I think it’s only fair to warn you…

Well, this past month has just been all over the place. What with the whole broken wrist thing, and then Peter’s being killed February turned out pretty appallingly.

March, on the other hand, is going kinda well. For starters, I’m almost better: I’ve not got my full range of movement back in my wrist, yet, and it’s still a struggle to bear weight on it for things like shoving doors or getting in and out of chairs, but I can type and use a mouse and write and hold a straight razor without severing anything essential. That’s pretty cool.

Then HMRC wrote to me and apologised for overtaxing me not just for the last two tax years, but also for an unspecified tax year back in the past, and sent me a cheque which I can now use to clear all of my overdraft, which will save me plugging away at it in small, ill-affordable chunks each paycheque. That overdraft has been sneaking along behind me pretty much since I was first a student, so I’ll be glad to see it sling it’s unecessarily barbed hook.

Plus, as a confusingly-right-in-the-middle-of-funeral-preparation bonus, I got my results from the Masters (I handed the Diss in way back in August, but had to wait for an Examinations Board meeting before they could confirm the results not-quite-three-years after I set off along this route). Apparently I never troubled to blog very much whilst I was doing either the course or the Diss, probably because I was stupidly busy with a combination of either coursework and two part-time jobs and two voluntary jobs, or just coursework and one full-time job and two voluntary jobs. But, anyway, pretend there’s a link here to me saying that it seems to be going well but I’m nervous about results.

Well, boy, was I wrong. I’ve passed with a Merit. Which has a pleasing symmetry, because it was getting a Merit in the Scholarships that took me to Aberystwyth in the first place. If I had any use for business cards I could now get ones with “BA (Hons), MSc (Econ)” written on them, which is very snazzy.

I am slightly self-conscious about being pleased over this, but I think on reflection I’m entitled to be. It hasn’t actually been easy all the way along, and apart from the screamingly painful errors in the Diss – like the bit where I moronically say “staple” twice in as many sentences, and which nearly makes my eyes bleed – I am actually pretty pleased with how well it reads.

So, aye. I am, in fact, a Librarian. Awesome!

February! You here already? Uh. Bye…

Yeah, everything’s kinda got into a rush. I’m technically working on a write-up of the Wedding for that blog, but I got stalled by Christmas. Betimes, everything around here is looking very snazzy and new! (Unless you’re reading this by RSS, in which case it probably looks about the same as normal).

I’m trying to work out what’s been keeping me so busy since the wedding, but I’m actually not sure.

I’m trying to work out what’s been keeping me so busy since the wedding, but I’m actually not sure. I’ve given over a bundle of evenings lately to training with the Red Cross, who run a Fire and Emergency Support Service – basically the old Secret Society coupled to Ghostbusters; we get summonsed by Firemen in the middle of the night, and turn out in an awesome little mobile home van to make tea and provide clothing and such to people whose houses have caught on fire. I’m finally through the basic paperwork and things, so I get to start shadowing people now (assuming there’s a shout on a day when I’m on the rota, leastways). More information on them here, if you’re interested.

As a side effect, I’ve been poking about on the Internet in a bid to find a ringtone which is liable to wake me in the event I do get summonsed by a Fireman at 3am, and have given myself no end of heebie-jeebies by learning about the HANDEL system.

For example, I have discovered that there were three kinds of Alert that might be given out in or during a nuclear attack: Attack Warning Red (a wavering alarm on the system) All Clear Attack Warning White (a 30 second steady blast on the alarm) and Fall Out Warning Attack Warning Black (Three blasts on a whistle, or gong, or similar, presumably because by the time you need to warn about actual fall out, there’s damn all else left). Creepy. Not Vault 106 creepy, I guess, but still pretty creepy.

Work is pretty frantic at the moment because one of my colleagues is about to vanish away to South Africa for an extended holiday, and various system migrations have been giving us periodic bursts of forced downtime, which has nominally reduced the amount of work we can do (I say nominally, because what I actually mean is it’s reduced the time we can throw at the main profiling side of things; we’ve still been able to run reports and go on weeding expeditions to dig out books that have hidden themselves away. It’s often more frustrating, but I like it when you finally run something to earth: last week I found a 60 page playscript that had gleefully snuck itself underneath a 250-page cased hardback atlas on one of the rearmost shelves in the warehouse. If someone could train sniffer dogs to distinguish by ISBN, they’d make a fortune…).

I’ve also begun learning German – right now I can only really say things like ‘Das is keine kartoffel! Das is ein Fernseher,’ and ‘Der Apfel ist dort,’ but it’s a marked improvement on my previous vocabulary, which was pretty much ‘Anschluss’, ‘Waffenstillstand’, and ‘I.G. Farben’, with a side helping of ‘Ich bin ein Berliner‘ once we got that far through the syllabus (although, now I come to think of it, I.G. Farben was an A-level thing), which leaves me wondering what German kids pick up in the way of course-related vocab.

In order to get to German more effectively, I’ve started cycling again, and am quite enjoying it. Actually I even managed to enjoy it on Friday, when Isis went in for a service, and to get new tyres. I did a bit of calculation and worked out that all things being equal, I could cycle to work in less time that it would take on the bus (Doy. Buses are an appaling way to get around Oxford. Having dropped the car off for a service on Thursday I had to catch a bus home from German, and had just about bought a ticket and sat down in the ammount of time it would have taken me to cycle home. Surprisingly I didn’t miss the delay so much as the actual ride; apparently I didn’t so much stop enjoying biking as cease to have the time to manage it).

I figured that even over a distance of six miles, biking to work would be fairly simple, because Oxford is made entirely out of Flat Bits, but it turns out there’s actually a fairly drawn-out slope between Marston & the Headington Roundabout, which really wore me out. It was better on the way back, though, because I went past a lorry stuck in the queue for the Roundabout traffic lights, and then went past him again when I’d both finally crossed the roundabout, and my cycle path had rejoined the side of the ring-road. I am not sure he liked that very much, because after I’d gone past him the second time, he seemed to drop down a gear and floor it, but there we go. I’d actually forgotten how much fun it is to cycle downhill very fast, but I recommend it. Um.

Oh, yes, and this blog got hammered with spam recently. Started out as a couple of comments a day which I had to come and mark as spam manually, and then it peaked at around 60 comments in three minutes, at which point I got hopping mad with it, and managed to lure Dan into doing some general update work, as a result of which, everything’s looking rather snazzy. A few stray bits of wobbly formatting on old posts, but I don’t mind that much. And I rather like the top photo, which is a view from the Wrekin over towards Wales, which is always nice.

So, yeah. There’s a very brief overview of everything I could think of. More coherent updates ideally arriving in the not-too-distant future…

Assorted Things

I had an eye test the other week; back at Batemans, who are awesome people and who’d actually managed to keep my details on file from my last test with them in 2007.

During this particular eye test, I discovered two things:

1) I cannot now read the second line of the chart without glasses. (And if the top line had been something less blatantly an A- a C or a G or an O for example – I don’t think I could have managed that).

2) I’ve jumped prescription again since my last go and need something stronger. Which explains the afternoon headaches I’ve been getting (which is good, because it proves I was right to make the ‘Cataloguing + Headaches = Bad Eyes’ association).

Interestingly, since I was told that my glasses are too weak for me, and that the headaches are almost certainly caused by the same, they’ve got worse. Sigh.

Stupidest Book So Far
One of the things I like about this sort of job is the massive boost you gain to general knowledge. Today, for example, I discovered that there is a provision in the LCSH for a classmark that translates to “Motion pictures, specific aspects, lesbian vampire films”. A product of the 1970s, apparently. And there was me thinking Bill Watterson just made those titles up…

The other thing I discovered today is that it’s possible to get published with even a completely retar- uh, rhetorical- premise. I discovered a book which plugged it’s contents by asking something like “Are some of Shakespeare’s heroine’s actually saying sexually obscene but funny lines?”.

For the one person on the Internet who has never seen or read Shakespeare, that’s rather like saying “Did Shakespeare write plays?” Or, more accurately, like saying “I haven’t really read Shakespeare before now, but I want to write a book and seem a bit risque”. Impressed I wasn’t.

Still, it could be worse. It could be an Amazon marketing ploy.

Customer Relationship Management FAIL
Amazon, as all the world knows, periodically send you emails to nudge you in the direction of offers. This normally involves getting an email that says something like “As somebody who has previously bought Flashman and the Dragon we thought you might be interested in Master & Commander,” or “People who have previously bought Black Books on DVD may be interested in our DVD Television Show Sale! Up to 80% off!!”

They’re enough of a nuisance that I’ve got them filtered to Mark As Read when they appear in my inbox, but they’re not sufficiently stupid that I Skip the inbox altogether, and sometimes I take a look at the contents, just in case there’s a genuinely good deal. It does happen.

So this was painfully shoddy, even for them:

Seriously, what the Hell? How does \'Buying Tintin\' equate to \'Wants Barbie\'!?

Seriously, what the Hell? How does 'Buying Tintin' equate to 'Wants Barbie'!?

New Job

I realise it’s been ages since I threw up a blog post, and since I’ve now been working for a month, this post is running late enough to satisfy even First Great Western, but there you go.

So, yes. JTA now works from 8-4, Monday to Friday, and now earns [%Maths_Result] an hour!

It’s quite fun. I work in a warehouse, which is strangely reminiscent of the temp job I had working the night shift over at Halo Foods in Tywyn, except that there are rather fewer vats of lo-fat chocolate, and rather more books. But I see about the same amount of natural light, so it’s not as different as perhaps it might be.

The work itself is pretty good, and I’ve got into a nice workflow pattern in which I catalogue* a book, stick it into a pile, and get it given back to me to fix because I left out the author affiliation note and forgot to correct the publishing date to 2011. It’s demoralising to have that sort of mistake pointed out (especially after the way Gail used to bully me into the ground for missing out semicolons back in 2006), but it does help to know which bits I need to be double-checking, and the more consistent errors do seem to be changing, so I think I’m getting back into the swing of things well enough.

The people that I’m working with are nice; last week I started one day with a discussion about Brief Encounter (General consensus: it’s a good film but hard to overlook the fact that Alec is an unprincipled shit trying to knacker everything for Laura) had a mid-morning chat about typefaces (I am still in a minority in liking serifed fonts; I blame my lousy eyes), and a last-thing-on-Friday lecture about How To Be Topp In Rome (Answer: it helps to be Augustus, it really does not help to be someone who is a rival to Augustus). So that is all quite fun.

The other thing worth mentioning is that I work on an AS-400 system. It is awesome. Green-on-black interface with no curves. It reminds me a bit of Heritage III, only clunkier. Mostly this is awesome, because I like that kind of interface [Ibid.] but it does present a reccuring problem where I only have space for one subject heading, which always bugs me, because I actually like hunting down oddly specific subject headings (my favourite was the time in Aber when I catalogued a thesis on the development of wet plate collodion photography between 1850 and 1900, and was able to mine Authorities for “Collodion process–History–19th century” which was tremendous fun…

…Yeah, takes a special brain, this stuff. Anyway, it’s going nicely, far as I can tell. Which is good, because everything else is going mental…

*Sort of. It is like cataloguing, and yet unlike cataloguing. “Sloppy Cataloguing” would be a good way to describe it; I keep wanting to put in extra notes and perfectly describe the book in hand but I am 1) Not supposed to, and 2) Not able to because of the crummy computer system we use.

From ‘Cataloguing rules as party conversation’ to ‘Reports in relation to RPGs.’ All the fun that’s fit to Mark As Read, huh?

Eech. I should be working on a report, at this moment in time: essentially Your university is going to launch foundation degrees, how will this affect the library & the readers?. I hate that sort of stuff, because whilst I realise that we’re supposed to be demonstrating the use of the theory, I don’t feel comfortable making up backstory in order to have a platform on which to stand everything else. It’s a ‘pre 1992 university,’ apparently, and that’s about all the guidance we get.

