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David's diary: August 2006

Mmm, barbecue for two last night! We simultaneously had the same idea yesterday afternoon, but Katy managed to get the suggestion out just before I did upon my prompt return from work. So: marinated chicken breasts, with cheese and garlic mushrooms, corn on the cob and mixed veg skewers, plus a garlic and rosemary flat-bread done in the oven. Bit windier and chillier out than of late, but still nice to sit in the garden and munch such fine food in such fine company!

So I should be getting this next bit of short-term work today, and be able to politely tell anyone else where to go if they want me to be their lackey. It's typical of the organisation on the project that I was supposed to be working on at the moment: they were warned by my line manager that if anything else came up while they were pulling their collective finger out, their work would have to play second fiddle, and it's looking like that's now happened twice... I gather there may be some progress with that tomorrow, when someone returns from leave, but by then I expect to be wholly occupied with this latest work.

Although I've been none too enthusiastic about taking up other permanent (or at least longer-term) roles that have been offered to me, mainly because they would have involved working in substantially different places or using skills I simply don't have, I do like to think I've shown a reasonably "can do" attitude with regard to these shorter-term kinds of task that have all been based here, where I initially chose to work last summer. I've not always found these tasks at all enjoyable, often feeling I've been dumped with the work that no-one else wants, but I think it's generally keeping me in the good books internally. That is to say, that my obstinacy in not committing to completely change my role is balanced out by my flexibility and adaptability, and despite everything, I am assured that no matter how grumpy I sometimes get, my work is appreciated.

Interesting to see BT's newly announced "slashed prices", and that they are so clearly trying to push people towards bundles. First off, there are only token price drops for anyone on their most basic package, and indeed prices are in fact stealthily perhaps even rising for them: after the victory many years ago now when BT finally moved over to per-second billing (having previously charged 5 pence for any part of an amount of time dependent on the recipient and time of day), they're taking the backward step of charging many calls per minute or part thereof - and rounding up, obviously. Obviously they are seeing paying for individual calls as a thing of the past, so making it as undesirable a thing as possible. Though I suspect the resulting increasing bills will be too subtle to really persuade customers to subscribe to Options 2 and 3 in their droves, yet hardly provide BT with massive extra revenue, so not quite sure of the point.

Are "phishing" scams really as lucrative as the press makes out? I mean, I look at my personal email inbox, and out of the four messages, one claims to be from the Halifax, one from the NatWest and one from the Bank of Scotland. Are there really people who would see a list of messages like that, read down to the one that relates to an account they actually have and act upon it, not noticing how appalling the English is? I suppose maybe the first message of its type that someone receives might look a bit more compelling, but when you are as likely to get messages purporting to be from half way round the world as from even your own country let alone your own bank, I really can't see how any more than a fraction of a percent of users could be taken in. Yet statistics suggest that one in twenty Britons admitted to having lost out to phishers in 2005 alone - and given how quickly the rogue sites in question get taken down, for that many people to have actually lost money suggests an awful lot more could have been taken in but were mercifully stopped in their tracks. But I guess while I still occasionally get chain mails from intelligent people genuinely deluded that their clicking "forward" will help a dying child or bring good luck, I continue to underestimate just how gullible so many new to the internet sadly are.

So today's the day our terror threat scale goes public, in its new "simplified" form. A far cry from the day when I saw a coded alert level at an airbase, and asked an RAF friend what it meant. Naturally, he could have told me, but would have had to kill me - but suggested it meant a lot of people were accidentally dropping their keys when they returned to their cars in the evening. In those days it was the IRA who were the object of our concern, not a vague ideology.

But what of this simplification? We've lost the "negligible" level: never good to totally ignore the threat, eh, especially as we continue to breed hatred in the rest of the world. And the "severe general" and "severe defined" levels have been merged: hey, now they don't have to admit how specific a threat may be, and can let the whole nation tremble on the grounds of idle speculation or mere hearsay. Well, it's worked in America to soften it up for a future under manufactured fear, so why not here too? Our current status: yep, it's "severe".

Three quarters of an hour to go (assuming I stay until the bitter end) and no word whatsoever on this (or any other) work. It looks like the person handing it over is off today too (so often the way with illness, alas), which is quite understandable - though it might have been nice to communicate it better. But hey, it's hardly the worst situation I've been in here, so I'm not grumbling too much. We've had our office rearrangement formally announced today, with me moving upstairs again in a week and a half's time, and perhaps finding myself working alongside people slightly more relevant to the work I'm notionally doing. Yes, that last bit is the only problem; it's all very well organising us into teams, when it's by no means clear which of those teams (if any) I'm in... But, assuming I will largely be doing the kind of stuff I've had, on and off, over the last few months (this latest work not remotely included), it will be good to be a bit more "in the thick of it". For two months after I joined, I was pretty much hot-desking, and my eventual destination (i.e. about the only free desk in the building) was significantly separated from anyone I needed to collaborate with. I've generally got on with my co-workers, but it can only be beneficial to be working alongside people a bit more related to my own role!

So, by all rights, today's about the day that everyone should be falling at my feet, clamouring for my technical services. Two internal short-term things and of course one external one by now too. And the reality: diddly squat so far.

Vaguely amused to see my could-have-been employers from this time last year are still at least claiming to be in business. It looks like they're still flogging much the same software (with the same bold claims) as they bought in from the company before as a stopgap measure. If they hadn't vanished on me when it came to paying up for the work I did, their story might have been quite different. So yes, I know what they're called and where they are now, so could hassle them again, but like my shafting by key persons at the OU more than a year before, there does come a point where no matter how much wrong has been done it's time to move on and accept that sometimes life simply does suck and there's really not much that you can do about it without causing more stress than it's worth.

Nice evening with Graham and Nicola last night though, giving them a bit of a break from their preparing to move house - for just a few months before they go to work overseas for a charity! Now there's a couple who're managing to break free from life's drudgery, but who will still be able to apply the skills they have worked so hard to acquire. Shame I'm not quite such a visionary really.

So James Blunt is officially one of the most annoying things in the UK, beaten only by cold callers, caravans and queue-jumpers. Yet still he seems to retain popularity and critical acclaim, irritatingly whining his way to award after award. He has the gall to tell his critics to change channels if they don't like his songs, when we know from experience that usually means having to put up with the Pussycat Dolls or similar obnoxious tripe that rates barely less annoying if you ask me. Amongst things the survey found less irritating than the tiresome former soldier were traffic wardens, tailgaters, and snorting chilli powder. OK, I maybe stretch the truth a little bit with one of those.

