Lexifabricographer For when the right word just won’t do…

February 28, 2006

Further evidence of my decrepitude

Filed under: fitter/happier — lexifab @ 11:24 pm

About ten minutes after Fi and I walked through the gates of the Canberra show on Sunday morning, I contracted my first serious case of whiplash. This delightful condition was delivered courtesy of some apparatus that bore the official name of “Zipper”, or something like that, but which I now know to be none other than my arch-nemesis, the Spinefucker. So, after about forty minutes of being in so much neck and shoulder pain that I wanted to vomit (quite apart from the nausea induced by good old SF’s Violent Tumbling Action), I got to spend the rest of the day in not-able-to-move agony.

In some pointless act of martyrdom I went to work the next morning, but lasted only as long as it took to book a physio appointment and amble awkwardly down to the other end of the mall. He pronounced his entirely expected diagnosis – whiplash – and further explained that since I have an unusually straight upper spine (genetic, probably from Dad’s side given how much trouble he’s had with his neck over the years – unless that was all rodeo-related, which it could have been) I am predisposed to more such ailments down the years. Unless I improve my posture, it’s likely that in a couple of decades the shape of my spine will start damaging some of the disks around the base of my neck, requiring surgery.

So, as soon as I can hold my head back without wincing (which should hopefully be no later than the end of the week) I’ll get right on that. If you see me, tell me to pull my chin back – apparently I let my head slump forward too much, and that would appear to be bad for me.

Meanwhile, ouch.

February 25, 2006

Less weighty matters (ho ho)

Filed under: fitter/happier — lexifab @ 10:36 am

I’ve actually been making an effort to get rid of the eight or ten kilos I’ve gained since the New Zealand trip (a period which includes the aforementioned rampage through South Island, Christmas in wine-and-cheese-crammed Tasmania and a protracted period of New Year’s indulgence). What the effort amounts to is: a) walking to work (about 40 mins twice a day four or five days a week) b) hitting the exercise machine (occasional, maybe three times a week) c) minor instances of sport (cricket – now finished – and volleyball – not that hard a workout) and d) eating better. I’m pretty sure it’s that last one that’s doing the job. For the past couple of weeks we’ve been eating stuff from a Donna Hay magazine. This wondrous tome is full of lots of yummy, easy to prepare meat-and-salad things with almost no carbohydrates to be seen. God, this week I even ate something with peas in it and enjoyed it.

I assume this means I am officially middle aged.

However, it’s been a surprisingly effective campaign so far. I’ve lost about four kilos in the last two weeks. Sometime soon I may actually be almost sort of fit. Weird.

February 20, 2006

Nothing much of a weekend

Filed under: administraviata,the renovated life,Uncategorized — lexifab @ 7:14 pm

Didn’t do much with the weekend, thankfully. Fi and I planned to spend Saturday putting the second coat of paint on the hallway walls, but the day blossomed stifling warm and bless me if we didn’t just decide not to bother. Life’s much better when you get the occasional opportunity to look a big, imposing job in the eye and say “Nah, bugger that”. Or perhaps not, but whatever. No regrets.

Played the not-so-anticipated final cricket game on Sunday, with a couple of last minute dropouts adding to the stress of pulling a team together (of course). Managed to get one fill-in, and one of the players brought along his keen-but-ahem-unhoned 12 year old son to play (not that I can justly rag on young Fergus too much, because he outscored me). Despite playing a man short (two men short if you count the lad, but what the hell, at least he was there) it was after all that a pretty good game. We were flogged of course – they were the competition leaders for a reason – but it was amiable and fun, and at least it was over relatively quickly. One of the more senior players on the team had a few nice words to say about my term of captaincy after the end of the game, and made the point that someone else would need to step up if there is even going to be a team next season. That idea’s been troubling me a bit this week, because I sure as hell don’t want the fact that I can’t take the leadership heat be the reason that the team folds. (Yes, yes, I know it doesn’t make any sense to take all the blame for the failure of a team that by definition involves at least ten other people, but try telling that to my overworked sense of guilt).

At least the evenings were pleasantly diverting – dinner with friends and/or family on each night. Good wine and no washing up afterwards. Really, who could ask for more?

February 17, 2006

End of the season

Filed under: now playing: anything — lexifab @ 10:47 am

The cricket season ends with this Sunday’sgame, and for the first time ever it’s coming as a relief. Normally, I pine as the summer draws to a close and I don’t have any more cricket to look forward to playing. But this year has been different.

This year, they made me the captain. And it sucks.