That is not enough guidance, I feel: from there I can say anything from ‘but the library building was completely re-done with corporate sponsorship in 1998 and has seven floors, complete with Student Shop and Coffee Bar on the entry level, Floor 5’ to ‘the library is housed in the Old Building, is Grade I listed and has the unique feature of two floors, each with a periodical gallery, originally designated to house the Arts and the Natural Sciences. The central Loans Desk has been left as it was, though admin work now takes place at a new desk, installed opposite the exit. The University is currently discussing arrangements for external access to the second floor for disabled students, but it severly limited by the various prevervation orders in place.’

…The problem, basically, is that I want the briefing for this report to be Oblivion, and what I’ve got is Morrowind. Oblivion is a fantastic game, and I really do enjoy playing it. Morrowind may well be a good game, but I could never get into it, because it was too open ended.

At the start of Oblivion, you’re in clink, but you get let out by narrative imperative the Emperor, who happens to need the escape route in your cell, and who dies almost as soon as you’ve had chance to collect one of each base weapon class, learn how to sneak, pick a lock and work your way back to the plot. For reasons best known to himself, he gives you the Amulet of the Maguffin, the token of his Emperordom, and tells you to push off and find a monk who knows where his illegitemate-but-everyone-else-in-the-family-is-dead Son is. At which point, you can either do so, or wander off and do open-ended things. It’s a nice obvious quest hook, and you can catch it, or not, or catch it later as the mood takes you.

At the start of Morrowind, as far as I can recall, you get off a boat, wander through an administation building, and get told that there’s a guy who lives over in Villagetown and you should go and see him. Doing so results in his suggesting you work for him, possibly for some secret reason. Go and do a minor quest in Noobsville, quoth he, and then… uh… yeah, I dunno. There doesn’t seem to be a main quest there. Now bear in mind the first computer games I ever played were Hillsfar, Spellcasting 201 and Paperboy 2. I like obvious objectives in games. I’ve grown to enjoy the freedom of open-ended stuff, it’s amazing to be able to do something in some place and reap the consequences later – which is why Deus Ex was so mindblowing for me – but it’s nice to have a solid known objective you can fall back on, not only to get you started, but to give you something to aim for once wandering in the wilderness gets dull.

And having to make up my own character backstory in a piece of academic work kinda bugs me: what if I go with Option A, and say “based on the findings of the various studies we’ve done (qv), perhaps we can devote the fourth floor to books for Foundation Degrees, and create a seperate collection there,” and then go on to discuss advantages and limitations and things, and Juanita decides that she’s never heard anything so retarded in her life because what the Hell was I thinking imagining more than three floors anyway, why haven’t I talked about the crushing space constrictions affecting the library service?


Of course, I know what’s going to happen: I’m going to Exposit it to within an inch of it’s life; this report to the Vice Chancellor is going to be the library equivilant of Chapter One, the one that goes

“As you know, your father – the King – had no other children. I greatly fear that this attack by Mordok was intended to kill you too. For if you are not present at the Celebrations tomorrow you will be declared dead and Mordok will seize power!”

and to which the only possible answer is

“Faithful old Knight, the only person who apparently knows the secret way out of the Castle – although I’d like to point out that it’s also a secret way into the castle, and how did Mordok’s forces manage to get past the seventeen well-defended gates unoticed anyway? Fine, fine, we’ll leave that to page two-hundred and sixty-seven – but, Allegedly Faithful Old Knight Who Was Always Passed Over By My Father For The Stewardship, I know all that. What, you think I lived just long enough to fulfil the Prophecy and make some Outcast Friends With Secret Knowledge without spotting the lack of siblings!? Dude, lay off the musty tomes already. Nice mysterious sigil ring, by the way. Why’s it glowing ominously red?”

But I’ll feel bad about doing it.

And anyway, I want to be working on my Dissertation reasearch, but I can’t really do that before I pass Part 1!

Still, in other news: have my eye on a job which would be awesome. Shall have to wait and see…

Savage Love: Best. Caller. Ever.

Podcast No. 164: The Story so far:
Dan Savage has called a woman back; she’s been making extra money doing live sex shows on webcam, and her boyfriend is not happy about it (that is, once he found out she was doing it on the quiet, he wasn’t happy about it). Dan wants to know how essential this extra money is.

Savage: Is there something else you can do besides that? I mean, what’s your career goals besides fingering yourself on webcam?

Caller: [Laughs] I actually have two jobs now; I’m a librarian, actually.

My profession kicks arse

Working for the NHS: Pros & Cons


1. I may get paid at some point.
2. Free shoes! And I don’t have to get shot at, or set on fire or anything. I can’t think of another job where that happens.
3. Apparently some sort of pension.


1. Every time I catch sight of an oxygen tank out of the corner of my eye, I want to pick it up and carry it to somewhere I can explode it during a panic event. Especially if I’m heading towards a lift.
2. Working 9-5, then leaving work to go to, er, work. Elsewhere.
3. When getting tours of a hospital, it’s really hard not to keep saying “I hate stairs”…

1800 hours of work? Nah, leave it for Dave.

Someone yesterday contrived to tell me something I never got told before: every 10 credits of study is supposed to equate to one hundred hours of actual study. Or, in other words, in the next twelve months they want me to put down 1,800 hours. Assuming I did it all at once, without stopping to play games, get paid, or drink coffee, or eat, or sleep, or look at pebbles, or see other people, that would be 75 straight days of work.

Hell’s teeth..

On the plus side, actually did some being sociable yesterday, which was fun. I tell you, there’s something very rewarding about sitting drunkenly in a pub and arguing about the relative merits of cataloguing, and whether it makes more sense to classify subdivisions with letters or symbols or numbers. (Also it makes a nice change to be able to do that sort of thing without everyone making snarky comments, I’m just saying…)

O, and because I like to spread aggravation around, here’s that stupid moralistic nonsense I was talking about and managed to dig out – note my emphasis in the first line:

This is a story about four people named Everybody, Somebody, Anybody and Nobody.
There was an important job to be done and Everybody was sure that Somebody would do it.
Anybody could have done it, but Nobody did it.
Somebody got angry about that, because it was Everybody’s job.
Everybody thought that Anybody could do it, but Nobody realized that Everybody wouldn’t do it.
It ended up that Everybody blamed Somebody when Nobody did what Anybody could have done.

Really. Did it? It ended up with Everbody cross because Nobody did the job, did it? Did it bollocks. These are proper nouns you’re waving about here, you tossers, and you can’t go crying to mommy when you go and shoot yourself in the foot.

Note that this would have worked perfectly well if they just said “If a job needs doing, and you can do that job, why not do that job yourself, thus ensuring that the job will get done. That is good practice, that is”. O, wait, they can’t do that, can they? That wouldn’t be smart.

So let’s look again at this story about four people. But since most people don’t go around with names like “Everybody” and “Anybody” let’s do a bit of on-the-fly localisation, so we can be sure that we can all relate to these people – let’s make these hapless office drones people like us, so as to boost the impact of the message:

This is a story about four people named Amy, Barry, Claire and Dave.
There was an important job to be done and Amy was sure that Barry would do it.
Claire could have done it, but Dave did it.
Barry got angry about that, because it was Amy’s job.
Amy thought that Claire could do it, but Dave realized that Amy wouldn’t do it.
It ended up that Amy blamed Barry when Dave did what Claire could have done.

What’s the problem? The job got done, didn’t it? The moral of the sad little contrivance isn’t “do your own dirty work” (a perfectly valid message, if only they’d thought to put it in) but “leave it to Dave”.

That’s not just the message if you change the names over, that’s the message all the time, because we’re not dealing with concepts like “nobody did the job,” we’re dealing with people: “Mr. David J. Nobody did the job, even though that annoyed old Miss Amy Everybody.”

Honestly, I fail to see how the people who come up with this stuff don’t realise that it makes no damn sense. You’d think they’d at least read it back to be sure it means what they hoped it would, even if they can’t be trusted with anything as complicated as communicating an idea to another human being.

…Ah, I’m probably being harsh. Let’s face it, the only way that kind of thing could get that badly screwed up is if they all left it to each other, and the unpaid intern had to lash it together on the way to the seminar.

Fresher’s Week, again.

Today’s fun fact: I’ve now owned my little battery-powered FM/LW/MW/SW radio for six years. Bought it in Dixons, back when we had one of those in Aber. Well I find it interesting, anyway.

Induction gubbins carries on apace. Yesterday, out to Llanbadarn for what turned out to be a slightly strange seven-strand induction lecture, the highlight of which was the woman the Careers service sent along who tried very hard, but failed to make the leap from “This is a lecture theatre packed to the gills with naught but postgraduate students about to start their Masters courses” to “therefore I should address them as such.”

Thus, after we’d been sitting and listening to people address us for a little under 40 minutes, she began her skit by getting us all to stand up, and stretch and yawn theatrically (Heaven forfend that PG students should be able to sit for under an hour and listen to people!) and then followed that up with the suggestion we were all liars.

We would all like to think we’re there to bolster our skills, she reasoned, but actually we’re just doing it to keep ourselves off the jobs market until the recession is over. Isn’t that right, she asked, as a multitude of hands – three in number – rose in bemused agreement. “How nice,” she said, “that there are three honest people here.” Yeah, thanks for that. You do realise that we’re paying out for this, right? We’re not just sitting here for to while away the next twelve months of an already finite lifetime.

Sigh. She’d’ve gone down a treat with undergraduates, I’m sure, but like I say she didn’t make the link. I’m pretty sure I’ve seen her before; she gave us an incredibly annoying handout on the importance of getting jobs done, which I’ll blog about as soon as I’ve dug it up, because it was such appaling nonsense it damn well deserves to be on the Internet. Probably is somewhere, actually, it’s the sort of bollocks they like to save up for when someone wants to make a website out of clever managerial witticisms…

Anyway, today I went and registered, and am thus officially re-enrolled. Registration by paper always puts me in mind of the Copy Protection Scene in Spellcasting 101 where you have to queue up and then one of the professors says “Ah, yes, Mr. Eaglebeak. Tell me, what was your Oral Aptitude score?” and if you don’t look sharp and say “590” like what it says on the paper you fish out of the box they push you off to the Restore : Undo : Quit screen fast as you please.

Anyway, they didn’t ask me anything like that or even what my Health Score was (Ernie’s is 91), but I did have to queue twice over, because they forgot to sign the first of my three forms in addition to the second, at least on the first attempt. Hey ho.

I’ve landed myself a 50:70 split, because neither of my two option modules run in Semester 1, but they reckon that won’t be too much of a problem, and if I’m honest it’s the 60-credit diss that’s worrying me, if anything.

Still, I’m all registered up. I returned home to find, in Inbox A, a email from the University in the form of a confirmation to let me know that they have updated my records and I am officially a student and, in Inbox B, an email from the University in the form of an Alumni Newsletter to let me know about all this new students they’ve got sloshing about the place and signing up for all manner of silly modules.

All rather strange, and it’s only Tuesday. Still, see how we go, shall we?

Ah, Red Alert 3: Soviet March, I grow fonder of you as a ringtone day by day.

In this case, look you, because you’ve contrived to be the ringtone heralding an offer for part-time work. More than that, for convenient take-it-or-leave-it-and-be-paid-accordingly part-time work, which is liable to be dead handy for me with my collection of other commitments and overdrafts to satisfy all at once. Huzzah!

Therefore, presently, and assuming a clear health check and a green light from the CRB people, I return to work as a cleaner-type person (Undertakers, prostitutes and cleaners: always in demand, that’s us. And, considering the alternatives, cleaning’s not a bad job to be engaged in, all fun aside)

(Alarmingly, by my reckoning this brings my all-time interview:job offer ratio to, er… 9:8 (that’s what not having a driving license will do to you, that is). The reason I say alarmingly is because I assume my luck’ll have to turn eventually, and if it’s going to I’d much rather it dropped out now rather than when it super-really counts, but there you go – I don’t propose to complain too much, I just worry that it’s one of those things that only works when you don’t bank on it, and I’m not sure how to look like I’m not banking on it!)

Betimes, I’ve netted myself perhaps the most cool voluntary work I could have contrived, as a sort of giving-advice-and-opinions bod for a fictioneer. Can’t say I’ve got much experience of that sort of thing per se, but it’s giving me a chance to brush up on some very rusty skills I’ve not pressed for some time, so that’s nice.