With an hour to go, the extent of progress (so far, let's be optimistic) today is that the person I'm taking this latest task over from has indeed been ill rather longer than expected, and attempts are being made to "unlock" their PC. Realistically, they hope they might have something for me by the morning...

Just reading some job descriptions on Monster, and one specifically stated: "This is a genuine live requirement and the client is not just fishing for CVs". Well that confirms my theory, doesn't it? Excuse me while I despair.

Our house group has shut up shop for the summer now, in line with the general winding down of church-related activities, so we had a quiet evening in last night. We're trying to keep things going a little bit, with barbecue invites and so on, but it really does seem most people are pretty tied up this month! Not really surprising, but time to spread that net a little wider, perhaps...

No word on that new work yet today, needless to say. I can't say I'm wildly enthralled by the idea of carrying out a desktop audit, but it's ultimately got to be a bit better than what I'm (not) doing at the moment. Though now it will probably be a race against time to see which of this or some documentation work I agreed I might do arrives first, and whose nose has to get put out of joint.

So the BBC have decided to clutter up their news website's homepage. Now I quite liked the addition of the local news and weather bar, since they are things I quite often referred to - though it's not so great that "Surrey" and "Sussex" return exactly the same news. But now they're adding a new bar every other day it seems, with no less than four now - and one of them keeps coming back no matter how many times you try and hide it. Yes, I know they're a beta test, so can't be expected to work properly, but you should be able to opt out of such things - and to rub it in, the bar that simply won't go away contains video and audio which simply can't be accessed on this workstation anyway!

Anyway, it's lunchtime, and nothing whatsoever in the least has happened to lift this day from being yet another humdrum interminable wait for nothing.

The most recent promise is "later this afternoon". Much as I trust the person I am dealing with more than many people here, I have come to take such assurances with a generous pinch of sodium chloride, since invariably things that come up at short notice taking much higher priority than my sanity. That's business...

I've actually started... It's not even as interesting as the task was "sold" to me; I'm going around logging asset numbers for people's desktop PCs, and that's about it. I'd been told I would be determining additional software requirements and so on, but that's essentially it for this phase. Takes me back to the first proper job I had when one weekend I had to do pretty much the same thing at the offices of Credit Suisse up in London. Then I had the benefit of company, and a large quantity of alcohol in my system; sadly neither is the case this time.

Normally Friday would be bearable, but for some reason today's really not being so. It's all very well having something to do, but for something supposedly so simple and mechanical, it's really quite fraught - and to add to the fun, it being the summer, we're very thin on the ground so finding out the necessary information in many cases will be nigh on impossible. I really don't know what the point is in what I'm doing either; as it was sold to me, it made perfect sense, helping determine what the impact would be of moving over to a different networking model. But just going around logging asset numbers? Sounds like a job creation scheme to me; probably not specifically created for me, but just one of those silly things management want done from time to time for no real reason. So yes, this morning I woke up not with a fear of the unknown, but a genuine loathing for this work, this building, this company... The people are generally good eggs, yet more souls to be destroyed if they're not already. I really did feel yesterday that I couldn't continue, that handing in my notice would be the only way to lift myself, but that's not something I'm going to do unilaterally. And I don't really want to do it without anything else to go to - been there, done that on more than one occasion, and the initial euphoria of being out of the hell-hole in question soon gets overtaken by bitter realism. I'm just not sure whether a future interviewer would look more favourably upon me for being in a job but not being available for a month, or being out of a job ultimately by own choice but available immediately - and which of those might cause them to look a little more sympathetically at my lack of current skills. I simply don't know anything any more, only that every day I spend here, it's another nail in my coffin - and I haven't seen daylight for ages.

Perhaps my interviewer the other week was right. Perhaps nine long months in a large and badly-run company like this is enough to irrevocably institutionalise me. Perhaps, no matter how much I tried to deny it, I showed all the signs that it had already happened, and that was why he kept coming back to that same line of questioning. He seemed a wise enough man. If that is the case, then it looks like the only solution is simply to get out and find a fresh start, in a field that won't be swayed by my past experience. I don't know what field that is likely to be, but I can almost certainly kiss goodbye to my decent salary for starters. With my brain rotting as it is, I certainly don't have the energy to search for work while I'm notionally in work, so I think I've answered my own question there. Stuff what interviewers think, what about Number One for once?

Still, having said all that, I am capable of getting on with such loathsome tasks, feigning a reasonable degree of cheerfulness, and so far today I've tackled about 35 colleagues' desktops. I think all of said colleagues I got to meet must have realised what a lousy task it was to be given, because they have all been most cooperative and friendly - despite my potentially being quite disruptive needing to upend monitors and so on. Kept me sane, anyway, and it's now just under an hour until I can rightfully get out of here for the weekend.

Today we've been helping our friends Graham and Nicola move house. Not actually too onerous a task, since for the last few months they've been house-sharing so a lot of their stuff had been in storage and was delivered straight to their new house. But still quite a bit to unpack, reassemble and so on, and I'm sure there is still much to do! But now we have a Chinese feast cooking in the oven and it's well nigh ready, so I won't bore you for any longer on this occasion.

Last night's Chinese feast was mighty good, with chicken spring rolls, duck in plum sauce, crispy chilli beef and various sundries going down very happily indeed. After church this morning, we went out for a nice picnic/walk in the woods - a futile attempt to find somewhere cool, but it was still good to get out and we had ice-creams. So really not too bad a weekend, and I forgot to mention that we went round to Katy's parents on Friday evening, being plied with lovely lasagne and far too much wine in return for our having scanned a load of old slides and popped them on to a CD-R for subsequent printing etc. Back to work tomorrow, obviously, but we're taking a day off later in the week which should break things up a bit, and at least I have something to do at the moment regardless of how tedious and occasionally fraught it may be.

Hooray, this evening I finally managed to patch my mobile phone's firmware so that mp3 files play properly. The problem may well also be fixed in the latest version of the firmware, but O2 won't release a customised version of it, so until now I was stuck with a really poor mp3 playback. It was OK most of the time, but let down by horrid fizzing noises on fades in and out, and there was a general background hiss all the time. But thanks to the cunning effort of a few key people, and some patience and determination on my part, it's all fixed!

