior executives- was somewhat out of proportion to the scale of the exercise of checking through the CVs of a few dozen applicants and deciding whether they meet the selection criteria. It was a pretty brisk discussion, ranging across a number of topics from her allusions to flagrant disdain for Commonwealth directives to my subtle suggestions that the approach in question was a load of absolute bollocks. Neither of us were particularly prepared to shift from our positions, so in the end she asserted that she was unwilling to put her name to such an abuse of procedure, so we mutually agreed that it was in the best interests of all involved that she discontinue her participation.
I have never so badly wanted hard liquor as I did after that discussion. Sadly only coffee was available, though several of my colleagues did wonder aloud whether, in the St Patrick’s Day spirit, I hadn’t irished it up a little.
Gah. One of my mentors describes project management as the art of identifying impediments to a project’s progress and eliminating them. There’s no doubt that this is the best thing that could have happened to keep Porkpie on track. Doesn’t make me feel any better about myself, though.
Monday, March 14, 2005
This is a word I just invented (wow, way to namecheck the mission statement, dude) to express my current energy levels: tired, disinterested, and just plain not into it. “How do you fell, Dave?” you might be inclined to enquire, to which I would succinctly reply “Utterly wug”. Due to a stinking, horrid headache I went to bed early last night - by which I mean, I struggled valiantly through to the end of Miss Marple at ten o'clock and did not follow through with a planned three hour stint of Warcraft-ing. I am a rock of virtuous self-control, I tell you.
Really, I think I was shagged out from a pretty hard day of renovation and errandry. While Fi repainted all the walls we stained with lacquer, plaster and glue over the holidays, I sanded and lacquered another set of doors (the one exposed to full sunlight, which was probably where I started to go wrong and overheat). We also made a trip to the dump, a trip to the hardware store to get our bench saw repaired – someone had machine-tightened one of the screws that holds the blade on, which meant when we tried to replace it, we succeeded only in shredding the screw – and did the week’s food shopping. I also reviewed a large number of CV’s to try to reduce the number of interviews I have to run this week (more on work in a minute).
Saturday was more fun: burdened by increasingly massive arses and bellies, Fi and I decided that a fitness regimen able to be conducted in front of the telly is the only kind we’re likely to commit to, so we went shopping for some kind of exercise apparatus. We had a vague idea that we were after something sort of ski-like that works arms and legs at the same time was the way to go, and after sampling a variety of bikes, rowing machines, treadmills and other exotica, it turned out we were more or less on the mark. We are now the proud owners of the thumping great “elliptical trainer” that currently occupies a not-inconsiderable portion of the living room. Whee. This hilarious device requires the user (or ‘victim’) to maintain a sort of standing pedalling motion while exerting a deathgrip on two pendulous swing-arms. At the moment the best I have managed is 5 minutes continuous use, which is indicative of its utter necessity, I suspect.
I manage, apparently
2 smartarse remarks
As of last Monday, I am the manager on a followup project to the one I helped compete last year. I was tempted to refer to this as Project Whatthehellweretheythinkingputtingmeincharge when talking about it on Lexifab, but on reflection that was pretty hard to type, so instead I shall call it Project Porkpie, which is the first thing I thought of when trying to come up with a name. I’m pretty sure that’s how it’s usually done.
My first job is recruiting the team leader who will do all the actual work, under my supposed supervision/direction. Having reviewed eight CV’s from highly competent and experienced technical project managers, I feel certain that I am hopelessly unqualified to greet them of a morning, let alone lead them. Nevertheless, they are paying me more, so I shall valiantly go and do…whatever.
Project Porkpie is in safe hands. You betcha.
Friday, March 11, 2005
Scoring the double
This has been a bit of a big couple of weeks for revisiting my childhood, as trips back to the grandparents’ manor on the hill in Calliope always are, but nothing underlined the point like the last couple of days, in which I renewed acquaintances with the weekday evening double act of The Goodies and Doctor Who (not that either of them exactly ever went away for me, but it’s been a long time between drinks vis a vis new stuff).
First of all was the horribly-illegally stolen and distributed first episode of the new DW series starring scarily intense serious actor Christopher Eccleston and former pop star and yummy bit of crumpet Billie Piper. I want it on record that I had every intention of resisting watching this version of the episode, which apparently was nicked before the final cut and is thus lacking some visual effects, music etc. However, it somehow made its way into our possession anyway, and seeing the CD with “Doctor Who Season 27 Episode 1 Rose” hastily scrawled on it, all resistance crumbled.
Warning: Minor spoilers follow in the italicized chunk after the big gap, but nothing plottish. Still, if you don’t want to read even that, let your eye slide gracefully over the new few paragraphs and resume functionality after the next gap.