O, and a heads up to the guy who just came up the drive and stuffed a ‘Do you want your drive to be pressure-washed?’ flyer through the door: talking loudly on a mobile below an open window kinda diminished the secrecy of the sentence “Mate, can you keep a secret, yeah? I’ve actually got another girlfriend she doesn’t know about.” (Bonus tip: if you must go about keeping secrets, you’ll find they work better if you don’t tell people regardless of how close you are to other bodies)

(A heavy blonde day even for someone as fair-headed as you, huh? You square-set late-teens six footer, you…)

Sisyphean Spreadsheets and Eterminable Labours.

So life continues. Well, for the most part. I still get not quite enough sleep, but I’m marginally less frantic at the weekends now, so I can at least catch up on it then, except I appear to have misplaced the knack of sleeping past noon, which is a shame.

Work continues, though I am only working another fifteen and a half days this month, as I must use holiday time before my contract ends on the 31st.

I don’t usually talk much about work in places as public as Where the Entire World May google it with a Search Engine, but I am amazingly glad that I saved that time up; the rotation I’m working in now is just soul destroying. I am comparing two spreadsheets, each of which contains a data dump. Sheet 1 is data telling us what electronic publications we had access to on the old system. Sheet 2 tells us what electronic publications we had on the new system last August. I am supposed to do a lot of copy-pasting and check that we’re not missing anything important.

Specifically, I’m checking that we’ve not been missing anything important for the last academic year. Personally, I think if it was both missing and even slightly important, someone may have noticed over the course of the last academic year, but that opinion probably wouldn’t go down too well…

I am the third Grad Trainee this year to work on these spreadsheets – note ‘this year,’ I’ll come back to that in a minute – so this has been going on for eleven months. We started, two hundred and thirty eight days ago with the first publication on the list, 19th Century Music (which files before A, of course, because it begins with a numeral). Just before lunch today – half an elephant pregnancy later – I finished checking ‘Corruption Matters’.

It has taken us eleven months to get an eighth of the way through the alphabet. At this rate, we will not be above half-way before they change the system again, and it’s really quite hard to get motivated under those circumstances; it’s like being asked to bail out the Elan lakes with an egg cup. Assuming the egg cup has a hole drilled in it, and you keep having to stop and compare the content of the Elan lakes with the contents of the Aswan dam to make sure they both still contain water…

What’s worse, is that – I said I’d come to this – it turns out other trainees have been here before us. I only discovered this yesterday: the spreadsheets are from August, I assumed this stuff had only been invented in August. O no, these spreadsheets were only invented in August, but there were old spreadsheets before them. (You know that scene in comics where the people who’ve been lost in the desert, but have been following an ever-increasing number of footprints suddenly realise they’re not on a massive well-used highway, but have been walking around the same dune for seventeen panels? It’s like that.)

Some years ago some poor scunners got stuck in a single rotation for a whole year. For the guys Lending and Library Support I can see that would’ve been awesome, but the poor girl that got lumbered with the antedescendant of this white elephant was begging to be let out apparently, although it sounds as though she got rescued in the end, and we adopted this rotating system, thank God. (If that sounds like it was you, incidentally, that was forever asking Bill to be allowed to do something connected to either the rest of the library, or just to subject support or anything then give me a shout and I’ll see if I can’t confirm that and then buy you a very very large gin.)

It’s crushingly dispiriting, is the trouble. Given the choice between getting paid for this month’s work and walking three times over hot coals and then just getting paid for sitting at home with my feet in a tub of water for the month, I’d honestly take the poxy coals. It’s not like anything I do will make a significant impact on this damn thing, anyway – which is the heart of the problem, really.

I would advise anybody who finds themselves calculating how long it is until they can take their tea break, or adjusting their tea breaks so when they get back to the desk they only have an hour left until hometime, etc., that they should be thinking of changing jobs. I shouldn’t, of course, because I’ll be skint in two months, and a student after that and once that’s done I shall get a job in a library that involves, in any way at all, doing something useful and less interminable than this (cataloguing would be a prime example here, but since I like doing that anyway, it loses some of it’s impact; I’m still trying to learn Bliss in my spare time.)

Urrgh. And that is the end of my tea break. On the plus side, I’m effectively working for a fortnight this week, and it’s not all spreadsheets (because I get Monday mornings and all of Fridays off). Also, more to the point, I’ve got an extension cable for my headphones so at least I can now listen to KUSC while I wonder who’s been drilling holes in all my bloody teacups…

Done having a strop now. Going to find coffee and bemoan the fact the office is too hot.

‘nother update.

I continue to be crazy busy. It is not all bad, though, for I was able to go to the Gregynog Colloquium, which involved a large number of the Aberystwyth delegation getting merrily drunkish. Also, I entered a charity raffle, buying a strip of tickets for a fiver, and consequently won a not unrespectable digital camera (8 MP, SDHC, 2x AA Batteries – the last means it’s not something I’d buy at full cost, but for £5 I’m hardly about the chuck it up on eBay!) I was pleased about that.

There were massive floods in Newtown. I mean *massive*. Ended up red-lining poor Miriam, in first, with the clutch about two thirds out because 7,000 rpm was the only way to force through the wave of water that was coming over the bonnet and hitting the windscreen while still forcing enough gas through the exhaust that water didn’t back up and smother the engine. Even then she nearly gave out three times. It was more nerve-wracking than Stafford, although if I’d not survived the floods there I might’ve just attemped to push her to the nearest dry ground…

Outside Newtown, though, everything was fine. Rotten little dorp. That said, for those of us who know the incline of the drive at the Uberflat, two days later I got into the car, released the handbrake and, er, went nowhere. Loud clunking noise as we started moving, so I ran her through the carwash and that seemed to fix it; I assume the axles were caked with mud, or something.

Things I have discovered recently:

1. Death and the Maiden is being re-run, starting from the first strip. It is awesome, you should read it. The Sequel is also being re-run from its first strip at the same time. I find this incredibly annoying, because I now have to make the choice between reading both strips at once, or going back and picking up 2 afterwards. Sigh.

2. The awesome, whose recent posts include Episode One Confessional, The Ghostbusters are horrible people and (my favourite of those I’ve seen so far) Belle: Princess, or not Princess, which features an awesome examination of the local political situation around the Beast’s castle.

3. I am in serious danger of ruining my librarian credentials by reading all manner of security books. Admittedly, I’m not too far in, but I’m already at the point where I can see Scheir quoted in Mitnik and remember having read the book that quote comes from a week before. This pleases me, but it doesn’t sit too well with the stereotype. On the other hand, nor does wanting a resolution greater than 8×6, so I’m not too fussed about that.

4. I have probably got a little work next year, which won’t see me rolling in money but, equally, won’t leave me completely devoid of food. I hope.

Anyway, back to it…

I should’ve gone to bed (but the whisky isn’t gone)*

‘s been a good Easter, so I’ll start with that. Food & company and a surfeit of neither which gave me some space for a bit of Quiet, which is always a worthwhile use of time, especially around now.

Also, we went out to Cwm Rheidol and hunted Easter eggs. (Our own, of course; we didn’t just show up expecting them to be there already). Slight issue with swathes of the countryside having been inexplicably closed, but we found a space in the end, and it was really quite fun.

Birthdays & Purchases
I’ve turned 24. Which isn’t an especially exciting sentence, let’s be honest. I don’t think I’m due another birthday that feels like it might be important for at least six years, and possibly not for another eighteen; my 43rd will feel creepy, I’m pretty sure, but other than that each year kinda feels the same as every other. I’ve probably said that before; it’s a perennial complaint. (Pause for laugh)

Still, people have been very nice and given me everything from beer to periodicals subscriptions, and Ruth has very kindly chucked me a small pile of cash, with which I’ve bought a microcomputer. Well… yeah, OK, so I’ve technically owned very-very-late-era Microcomputers for years, but I can’t keep track, these days, of what’s a Laptop, what’s a Netbook and what’s a Small One Of The Above, so I’m going with Microcomputer because I know what one of those is.

Anyway, I had been going to get an S101 on the grounds that it’s called an S101, which is Teh Awesome. (Because – as if anyone needs telling – S101 was the directory name for Spellcasting 101: Sorcerors Get All the Girls, the precursor to the fab S201 & S301 by Steve Meretzky. All, quite literally, Legend-ary.)

So, yeah, the S101: it’s woefully underspecced for modern games (but would play old DOS stuff fine; see what I did there?) and I liked the fact it got essentially decentdecent reviews (for something built for battery life rather than speed) and I knew what I’d call it even before it turns up, which saves all that tedious umm-ing and ahh-ing.

Anyway, I’m not getting one of those. I’m getting an NC10 which has better battery life, costs less money, exists in a spiffy blue colour and gets even better reviews.

I’m still going to call it Ernie, mind.

The point to this, however, is pretty much that it can’t do very much, but is small and handy for carting about. Also, the NC10 comes with a closer-to-normal-size keyboard & a small hard-drive which puts it ahead of the rest of the minilapbook genre which seem reluctant to give you space to install anything very much. So it’s portable, won’t do [as much in the way of ] games to distract me [compared to a proper tower] and is easy to type on. If you didn’t know me better you might think I intended to get some actual proper work done next year, no?

If the machine has a downside I’ve not already factored in, it’s that it doesn’t come with 3G, which means if I need Internets on the go, I’ll have to create an unwieldy lash-up from my phone, Nokia PC Suite and a short length of USB cable, but I think I’ll be able to cope. Ruth proposes to teach me SVN-ing, so that’s promising.

I’m looking forward to the Masters, but I’m a little worried about the state of the profession – we had a meeting on Spy Weds. wherein it was revealed that we’ve not got a bean. This was pretty much the case at my previous place of work (although, in fact, their defecit appeared to be even larger), so I’m a little concerned that there may be employers out there who won’t be able to pay me.

But I figure I’m awesome, so they’ll find the money somewhere.

Tech Generally
Went back to Newport on Saturday, and miserably failed to fix the computer there – something very strange seems to have happened to it; it’s in need of a full-re-install, I think. In a bid to save myself an extra trip, I’m going to attempt to guide people there through a re-install. Worst case, I have to go back (which I would anyway, if I didn’t attempt this first), so I figure it’s worth a shot.

I move to SSEL on Monday. Fewer Readers to deal with, more Spreadsheets. At present I’m not really sure how that balances out, but we’ll see how it goes. I have to say I rather enjoyed quite a lot of being in Lending; the Thin Red Line stunt got a bit dull the fifth time it was myself & one other person (normally Annette) holding the fort, but only a little.

Had to work Maundy Thursday, which was shoddy since it was my Birthday, which is shoddy, but I ended up glad I did, as we had a vagueish academic come in and start asking me questions, who turned out to be a Bodley reader, so that was nice. I do miss the old place, strangely. (That is, strangely if you only recall my experience of the place before they got my eyes tested, when I appeared to be of the Fail for no reason I could work out. After I could actually read what I was typing I really enjoyed it.)

Wow, I’ve rambled all over the place again. And Storm Front just looped round, Tell you what: I’ll throw in a few semi-themed headers and push off to bed, how’s that sound?

*Sounds like a song title, dunnit? Well, it would if it started with ‘you’ rather than ‘I’. Something melancholic and slow, I think. Or something very bouncy and fast and miserable as sin. Both good.

Four One More Years!

Now with semi-random emboldening, to clarify what’s important in amongst all these words…

Well, since I’ve not yet had any frantic e-mails or letters or ‘phone calls of retraction, I guess now is as reasonable a time as any to leak some breaking news out into the public domain: UWA Aberystwyth would like to offer me a place on the Library and Information Studies course as a Masters student, starting on the 28th of September, 2009. Plus, on the basis of my having started as an undergraduate around the 28th of September 2003, and having graduated from UWA three years later, they’d like to give me 10% off my tuition fees, which is very nice of them!