I should explain. The previous captain, Angus, was someone particularly well-suited to the job. He’s amiable and relaxed, but decisive and not afraid of making hard calls. (Now, as an aside, the hard call that I particularly never cared to hear was “We can’t afford to give you a bowl today, Dave”, but I usually recognised that it was the right call on the day. Usually.) He’s also a good solid all-round cricketer, able to get wickets and runs, set a field and play under pressure. But. He was also a bit lazy (or perhaps, to be fair to him) busy, and he was content for me to do a lot of the organising behind the scenes to make sure that we had a team on the day and that the game was written up for the work info boards and so on.

At the end of last year, Gus got a three year posting to the Philippines. Because I was obviously keen to keep the cricket going, and because nobody actually wanted the job, he more or less appointed me the captain and nicked off. Understand that I am a fair cricketer, I like the game, I’m a good fielder and I can do a passing job with the ball and even the bat on occasion. But I’m not an expert. There’s a lot of science to setting a field and a bowling attack and a batting order, and I don’t know the half of it. So when I got handed the job, I took it with a great deal of reluctance and on the avowed understanding that I was just holding the spot until we could decide on someone suitable.

Uh huh. And you can guess what happened, right? Exactly. Nobody else though it was a particularly big deal and so were content to leave me on the spot. So, yeah, I’m the captain. Uh, really? Now what?

Let me say without any false humility that I was a very ordinary captain. Rubbish, really. About the only thing I was really competent to do was take the toss, and to my credit (I suppose) I’ve come though the season ahead on that score. But in basically every other respect I’ve been mediocre at best. I’ve left out of sorts bowlers in too long or taken them out early. I’ve matched batting partnerships badly and put too much weight on the middle at the expense of the top order. I still can’t set a field and I either doggedly stick to a failed setting, or move people around to cover gaps that existed four overs earlier. When someone else has made a suggestion, I’ve leapt on it and made it so, rather than weigh it up. and the team has suffered for it, without a doubt. We’ve lost a couple of games that we should have won, and been trounced in a couple of others where we should have been more competitive. Now, I’m not going to accept all the blame there – frankly, the batting and fielding this season has been just weak all year, and there are ten other guys (more really) who have to cop their share of that – but my vacillation and rudderless leadership didn’t inspire anything better.

And with all of that, I’ve played badly. When I’ve had to resort to bowling myself, I’ve contributed nothing. I’ve got a handful of runs, but nothing like I should be able to manage. And I fielded really really poorly. Haven’t held a single chance, haven’t been able to anticipate, reflexes have been stunningly slow. All because I’ve been concentrating on whatever I think the captain needs to concentrate on, instead of doing my usual job. So I’ve sucked all year, and it hasn’t been fun.

Then there are the grumbles. This guy didn’t get a bowl. That person didn’t get a bat. I just don’t have a thick enough skin to hear *every single game* that someone’s day was ruined because of something I decided (or didn’t decide). I think I might have mentioned before, I have trouble dealing with situations where I feel like I am responsible for everyone else having a good time.

So there it is. Last week I sent around an email to the regulars telling them that this is it, I’m out of the job, and giving a brief explanation of the reason. Since then, most of them have gotten back to me to say that I haven’t done that bad a job, but I haven’t been able to take the flattery in the intended spirit. I’m too convinced that I’ve let everyone down, but even if that’s not so, the fact is that I’ve let myself get weighed down by the pressure of it. Between that, and Project Porkpie, and some personal tragedies (about which more later, perhaps), this has been a really trying summer for me.

Frankly, I think I could do with a few laughs. I’ll try to make the next couple of entries a little less of a moan, yeah?

February 14, 2006

Operation Porkpie. Condition: SUBTACULAR

Filed under: workin for the man — lexifab @ 4:14 pm

In order to describe the last ten or twelve weeks of work on Project Porkpie, as it is increasingly popularly known, we must resort to an act of good old fashioned lexifabricography. We make this rare diversion into the little-trod pastures of this blog’s mission statement because, well, words that accurately capture the sense of exhilarating trauma of the past few weeks do not come to mind.

Things started to go astray towards the end of last year, when it became pretty apparent that we just didn’t know if we were going to make our deadline in May. Questions were beginning to be asked about what the development team were going to deliver and when, and the questioners were somewhat less than reassured by the vague answers they were getting. I was in the middle of all this – unsure about the deadline but unable to either secure or provide some reassurance. I was slow to recognise the issues and even when they became obvious I didn’t have a plan or the wherewithal to improvise one.

Part of the problem, in other words.

With things up in the air (the atmosphere by now had more than a hint of poison), I left on holiday in mid-December thinking that the house would somehow have to be set to rights when I got back. That, as it turns out, was an understatement.