Two second review: it’s not great, but it’s very promising.
Slightly less unfair extended version of review: Eccleston and Piper are excellent. I called Eccleston’s portrayal as something like Troughton on speed – he’s manic, abrupt, mischievous, very much alive and enjoying himself – but he also mixed it up with a touch of alien callousness and ‘big picture’ disregard for the little people. (I would expect that Piper’s character will, over the course of the series, contrive to soften and humanise his outlook – character arcs are popular these days). Given his gloomy body of work to date, it’s surprising that his comedic timing is so sharp.
Piper is also good, though her character made less of a distinct impression on me (I’m a sad fanboy, all I cared about was that we got a good Doctor, which we did). She’s also got great timing, and her exchanges with Eccleston are spot-on. Her character Rose is a completely generic, or perhaps I should say archetypal, companion, which is probably deliberate. I have had an interesting thought about the circumstances of her joining the Doctor in his travels, but it would give away stuff about the episode, so I’ll get back to you on that.
The episode moves along at a brisk clip (some might say ‘frenetic dash’), with a high-tempo soundtrack to underscore the point. It’s full of broad visual humour, up to an including slapstick which is clearly aimed at the kids. The scripted gags are frequent and work pretty well. The scares are mild (at least in this one), and the only reason not to show it to your six or seven year olds is that they probably won’t be able to keep up with half of what’s going on. The visual effects are not super-advanced, but they’re not at all cod either. The TARDIS interior design (by The Authority artist Bryan Hitch) is as brilliant as I’d expected and hoped. Despite the new 45-minute, self-contained-story format, it’s absolutely classic Who, with nothing left out (except aimless corridor-wandering, and we can all live without that, yeah?).
All in all, it’s an entertaining watch, and promises great things to come. I’m deeply excited. He’s back.
Last night we saw The Goodies: (Still A)Live on Stage
, which was as fascinating as it was entertaining. The show consisted of the three Goodies (Graeme Garden, Tim Brooke-Taylor and Bill Oddie) on stage with three chairs, a lectern and a projector. They’re all now in their sixties, so they’re almost unrecognisable until they open their mouths (Garden, who’s almost completely bald, started with a great schtick of wearing a grotesque toupee and fake sideburns).
The show was pretty basic – each one in turn would read a question sent to them from a fan, along the lines of “Which one was your favourite episode?” and “What’s the most painful thing that ever happened to you filming the show?”, after which they would reminisce a bit or show a clip or tell an amusing anecdote about how one of the others got hurt. What that description doesn’t really convey is the absolute magic of listening to three of your childhood idols rabbiting on – somewhat chaotically, I might add – as if they’re trying to liven up a party with a few mates. They were brilliant. All the more so because they were obviously under-rehearsed – they talked over the top of one another, they fell about giggling a lot, they carried their scripts about with them and referred to them constantly – but when their best gags landed, they went off like a nuke. Garden did a routine with a loud censor’s buzzer and a selection of Julie Andrews songs that just about killed me.
Some bits fell flat – they reproduced a radio play from “I’m Sorry, I’ll Read That Again” (I think) that I suspect was funnier to participate in than watch, and they finished with a pre-recorded singalong to The Funky Gibbon
that drowned out both them and anyone else attempting to join in. In any case despite it being a big hit it was never my favourite song of theirs (who wouldn’t prefer Run
or even Wild Thing
?). But despite these quibbles, it was a great show (and a good reminder that I should get their DVD collections. Oh yes, I am marketing’s obedient slave).
5 smartarse remarks
Wednesday, March 09, 2005
A lot has happened since I last had (non-World of Warcraft) time to sit down and update the blog. As it is, this entry is probably going to be completed in fits and starts over the course of this entire day, if not several. Bear with me.
So first thing up, I spent a week working in Perth. More precisely, I spent Day One on a plane and in airports, Days 2 and 3 working, Days 4 and 5 gadding about sightseeing, Days 6 and 7 working even harder, and Day 8 on another plane.
For reasons of lack of availability of suitably qualified persons, our Scholarships Section sent anyone that was ever remotely connected to them – ie the project development, including me – out to train their clients how to use their spiffy new management system. This would be fine, except for the inconvenient smidgin of prior familiarity with their work that is implied in said education process. Fortunately, the new software in question is so extraordinarily spiffy that it was possible, with a minimum of reading ahead and cribbing from the user manual, for me to bluff a reasonably sound understanding of the job that these users do every working day. At least, if they saw straight through my outright false assumption of experience, they were polite enough not to point any such shortcomings out.