Just got to sort out the confusing and misleading delay on the built-in camera now, also fixed in firmware that O2 are dragging their heels releasing...

And lo, I do believe the camera is now fixed too - and better quality files!

Phew, finally finished auditing this floor's desktop PCs. I expect I've missed a few somewhere, but I don't think what I'm producing will be treated as gospel as such, but cross-referenced with existing lists, and any discrepancies looked into. By my calculations, that's about a hundred desk positions done. I fear there are at least as many on both the other floors, and I also have the fun of installing the latest version of our version management software as I go - and with a good many people off on leave thanks to the summer that's going to be trickier than noting a couple of asset tag numbers stuck to the sides of the cases. It appears typical of the way things happen here, that not only was this audit first requested many months if not years ago, but the software upgrade was rolled out on this floor several months ago now but promptly stalled with regard to anyone else in the building despite being described as essential...

Got twenty first-floor PCs audited, though the software's only been able to be updated on half a dozen of those because obviously hardly anyone's around... If it was a valid question why we have to physically send someone around to log machine numbers when we could have done some kind of network identification or at least used a bar-code scanner, then it's an equally valid question as to why we couldn't do this software upgrade with the kind of "push" that we use for many other things like anti-virus and whatnot. The only rational (excuse the pun) explanation is that it's proving to be such a flaky upgrade process they can't trust it to a mere machine to get right and nicely report all the warning and error messages generated... But hey, at least the day's whizzed past.

Well my phone's mp3 player behaved itself very nicely for my lunchtime walk. Still an occasional clunk in between tracks, but otherwise sheer high-fidelity bliss, even with relatively low bit-rate compression. Didn't get to take any pictures though - not possible round here without looking highly suspicious!

Another fifteen desktops audited, and unlike yesterday's batch I managed to do the software upgrade on all but one of the machines involved. Thankfully there was no repeat of the first machine I did yesterday, for which the assured "five minutes or so" ended up being almost half an hour (subsequent upgrades have indeed been between five and ten minutes each) but this is still going to be a considerably longer task than originally anticipated. I'd tentatively said I should be done by about the middle of the week, but that's highly unlikely now.

Mind you, I'm in no hurry, not being remotely confident there's any more work in the offing. I had one bloke I'd never met before nab me yesterday, asking how I was getting on with the documentation work I was "supposed" to have been doing at the moment and wondering whether I had anything he could have a look at. Obviously the usual lack of communication strikes again, having to explain that I hadn't been able to work on it yet because I hadn't actually been given anything to do yet - an explanation that thankfully appeared to be accepted!

Plugging away, reasonably productively. As I was finding earlier, lots more people seem to be around than yesterday, presumably because people were quite keen to extend their summer weekends by taking Mondays off. All those software upgrades to do has meant that progress has been a little slower though, with only about twenty desktops audited so far and only time for another ten if I'm lucky. Found one moderately amusing thing though: we're installing from CD-Rs rather than the network because they didn't want to overload the network, but it turns out that the CD-R contains only a shortcut to the installation file on the network anyway! That does mean access to the network copy is regulated a bit, I guess, but I can't help suspecting someone didn't spot they were only creating a shortcut on the CD-R image rather than copying the proper file...

Anyway, just an hour or so to plod through today, and we're currying with Meryl tonight, which should be good given our last few experiences at the Balti Hut!

Last night's curry was just as good as expected, happily to say, and Meryl certainly intimated she would be happy to go back another time... Today we've both had a mid-week day off, and we drove down to the Ship for lunch and on to Hayling Island for the rest of the afternoon. And for the first time in years and years, we swam in the sea! A mite bit chilly but mighty good for us!

So the new public terror threat scale brought in at the beginning of the month has faltered at the first hurdle. With this morning's heightened security at British airports thanks to an foiled alleged bomb plot, the level's been raised to critical "as a precautionary measure". Umm, isn't that exactly the kind of scenario that the recently-scrapped "severe defined" level was supposed to cover, given that they don't believe the attack was actually going to happen quite yet? I guess now they are going to have to introduce a "critical, no really, new underpants time" level. In any case, don't say I didn't warn you.

Meanwhile, planes loaded to the hilt with bombs continue to use Prestwick airport even after assurances were made that these flights would stop...

Before yesterday's lovely day off I'd made two appointments to do this software upgrade, and arranged a third this morning - all conveniently to happen at much the same time. Needless to say, I was told the first of them was "far too busy" when I arrived. Thankfully, someone else who denied having received the email I had sent out trying to arrange these appointments had a spare moment so I was able to upgrade his PC instead. I know this is only a little thing that hardly matters in the greater scheme, but what is the point in making appointments if they get broken without even the common courtesy to let me know beforehand? Or is it just that I am known to be a menial grunt who's got used to being screwed around over the last ten months so once more really won't make any difference?

Ah, so we now gather that the reason for the "critical" terror alert has little or nothing to do with all the headline news this morning, but because of fears of a parallel and possibly completely different plot - which they won't tell us anything about. So the moral is "be afraid, be very afraid indeed, but we're not going to tell you why". One does have to wonder what the point is in this terror scale if they can raise it and drop it as they please without giving us enough information to make a valued judgement on what we should actually do at any given time - other than obediently panic when they say "panic", etc.

Don't get me wrong, by the way. I abhor terror, and if a real genuine plot has been smashed today and it took the practical measures applied today to do so, then all well and good, no matter the disruption caused. But I also abhor the use of the mere fear of terror (if that is not itself a tautology) as a tool to manipulate the public. In the days of the IRA et al, it was well known that even an empty threat of an attack could bring cities to their knees. I was on holiday in Dublin when a unionist terror group claimed to have planted a bomb in an unspecified city centre shop. No bomb, but a city in chaos. This time round it's not necessarily the terror groups themselves which are bringing us to our knees, but their existence is being used as at least as useful a tool.

Bah, applied for a job earlier, and got a nice call back from the recruiter in question, who appeared to be on the favourable side of having half a brain. But after a couple of minutes' discussion it became quite evident that the job was one I'm waiting to hear back about after a previous interview. So this one's a no go, and adds to my genuine suspicion as the days and weeks pass without any feedback that the prognosis after that last interview isn't too encouraging.

Another morning down, and I'm flagging a bit with these software upgrades - or perhaps it's because as I move up the floors the people become increasingly "important" so are less able to cooperate. I am based on the ground floor, so that would certainly figure, even if I am soon to move upstairs apparently. Anyway it's Friday today - and a dress-down one at that - so it could be worse.

