Saturday, December 19, 2009
As much as I bitch and moan, and particularly get bumfuzzled by some of the insanity behind the running of my workplace, I do really love my job. I bought myself the boxed set of the West Wing a few weeks ago and I've been using at as my own personal therapy. I'm hoping that these two weeks off will hopefully let the lessons of the West Wing sink in a little more. I think, at the moment I'm Josh - very enthusiatic, good at assimilating information, but sometimes a little overwhelmed by my own momentum. I want to be CJ (just appointed Chief of Staff as I'm watching season 5) who is learning how to not have to do everything herself, but use the people around her to achieve more than she can achieve on her own.
At some point soon I might get some admin support, and some 'back fill' for a mysteriously undefined secondment that I may or may not fully undertake.... so I'm going to have to learn to delegate and trust that other people can do the stuff I do... without hand holding. I do trust and respsect them, they're bright, talented... but they're Donna, not Josh. I need to figure out how to let go a bit and help them develop.
Who needs management develoment... WW all the way...
Monday, October 26, 2009
So that gave me a guilty pleasures to follow up on on Spotify - Cher. Today I'm listening to Michael Bolton. Should I feel guilty? Probably not, because ultimately who cares what's 'cool' anymore, everything is 'cool' to someone, otherwise how would the rest of us ever here about it? But who gets to decide? So much is 'cool' at the moment which I think is totally nuts - skinnyness, binge drinking.... and don't even get me started on John and Edward.
Spending a week with pregnant ladies and new babies has made me reflect (again) on whether we'll have kids. As always its still a maybe - we never stay on one side of the fence for long. But I hope if we do we'll be able to raise them to spend as little of their time worrying about what is 'cool' and just focus on what they enjoy. So many people seem to spend their lives worrying about 'coolness' that they never have time to find out what's 'cool' to them...
So come on - what are your guilty pleasures?
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
I do work well under pressure. I work my best under moderate pressure - this week has exceeded this. My brain ran out of steam on the phone at 5.30pm. But luckily its quite clever and woke up to the solution to the problem by 6.15pm when I was on the train home.
I've learnt so much in my job of the last two years. A few weeks ago I thought I was really starting to get it - now I realise I've just moved to level 2 of the game.
Thursday, September 03, 2009
Trying not to feel too stressed, or too sorry for myself as I know people close to me who are having crappy times at the moment. Anyway, send me positive thoughts if you've got any to spare.
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
So.... I'm pretty hacked off with my body. I'd like a new one now please as this one just isn't working for me.
Sunday, June 21, 2009
While we were away I got the email (magic phone) telling me that I'd not been shortlisted for a job I'd applied for at another Uni. I was pretty disappointed as I thought I pretty much fit the job description perfectly... but obviously not quite closely enough. It was a perfect job, but not at all perfect geographically so Hubland and I were also rather relieved. For a couple of weeks, however, it had distracted me from the disatisfactions with my job. I still like a lot of the things about my job, unfortunately various institutional circumstances, massively worsened by the economic situation are currently frustrating the hell out of me. I seem to spend my day solving trivial problems while being prevented from getting stuck in to solving the big ones.
Unless something magical comes up I doubt I'll be applying for a job again in the future..... but I definitely need to work on a way of being a bit less 'aaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh' about work so I retain my sanity.
Thursday, June 04, 2009
K and I had been discussing if we were going to head out of town at all - the salt mines look very, ,very cool so I think we will try and make it to them - if I was here longer I would go to Auschwtiz, but in such a short break I know I just can't take it. I want to bring Hubland back here and explore the area as the nearby mountains also look so lovely.I've got an hour to rest and then its off for dinner at Polish restaurant followed by 'Jazz Club' (haven't had the heart to say I hate jazz... might sneak off at that point).
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
I've had a love day exploring Toronto island (did you know it had one?) then failing to locate Kensington Market - was it meant to be a building like the picture on the map showed, or was that street it? Finding nice places for brunch and dinner and having a walking tour of downtown Toronto pointing out where all the ghouls and goblins reside.
My feet are killing me. I've done more walking in the last two days than in the last two months. I have blisters on my soles..... but it's been worth it. Although it has been strange having a full two days and two nights on my own in a strange city, I'm glad I came early because visiting places and never seeing them is just crap, after Vienna I swore I'd never do that again (all I saw was the train station and the Hilton which was opposite the train station). Travelling is much better with someone to share it with, it feels more 'real' somehow, but on your own is definitely better than not at all.