All things considered, this is a Good Thing, since it means I’ll get not only a professional qualification that (as I understand it) will allow me to get membership of CILIP – dead handy, that is – but also a spiffy new degree, which will not only make me look like a well-rounded, clever sort of person, but which should also net me a little more cash, long-term.

Not only that, but in the event that I actually finish and get the thing, I’ll be one of a comparatively small number of people who hold not only a degree from UWA, but also a degree from AU. Yes, I think that is a really interesting fact. I’ll wheel it out at parties in the event people look like they’re getting bored of hearing about the development of MARC formatting*.

Jen is currently in town, which is awesome. Brief trip to pub yesterday, which included entertaining reminiscences about Apocalypse Wow! and other ghosts. Since I’m about to be returning to studenthood [terrifying thought, except I’ll be able to stop paying tax and that], I find this heartening – I think Jen is the first person I met during my Fresher’s Week that I’m still in any kind of contact with outside of Facecoke, and that dun’t really count as contact. It was good, because the thought of going back to University as a student type was making me feel properly old, and while talking about t’Old Days didn’t exactly stop me feeling old, it at least made me more cheerful about the whole thing.

Plus, y’know, Jen’s awesome, so it’s nice to have her back in town :-)

Good news all round, pretty much!

Have fun!

You really don’t have to read this bit if you don’t want to. I can’t think why you’d not want to, but if you really don’t, you can shove off now.

*this is, in fact, really interesting. See, back in the 1960s electronic data storage was really expensive and any computerised library records had to be stored in fixed-length fields, which not only limited search capabilities, but also caused costly wastage when you had an author with a four-character surname being stored in a fixed-length ten-character field. So, on the one hand, you had some fields that, for certain items, weren’t long enough, but couldn’t be extended, and on the other hand, you had some that were too long, but couldn’t be shortened.

Sometimes this would happen within one record, and it really crippled the potential value of the emerging computer as an alternative method of record management (the standard at the time, of course, being the traditional 3×5 inch catalogue card, which also had limited capacity and couldn’t be relied upon to get regular updates unless someone remembered to check all the cross-references from one card to another – which was time consuming even for small collections.

The problem they had was that there wasn’t any way to vary the length of a data field, because you had to tell the computer that the Author Surname field started at character #20, and ended at character #30 – it was the only way the machine knew what order the data lived in, and nobody could think of a way round that (of course, the majority of librarians had little understanding of computers, and the computer engineers rarely thought of libraries as being a market for computers, since the established members of each profession looked on the other as the very anathema of what they stood for – a view which remains surprisingly common to this day, in spite of all the advances made in the past twenty-odd years).

Now about this time the Library of Congress had appointed a new committee which was supposed to be looking at their surplus of 3×5 cards. (Especially in the US, these cards were still pretty cutting edge – as late as 1900 most American libraries still had their catalogues printed in book form only, which made them amazingly hard to update – by comparison, the index cards were a dream come true, except that they took up too much room.

The committee, therefore, was looking at two solutions to the card storage problem: 1) Rent a big warehouse to store some of the cards, or 2) Rent a floor in a big warehouse to store some of the cards**. The LC was feeling pretty good about itself, around this time, because of course it wasn’t long since the 1956 Committee on Catalogue Code Revision had presented its findings (themselves a revision of the fairly shoddy 1946 rules), so they weren’t in the market to change the way cataloguing was done. However, it was at about this time that — Oi! You little bugger, I saw you open that new tab! Hey! O, now you come back here! Honestly, I was right in the middle of my story!***

*sigh* Bye, then…

**Some things change very, very slowly, it appears…

***Cite me!

[All humour aside, that is honestly a really interesting story. I’d be happy to finish it sometime. And kudos to Keith Trickey for clueing me in on it.

Quick notes

1. Am leaving today. Miriam is filled up and has had her tyres re-pressured; they were all 4-5 PSI below where they wanted to be, but that was because I assumed the ‘220’ they wanted them to be was the equivilant of ’22’ on the scale Morrisons was using, and it turns out that the Morrisons pump was working in PSI and the sticker I was looking at was working in BAR.

There’s apparently some manner of significant difference between the two; I’d dismissed it as being a decimal point or, failing that, an Imperial Vs. Metric thing, but it seems to be more like the difference between feet and stone. Whoops. Fixed now, though.

2. I was described today as ‘an antisocial, dissolute, borderline-sociopathic Bob Cratchit for our times,’ which is the most Awesome since ever.

3. Played some Left 4 Dead online yesterday, with some really fairly decent players. Connection was pretty chuggy at times, though, which counted against me, and we did get repeatedly slaughtered all the time (to the extent that the Director started leaving enormous piles of explosives about in the hope we might get out of the subway and move the plot on at all).

That was kinda fun; the ability to be on Almost No Health and still use my medkit to patch up the only guy in the squad who could shoot straight and didn’t go shout “SUPRISE!” in the Witch’s ear appeals to me. (For added Win he then shouted ‘Use yer pills mate, an’ I can chuck yer mine,’ in a slightly Scouse accent, which was nice and sensible on his part). A mate of his turned up shortly after and we got considerably further on before we all died again, opening the stupid horde-summoning garage door, and shortly after that my connection fell over again, so I left ’em to it.

4. Been finishing things off at work, these last few days, to make sure I don’t get split over two sections for the sake of tidying up loose ends. Not entirely sure that it’s working, so far, but never mind, I expect it will in the end. I skipped lunch and will owe an hour and so am going to vanish away at something more like 15:00, which is much better because I’m damn tired already.

5. Got paid today, which is a) good, because it means I’ve been able to clear my credit card already, and b) bad, because it means I’m going to be in a right bind by mid January. If you’ve yet to buy me a Christmas present, a large suitcase full of used £50 Bank of England notes will do me fine.

Hokay. Final push…

*After year 10 I just stopped doing games because it made my knees hurt. And was pointless.

Good timing that bottle!

So it’s been an up-and-downy sort of fortnight, full of peaks, troughs and, apparently, feathers brought on by the failure of my keyboard to hyphenate on cue.

I’ve been ill, which was horrible, since I was actually asleep for the whole time (I’m really bad at being ill; after the first couple of hours I get fed up of lying down and want to get up and do things, which tends to leave me being more ill than I was to begin with, but never mind). Still not sure I’m entirely fixed, to be honest, but never mind.

Drove to Shrewsbury for a dentists appointment, which was much better than taking the train. It used up half a tank of petrol, which means I spent about £5 more by driving than I would have spent on a train ticket, but on the other hand, I was able to arrive at the actual dentists, ten minutes before my appointment, have the appointment, and then leave again immediately, so I spent an entire three hours less time hanging about waiting for the trains to get their collective DEMU arses in gear.

Well worth a fiver. Encountered ice on Plynlymon, by the effective, though inadvisable, method of discovering my left wheels had gone crazy while skirting a hairpin a mile or two past the George Borrow hotel, and again in the valley of the Elvis Rock.

Came home via Mach. A pigawful road, but with less chance of finding a ton or two of expensive metal slip[ping] below me… and then drop[ping] with an almighty smash fifty feet to the bed of the stream…*

Shared whisky with Matt at the weekend, over House of Cards. Rather enjoyable, and there was splendidly good timing on the part of the bottles of alcohol various, because they contrived to get opened about twenty minutes after I found out that Peter, an old family friend, had died.

Currently awaiting information on the date of the funeral, so I can book time off to get back for it.

As I say, a pair of weeks with ups and downs. And now, apparently, I have to go show a work experience girl the cataloguing program. She wants to know about LC Classification, apparently, which I’ve never been called on to do, and it seems odd for me to be the one explaining actual cataloguing procedures, too (especially since I’m only upgrading very basic old records that got stranded by a system change in the late ’80s) but there you go.

I just wish I wasn’t obliged to miss out on my tea break for the sake of it…

*A tricky one. A full pint (or bottle) of beer in it this time.

Update, in the manner of an unhelpfully-titled pile of generic.

Been listening to a lot more Billy Joel lately, especially at work (not least because I keep forgetting to take my MP3 player to work, so I’m using the N95 instead.).

I do concentrate better with music in the background, as long as I know it relatively well (otherwise I have to keep breaking concentration to listen to the words!), so it’s nice to have an office where nobody minds on the grounds that ‘it does help you concentrate, especially when you’re doing something repetative.’ Colleagues WIN, I think…

…On the other hand, there’s something very, very wrong-feeling about playing Red Alert 3 while a background copy of Winamp belts out, uh, Leningrad.

On the plus side, every faction in RA3 seems to have adopted the traditionally Soviet policy of only employing women with tight-fitting costumes as their chosen military liason to the Completely Untested Commander With No Experience Of The Week…

Back still hurts. Knees still hurt. Left elbow seems to be setting up to hurt on a regular basis, the bastard. If I’m snappish that’s possibly why. The backache is a sod because I don’t know what will set it off, and the elbow is making me really irritable because it’s never happened before, so I’m not used to it giving out knee-style pain, which is making it much harder to ignore the damn thing than it would be if it was just a knee, and only doing what I expect of it. /whinge

Upside: field trip to the archives today, I’m looking forward to that!

I think that’s everything, for now, though.

‘If Tyler Durden knew how to change a tap, he wouldn’t have to punch people in the face.’

Today’s blog post title comes from a nice little essay by Ferrett, whose LiveJournal I read.

Since it’s less than a fortnight since I was spectacularly failing at changing the washer in a tap (although, to be fair, a plumber had previously said the whole thing was seized; I was mainly there as a checking-he-isn’t-a-lying-git capacity), that one struck a chord.

I’m feeling fairly cheerful, at the moment. I expect it’ll wear off presently, when I finally come to my senses, but I’m doing OK. I was a bit worried when I went to bed yesterday, because I’d developed a splitting headache behind my eye, and I thought it could be caused by the mixing of wine and whisky last night, but I’m fine this morning, so I was probably just tired. Still am, actually.

(I think work ought to give me an incentive to get out of bed in the morning*; we only have a single storage heater, so getting out from under the covers means making my knees start to hurt unless I immediately get some trousers on, except that [because we only have one storage heater] any trousers I can find are also really cold, and turn out to speed the chill into my bones. Plus, y’know, it’s a bed. Nobody likes getting out of one of those, even to make their phone stop playing ‘They’re taking the hobbits to Isengard, when it’s nice and warm and cosy.’)

I have spent most of the last few days having meetings. The first one was with Hugh Preston, who is the Admissions Dude** out at what I think of as DILS, but which now seems to be simply DIS; the Department of Information Studies. It is looking increasingly like doing a Masters is a sensible thing to do; not only do I get the M out of it, but (because of the way the course is carefully set up) it’ll qualify me for membership of CILIP, too. Both of these things seem to have a fairly immediate impact on the kind of jobs one can get, so it’s looking like a good plan.

The second meeting I had was with Mike Smith, whom I may have mentioned before, way back when I was being a Student. Essentially, he is awesome (which I’ve thought for ages, but he gets bonus Awesome because it turns out he seems to really like me, as well, which is shiny) and will give me an academic reference, which I’d need to actually get onto the aforementioned course.

I’m still a little torn between doing the course Part Time and doing the course Full Time. The main difference is that if I do it Part Time it will take 2 – 5 years, and I have to be in a Relevant Job, but I can start this April and the University will pay my tuition for me while I’m working here (until the end of June), and after that I can run off to The South, or something. With the sole exception of that last point, all of those are both Pros and Cons pretty much equally.

If I do it Full Time it will take about 12 months, I don’t need to worry about finding a Relevant Job or else in the meantime, and I have to stay in Aber for at least 9 months (although once I’m down to the actual Writing A Diss stage, I can go and do so from ‘pretty much anywhere.’ These are all relatively positive, and the only major problem is that I will magically Not Have Anything Paid For, although since the University would only be paying the first two or three months of my tuition if I went Part Time, that’s not so huge a thing as it might otherwise sound.

So… we’ll see.

And that’s all you people are getting from me, for now.

O, except I finished the Allied campaign on Red Alert 3, and I really need to write to EA at some point, to find out why they’d preffer me not to buy any of the games they’re releasing.