Another bay done, and I ran out of paper for logging numbers so it was a good excuse to come downstairs and take a breather. I have to say that most people continue to be pretty cooperative, but the bay I've just done was the first to offer me chocolates - even if when I first arrived they were muttering about needing to raise a helpdesk request etc, until I pointed out I was representing said helpdesk... Discovered something amusing while there, though: the software I'm upgrading is going from version 2003.06.00 to 2003.06.10+, and I wondered what the "plus" was all about. Turns out that once the minor version number goes over ten it cannot be reported properly. No problem for me, but the next poor sod who has to do a manual roll-out could well have a whale of a time...

Anyway, two hours to go today, and hopefully I can chip away a fair number of the remaining 50-odd people on the first floor before I tackle the 80 or so on the second floor next week. Taking it nice and gently though, with no obvious sign of any other work to do, even if I am likely to be nominally assigned to a random project for reasons best not gone into here, but you can probably guess.

This is normally the day I mutter about grouse shooting or school exam results, but this time I will cheerfully wish the IBM PC many happy returns of the day, 25 years old today. I've been using them and their compatible brethren on and off for about twenty of those years, and had my own for about the last twelve. Now on to my (well, now our) third own one, having started on the PC-compatible part of my home computer journey with a 486 with no mod cons (I had to add a sound card and CD-ROM drive myself) back in 1994 I think it was, upgrading via a rather better specified Pentium 3 machine up to the Athlon 64 one with a fair number of bells and whistles that I happen to be using today. So happy 25th birthday, and may you have many more years of evolution and advance to come!

Just for a change, I'm editing and posting this from Linux, as installed on a VMware virtual machine running on that aforementioned Athlon 64 PC. No real reason, other than that I can - and I thought that since it's all free and I could do with a bit more hands on experience with Linux stuff, it's actually a positively good thing to do. Not too sure about the Mandrake Linux though - the KDE desktop is really a bit too toy-town for my liking, and the applications seem a bit non-standard - but it will be easy enough to do a bit of homework and download a better one in due course. Performance is reasonably good, even with only 128MB allocated to it; hooray for virtualisation, it's all the rage!

Today we (and especially I) had a good lie-in, then we had croissants with raspberry jam before taking a leisurely trip out to the garden centre to buy some new plants for the garden and have a bite of lunch. This afternoon, we have accordingly been working in the garden planting said purchases and tidying things up a little in general. And now, relaxing a little - why not?

Ah, the "IceWM" option at login proved to be a bit more minimalist, i.e. such that it didn't fill half my 1280x1024 screen with noddy clutter. I know I may sound a bit of a hypocrite, as a devoted Windows user, but I must clarify that the first thing I did on installing Windows XP was to revert to the "classic" theme - i.e. not a rounded corner nor teletubby in sight. Anyway, back in XP now, having had more than enough Linux for one day. And getting hungry again...

Oh well, significant change of plan today. We were supposed to have been having lunch out with Katy's sister and family, but in the end Daniel wasn't at all well so we had to cancel our pizza booking and do our own thing instead after church this morning. We were still in the mood for pizza though, and having passed by Don Beni the other day and noted that we ought to go there again, not having been for ages, that's precisely what we did - and didn't regret it one bit! Fine food with excellent attention to detail, all for a very modest price. It had rained a bit in the morning, and started again while we were in there, and hasn't really let up since, a full seven hours or more later - with the last couple of those hours having been quite an entertaining thunderstorm. Not too sure why we bothered watering our new plants yesterday, to be honest! We certainly need the rain, but are perhaps a little bit glad we weren't out on a family walk this afternoon after all. Just hope Daniel's feeling better by now!

Monday morning, and the grand total of one real reply from the couple of dozen people I've attempted to visit so far who were off work last week. But I guess it is still early, and perhaps not everyone is bored sick soon after nine. The telephone conversation with that recruiter last week is hitting me harder than I realised at the time, as I have to come to terms with the likelihood that my most hopeful escape route has been blocked, and once again I find myself doing the dregs of the work here without any real assurance it's ever going to get any better. There might still be this computer-based training work coming up in a month's time, but even the bloke there has gone ominously quiet - and the project in question has been delayed several times already, so I'm not keeping my hopes up too high about that. If I was at my desk a bit more as part of the audit and upgrading work I'm currently doing, I could at least keep half an eye on the job websites - for what little they're proving to be worth - but even that's rather difficult now, and I feel guilty about every moment I'm sat here.

So, after four days of experimentation to see how we react to unnecessarily stringent security for flights, the terror level's being dropped (despite no obvious change to the situation from when it was questionably raised) and the baggage restrictions relaxed somewhat. However, the most sensible restriction introduced last week is amongst those being dropped: having stuff in a clear plastic bag, so that nothing untoward could be hidden. But the daftest is being kept: banning liquids, when not even the most eminent scientists the BBC have wheeled out have argued convincingly that practical liquid explosives are even feasible, let alone whether a handful of extremists would be likely to make such a breakthrough. The remaining restrictions seem more like an uncomfortable compromise between knee-jerk reaction and making things easier for airlines - why else the arbitrary restrictions on numbers and sizes of bags? That's not to say that it wasn't high time carry-on luggage policy wasn't made more sensible (not helped by many airlines' increasing allergy to hold-baggage, of course) but using the excuse of an unsubstantiated terrorist threat doesn't quite cut it, especially when the changes made don't really seem to reflect the reality.

Meanwhile, a ceasefire between Israel and Hezbollah finally - even if both sides were taking full advantage of every last minute before the agreed hour. I wonder how long it can possibly last? UN peacekeepers likely won't be to full strength for a long time yet, Israel is still occupying southern Lebanon and blockading their ports, and of course the captured Israeli soldiers (remember them?) presumably still have not been handed back - if they're alive at all. I'd give it about a day personally, though of course like most western brokered "ceasefires" it will still officially be in place even if the carnage resumes.