Luckily for my trip next week to Poland I will be joined by my friend K for the weekend so we can explore together. This is turning into a rather expensive few weeks...
Sunday, May 24, 2009
- Oreo Cakesters are a great invention
- The UK really has gone to town investing in 'street scene' recently - shiny paving, signs, street lights etc. I'm sure there are bits of Toronto that I'll find fully shinified but in London nothing within the circle line isn't. That isn't the case here.
- People are friendly, and responsible. I was a bystander in a lost cat rescue situation on the way back from the pub.
- I can't work out how to turn on my bedside lamps or properly lock my bedroom door (don't worry, there is a latch). I'm hoping this diminishing brain capacity is due to lack of sleep and/or the beer I had.
So, I'm on my own until late Monday light, when the cavalry from work arrive. I'm glad I made the trip early, I hate travelling and seeing nothing of my destination. So tomorrow it's straight up the tower...
Monday, May 04, 2009
Sunday was gardening day - trip to the garden centre, some edging panels to stop the garden falling into the garage, and a couple more plants. Rest of said day was spent installing the panels and sieving the soil in the bottom corner of the garden getting rid of three buckets of stones. Looks top now.
Today we visited the open day of our local 'adult education college'. We had never been to the college before. It sits high on a hill looking down over a very green valley. It has a working cooperative farm, a metal work studio and a sculpture studio. It isn't a normal educational establishment, apart from the 10% of courses which are about artistic activities, the rest are well and truly alternative. Want to find you chakras? Join a western mystical order? Learn how to breathe? This is the place to come. It's a beautiful house, in a beautiful setting and its primarily a venue for the promulgation of this wonderful b****ks. B****ks because I think it is, wonderful because it's a wonderful peaceful place that offers all sorts of support and experiences to take part in totally harmless and probably pretty relaxing activities. Normally houses like this are either hotels or in private hands with large gates and walls. This college is open to the public, trying to be environmentally friendly, a source of organic vegetables, and a place for all our local hippies (we do have a lot of them) to get to together and chant. How truly lovely.
Friday, April 24, 2009
I am a very open person, on occasion too open I think. But last night I was glad that I'm an open person and that I come across as an open person. Someone I've met on only a couple of occasions asked me to do some research for them - they knew I was good on the internet and knew how to find things out. They asked me to look up some information for them on date rape - as their daughter had just been the victim of a drug facilitated sexual assault.
Their daughter, let's call her Kirsty, she's 26. Kirsty had been out with a couple of girlfriends dancing in a club in London. Kristi is married and has a little child but she loves dancing. A guy began hassling them, when he wouldn't go away a 'knight in shining armour' stepped in and got rid of him. The Knight wanted a reward and he asked for a drink using that phrase . They felt obliged so they went to the bar and bought drinks for the Knight, his friend and themselves. They don't remember anything in detail much after that until they regained full consciousness in a bed, together, with a used condom nearby. Kirsty described the events to her mother as if she was aware of what was happening but was very detached from the experience and wasn't able to stop it. She knows that someone had intercourse with her that night.
Kirsty has been to the police and the STI clinic and has decided she doesn't want to press charges. She hasn't told her husband yet but he is a very difficult and emotionally abusive man. At the moment Kirsti doesn't see what happened to her as sexual assault or rape and is blaming herself for the entire incident.
My acquaintance and I talked for nearly 2 hours - about Kirsty, about her husband, about my acquaintance's family and life. I told her about my life as well. For two almost complete strangers it was a startlingly honest conversation. That's when I don't think I'm too open - when it helps.
I've done the research. Pulled off details from the national rape crisis website and the equivalent in the US which had a lot of details on the drugs that are used to facilitate sexual assault - and I've emailed them to my acquaintance suggesting that even if her daughter won't get in touch with the local rape crisis centre than she should for herself.
I honestly don't know what else to write. Reflecting on it, last night was one of the most surreal and interesting of my life. I hope Kirsty survives, and my acquaintance finds a way to help her. And I hope I never have to go through anything like they are going through.
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
It isn't as hard as I thought it was going to be. It's hard, learning any language is hard, but I don't think Mandarin is as bad as it is made out to be. You do have an extra step as you need to memorise the connection between the English-Pinyin-Character trio but using the wonderful Anki that seems to be happening. I'm pretty good at recognising characters and I'm starting to remember the most frequent ones enough to write them from memory when I see the English phrase. I think truly memorising them enough to reproduce them easily will take some time.