(Yeah, I know I keep banging on about this. It just bugs me that these people are sufficiently retarded to think that making a game with invasive anti-piracy measures which you don’t get on the inevitable pirate copies will encourage people to pay hard currency for the inferior copy-protected version, rather than pirate it for free. I just can’t help but feel that anyone incapable of spotting the FAIL inherent in that philosophy is probably someone who shouldn’t be allowed metal cutlery, never mind influence over the gaming industry…)

Anyway, I don’t mean to keep you from your surfing with an argument you all know and agree with; I just figured all of the EA executives might swing by on a Googlewhim***, realise they’re all cretins and commit seppuku in pennance…


* Money doesn’t count. Or, at least, not this ammount of money.
** Actual title may vary.
*** You can use this word. I don’t mind.

Updates! Woo, &c.

OK, so I went all quiet again. Profuse apologies.

On the other hand, I came down with Fresher’s Flu good and hard, through my usual tactic of stressing out, sleeping badly and consequently waking up with an immune system that saw an infection and went in like the US Marshalls*. Consequently I got pretty well slaughtered within a day.

By last Wednesday, however, I was up and about a bit more, so I came into work, for which I am entirely made of grateful, since I got to attend a little lecture about the awesome books they have over at Lampeter (featuring my personal highlight: getting to touch a book printed by Wynkyn de Worde in Caxton’s workshop in 1470, also a book of hours from the 1490s) and go on a Field Trip to the town library, which was also really good fun.

A downside of that, however, was that it comprised my usual overstretching-myself-while-ill routine, with the result that by Wednesday evening I felt so lousy I couldn’t even be bothered to play CoD4 & just went to bed. On Thursday a doctor told me I was horribly infectious and banned me from work, so I went home and proved her right by infecting everyone in the Uberflat. Hm.

Finally feeling better, apart from the cough, which is still a real pain, but which I assume is going to clear itself up a bit presently.

Assuming I can be bothered I’m starting to think I may have to do a review of the re-release (basically) of Colonization. I’ll have to see if I can grab some time when Ruth isn’t using the laptop next week.

Am currently looking into the Masters-ness. Hmm. Looks expensive, but I’m booking a meeting with a chap out at DIS, so it’s possible. Although since I never even had to do an undergraduate dissertation I look at phrases like “not more than 15,000 words” and my head hurts. But, meh. Continued vague postings as events warrant.

It is getting colder and darker, once more. This means two things:
1. We need to light fires to coax the sun back to us so it doesn’t go out.
2. It is waistcoat-wearing season again, huzzah! (For, incidentally, about the 7th year in a row).

In consequence of 2 (and the addition of my Drizabone, a nice gusty wind & my hat) I got described as “Looking very steampunk,” the other day. So that was nice.

Think that’s everything. Enjoy.

*Cite the source (where, who says it, and to whom) “Go in like the US Marshalls!” for a free pint at the Ship & Castle. Jimmy, I’m particularly looking at you, here.

“I’ve got to start listening to those quiet, nagging doubts…”*

It is currently Thursday. And I am still amazingly tired from last week. Mainly, I’m tired from last week thanks to all the driving I did, which I’m actually finding fairly tiring.

[Out of curiosity, I just ran all my destinations through Google’s patent Evil Maps Of Global Domination (beta), and it turns out I actually drove for something like 720 miles. I’ve got a map, and everything, but since putting an image of the map onto the Internet would require Technical Skill, I can’t. No, really. Hardware I can footle about with, and DOS I’m still pretty hot on, but all this Internet stuff really isn’t my line of geekage. Sorry.]

Anyway, 720 miles. Although there weren’t floods this time. There were BNP rallies, and dual carriageways with inexplicable 40 mph speed limits in the Staffordshire moorlands, and there was an Audi doing 35 mph down a hill (why even buy an Audi then, guys? Why not just get a Ford Mondeo?), but there weren’t floods, so it was a step up on my first driving experience. But it was still really quite shockingly tiring.

That got compounded by Freshers Fair on Monday (back in the Sports cage, again, I see), where I was mostly standing up and waving bowls of sweets at Freshers. And, of course, 2nd and 3rd years. And, inexplicably, students wearing Penglais School sweaters. Uh, no. Kids, if you’re going to blag your way into places you shouldn’t be, and people are going to see you doing that, at least try and dress the part. I worked this out when I was 16. What’s wrong with you people? Also not looking like a beaten rabbit might help.

I got loads of free stuff. It was great.

However, it was also pretty tiring, and every night since, um, Sunday I’ve said to myself “I must get an early night and become Rested.” And every night it hasn’t happened.

This is partly because I wake at 07:30. I suspect, although I’m always too tired to remember to check, that the very first thing I do in the morning is realise the alarm is going off, and promptly swear. I’m fairly sure my eyes keep opening in the middle of some word or other, but I never seem to catch it.

From 07:30 until 08:45ish I’m mostly running on autopilot, I think, and then, as the day goes on, I run on Autopilot but with less and less energy, and more in the way of yawning, and frightening myself when I look in the mirror.

This peaks (or troughs, I guess) in a period of utter exhaustion around half past four, when my limbs get all sluggish and don’t fancy moving much. Then, for no reason at all, it gets to about 19:00 and I wake up. At that point I become fresh as a daisy until at least 23:00, and even if I start to get tired then, it’s more of a “Huh, I should sleep at some point, because I’ll probably be a bit worn out in the morning” than the proper “Seriously, I’m turning off now. Don’t bump into anything while I’m out. Love, brain.” that normally tries to nobble me around mid afternoon.

I’m not sure why this should be the case. I think there must come a point in my sleep cycle where my body decides that since I’m obviously never going to take its advice, it may as well just go with the flow until I finally come round to the idea of bed myself.

…Why it doesn’t act like that in the mornings, when I actually need to be up and doing, I honestly don’t know. But I wish it would.

On the plus side; ’tis nearly Saturday. I’m hoping I can manage to get a lie-in, on Saturday. Probably this will mean I wake up at 8, full of beans, and go and play some Call of Duty until noon. At which point I’ll find myself not only exhausted, but also unnable to have a nap for no obvious reason.

O well. Thursday afternoon. I think that means they’ve got me searching for the finis africae counting shelves up on F. Should be fun. :-)

* This one’s a bit harder than usual. Not just beer but a rare ‘JTA is impressed’ face if you cite it properly.

No Clever Title for me!

Well it’s been a busy couple of weeks. (I offer this mainly as a reason for why I’ve not managed to update anything, rather than as a warning that a massive post is on its way; you’re safe to continue reading!)

I’ve contrived to buy a car, and to drive it through some truly appalling weather, which was interesting, especially the bit in the middle of Stafford where I had a choice of drowning the exhaust or aquaplaning, whilst driving through a good foot and a half of water.

Still, the machine is still running, which is good. The sunroof has developed a leak, which is less good, although I can see how huddling in the carpark of Morrisons, Stone, with the rain so loud on the roof you can’t hear yourself speak might be a factor in that.

It feels very odd to get into the car and just go somewhere. Admittedly, so far I’ve only gone out to Morrisons, but even that felt peculiar, what with there only being me in the car.

On the plus side, there only being me in the car helps, because I’m still getting the hang of the difference in ‘feel between this new one and Mike’s, uhm. Corsa?

Anyway, I’m being incredibly boring, so I’ll shut up about that.

The reason I was out in the dreadful storm was because I went up and dug Annie out of Cheadle (which appeared to have some sort of a bookshop), and we (viz, Annie + my mother and sister) went to Gladstone. Any AGS people have a recollection of visiting it? I’m sure I went once before, back in the mists of time.

It was really fun. There were tasty savoury oatcakes (as opposed to the breakfast-with-syrup variety I’m used to in South Shropshire), and a light up model, and some toilets. And a gorgeous Sunburst-style deco washbasin. With the same taps as we have at home. And a set of bath taps, the same as we have at home. And a recipie for pobs [hard to find a good link for that].

This happens every time we go to a museum. Just once it would be nice to walk round all the exhibits without having to think “That’s not an antique, that’s our cake tin / jam pan / thing in the back shed. That’s what it does, is it?” But, then, I’d probably miss it, if it didn’t happen.

I made a pot. (Kinda. The Woman Who Pottered did quite a lot the work, with helpful explanations of why I had to do something different, to make sure I didn’t foul it up utterly.) I am quite pleased with it. They can’t afford to run the kilns, even with their pile of Free Coal which is sitting in the courtyard getting damp, but I have got hold of a really nice guy who works in the Arts Centre, and was completely unfazed by my phoning him up to ask if I can borrow his oven. He reckons I should go back after term starts, and put a glaze on it. Annie seems to think it will not explode in the kiln, so I shall try and take it up to the man on Monday, and I shall have a nice pot. Hooray!

Then, at some point many years from now, it will get dropped, or toppled or otherwise accidentally broke, and I can feel miserable about losing it. Sigh.*

Survived, as I said, the storm. Came back to Aber, by dint of giving Dan a lift, and seem to have had a very long week, mainly comprised of resolving to go to bed Early, and then doing nothing of the sort. Badminton was fun, however, and Statto and I got some topical news satire done, which is good.

I know there’s a whole other pile of things which have been going on, but I’m not sure I can remember what else I intended to blog about. I am not now going to York, so I am spared a completely stupidly long journey, and can do a mere stupidly long journey, instead.

EQ is now on a new server, but this should work anyway.

That seems like a broadly opportune point to hit the “publish”-y button. Although I notice, in saying that, that I have stopped using phrases like “marginally sensible” in favour of “broadly.” I am not sure if that is an improvement.

I am hungry. Poxy Llanbadarn and it’s poxy total lack of shops. I shall sulk at it.

* I include this observation because I think it provides a valuable insight into my psychological makeup, and the nature of the bulk of my fretting about everything. (Yes, I do normally trim these things out.)

“Pretty much spot on”…

…and other good ways for an optician to describe the glasses you’re wearing.

Buzzed over to D&A this morning (I say “buzzed;” I was there until the bank shut, which is going to slow everything down a bit). It seems there’s been some very minor shift in my left eye, but the difference is “less than half a lens” so it’s not actually worth changing my prescription. Win.

On the other hand, since they had a sale on, I’ve got some new glasses, because the frames on my normal ones are now three years old and getting a bit fatigued-looking. That and it’ll give me two pairs of glasses that have the anti-glare protection, which I anticipate being useful in the event that I get any insurance, ever. Which, to be fair, I will, it’ll just cost me lots.

It’s not the “costing lots” that I object to, per se, it’s more that the reason it costs lots is because they think I’ll use the car to get drunk and try and impress girls by doing dangerous things. I find that insulting; it’s like they think I’ve got to be 23 without realising that there are better ways to waste petrol than trying to make women fancy me. Pouring it down the drain, for instance, or into the water supply. Bah. I shall cough up nonetheless, and then fling the damn machine off the road when I fail, yet again, to tell my left from my right, I expect.

Anyway, I’m getting new glasses. More encouragingly, the optician woman seemed to think I was likely to stay on more or less the same prescription I have now for the forseeable future, which is a big step up from the last time I went and had lights shone at me.

I’m still finding work fun, and I’m still finding work tiring; come Thursday mornings I’m really having to struggle to get out of bed which, when I’ve got a reason to get up and start doing things, is unusual for me. I think, however, that I’ll get back into the swing of things relatively well; I’m still getting more sleep than I was when I was commuting from Wallingford, so I think it’s just a matter of adjusting to having a routine that revolves around more than “when the CoD4 servers are least busy.”

In other news, I was listening to, er, something, on the Radio yesterday, and caught a fabulous quote, viz:

“The Potteries, in the North of the West Midlands, are an unlikely setting for a revolution…”

Yes, that’s right, there’s never been a Revolution in the Midlands. All those integrated kilns and transport networks are just an example of a cottage industry that was allowed to get out of hand.

Well, it made me laugh. But then I had to slog though an entire Geography project on How The Industrial Revolution Changed The Area*. It seemed to involve a retail-cum-business park, but I could be remembering a different trip.

Ah well. On with the Weekend Tasks of Everything I Didn’t Do This Week…

*I didn’t actually do the project, I think I just handed in a few scrappy sheets of A4. But I was meant to do it, which is good enough for me.