It's weird - or perhaps not, I dunno. When I'm actually doing this work, it's OK, but when I'm not, it's not. The simplistic answer then would be just to get on with it, but the reason I believe is because it's when I stop to think about what I'm doing, how I've progressed in the nearly ten months I've been in this godforsaken place, that I realise the stupidity of the situation. Why should I hold my head in the sand and pretend it's OK, that I have a hope or a future, when if I stop to think even for ten seconds, the truth stares me in the face? I've tried so damned hard over the last ten months to keep a bright, cheery and professional outlook in the face of adversity, when the company itself has repeatedly demonstrated anything but that. On the whole I've managed, with only a few lapses, but I'm frankly fed up with being a fraud. Why should they get away with believing it's fair play to sideline me and generally mess me around, knowing damn well it's only because I'm almost certainly the best-paid serial number logger in the world that keeps me going - until I think about my lot?

Screw it, my notice will almost certainly be going in tomorrow, and the sooner they want to let me go, the better. Enough is enough, I really can't go on.

We have discussed this matter, and we have a definite plan covering conceivable eventualities. I'll say no more in this regard until anything definite happens.

Meanwhile, I see my hopes of the ceasefire lasting a day was optimistic, with the Israelis having already killed four Hezbollah they bumped into for the sin of being scary militants. And true to form, they insist the ceasefire remains, that their action did not come under its terms. Well obviously not. When in Rome... you're likely to bump into a few Italians. And kill them with impunity. No doubt they also have a law about keeping hay bales in their bulldozers.

And by way of being even-handed, this morning we hear that Hezbollah have been firing mortars. But still the ceasefire stands - but reportedly this is because both sides believe they have won, rather defeating the point of a ceasefire.

Pretty tedious morning, needless to say - but it's almost lunchtime, and I would hardly say it's being anything but typical as Tuesdays go... Hey ho.

Meanwhile, since I have been commenting rather a lot on the state of the world of late, I might as well keep the ball rolling. The government's dismissive reaction to the open letter from Muslim leaders condemning British foreign policy as breeding the resentment at the root of home-grown terrorism was somewhat disappointing. No, of course we shouldn't be setting our policy in order to appease terrorists, but why oh why oh why does the government (and no doubt many before it) hide its head in the sand, repeatedly insisting in a "la la la we can't hear you" manner that our actions abroad are without negative consequence? As ultimately influential citizens of Britain, Europe and the world at large, we have a responsibility to look beyond the end of our noses and do what is best for all of the above, because that ultimately means what's best for us individually too if we want a safe world to live in. Not breeding terrorism isn't capitulating to terror, it's a common sense survival tactic. Until we look beyond the symptoms of the ills of the world and actually seek and resolve their causes, we will only see ever increasing extremism on the one hand and ever increasing and draconian - but ultimately ineffectual - security responses on the other. Sometimes I really am utterly ashamed to be British.

Just received a wonderful email, from someone at the same recruitment company as the recruiter who's gone quiet after my recent interview. It starts:

You are registered on our database as having skills in Microsoft development technologies - C#, Classic ASP, ASP.Net, VB6 and VB.Net.

I needed to read no further. I hope a reply that merely said, "Well I don't know where you got that idea from!" wasn't being a little on the brusque side.


Stumbled through another day, and I don't think put more than a couple of noses out of joint in the process. I just wish some people would wake up and realise what a thankless task this is - asking me if I can wait five minutes is quite fine, but it's not so great when five minutes turns into half an hour with no sign of ending. I got a grovelling apology, but although I may not be in too much of a hurry, I really can't bend over backwards like that for too many people - if only for the sake of maintaining a convincing semblance of sanity! By way of balance, I forgot about someone I was going to go back to, but one colleague out of about a hundred so far really isn't too bad I don't think...

Anyway, it's home time. Near enough, anyway.

So detectives struggling to find evidence to charge those suspected of maybe trying to invent practical and stable liquid explosives are believed to have found "detonators about the size of cigarettes". A packet of bangers, in other words? When people can be taken to court for taking photographs of tourist attractions while owning the wrong colour skin, I guess that's damning enough.

Please excuse the cynicism of late; I hope all that has happened recently has made a positive impact on national security, but it all stinks to me of a Home Office anxious to look good in times of crisis after their recent PR disasters. After all, as was pointed out in the papers yesterday, what is the point in all these new security regulations if they're only applying to outbound flights, with inbound flights subject to a complete baggage security lottery - some passengers even carrying bottles of the dreaded fizzy water? Looks altogether more like political posturing on the part of a doomed and desperate government than a significant contribution to the safety of anyone, anywhere, much.

It really is pretty poor form here. Our region's internal vacancy list now has not been updated for a month and a half, due to other things reportedly taking priority. Now obviously for people like me, that priority is completely wrong, but perhaps I am an exceptional case at the moment. But how come all the other regions have managed to keep their vacancy lists up to date without any fuss?

Meanwhile, we had a nice if slightly impromptu evening out last night. First we took pizza and things round to a friend of ours while her husband's off sailing with his dad. Then out on a mercy mission; we'd agreed to be another friend's emergency contact this week, and actually got contacted yesterday... Nothing too onerous thankfully, but after said friend had taken one of her turns and been unable to drive home from work, we agreed we'd help her collect her car.

Phew, I have now more or less finished number logging, with just one person whose office I was not inclined to enter without anyone else being around to let know what I was doing. Actually a graveyard up on the second floor; I knew quite a lot of people had gone, but in the end it took next to no time at all, and the few people who were there still were glad for some human contact...

But I've not been doing the software upgrade, so that's still to come, and I have decided to do it a bit differently. A asked, on the first floor, I did it in person as I logged the asset numbers, where possible, but many people were on leave, in meetings or up to their eyeballs in work, so I only managed to do about half of them if that. I emailed those I missed, but have not had much more than token joy in arranging other appointments - and half of those have ended up being broken. So I think for the second floor, and those who never got back to me from the first floor, I will simply invite them to do the online update they could have done all along, and ask that they email me to know when they do. Anyone who doesn't get back to me, I will chase, and if necessary upgrade their PC in person, but I really think it will be more efficient to allow people to do this in their own time where possible, and make a "personal visit" the exception rather than the rule. This means though that I will need to write or revise a set of instructions, so they know what errors and warnings matter, given that the installer as provided is a steaming crock generating even more unnecessary and scaremongering alerts than the Home Office.

Anyway, nearly lunchtime... Oh, and thank Crunchie it's Friday!

Full marks to my line manager. There's been a short flurry of discussion group messages regarding one of our nearby pubs having just converted its car park to pay-and-display - with refunds available at the bar. One contributor pointed out that there is still free parking nearby. My line manager suggested walking.