Almost as soon as I was out the door, things came to a head. Several small problems emerged at once and collided violently. The key technical person quit, which was somewhere between a relief and a disaster, depending on who you asked.

The first day I was back, my first clue that something was up was that someone else was sitting at my desk. My entire team had moved upstairs, either to become better integrated with the rest of the section or to be where an eye could be kept on them, again depending on who you asked. Along with the understandable shell shock, there was a certain amount of suspicion and resentment simmering – that there would be sackings, that the project would be cancelled, whatever.

So for the past few weeks, I’ve been trying to pick up the pieces, restore normality and get Porkpie back on track. Meetings were called, tasks were assigned, and things seemed to be ticking along. I supposed I was doing a reasonably good job.

Not so. Last week the boss, who is fair, generous and unbelievably supportive, called me in and gave me as brutal a raking over the coals as he could manage. Which is to say, he thought that perhaps the current management arrangements were not working as well as they could be, and did I agree? This was a bit of a shock and I was not all that certain that I did agree, actually, and we discussed that point at length

(I must make it clear that, upset as I was to hear that I was not performing well, it’s impossible to loss your temper with this boss because he is unremittingly nice and fair-minded, which is a dirty unfair tactic, if you ask me).

It turns out that where I had failed to meet requirements was in being a bastard. To clarify, it is that the project deadlines are now incredibly tight. There is no spare time for rework if things go wrong, and every piece of work depends on one or more other pieces of work happening on time (virtually impossible in an IT project, I understand). Unfortunately, someone therefore has to crack the whip, get commitment and hold people to deadlines and generally ride them into the ground to make the finish line. Hard and probably unpopular calls have to be made and enforced. Traditionally, these tasks would fall to the project manager. Me.

I have a hard time pacifying my natural tendencies towards bossiness, irritability and argumentativeness in my personal life, and the last thing anyone needs is to have a boss like that. I made a conscious decision many years ago to avoid becoming a manager, because I wouldn’t want to have a boss like me and I wouldn’t want to be responsible for anyone else having one either. Recently, as I’ve broken my own rule and slipped into a managerial role, I’ve worked hard to keep my inner autocrat in check.

So instead I’ve become supportive and agreeable and flexible and a team player, and as a result I’m completely ineffective as the boss.

I don’t want to be the bad guy. I don’t want to have to tell people things they don’t want to hear and make them do things in a way they disagree with. This has been occasionally misinterpreted as a sign of my lack of assertiveness and confidence in my own abilities, and while that’s not actually a bad analysis, it fails to recognise the real core issue: I will do anything to keep The Autocrat submerged. Even fail.

Fortunately, I think we’ve all caught on to that – or at least to the fact that I cannot demonstrate a few key management skills that are critical at this point – just in time. Last week was a bit tense, because obviously not all the problems that are going on in the project relate to my suppressed dictator complex or lack of detailed forward planning, but after a few discussions we came up with what will hopefully be a workable plan. I will still have as much work to do, but I won’t be solely responsible for making sure everyone else meets their targets.

The strange part about all this is – I’m really loving this job. It’s tense and stressful and some days make me want to tear my hair out. And yet…

Oops

Filed under: administraviata — lexifab @ 10:33 am

Okay, looks like I accidentally activated moderation for those comments, which is why they weren’t showing up. Hopefully I will shortly work out how to avoid defaulting to that, so that my inbox doesn’t fill up with “Moderate this comment” warnings. But if anyone out there is a spambot just lurking in the darkness and waiting for me to let down my guard, hear this: I will not yield in the face of unrelenting evil and bargain Viagra offers. This means you, Quentin J. Nottingham!

February 12, 2006

Out of the ether

Filed under: administraviata — lexifab @ 4:45 am

Okay, it looks like I’m back in operation. I’ve cleared out the otherleg account, so if you want to send me email you can go back to the old address or use the new one. If you want to.

I was actually planning to throw myself into a frenzy of updating and emailing and such, bemoaning the state of the world and explaining at great length my various career crises, but they’re all too bleeding tedious for the moment, so instead I’m going to go watch the Aussies equalise the finals series against Sri Lanka, and then I’m going to go play World of Warcraft for a couple of hours, because I am taking tomorrow off work.

So there.

(By the way, I’m really not sure that comments are working, so if you rewad this, please try leaving one, and if it doesn’t work send me an email and complain. That’ll fix things no end!)

February 4, 2006

Test

Filed under: administraviata — lexifab @ 6:02 am

This is a test. Later I’ll try writing something that doesn’t involve this being a test. I’m all about the revisionist history, baby.

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