Another weekend gone

But I have to say I’m enjoying the weekends a lot more now that they’re an interlude of time off, rather than just another part of the vast expanse of nothing that forms the bulk of my existence.

Of the five people I’ve spoken to on the phone this week, three have said how much more cheerful I’m sounding (and the other two aren’t people I speak to often enough for them to know how I normally sound anyway).

I discovered yesterday that my little tinny electonic alarm clock, which gets me out of bed by cunningly playing a very tinny, monotone, rendition of one bar of Lone Ranger-y finale bit of the William Tell overture until I stumble out of the duvet and thump it, doesn’t actually require re-setting. I’ve been dilligently making sure it’s primed to go off at 07:30 in the morning every time I’ve gone to bed this week, but it turns out that it automatically re-sets as soon as you hit the ‘off’ button.

That spoilt my plan to lie-in yesterday, but it did put me into a nice shallow sleep full of cool dreams about the Crimea, narrowboats and assorted awesomeness, so I forgive it for waking me on a Saturday.

So far this weekend I’ve had Yet Another Driving Lesson, in preparation for Another Driving Test on Wednesday (*sigh*). I’d really much preffer it if they’d just hurry up and give me a pink liscence now; I’ve been learning since 2004, and I know for a cast-iron fact I’m a damn sight better than some of the bloody clowns on the roads these days. Frankly, by this point, the question of whether or not I pass the test seems to be pretty much coming down to luck.

(F’rinstance, the reason I failed last time, on paper, was “Bad observation on a parallel park.” But the reason I displayed bad observation was that I was parallel parking after starting to move out from where I was pulled up to be told to parallel park, and paused while moving out, to let a cyclist go by in the opposite direction. Which meant I was very slightly on a wonk when level with the parallelising car. Ordinarily that’d not bother me, but since this was The Test I fretted over it1, and was thus gawping out of the back window like mad, trying to make it work out OK. That was Bad Observation, which was a definite fail. Although it would’ve also been just as Faily a Fail if I’d gone out and caused a nuisance to the bloody cyclist. I’m not trying to say I didn’t deserve to fail for the badness, I just think the fact there was badness was due more to chance events than a lack of technical comptence on my part. Actual competence, yes, but I knew what I was doing. It’s not my fault the hypothetical Boy Racer had to potentially slow down a bit.)

Well, ‘s give it another shot when we get to that, shall we? Although “Shot,” in the context of Penparcau might be an unfortunate choice of words.

This afternoon I’ve been doing further ironing whilst watching Firefly, which took me a mere two episodes, instead of last week’s four, so I seem to be speeding up as my arms remember what they have to do.

That doesn’t include the extra 30 minutes I spent trying to force the new ironing board cover to attach itself to the ironing board, though (Paul: we have a new ironing board cover, the old one was manky and wearing thin). Thank-you Woolworths, for your generously providing a one-size-fits-all that doesn’t until you take a Swiss Champ to the bugger (Paul: we have a new ironing board cover. Do not attempt to unpick the string binding it to the underside of the iron-rest. It’s a right pain to sew on with a Victorinox).

Meanwhile I’ve played through the whole of S101 [Link to S101 at Abandonia, a site where a large number of the screenshots seem to be from the Island of Horny Women. Hmm. A better link might be this one…], and am now started on S201, which, though I’ve been playing it for, hmm… *does maths* sixteen years I’ve only finished once, and now I can’t remember much of what to do.

O, and I’ve done all the washing up, although I’m about to create some more, unless I decide to just go hungry. That would be less effort in the long run, I suppose…

Still, given that I did pretty much zilch yesterday, and only really got round to Being Domestic today, I’m fairly pleased. I like having a structure to me life. Even if it does involve getting up at 07-30 and coming back home at 18-00 (and, actually, that’s a big step up on when I was commuting to Oxford, where I’d generally spend at least twelve hours from every day outside the house).

Going to go shower the bathroom in little bits of beard trimmings, now; trying to keep the thing to a respectable, summer-y length, rather than the usual “Neglected Russian Bear” I’ve been touting since October.

Apologies for the minor Meme spate yesterday; I was trying to write this, but it didn’t seem to be getting anywhere, at the time!

1. I do a splendid line in fretting. It is a measure of how concerned I was that I fretted over How The Park Would Go, rather than my more typical background frets of “What If a Plane Loses Its Engine Over Jordan Hill?”2

2. Yeah, an actual HTML-ed footnote for a change. Pretty snappy, eh reader? Doesn’t work in the LJ version, though. Lack of external linkage, presumably.


Well I appreciate that the first day in a new job is kinda like the First Day Of A New Year At Junior School, and you spend the whole time learning things like ‘Where the pencils are kept,’ and ‘Avoid Aaron Todd, or he’ll kick you and repeatedly bang your head against the wall,’ but, unrepresentative of a typical day though it was, that was pretty fun.

Met a whole host of people, whose names I don’t even being to recall, and discovered the Hugh Owen is even more labyrinthine than you might have thought it was; even my sense of direction was getting confused enough that I have to really think about where the lines on the map would go, but it’s all good. And I imagine most people won’t mind my going “Er…” at them until they’re good enough to tell me their name for the umpteenth time.

I think I’m mostly going to be hotdesking my way around the department, in a Jack-of-all-trades sort of way (I wanted to throw in a hyperlink to an article about the Stars! race style, Jack of All trades, there, but it turns out there isn’t one.) I’ve not done that before, so I’m a little worried that I’ll get myself mixed up, and lose track of where I’m supposed to be when, but I think that’s just early-day paranoia that’ll wear off once I actually get going.

I have a shiny new staff card, which is a good thing, and I’ve even photographed quite well, which tends to be a hit-and-miss thing, with me.

So, yeah, it’s all good. I am pleased. And, what’s more, in actual gainful employment, in an actual, proper library. There are books, and places the readers aren’t allowed to go, but I am, and everything. And everyone seems to be nice and friendly. Win!

Yeah, ‘s been a good day.

In other news, I just ran the CoD4 Cargo Ship CQD training mission in 16.7 seconds. That, for those of you out there who are Just Plain Weird, and don’t have much to do with computer games, is pretty damn fast.

And now I get a weekend. Rock!

I’m getting up in the morning

But it’s OK, because I’m going to be paid to do so (eventually; in the meantime I’m living on rice* so I can keep feeding the electricity meter).

Yes, tomorrow I return to the exalted ranks of the employed taxpayers (as opposed to the unemployed taxpayer, which is what I’ve been since October. It’s been a while.)

I’m not looking forward to continually walking up the Hill, mind; I reckon that’ll either be uncomfortably hot or wet and miserable, depending which season we’re in, and I’m not too great at moderating my speed; I tend to hack up the thing at pretty much ‘As fast as I can go,’ which means my calves start acheing like mad by Bronglais, but never mind.

I’m guessing I’ll get me a UWA email address again, which will be nice (although technically, I guess it will be my first ever UA email address, but that just sounds odd to me. I really ought to go to bed about now, and, indeed I’m just starting to feel tired (because I was up until 03:00 while a download finished this morning, so I’ve had something of a long day.)

I was going to get an early night, and be in bed by 22-00 this evening; that doesn’t seem to have worked out properly, I think because I’m just not used to that anymore. On the plus side, my sleeping patterns tend to iron out fairly neatly once I’ve got an actual routine to work with (the lack of a proper solid routine really got me down in the first few months after I left the Bod.) so I’m sure it’ll all be good.

Meanwhile, I think I’m just rambling, so I direct you to look at my shiny little favicon (LiveJournal users click here) which ought to be displaying in the title bar (if it isn’t, please do comment to that effect, and I shall swear at it). I downloaded it all by myself from those amazing people over at, y’know, the ones that make the amazingly funny semi-regular news satire and parody site, although since Statto is in Japan just at the minute, we’re not writing anything until he brings me back some Ghibli DVDs :-)

Anyway, I’m going to post this, finish up going “Ohhh!” [emph. on the h’s] to Nathan Fillion’s awesome entrance as Captain Hammer in Dr. Horrible, and shove off to bed.

Have fun!

*Not just rice, obviously, because then I’d die. The reason I’m living mainly on rice is because it’s cheap, so I can still buy meat, and thus get some actual Newtrition(TM) into my diet.

I like getting post!


Well, I mean I know that the week before last was teh awesomeness anyway, but guys. Man, I love selling things. Rock!

I have just recieved my cheque from the fab guys over at Campus Clothing, who, you’ll recall from my endless banging on about it, were paying me money to sell toptastic Graduation memorabilia to anyone and everyone who came past the stall.

I was getting paid, as I’ve said, a really decent rate of £55/day, which was nice, although, as I mentioned in this huge post it was pretty exhausting stuff, since I was up at the Arts Centre by 07-50 and not heading back down the Hill until somewhere between 18-30 and 19-00.

Still, it wasn’t a bad way to make just shy of three week’s rent, plus bonuses for having fun selling people things.

Anyway, I cavort merrily into Tangentia. My apologies.

I have just recieved my cheque. With the cheque is a letter, which runs after this fashion:

Cheque enclosed – thanks for all your help & we have paid you £67.00, not £55.00 day rate, to compensate for long days. Regards,
P.S. Bonus payments yet to be calculated.”

I’m up the better part of a further fifty quid. I am walking on air people; I can not only pay the rent, I can actually afford food, too! I love those guys.

My apologies to Charlie in the office downstairs for playing loud and celebratory Rammstein with a subwoofer right about his head. I am cheerful.

From old men to axe accidents : I’ve been keeping busy!

First things first: there’s now (at long last) an explanation of why this is called ElectricQuaker anyway. If you’re one of the ten or so that ever wondered about that, feel free to go have a read.

Admin over, let’s get this mammoth post done, shall we?

It’s been a hectic couple of weeks, if I’m honest, so it makes some sense for me to try and get everything written down, or I’ll only forget it all.

A good deed goes around the town
Way back on Monday the 14th of July I was keeping myself busy with a whole pile of things to do, most of which involved Being Domestic, which I’m still getting the hang of. Annie was due in by an afternoon train, so I was scurrying over towards Morrisons around noon, with the intention of getting some actual provisions before she turned up and got the impression I’d given up food until Lent, or something.

Anyway, I was just crossing the Taxi Rank when I realised there was an old chap in one of those odd little electric scooters struggling to get it up the pavement, and with a similarly old lady trying to give him a shove. I went over to see if they needed a hand (not, I have to say, without some reluctance, because people can be funny about you if you imply that they’re not coping with this) and it turned out the scooter was busted; the battery was full, but the power wasn’t getting to the wheels.

I ended up wheeling him down Cambrian Street, so he could leave his shopping with the woman, and then up Great Darkgate Street to his flat near the ship. I’ve never before realised how bloody steep Darkgate is. It’s uphill all the way!

The Ruins of Rhodesia
He was a really nice guy, happily, and was a policeman in Rhodesia (as it then was). He’d been out on patrol, with some of his fellow officers, looking for rebels in the jungle, I think, and he was driving the lead Land Rover and sent it over a landmine. Killed two of his friends and messed up his back so he can’t walk properly. They pensioned him off and he’s come over to Wales to retire. Fascinating chap to talk to; although he’s not at all pleased with the way the old country’s been going lately, which is understandable enough, when you consider that if he lost his legs in a bid to stop the populous getting gunned down and then some nutjob with a toothbrush ‘tash took over and is gunning ’em down without even the decency to sneak about and act ashamed of it.

Apparently back when we owned it there used to be tourist-garnering posters that read ‘Come to Rhodesia and see the ruins of Zimbabwe.’ After they got independence they changed the wording to ‘Come to Zimbabwe and see the ruins of Rhodesia,’ which, he pointed out, “Was bloody right.”

I really liked the guy; he honestly was a gentleman, and you don’t get many of them to the pound, these days. He tried to give me a fiver, and we had some little fencing of sensibilities where I was refusing to take money, and he said he’d feel better for having furnished me with a beer, but as it happened he didn’t have any cash on him, so everyone’s honour got satisfied by default, and we shook hands. Derek, I think his name may’ve been. Derek Cox? Not sure; I’m bad with names at the best of times, and it was a couple of week’s back.