OK, so far my new software upgrade strategy is proving not to be terribly successful - or at least if it is successful, I don't know it. It's now well over an hour since I sent the first wave of emails, and I have emailed sixteen people so far (I am intentionally doing so gradually, so as to avoid putting too much pressure on the poor server, for what that appears to be mattering in practice) and not had a single reply either way... Actually, I tell a lie, my email beeped just then and I have my first "upgrade complete" response. Yay!

Anyway, perhaps it being late on Friday afternoon has a lot to do with it, and either way, that means only half an hour to go, then the weekend - yay again!

Not too bad a Saturday so far, having been out and about a bit. Our short walk to get the paper turned into a bit more of a trek when our usual paper-shop hadn't yet had a proper consignment, so we had to walk to the Tesco Express instead, somehow avoiding getting rained on in the process! That worked up all the more appetite for our breakfast - croissants and pains au chocolat, washed down with a cafetière of Sainsbury's best fair-trade decaf. This afternoon was certainly on the damp side, but we went window-shopping up at Farnborough Gate - not buying anything but being glad we went because we realised the present we'd been planning on getting for Katy's dad's birthday really wasn't suitable after all, and perhaps found something better although currently out of stock.

But now it's just about tea-time, so time to put on some chicken and chips, and defrost a couple of our home-made mango and passion-fruit sorbets, wethinks!

Though before I go, it's good to note that Israel considers that a commando raid in southern Lebanon doesn't break the terms of the ceasefire either, and that kidnapping the Palestinian deputy PM is a jolly good idea and not at all provocative. It's a really tough one. I try so hard to want to support Israel, but it doesn't seem able to do anything but make a rod for its own back.

Over two years into our marriage, we've started rowing a bit lately. First just a ten minute row now and then, but they're getting more frequent and longer.

Nothing like a good rowing session to tone up the stomach muscles! The machine had been sitting in the garage for ages. How long can we maintain this regime?

Nice Sunday: church in the morning, oriental buffet lunch with Katy's mum and dad, coffee back at theirs, then scones and more coffee round with our friends Matthew and Helen. Shattered now, I don't think we'll be late to bed tonight!

A few more emailed responses this morning. As I expected, they've arrived in waves, according to the groups in which people are seated. Still questionable whether this is being any more efficient than me going around and interrupting their work in person, but at least I can do other things at the same time. Well, "other things" might be stretching it, although I gather the work that I was waiting for when this task materialised first might be able to begin later this week. It's being enthusiastically sold to me, as incredibly tedious etc, but I'm not sure it can be worse than what I'm doing. You'd be forgiven for thinking that perhaps the powers that be actually want me to leave the company!

Yep, as expected, more time to browse job websites primarily means more time to get depressed about how grim my work prospects are. Blah blah blah etc etc etc, you've heard it all before. Yet stuck in a dead-end job where they've given up on me, but which bizarrely somehow seems safer than the big bad outside world.

Yep, I'm institutionalised - no doubt about it.

All very bizarre this business with the alleged ball-tampering at the England vs Pakistan test match at the Oval. The BBC are reporting that Pakistan may face even more disciplinary action for unintentionally forfeiting the match, whilst none of those cricket experts (umpires and former players of various nationalities) asked for their opinions on the matter really had a word of support for the actions of the umpire, many saying they would have reacted in just the same way to such badly expressed allegations.

On the bright side though, any of the would-have-been fifth day spectators who fly with Monarch can be at least a little bit relieved not to have to share a stadium with a bunch of slightly overdressed Asians.

I've had about fifteen replies today now. Certainly at the alleged five minutes per install, I could have done all those in not much more than an hour, rather than seven hours, but at the rate I was doing them by the time I was seriously flagging last week that's not so bad. But the exciting news is that helpdesk have borrowed back one of my installation CDs as they investigate how to do an automatic roll-out for the inevitable next update. That pretty much confirms my suspicion that even they didn't realise that all the CD contains is a shortcut to the installer on the network, or they would have had no perceived need for it! Not that everyone using the network installer is bringing the server to its knees as feared; at the rate people are bothering to do anything I suspect it's barely flinching. How long do I give it before I send out more emails, asking why it is that the recipients feel they are above acting upon or at the very least politely acknowledging my requests? Perhaps that would be a good thing to do after I have instigated "Operation get the hell out of here" in earnest.

Anyway, there's only just over an hour to last out now. Having had an utterly disastrous night's sleep last night - despite being utterly exhausted after yesterday for no particular reason - I've been carefully avoiding closing my eyes today lest I nod off. But I'm not going to be able to sustain that much longer, and had better save a little bit of consciousness for the drive home...

That consciousness seems to be particularly necessary for Surrey's roads. I'm not sure if this county is any worse than any other, but on the average day's commuting I have to take evasive action to avoid collision with traffic-light jumpers, lane drifters, handbrake allergics or people merrily driving down the middle of the road without any thought of anyone else on at least a couple of occasions. I'm fairly sure that given the roads I have to travel on, sooner or later I will have a crash - and most likely a head-on one. Nice thought, eh?

Today's being predictably dull thus far, and lunchtime can't come soon enough. I've had a couple more email responses, but am realising I may have to do at least a little bit of prodding soon - just need to be diplomatic how much and exactly when. Honours are now in fact even between those who have responded and those who have successfully received my request but decided not to act upon it - or at least tell me they have - with another ten or so who are obviously on leave or working elsewhere. Still, there's nothing much else I can really do in the meantime except maybe consider chasing some of the 35 or so whose machines I couldn't upgrade in person, inviting them to try the network-based upgrade instead, since most of them have had a good week to drag their lazy heels now.

Replies really have slowed to a crawl now, not terribly surprisingly. According to my records there are 58 people still to have their software updated, out of an original total of about 160 needing it done. 12 of those remaining have "out of office" replies still in force (a couple being highly suspect). 20 of those remaining are quite possibly away, given that they have not received or read the email I sent. The final 26 have read my request and seemingly done nothing. Knowing that the system administrators are currently looking into how best to do the next version's roll-out, I wonder if that's going to be necessary before I manage to catch up with the last of these. Or maybe hell will freeze over. I commented to my line manager yesterday how difficult it's proving to get some people's cooperation with this - and she quite understood, noting it's always the same culprits. I knew I should have included a better incentive package, for example involving a tin of chocolates or something... Oh well, I live and learn - even if I am not always easily able then to apply what I have learned.