So the training went fine, which left evenings and the weekend to gad about Perth with Fi being entertained mightily by Jill and the coincidental commencement of a week-long festival of the arts. So we went yachting (although I missed that due to, you know, work) and attended the opera and bought wine and laughed at Rose Hancock’s house (which I understand is now to be demolished, hopefully to be replaced by an eyesore of even more spectacular proportions) and sampled a number of locally-brewed beers.
When in Perth, if I may make a suggestion, try the locally-brewed beers. They’re an isolated, lonely lot over there in the west, and they have a lot of time to themselves to perfect the art of brewing, is my guess.
As soon as I wearily lumbered off the plane back from WA, I had to pack saddle bags, gear sacks and backpacks in preparation for our motorbike trip up to the Gold Coast. Fiona’s bike club was having its annual general meeting, and as the ACT chapter were due this year to relinquish the much-loathed National Captaincy (whose administration had effectively put a bullet in the head of goodwill and camaraderie in the club over the past couple of years), Fi was keen to go and make sure it never came back. She may have had some formal position to hand over as well (Membership Officer?) but as that was one of the aforementioned sore points, I think our real motivation for this trip was purely related to zooming up the highways.
To more effectively achieve zoom status, she bought a new bike, which arrived about five days before our departure (while she was still in Perth with me). She demonstrated fearless anti-bureaucratic determination to get the thing registered and fitted out in two working days. The same process would have taken me weeks, and probably have necessitated two or three days off work. However she was highly motivated i.e. zoom! We hit the road with kath and Hector early on the Thursday morning, and almost the first thing I spotted about her new sleek new Raptor is faster, lighter and cooler-looking than her trudging workhorse Zephyr. Guess which one I was riding?
As it turns out, highway travel is (a) often quite dull and (b) incredibly painful after a while. Despite frequent breaks and several detours to take more scenic/less straight roads, it was pretty ordinary travelling. Especially when it rained on us.We stayed overnight in a van park in Port Macquarie that was so full of trailer trash we thought we must be on a schlock movie set. Yikes.
Anyway, we made it eventually (after two long painful days) to Main Beach on the Gold Coast, where we hardly got lost at all, and as we were trundling about some back streets looking in the wrong place for the hotel - not my fault, the address as written was actually wrong – Fiona’s bike conked out. Overheated we thought, though the culprit would actually turn out to be the battery. We ended up having to push it the last couple of hundred metres, which is a pretty ignominious way to turn up to a bike rally. Fortunately everyone else was in the pool and didn’t notice.
I don’t have much to say about the Gold Coast. Fi’s sister Jacqui met us there and she and Hector and I did some window shopping while they had their meeting. There are a hell of a lot of people on Gold Coast beaches of a Saturday morning in late summer, is all I’m saying.
After the formalities were over, Jacs and Fi and I headed up to Noosa for a couple of days rest before the long ride home. We stayed at the South Pacific Resort, in which we spent a few days on our honeymoon. It’s a rather languid arrangement of cane furniture, palm trees, pools and tropical ease. Plus you could get margaritas brought to your room, if you wanted (we didn’t but if ever there was a hotel service that you would want on standby, it’s that one).
The Raptor rather undermined its own stellar performance by finally conking out completely several times on the way home, starting with the morning of our departure from Noosa. Dave goes ahead to check out, waits ten minutes, wonders why his wife has not joined him, heads back to apartment carpark to see wife fuming and stressed. Dave wisely goes to make arrangements for jumper leads (which are surprisingly effective).
Hoping that we just did something careless like leave on a light that drained the battery, we set off and rode all day, collapsing pretty much spent when we made it to Coffs Harbour. Next morning – nothing. Battery well and truly dead and gone. Happily, there was a Battery World more or less straight across the freeway. All we had to do was push the bike across five lanes of traffic, unpack everything and remove the best-protected battery in the world and install a new one, in a plantless concrete carpark with temperatures in the high thirties. That was our first hour. Happily, ripping the damn bike’s cold, still heart out and replacing it with a fresh ticker gushing with vital juices did seem to do the trick.
We planned to spend that night in the Hunter Valley, perhaps sampling some of the local wine and in any case having a jolly relaxing affair of it. Unfortunately, we rather overlooked our distinct lack of regional knowledge, and managed to miss any signs that may have indicated a need to turn off the freeway (somewhere around Newcastle). By the time we discovered our error, we had overshot by about an hour. Bugger that, we thought, and just headed for home, a mere four extra hours away.
Ow. Big mistake. Ow. Kids, don’t do what Donny Don’t does. Nine hours on a bike in a day is hell on your throttle wrist and your sitting arse. Just don’t even think about it.
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We went back to work the following Monday. That was the night my grandfather, who has been ill for several years and was not expected to last to last Christmas, dies in his sleep. But I think I’ve blogged enough for one afternoon, so I’ll try and talk about how I felt about that tomorrow.