I do love the simplicity of the the language. A far simpler grammatical system - no verb conjugation, past tense and questions indicated by the addition of a syllable at the end of the sentence or after the verb, very little us of 'is', 'of' and 'and'. Simple sentences just run pronoun-noun-verb-question participle i.e. You today go out? which translates into normal english as Would you like to go out today?
I've bought a couple of books to help me understand the context of the language, particularly the written characters. A small percentage of characters do have their origins in pictographs (although not as many as you might believe) and understanding how these evovled is useful to me in understanding the structure of the language. So the two characters for morning relate to 'sun rise' and represent the sun above the earth and up.
On the other matter.... I have only found one other colleague who feels the same way as I do. Most just didn't see the problem. I did quite a lot of research and soul searching after writing that last post, just to confirm that women really are in a pretty poor situation in SA. I've decided I don't agree with academic boycotts because I don't think in 99% of cases they are justified - economic and political boycotts are a different matter. But I don't think we should enter into a partnership with any University in a country where we are forced to compromise the way we work and our own obligations under UK equality legislation i.e. how would we handle an admissions process where women are automatically excluded? If I can be convinced that working with a SA University does not force us to do this, then I might be able to reconcile myself with it, but otherwise I'll take a personal stand.
Friday, April 10, 2009
The two words? Saudia Arabia. I work for a University helping it to work with other Unviersity's around the world. I'm not entirely comfortable about the human rights, equality of opportunity and democracy records of all the countries we work with. But somehow I manage to rationalise myself out of the problems with most of them: China, India, UAE etc. I argue that they're on a course towards improving the situation in which their populations live, my favourite is China - and despite what you read in the press - visiting and working with Chinese Universities gives me a lot of hope.
Before I headed off on annual leave we had an approach from a Saudia Arabian University, and I had a discussion with a colleague about a scholarship scheme operated by another. I'm not sure everyone thinks that working with Universities from this country is problematic, but I seriously have to think about whether I'm willing to work with them at all. It's an Islamic monarchy. Women's and children's rights are not recognised. There is no democratic involvement whatsoever. I believe that by working with them my employer might breach its duty under the various pieces of equality legislation.
I don't want to be a trouble maker, but I know that this isn't something I'm going to be able to let lie. Obviously nothing has happened yet, but the approach is a genuine one, and they will be visiting. I want to work for a University that is true to itself as a bastion of free thought and academic critique, and I hope that I will be able to raise this issue for debate and have the senior staff engage with the complexity of this issue - rather than being blinded by the glamour of the opportunities that might present themselves. Fingers crossed.
Saturday, March 21, 2009
I've also subscribed to Chinesepod after exploring the service through a free trial. The resources look amazing taking you from 'Newbie' to 'Expert' with hundreds of lessons, vocab, transcripts and a big online community. I've signed up to the £20 a month premium package which you can cancel any time - so seems like a good thing to take a chance on. I'm also going to try using Anki a 'spaced repetition' system - kinda like a sophisticated version of flashcards. I wish I'd had it when I was at school!
As you can probably tell I'm serious about this, and I hope I stay that way. I don't speak any other languages (ok a tiny bit of french but I've never been properly motivated to improve it), and having visited China twice in the last year I'm fascinated by the country, and I'd really like to explore it and perhaps live there.
So wish me luck, I'll keep you posted on my progress!
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
Yes, I guess I knew it was going to happen, but I always hope it won’t. But the laws of the CFS universe say most definitely that there can’t be a boom without a bust. I guess this one threw me a little as it isn’t a classic bust, it’s an achy, grumpy no stamina, vertigo bust… it was the achy that threw me, and no brain fog (yet). Anyway, I am officially busted. Sat working in bed with a laptop, trying to finish the report I’ve procrastinated over for nearly a month. The thought of trekking into the office just isn’t pleasant, I’d get there and want to fall asleep. My arse hurts, my elbow hurts. Hubland and I went out on Sunday and after 45 minutes of him driving I was falling asleep on the café table before my baguette had even arrived. It’s seriously not fun for me, and it can’t be fun for him either. The sun is shining brightly and all I want to be is asleep. Can’t relax to watch movies or tv either as I feel like I need to do work – and frankly I do. I’m not fully off sick, I’m in that half and half state which is even more confusing.
But this is my life, it’s been my life since I was 10, and yet somehow it doesn’t get any less frustrating or annoying. I’ve stopped being able to imagine what it’s like not to need to lie down after planting some seeds in a seed tray, but that doesn’t stop me trying. I never want to complain as there are people, people I know very well, who are far sicker than I am, and it really isn’t that bad. But it’s my life so I guess I have the right to be a little pissed off.