No news from the outside employment world really. I applied for quite a good sounding job over a week ago, and they said they aim to respond within a week - but naturally did not. Still not a word back after my interview last month, so that's another name to add to my blacklist I think; I know that thanks to the volume of applications it's not always possible to reply to everyone, but when one goes to the trouble of taking time off to attend an interview, surely it's only common courtesy to take at least five minutes even to politely say "no"?

Blimey, if you thought a B-movie plot about snakes (on a plane) would be a tough pitch, you aint seen nothing yet. Apparently the story of the "wrong guy" who accidentally got interviewed by BBC News 24 recently is being proposed...

Hello?! Hopefully Auntie Beeb got her lines crossed yet again.

Katy's been doing a sterling job of tracking down adverts on the job websites for roles that I might be able to do at a push, but almost without exception they are just so downright dull! Sorry, but after eleven years in the business I think the truth is that IT really does absolutely nothing for me in itself. I can still appreciate using (and even programming) computers as a tool to a greater creative or humanitarian end, but if the only way forward from where I currently am is going to be to work in financial or yet more defence companies, I want out before it's too late. The world seems to have changed since those halcyon days when I committed myself to this path and felt I could actually make some small difference in the world. I really want that "spark" again...

Another day, another application/enquiry fired off, but I'm not confident this one is anything more than a CV harvesting scam, given that exactly the same job has been advertised by the same agency every few days for the last couple of months. But, over the barrel as I am, all I can really do is hope it's for real - and that for once "Surrey" is actually somewhere vaguely near where we live.

Going back to what I was saying yesterday, even ten years ago there was still room in the computing world for ordinary people to create and to innovate - and, more to the point, to make a living from doing so. There is still plenty of creativity and even a little innovation left in the computing world, but it's all done out of goodwill - presumably by people who still have the energy left at the end of their 9-to-5s as meaningless and replaceable cogs to invest time in such genuinely world-improving things. I simply don't have that energy, so I am just left having to be a cog, with no relief. I am really happy for those who can forget the work and just enjoy the money, and totally appreciate that in all kinds of employment fields we need people who can switch off to the futility of their position, but I'm not one of them. I never have been, and no matter how much this present company may try and beat me into submission, I never will be. My spirit may be shattered, but it will never be chained.

Just thought I'd better email the chap who's been trying hard to take me on an internal transfer, to see if there was any progress. Got a prompt reply back explaining that no there hadn't been - indeed quite the opposite - then going into a bit of a rant about cutbacks and pleasing our American shareholders. That was the only hope I was really holding out for here, and even that wasn't likely to be the most interesting work I had ever done. The documentation work I should have been doing at the moment will apparently rear its head in early September, but that's not going to be anywhere near enough to tip the balance.

So after all the fuss recently with the "new" planets (and some interesting and occasionally topical new mnemonics involving xylophones and xenophobia), today it's announced that Pluto is in fact losing its planetary status. Oh well! But I guess it is the so-called "silly season", when the media won't let trivial matters like wars and terrorist plots get in the way of hyped-up non-stories...

I think our network must be fitted with a flame detector. I got a reply from that enquiry I made earlier - offering me a position in Dubai. I was writing a reply complimenting the recruiter in question for setting a new world record for his interpretation of the "west Surrey and north Hampshire" area, when the network connection died horribly. Actually no, it's back now, so I can finish burning bridges with that particularly spectacularly brainless waste of space.

Somewhat amusing (not being on their books) to see Euro1Net still touting for business, claiming customers can "buy with confidence from a UK company" and that they are "the leading supplier of quality broadband products in the UK" - long after their network collapsed when BT cut off their service for reportedly not paying their bills. As we suspected, their entire business model is based around persuading customers to stump up huge annual subscriptions in advance, sounding distinctly like they're either working around massive cashflow issues in order to get started, or that... no, let's not go there. I've been involved with a couple of firms of this kind of size and standing in the past though, which is why unless the money involved really is next to nothing we now always go with people we've heard of - and not just via the BBC's breakfast news!

Well I have done the deed. I shall be making that grim walk from the car park to the office front door only nineteen more times at the very most now - and maybe rather fewer depending on negotiations over outstanding annual leave. A few days ago I received a word to "stop struggling, because the bottom's just below". It certainly feels safe to put my feet down now, and take some weight off my shoulders. What happens next I don't know, but I've been here before...

Last few minutes of the week here. Didn't get any email responses today, just a small handful of read receipts from people catching up after their holidays or whatever - but obviously not going so far as deigning to act upon my polite request. But, funnily enough, I don't really especially care - and it turns out I'm not the only one in my immediate circle making such momentous decisions... It won't be until next week before the finer details begin to get thrashed out, since my line manager wasn't in today - though I hasten to add I did give her a heads-up, and she quite understood why I felt enough was finally enough. Turns out though that there never was a job for me here, having just had a chat with the chap who interviewed me in the first place. He realised even at that time there was no real likelihood of work for me to do, but was given little choice, with management insisting they needed to recruit for projects he knew darned well were either dead in the water or on hold for the foreseeable future. So, almost thirteen months on from then, here we are; it's all come exactly true.

Good weekend so far - and only just over half way through it. Friday night we drove up to see my parents, returning Saturday evening. As usual, a few bits to sort out on the computer, but not too much, and the weather cleared up enough by Saturday afternoon to get out for a walk round my mum's childhood stamping grounds. Church this morning was a bit thin on the ground as expected, but with no-one we really knew to distract us it meant we were able to make a fairly quick getaway, going into town to make use of one of the valuable money-off vouchers we recently acquired from Caffé Uno. Enjoying a quiet afternoon now though, perhaps soon contemplating what we might have for a light bite of tea.

Said light bite of tea now safely in Katy's and David's stomachs - cheese and biscuits, Moroccan lamb crisps, and hearty slices of melon. This evening I am designing a MySQL database, while Katy catches up on television I suspect!

Whilst today, bank-holiday Monday, we thought we might repeat the arrangement of exactly a year ago, and invited Darren, Ceryn, Lois and Ruth round for a barbecue, a walk in the woods with the attraction of lots of things to climb on and up, and lots of games - which was precisely what we did! All's quiet again now though, but I haven't got the energy to do any more web stuff tonight.

OK, I lied. I now have a nice little PHP script that displays the current month's calendar in the usual form. That's enough for one evening though!