It was exhausting work, if I’m honest, but it was nice to be on the giving end of some Aber Effect rather than just the bloke saying “Well that’s very nice of you, cheers!” (And I cashed in a whole bag of Karmic Points later, as we’ll come to presently). Anyway, whilst that did set me back by several hours, it all balanced out because Arrive made such a mess of the trains that Annie didn’t make it into town until the evening, anyway.

Gainful Employment
Tuesday the 15th was the first day of Graduation, which resulted in my alarm waking me up at ten to seven and chivvying me out of the airbed so I could take myself up the hill to work for Campus Clothing, which involved an exhausting ammount of standing up, and a lot of fun Selling Things (I really did like the Selling Things bit; quite appart from the fact that there are actually people out there who carry fifty pound notes in their pockets, every sale I made felt like I’d won, somehow. I don’t think I could do it full-time, because the only books involved are the nasty sort which require maths to be kept in line, but it was really good fun.

Cider and Conviviality
Limped back down the hill in the evening, and then everything goes into a blur for several days, because it’s been a couple of weeks now, and I’m not quite sure what happened when. But there were at least two days of getting rid of the mammoth beer stockpile, and on another evening Annie Soup-From-A-Stone-d me into cooking a pasta sauce (‘Can you just chop the onions?’ and ‘Some mushrooms would really help this sauce’ and ‘If you just fry the mince I’ll see if you have any stock cubes which would help the flavour…’).

Matt and Paul seemed to spend a lot of time about the place, which was nice, and helped contribute to the speedy demolition of the Beer Stockpile, and there was some good Playing Classical Music At Two In The Morning, which I’ve always meant to do, but which is easier with people shouting out requests. And I’ve finally learnt the name of Night on Bald Mountain, which ought to save me asking Ruth what it is every single time I hear the damn thing, which is almost certainly a Good Thing.

Striding to the Soundtrack
Less of a Good Thing was the habit I developed of staying up until the small hours of the morning and then forcing myself out of a nice warm sleep as soon as the alarm began to bleat at me, but it turns out I do a damn good line in Willpower when I need to, and I was actually in the Arts Centre by the appointed hour every day. Go me, huh? I confess to only making it up the hill with the help of a very loud song on loop from my Zen, and that I do remember, because it went something like

Tuesday: ‘Myzsterious Mizter Jones,’ — Slade (with clearer audio & a plain background here)
Wednesday: ‘Protect & Survive,’ — Runrig (This version has much clearer audio, but static saltire instead of the actual video).
Thursday: ‘This Darkest Winter,’ –Runrig again. (I’ve worked to it for a decade or more, I can have ’em twice! Fuzzy audio, I’m afraid, but the kickass lyrics are over here.)
Friday: ‘Hell March,’ — Red Alert (I suspect you can establish how tired I was from the extent of my need for hefty marching tunes. Hell March is the only thing to have ever got me from the Bodleian to St Aldates in under five minutes. Damn fine march.)

Anyway, I wasn’t just soundtracking myself; I was also selling things like crazy, with occasional breaks to go off and try and photocopy my expenses slip (in the process of which, I lost a tenner, because the machine ate it, and the people at the Issue Desk in Hugh Owen were not pleased when it transpired that I didn’t have (with me) my written permission from Ruth that I could use her card. Awkwardness. Also, dammnit, that was my tenner, that was!)

We sold out of all of the things we were attempting to sell, and got a lot of mail orders in, to save people from having to be dissapointed, so I’m anticipating some species of bonus from that. Mind you, the basic cheque would be nice; I think Charlie is due some more rent today and, whilst I can lay the money out, it would be nice to watch it coming straight back in again!

Commodore Cinema: Because you can only watch one screen at once, anyway.
Saw The Incredible Hulk at the Commodore, which was fun (and dear God, I loved that ending!), so thanks, again, to Paul for not only reserving us some seats, but also for showing us the projection engine and the telephone. I shall come and see that film that has a live-action arrow storm as a thank-you.

Annie didn’t leave on Friday as previously planned. I wasn’t actually there at the time, but there was something about Paul and Matt ambushing the train as the level crossing in Llanbadarn and hauling Annie off, and stealing all the US Mail, and things. Or, at least, that was what Paul’s text contrived to imply, so once we were done taking mail orders and the last of the graduates had dissapated Carrie got Rhys and I to pack away the stall, and I came back down to the Uberflat, and Paul made me a cup of tea that promptly went cold whilst I bemused every girl in every chemist in town looking for some hair dye that doesn’t exist in Wales.

There was hair dyeing, and ratatouille, and considerably more drink. And Matt somehow put a huge dent in my bottle of whisky, but I did say he was allowed, so that’s OK. The bath is not purple, either, so it is All Good.

Come Saturday the 19th of July, however, pretty much everyone was due to be leaving, and I was up early (yet again. I swear I don’t know how I manage it) to pack, ready for the Hour of Leaving, at 09:30.

I think we actually got away at a little after 11, or possibly 12. By that point I was also carrying a vast saucepan, srtapped to the back of the rucksack, and a monitor, whose cables I forgot to untie until Dan actually turned up, leading to some infuriating last-minute banging my head against the underside of the desk, and trying to work out what went to the monitor, and what went to the old SVGA CRT that lives under my desk, and has, of course, exactly the same connector, when they’ve both been disconnected from a tower and are lolling about on the floor and getting one another in knots. Never attempt to untie technical goods in a rush; it just leads to undignified grunting and periodic curses.

I got fairly well jammed into the back of Claire’s car, which, though God knows how, actually had the power to haul everything we’d loaded into it, and then I went to sleep, which is my ususal strategy for preventing travel sickness, and which does, actually, work pretty well (although it does require a talent for sleeping pretty much anywhere, which I sometimes worry I am losing, but which seems to be sticking with me so far.)

Arrival in Cumbria
We made fairly good progress up to Cumbria, although I think Ruth would’ve preferred it if she could’ve slightly fewer hours attempting to entertain herself with the scant supply of entertainment provided by Penrith while we slogged up the M6 and dumped the contents of the car at the cottage in Mauld’s Meaburn and left Dan to work out how to turn the electricty on, and build a computer network for the code that was due to get hacked up over the week.

On the way along the A66, on one of the Dual Carriageway bits just after Temple Sowerby, we spotted a small child’s bicycle lying in the right hand lane. Slap bang in the middle of the carriageway. It was very surreal; I half expected Ogri to wheelie over it and yell “Oi!” at some deadhead in a Volvo…

Anyway, we pulled over in a convenient layby, and I got to use one of the Emergency Phones. 62B, it may’ve been. Very friendly woman on the other end, who didn’t seem cross that I wasn’t actually broken down, and she said that they’d send someone out to shift it, which can only have been a good thing.

We collected Ruth outside Penrith station, where she was standing and looking fed up with the whole damn dorp, and made our way to Morrisons to provision up (for there is, of course, no shop in Maulds Meaburn).

No, knot my thumb!
We’d all settled in fine, by Sunday morning, and had even got the Rayburn working (I, as a Hadley lad, had something in the way of an affinity with the thing, which pleased me, and it was good to be working with an actual fire again; ‘s been too long!)

By Sunday morning, however, the fire in the Rayburn was out, which I’d expected to be the case, having damped it down the night before, and so I was attempting, with the aid of a small hatchet, to create some post-kindling sticks from some seasoned offcuts of pine planking (which I’m sure you know are the kind of thing you need once you’ve got the actual wood alight, and before you start to throw in big logs and coal).

All was going well. Basically a standard “You begin chopping wood with your axe. You cut off some dry firewood” repetition. And then things went kinda wrong, viz:

“You continue chopping wood with your axe. But wait! There’s a knot in the wood! The axe bounces! The axe hits you! You drive the axe into your thumb!”

Happily, and presumably as a direct trade-off against all that positive karma I mentioned stockpiling over the previous six days (which, let’s face it, was certainly worth a thumb, and probably a limb or two) the hatchet slammed into my thumbnail which, being a tough bugger, deflected the angle of the blade such that, instead of going clean through to the bone, I cut the fleshy tip of my thumb off, and missed all the major veins.

Panicked Ruth by stumbling inside, with my thumb in my mouth, mumbling through the blood, and with a great splodge of gore on my shoe, and going upstairs to get some toilet paper whilst refusing to tell her what was wrong (which, in retrospect, is the kind of thing that would make you think things were very seriously amiss). Tom, it turns out, doesn’t really believe in first aid kits, but he did have bootlaces, so I caught hold of one of those and Claire tied a tourniquet round it, as they tend to ask you not to do, nowadays, and that reduced the pulsing spurts of blood enough to get some healing going on.

Cue the tea, svp
Once the immediate bleeding had got sorted out I came down with the shakes and, for some reason, stayed pretty whacked out of it for the next few days, which was a pain. Although the fact I kept nodding off in the middle of the afternoon could also have been because of all the Not Sleep and Not Sitting I’d put in whilst selling things to Graduates, I guess.

Anyway, Ruth gave me some sugary tea, which fixed the shock reaction by politely pointing out that the British don’t kick up a fuss over trivialities like barely-missed mutilations, and we all piled into the car and went to Appleby in search of a chemist with a bandage.

Morrisions inexplicably comes up with the Goods
Appleby, however, is a town of decent, law-abiding citizens, many of whom were playing bowls when we arrived, and the chemist was consequently closed, because it was a Sunday. So we went back to Morrisons in Penrith instead, and a lovely woman called Geraldine patched me up, and the chemist came over and, upon being told “I did it cutting firewood,” replied, brilliantly, “Ah, yes. Well, we’ve all done it,” as if it was the most common injury in the world. (And, to be fair, you can see how it could, at least, be the most common injury in Cumbria…)

They gave me a nice packet of painkillers, as well as the usual stuff like tubular bandages and melanin pads, and things and so I was able to keep out infection and still make myself useful by sorting out the fires, and things (although Ruth hid the hatchet, and, as it happened, there was a whole bag full of just the kind of wood I’d been attempting to create, hidden away in a cupboard. Hey ho.)

Everything Else
[At the time of writing, it’s close on one in the morning, and I didn’t get too much sleep last night, either, so I find I am losing the will to add to the 2,800 words I’m told I’ve already got down on paper. Not much happened for the rest of the week, anyway…]

I’ve been learning some Ruby, and can now puts things like a demon. A demon who’s got a definite feeling that there ought to be more to coding than that, sure, but a demon nonetheless. Who knows, I might get beyond the ‘Writing a sarky DOS prompt’ stage that I managed with QBasic. Shall have to see, would probably be good to do something useful!

I do think more things may’ve happened, and there was a fascinating return journey that involved mountains and cliffs and a lot of running on petrol fumes, but I think that can wait until I’m not faced with a paltry six hours sleep! This has gone on quite long enough already; I’m sure most of the Internet doesn’t have this kind of attention span, anyway!

Dan, indidentally, has photos of the injuries, and things. I suggest the rubberneckers amongst you apply to him!

Am about to attempt to tag things. Hm. Wish me luck!


Wot? No extra credit?

So, aye, I had me a driving test on Wednesday. An actual proper driving test, not just a common-or-garden DSA Driving Theory Test.

All things considered, it went very well, apart from the bit where I got a Serious Fault and failed. O, and apart from stalling the bastard machine turning right at the top of Mill Street three minutes in, but that wasn’t really a big deal.

The man made me do an Emergency Stop, which, to be fair, is not a maneuver I object to. Doing it on a one-in-four gradient, mind, is something I’ve never had to do before. I think that deserves extra credit.*


I am booked in for YAST in about a month.

Meantime, however, I have finally been given a cheque for compensation after some crazy woman slammed into the back of my mother’s car, shortly after she’d collected me from the train station in Telford, on the 22nd of December 2006, and gave us a whole bundle of painful whiplash. (She got out of the car and said “I’m so sorry, I was thinking about the shopping.” I notice she got a poxy driving license. *sulk, sulk*)

Still, a year and a half is a pretty good response time for an accident settlement, at least, as far as I can tell. And I had to do less of the bleedin’ legwork this time round, so it is all good.

