take one woman with low self esteem, but quite good hair
add one moronic illness
stir in some medication which causes hair to fall out
mix it all up and this is what you get...

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Girly swot 

"Did J tell you what N said about you?" my Manager asked me, quite out of the blue and rather enigmatically, as is his "style".

"Um... no..." I furrowed, slightly concerned. "Wh-what did he say?"

He gave a wry smile.

"I'll forward you the email," and with that, he scuttled back to his "pod".

When his email appeared in my inbox, the subject line was simply "Anx". My hand was trembling slightly and I could feel a prickly heat rising to my cheeks as I moused over the bold lettering, gearing up for the double-click.

I'd had a meeting with N (a senior manager in the user community) the day before, to discuss requirements for a system I'm designing singlehandedly. With only a sketchy, verbal brief from J (my immediate superior), lots of delving around an unknown system and only a couple of weeks in the job, I'd spent some considerable time preparing prototype screen shots and made sure to put my "listening hat" on for the meeting. As a newbie, I wanted to make sure I got it right.

After a productive discussion with N and his colleague, I'd come away from the meeting with a clear idea of how to proceed, and translated this into a detailed requirements spec.

Eager to please - sometimes pathetically so - I was especially curious to find out what N had thought.

I took a deep breath, and double-clicked it open.
From: Manager
To: Anx
Subject: Anx

Well done!

From: J
To: Manager
Subject: Anx

For your info, I spoke to N this morning who made comments like "Where did you get Anx from?" "I'm well impressed" "I think you've taken on a good one there".

So it looks like she's making a good start!


Whilst recognising my eternal, internal desire for a life less corporate, it is nice to know that I can still do my day job, and do it well.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Would that the crow flew 

I live about four miles away from my office, as the crow flies.

If there were a crow big enough to support my not-insubstantial weight, hitching a ride to work would be quick and efficient - if a little unusual in transport terms. Alas, we do not live in such a world where stygian, carrion-eatering harbingers of doom provide green transport for us eco-wannabe commuters. More's the pity.

Our offices were built at a time when "out of town" and "good road links" were perceived as positive factors. On a business park, two miles from the nearest station, nowhere near town, local shops or anything remotely useful, we are stranded in our own little corporate universe.

"Good road links" are all well and good, but when whoever planned the building in the first place grossly underestimated the required parking capacity, you end up as we do: sharing one space between three employees. Others risk the wrath of the local residents, parking on the surrounding housing estate. None too pleased with the influx of corporate drones clogging up their streets, some residents have resorted to vandalism in an attempt to deter the clamouring commuters.

Recognising the severity of the problem, the company provides a secure, monitored "park and ride" facility nearby, with a regular, chartered bus service in the mornings and evenings to ferry the bleary-eyed commuters from car to office, office to car. A reasonable solution, though many would rather run the risk of punctured tyres or scratched bodywork than be separated from their precious cars.

Then there's the traffic. You'd have thought, wouldn't you, that since I'm travelling out of the city, I would not have to contend with traffic. I thought it too, but I was wrong. Even given my "secret knowledge of backroads" of Southampton, I still always manage to stumble upon a bottleneck somewhere along the way. In fact, it takes me around the same amount of time to drive those four miles as it used to take me to drive the twenty from [town in the West Country where I lived] to [town in the West Country where I worked].

Having been spoiled at previous jobs by being able to walk to work, I find it most uncivilised having to drive. Not to mention unhealthy, carbon-footprinty and stressful, especially on those days when I park in the "park and ride" and have to co-ordinate my time of arrival with the regular (yet not as frequent as one would like) bus service.

So I spend much of my time working out ways of getting to work which do not involve driving...

Yes, admittedly, the most logical solution is so clearly to cycle. In fact, I'd rather like to. Helpfully, there are off-road cycle lanes along much of the route and showers available at work. But there is one rather big problem with that. One rather big problem who goes by the name of Big. Those of you more recent readers are probably not aware that, when Big was 13 years old, his dad was killed in a cycling accident, while cycling to work in Manchester. For his own peace of mind, he has respectfully asked me not to cycle to work, and I have respectfully agreed. And there is nothing more to be said about that.

There are two buses which stop a short walk from the office building. However, in order to take either of these buses, I must walk for almost a mile from my home to the bus stop. It takes me fifty minutes, door to door, to travel those four miles by bus.

I live just five minutes' walk from the Central train station. There are frequent services which can get me to the station nearest to the office building in less than ten minutes, but I am still a two-mile walk away from the office itself. With no useful bus service from the station, again, we're talking about a fifty minute journey door to door.

As preposterous as it may sound, I have even considered running to work. Four miles used to be a short run in my long-distance repertoire. Not nowadays, of course (although I am run-walking again with my old Southampton running pal, who is just returning from injury).

Walking. Four miles. Morning and night. That's just crazy talk, isn't it? Yep.

Car sharing - yes. I have even identified someone who lives just up the road from me. After his initial excitement at the thought of halving his fuel bills and being able to park on site two days out of every three, he has gone all non-committal on me.

These factors, together with my inherent laziness, mean that, despite my strong feelings on the subject, I find myself guiltily bundling myself and my MP3 player into the car each morning, alone.

But, readers, I have a plan.

I will approach the staff council. I will ask them to consider a "train and ride" scheme, providing chartered bus services to and from the two stations in the area. I will ask them to provide a car-sharing forum on the intranet, so that those who wish to pool their resources can find other, like-minded individuals.

And then I will find out whether there is anyone else out of the 700-odd who work in that building who gives a damn.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008