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
It’s one of my guilty secrets, I love disasters. Obviously I’m not too keen on experiencing them myself, but I do have a strange fascination with documentaries about emergencies and disasters (not always so keen on film re-creations of actual disasters, somehow they seem too morbid). I guess there are probably two underlying causes for this interest: the obsessive organiser and planner in me wanting to know how best to survive and the scientific-technical investigation process that unravels the course of a disaster and the reasons behind it.
A new series of ‘Air Crash Investigation’ has just started on the National Geographic Channel. So far I’ve seen how pilot error cause a mid-air collision just outside New Delhi, which reassuringly also showed how new radar technology makes the likelihood of that far lower. Yesterday I watched the mid-air break up of a 747 on the Taiwan Straits – a dodgy repair 22 years earlier had turned into a fatal fracture and the tail fell off at 35,000 feet.
Yes, I know, I’m strange... the Horizon programme on how to survive last night was more useful. So these are my tips: never sit more than 5 rows from an emergency exit on a plane (beyond that survival probability sharply drops off), never stay above the 5th floor in a hotel (the maximum height of rescue ladders), if an alarm goes off or there are other signs of an emergency don’t rely on other people to indicate what to do – get the hell out of there.
Apparently much of the loss of life in the Twin Towers was due to people’s inability to realise and deal with what was happened – people continued writing emails, went to the toilet, shut down their computers before trying to find their way to the emergency staircase. It just didn’t sink in, people’s minds were not prepared to deal with the reality of a major emergency.
One firm had a very high survival rate – only 14 Morgan Stanley employees perished out of 3,500 – because they had an obsessive head of health and safety who drilled them constantly what to do. So they did it automatically, they didn’t have to think, they just knew it was better to get out quickly and ask questions later than to hang around to see if it was a ‘drill’ (although in this case the giant bang and explosion should have given it away).
This inability to act and the problem of peer pressure was demonstrated through a film of the ‘Smoking room’ experiment – where participants were expecting to take part in a social science experiment and were led into a room to fill in forms before the experiment began. Smoke starts pouring in from a corner door. When they were in the room alone 75% got up to raise the alarm within 5 minutes, when the room was filled with actors ignoring the situation only 10% did. Apparently self-confidence is also one of the biggest survival plus points.
So go on, next time you’re on a plane count those seat backs to the exit, in a new building know your exit route... but right now I’m off to buy myself a personal smoke hood.
Saturday, March 07, 2009
Although I've enjoyed what I've been doing at work, and learnt so much, I'm pretty hacked off at some of the Senior Management and the general lack of direction for the University I work in. We're not bad, and we're not an ex-poly (which comes with its own challenges), but we're not currently holding our own among what we'd consider our 'peer institutions'... in fact some of our alleged peers have completely transformed themselves in the last 10 years or so while we've stood still. That has finally been brought home to everyone with the joy of the RAE (google it, go on, I dare you) - the funding letters arrived on Thursday and we've lost a big chunk of our recurring research funding. Some of it isn't our fault, the new allocation formula is mad, but a lot of it is.
We don't actually have a strategy, something that tells us who we are and where we're going. We seem plagued by indecision, with Senior Manager's influenced more by an offhand comment from a fellow VC/PVC at a conference than from the advice of their professional staff... and then there is the paralysis from fear and inability to talk calculated risks. I think I'll give it another year, but then if things don't improve it may be time to move on. It can be pretty demoralising to work your arse off in a job that you've been hired to do, present great ideas, beautifully written papers, to do everything you are meant to be doing, and not get anywhere or have your ideas taken seriously when it comes down to the crunch.
I am lucky, with the internal rearrangements that took place last summer, I've got a lot more responsibility and I am glad to be able to say that the people I respect, respect me. So that's keeping me going for the moment. But my work means a lot to me and I can't stay forever in a place that doesn't let me do for it what I know needs to be done.
Wednesday, February 11, 2009
I praise my ability to sleep at anytime in a bed, if only that skill could be translated to planes, trains and automobiles. We arrived in Chengdu in Western China after about 20 hours or so travelling and 27 hours awake. I’d got a bit of a kip on the internal flight from Beijing to Chengdu but not much. We did dinner, we walked around the (very shiny) streets and then went to bed. I hope my colleagues have had equally full night’s sleep.
The sun hasn’t yet risen here which threw me a little as it was still very dark when I woke up and I couldn’t tell if it was the middle of the night or, as it turned out, 10 minutes before my alarm was due to go off, which thankfully it was.