Charlie, the guy who takes care of my mother’s car, and who saved my life when a five-year-old proto-JTA stood on the drive and tried to choke to death on a softmint, has managed to find a reasonable species of car, so it looks like I can actually buy a vehicle with my getting-crashed-into money, which I like. I’ll have to register it off-road, of course, until such a time as I manage to take a test that doesn’t involve being asked to do a parallel park, but at least it’ll be there when I need it.

Other news… Not much, really. I shall presently be spending less time in Trefachan, which is good. I shall shortly be spending an awful lot of time standing up behind a desk full of awesome merchandise, though, so if any of you Class of 2008 types get to read this on Abnib (unless it’s still broken come the 19th, of course) then do check out the Campus Clothing Website and encourage such relatives as you might have coming to stump up some cash for the goods.

The reasons you ought to do so are First, because it’s a comfy keepsake, which is rare in an age of Dresden Sheperdesses.
Secondly, that all the products come with your name on them, very small, and you can see all your friend’s names, too.
And, Thirdly — which perhaps I ought to have mentioned earlier — because I get a bonus if we sell everything.

On the other hand, I shall be working something like proper eight-hour days, and my sleeping pattern appears to be busted, at present. I flag until I take coffee at 20:00, and then I can’t bring myself to feel tired until gone two in the morning.

Happily, I suspect that a good constitutional hammering of the “up at 07:00, out at half-past, home by 19:00” variety ought to sink any notion of not being sleepy by lighting up time and, co-incidentally, quadruple sales of Red Bull in the Union Shop.

For now, however, I need to go make myself a camomile tea, and catch up with what the World Service is doing. (Good news about Metropolis, wasn’t it? Caught that on the 02:30 news last week.)

* If that sounds familiar it’s because I’ve been banging on about it at every opportunity since Wednesday. Sorry.

Le-gen- … wait for it…

Hooray! I’m going to be a Librarian again! It’s all coming up Millhouse! [Incidentally, if someone can tell me precisely what Simpsons episode that quote is from, I’d be grateful, because otherwise not knowing is going to send me mental]

OK, well technically I don’t start until the 1st of August, but I reckon I can subsist until then.

I almost feel like I ought to be talking more about it, and how ace it is, but I don’t know that there’s especially much to say… Although I am planning to see if I can get my second ever hangover tomorrow morning (Yes, I have indeed bought champagne. Win!)

Other than that, well, not much, really. I’m stupidly tired, but that’s entirely my own fault for not going to sleep until the World Service was merrily entering it’s “Closedown for Radio 4” phase on Longwave, so I’m not going to be so ungracious as to complain.

And, hey, why complain? Life is rockin’!

I wasn’t actually until I left the Bodleian that I realised I really want to be a librarian. I mean, you’d think I’d have got the hint after spending all of my lower school career in the library (partly because I had not friends, and mostly because I did that Library Assistant Traning Scheme Level 2 – still got the certificate, thank-you Mrs. K), and then work exeprience there, too… But I’m notoriously bad at reading the signs of subtle things like that, as I’m sure Ruth and Claire will tell you, with strong moderations of frustration every time…

Huzzah! All is shiny, and I am feeling cheerful! And, inexplicably, looking forward to the rugby on Saturday (I still have no idea what that’s about, but never mind. Anyway, Wales vs Italy was just funny.

So, yeah. I’m a librarian again! Awesome!

… -dary!

(I actually wrote this on Saturday)

Well since my choices, just at the moment, appear to be “further bloody packing” or “draft blogpost” I thought I’d go with the latter. And, yes, I know I’m kinda running three months ahead of the curve, here, but I thought I’d lash up a quick retrospective on the last twelve months or so, which is more or less the time since I moved down to Wallingford.

Wallingford is a really nice town; it’s got a lot of the “proper” English town feel to it, which I’d previously assumed still existed everywhere, and which got me really depressed when I realised that, actually, no, everywhere’s either conglomerated and horrible, like every town in Telford, and their soulless repetitions of Woolies, Aldi and First International MegaBankCo (formerly Local Market Friendly Society, LTD) .

Wallingford’s a bit better than that. It’s got a Waitrose (and dear God I am going to miss Waitrose when I’m back in Aber. (Quite apart from selling absolutely everything, at a moderately viable selection of prices, they contrive to have the largest collection of ‘Female till staff qualifying for the adjectives ‘young’ and ‘nubile’ that I’ve ever seen in any shop, ever, which really takes the aggravation out of queuing for twenty minutes while the old lady in front of you buys a bottle of gin with pennies…)

But, in addition to Waitrose, we’ve got a really strong local choir, which kept Ruth busy, a bunch of bell-ringers who were all very cool and friendly, a Pizza Express that Dan and Claire got us more or less kicked out of (In that we were in the back bit, and they started saying, in loud and pointed tones, “Should we shut the back now?”), a brilliant dude in Threshers, who never seemed to mind when we went in and asked for help picking white wine (“What are you looking for?” “Well, crisp, dry and refreshing, really…”) and my favourite bus company in the world, ever, Thames Travel.

Thames Travel, alone out of every bus company I have ever travelled with, have, to my knowledge, never been more than three minutes behind schedule. Except once. And, on that occasion, Ruth and I spent the entire delay saying how amazed we were that the bus hadn’t come yet, and wasn’t that weird, perhaps there’d been an accident and they’d had to shut a road?

(This is in incredibly stark contrast to Stagecoach in Oxford, who are the only bus company I have ever used where, when you stick your hand out to flag down the bus, the driver stops, opens the doors and then, as soon as you are on the bus, says [and I’m not making this up] says, in sarcastic tones, “O, thank you very much for making me stop. I’m really going to get into town on time now. I’m running late already, you know!” – Which, of course, held us up even longer, because I was so preoccupied trying to work out if he could have really just had a go at someone for using his company’s shoddy late service that I didn’t bother to tell him where I wanted to go, and asked him to repeat himself instead. But I’m going off on a tangent again. Sorry.)

Wallingford also possesses the Corn Exchange, a great little theatre-cum-cinema, owned by the local Am Drams, the Sinodun Players (Who also mostly comprise the local Choir, and every extra in the background of a Midsommer Murders ever), with whom I did Panto for the most exhausting January my life has ever compassed.

The only problem I have with Wallingford, really, is it’s terminal shortage of anyone I care about, beyond the people in the house. Caro and Jerry are great people, and frequently very fun to be with, and I’m very fond of them, and, of course, Ruth, when she was here (as opposed to hiding in Norfolk) has an amazing talent for making everything seem better… Beyond that, though, I don’t really know anyone. I know that my amazingly well paid boss (in contrast to me, at least) lives round here somewhere, because she’s caught the bus with me a few times, and I’ve always assumed that if she wanted to have anything to do with me outside work, she’d make the approach, and have thus treated her more or less like everyone else on the bus, ie, I’ll smile if we happen to meet each other’s eyes, but otherwise I’ll not attempt contact.

I know a few people vaguely from Panto, but not very well; I’ve had a few proper conversations with them, as well, but I don’t really have any actual friends down here. I think that’s party why I started to hate my job back in November (The main reason, however, was that I kept making really stupid errors – due, as it eventually turned out, to the fact my glasses were actually working against my eyes, which probably only I could manage – and Gail, who was supervising me, got increasing impatient and voluble in her criticism of me, which made me incredibly reluctant to interact with anyone in the office, ever. [If, as seems amazingly unlikely, Debbie Hazel is reading this from somewhere in Canada, I’m sorry I didn’t have the guts to go to your leaving party; I didn’t realise it was happening until everyone else was already there, and I didn’t have the courage to walk into a room full of people who spent about five hours a week listening to me getting called thick and incompetent. It wasn’t personal, and I’m sorry if you thought it was]).

Anyway, back in November, when all the bad stuff was going on, Gail (fairly reasonably, as assumptions go) decided that the reason I was making errors was because I’d periodically tab into IRC, and see what the Aber people were saying. She promptly forbade me to go anywhere near the thing, which had two effects: firstly, my productivity went absolutely down the tubes, because work ceased to feature anything remotely approximating to light relief, and secondly my alertness fell to nothing, as well, because I stopped drinking coffee in my coffee breaks, and instead used them to catch up on scrollback and say hello to anyone about at the time. That was unfortunate, but I got over it in the end, and sacrificed large bundles of flexitime to take two-hour IRC-laden lunches instead.

It’s only now, thinking back, that I realise I was actually really lonely. How weird. I don’t really remember being lonely ever before, although I must have been because when, years ago, people who didn’t like me at school demanded to know who my friends were, I listed names of people I’d been at primary school with, and hadn’t, in fact, spoken to for ages [which I did, of course, because I didn’t have any friends. I used to sit in the Library and read Jennings and Molesworth]. Also, a memory has just surfaced of me faking a couple of signatures on the cast I got when Tom Perry broke my wrist, which is literally pathetic… Well, anyway, it doesn’t matter now, because I’ll be coming back to Aber – brilliantly described by Ruth’s smarmy kid brother Robin as “Ah, Aber! Land of plenty!” – in a few days, and everything will be better.

I think, on balance, I like my job, even if it’s ruined my eyesight [I used to loathe the idea of glasses. It is probably very fortunate that I happened to first need them at the same time as we were all watching Evangelion, and I suddenly realised glasses could look cool (providing you can get the light to bounce off them so nobody ever sees your eyes…). The only real quibble I have with them is the way they seem to get laden with smears even when I’m really careful not to touch the lenses. And I do like the people in the office, and I’ll miss the crazy politics, and the almost stereotypically mental decisions of upper management (my favourite ever was the one that said “Will all staff please not that being unable to attend work as a result of the recent heavy snow is unacceptable…”) I think I could grow to like working in an office…

So, really, it will be strange, I think, to be leaving. It will, however, be brilliant to have the Uberflat, and some actual space to ourselves, where we can loll on the sofa and eat TV dinners if the mood takes us, without displacing Caro and Jerry’s desire to watch the West Wing (I still think I could really grow to like that show, but I’ve no desire to start watching it from the middle of series five, I’d be horribly confused!)

And it will be good to be living with Paul, I think (our last attempt to do anything of the sort got kyboshed by the Porters, and then Elaine Watkin forbade him to live at Hafan, with the words “I know Paul very well, and I’m very fond of him, but he never listens to a word I say, so I’m telling you: if you have this accommodation, Paul is not allowed to sleep there, understood?”).

I’m looking forward to Troma and Geek Nights, as well, and, well… everything. Except for the bit where I cease to have a) a job, and b) a thousand pounds paid into the bank every month. That’s going to take some adjustment, I think. Also, faintly tragically, looking forward to buying furnishings and things for said Uberflat and generally making it “ours,” rather than “random cool-looking flat I looked round once, for ten minutes.”

Of course, first I have to finish packing, and I can’t properly do that until Friday morning (Once everything else is loaded into the van, I can pack up the computer and stow that, as well). Current plan is to leave Wallingford by 10:00 at the latest, swing, incredibly briefly by Newport, to load up whatever the Hell it is from Hafan that’s left in the entry (and the proper speakers for the computer, and possibly the SVGA monitor for the DOS box, which, I guess, the Rev will take to Aber in November, if not before) and then be away from Shropshire by 15:00. So I should be back by the evening on the 28th, barring accidents (yes, I have used my last remaining day of holiday to go home a lone day earlier than previously planned. Shut up.)

It’s been a great year, it has. It’s just some of the really best bits (the Real Ale Ramble, the narrowboat holiday, Cropredy, Edinburgh, and so on, have all been bits that didn’t happen actually here. Mostly what’s happened here is that I’ve commuted, learned to sleep on buses without fearing for my actual physical safety like I used to, and counted down the days until I get paid again. It’s not been unpleasant, but it’s been very tiring and the payoff hasn’t always been grand. I think as long as I can get something to keep the money coming in, I’ll be happier in Aber.

Bring it on, then, y’buggers. Bring it on…