We now have two days in this city before flying home, a very long way to come, but all the time we could afford for this trip. Hopefully if all goes well we’ll be back here in the future.
So far my impressions of Chengdu have been, busy, shiny downtown (much shinier than Guangzhou), absolutely no westerners.
I’ve managed to forget my camera but I will be stealing my colleagues pics so hopefully I’ll be able to post a few on our return.
Tuesday, January 27, 2009
No, I’m not talking about the remains of Luke Perry or Jason Priestly popping out of closets to scare the newbies of West Beverly Hills High – although that would be quite a good storyline. I’m talking about the fact that the majority of the female actors would be hard pressed to find a BMI of over 18 among them. Next to them Jennie Garth, now a high school counsellor, looks positively rubenesque in her size 8 to 10 hips.
I like American trashy series, I have to admit. Although I lean on the more quirky end – towards Gilmore Girls rather than the O.C. – but from the first episode I can’t see anything to hate about the new 90210. But I’m really not sure I’m going to be able to watch it without screaming ‘Argh, she’s so skinny she shouldn’t be allowed on TV, that’s not normal or healthy, can’t anyone see that?’ every five minutes. Somehow I think that would detract from the enjoyment.....
Tuesday, January 13, 2009
Another Speaking of Faith inspired post I’m afraid. I’ve been suffering from insomnia the last couple of months, so I often lie in bed in the dark, wedged between a ginger cat and a sleeping husband listening to all manner of podcasts until I realise I haven’t heard the last few sentences and it’s time to turn off the ipod. Last night’s programme was about the place of revenge and forgiveness in the fundamental make up of human psychology and society. Examples given on the operation of revenge among Japanese Macaques and the role of revenge in natural selection. Examples of forgiveness against all odds were of the father who lost his daughter in the Oklahoma City bombings visiting the father of the bomber and finding release from the anger and bitterness through compassion for a man who had lost his son. Or of the rising voice of appeals for forgiveness and reconciliation in Uganda in relation to the atrocities carried out by rebel factions.
I do think that revenge is an inherent part of human nature, a natural reaction to any perceived deliberate (and sometimes even accidental) hurt inflicted on oneself or something one cares about. But it also generally doesn’t help anyone, and just perpetuates violence and distress – with the current events in Israel and Palestine being a case in point. All of the major world religions include within their central scriptures the capacity to promote forgiveness – even Islam and Judaism – and yet forgiveness is often seen as a particularly Christian thing, and therefore taboo.
Apparently in Uganda one of the factors behind the call for forgiveness is the sheer exhaustion from the impact of the conflict. Maybe this is also part of what has happened in Northern Ireland. It is hard to keep up the momentum required to sustain anger and revenge when you’re out of energy. So let’s hope the Palestinian and Israeli peoples start suffering from collective insomnia at the atrocities committed in their names, then maybe they’ll be tired enough to forgive.
Tuesday, January 06, 2009
Cried the very cute and very bright 2 year that is sat diagonally opposite me as I make my way to work this morning. This is my new experiment in email blogging. Blogspot allows you to have a unique email address through which you can post to your blog. This is hopefully going to allow me to post a little more regularly as it means I can type out my message on my laptop, press send, and when a log in to my work network it will fly out of my outbox and onto my blog.... well that’s the plan.
This morning is cold, cold, cold. Night time temperatures have been hitting around -8 around here and the dusting of snow that fell the previous night is still hanging around. Some of the local kids must have had an extra day off from school yesterday as there was much squealing and chattering emanating from the park up the road where tobogganing was taking place. I was at home, working, trying to keep warm while waiting for our new King size mattress to be delivered. All we need now is the bed frame and we’ll be sleeping in the lap of luxury.... or just comfort with enough room for both cats who have now made their ‘cold war’ truce to enjoy the heat of their two humans overnight.
Despite general knackeration and a rather persistent tummy bug on my part we’ve had a good winter break. Did some nice things, saw friends, saw family and spent some time together.... ooh and finally started re-tiling the kitchen (it’s been without tiles for 2 years after hubland got a bit happy with a chisel). It is rather a wrench to go back to work, but I’m determined that this term is going to be different from last term. I’m going to set some boundaries and not get involved with politics or spend my energy worrying about things that aren’t my responsibility. I’ve even drafted an email, but after taking some advice from my lovely boss, I’ve realised that I’m going to have to say it in conversation first..... wish me luck.