So, Tuesday morning, and back at work. Obviously no more email replies to process, since apart from it having been the bank holiday, I believe most of the systems were shut down over the weekend anyway so no-one could have put in extra hours even if they'd wanted to - and I am sure wouldn't have dreamt of using such time for dealing with such menial things as my humble requests.

Yes, I'm rambling aren't I? That'd be because not only is it dead quiet, as most would reasonably have predicted for this week, but the network seems to be faulty this morning (perhaps not restored properly after the weekend shutdown) with the most obvious victim being the terminal server that we have to use to get to the internet in order (apart from anything else more exciting or sanity preserving) to check our real-world email. What's the betting that whoever was responsible and/or able to rectify this state of affairs is on leave now?

Ah well, anyway, a much better night's sleep than Sunday's, thankfully. For some reason neither of us slept at all well the night before last, and I really was doubtful whether we would have enough energy for the busy day ahead, but we made it reasonably unscathed in the end. But I'm sure all the running around on limited energy helped with us being pretty comatose last night! Mind you, if we find ourselves doing the same again this time next year, I suspect we'll need even more energy; Ruth's a pretty competent wriggler at the moment, but still easy enough to catch, the latter being not being likely to last much longer!

Hmm, my colleague here has finally managed to get on to the terminal server, but no such luck for me. Let's just hope it's nothing personal... OK, tried a quick ipconfig /flushdns and all now seems to be well. My suspicions were right; obviously something got moved around over the weekend's shenanigans.

Exciting, huh?

I caught the back end of an item on the news this morning about the Co-op launching some kind of dividend-based loyalty scheme. Now the BBC news web site has a feature on it too, going into great detail about how the Co-op wants to go some way to restoring its former market share, etc etc. However, the article closes by (in a rather long winded and obfuscating way) saying shoppers can expect a 1% return on their expenditure, having paid to join the scheme in the first place. So that will be exactly the same percentage return as a Tesco or Sainsburys loyalty card then, which do not charge for the privilege, and where the groceries cost less in the first place. Personally I like Co-op stores: they're not actually that much more expensive than the big supermarkets and unlike One-stop and similar shops don't seem to charge a premium for their convenience, but ultimately they have lost the battle, and that's irreversible.

Lloyds TSB may claim credit for helping the Craggy Island indoor climbing centre get off the ground (so to speak), but that expertise obviously didn't run to advising them on choosing a radio-friendly domain name, did it? Duh.

Wheels turn slowly, but my departure from here is a little more tangible today, with receipt of an "exit questionnaire", and notification of my outstanding annual leave. Needless to say (although perhaps surprisingly for me, to those who know me well) the latter is rather less than anticipated. I've taken a few odd days and half days in the last couple of months, and in the event of part months worked they obviously load the formula in their favour, so overall I am left with about six days to take or be paid back for. Thankfully, having just had a chat with my line manager, they're not going to push me for a decision on that quite yet. There is supposedly some work coming up next week, but there's scepticism on all sides whether that will happen, so the advice was to wait and see - though it probably wouldn't keep me busy for the remaining time anyway, so it may just come down to whether I need extra money more than chill time.

Anyway, I've had it for today now. Had about five email responses in the end, mainly thanks to a round of nagging I decided I would be brave and initiate, so not too disappointed. Rather more read receipts without the associated action taken, but that was to be expected. I am sure the number of people responding will continue to tend asymptotically to the maximum, but won't be my problem much longer. Fairly sure in any case that this email/DIY approach is the best one now, with it highly unlikely I'd otherwise have upgraded five PCs today before running out of energy tracking down their owners. Time to go home...

I can see my last couple of weeks here descending into farce, assuming it's not considered already to be that, of course! Having talked over the options with Katy, I requested that I be allowed to take my last week with the company as holiday, with about a day and a half to be refunded on my final pay cheque. I anticipated that if this last small bit of work materialised on schedule, there should be no problem finishing it in the fortnight that would remain. That was all approved, but needless to say, further enquiries about that last bit of work have revealed that it is again delayed - full marks for not telling me this before, as per usual - such that I would be unlikely to be able to finish it in time, and such that my line manager considers it should be assigned to someone else. So although my line manager says she will try and find something else, there's actually a good chance that when I can't spin out this software upgrade task any longer, there will be precisely no work for me to do - and I really wouldn't expect to be treated as remotely high priority. I asked what would happen if that came to pass, and she wasn't too sure. What's the betting I'll be out of here and on gardening leave rather sooner than anticipated?

And even the work I am doing at the moment is going into meltdown a bit. I've had more people contacting me in the last couple of days reporting problems after carrying out the software upgrade than in all the weeks previously put together. I can only imagine it is because people are actually now trying to use the software that the issues are rearing their heads. I was assured that all the errors that plague about half the upgrades could safely be ignored, and have been applying and relaying that wisdom, but I'm not so sure now. All that, combined with almost 40 people whose PCs still need to be upgraded (or nobbled, depending on the rumour-du-jour), makes me think I'll be jolly glad if this is my swan song for the company. It would be nice to be remembered for something better, but I really won't care too much, and only about a week's worth of the work I've done over the last ten months has ever made it into a delivery. The most interesting work I got to do was almost certainly the spreadsheet thing of a couple of months ago, but I suspect that is doomed never to see the light of day due to an apparent complete lack of interest from anyone that matters.

By the way, for those reading this on the web, the structure of this site is likely shortly to be changing quite substantially. A much more significant revamp is long overdue in any case, and should happen in due course - I have quite interesting plans! - but for the moment things will just move around a bit and a new and more professionally-oriented public front page will be added. If nothing else, I thought I'd say this so as you know to nag me about it!

On the brighter side, I have at least confirmed that my security clearance will remain valid for a year after I leave. I had heard that some companies are a bit aggressive in cancelling clearance as soon as you walk out of the door, but I suspect that this company's more reasonable policy is in line with government requirements so as not to have too many unnecessarily cleared people around at any time. Only fair, anyway, given how long it took for the clearance to come through, and that my start of employment was contingent upon it doing so. If they'd turned round and said it would be cancelled, I would have demanded back pay for the months spent waiting between accepting the role and starting it. Of course, whether I would want to work for another company requiring clearance is another matter altogether, but probably about half the high profile technology companies in this area seem to be into defence, policing or other markets for which it would be required, so I would be a fool to let it go without a fight.

Bit of a panic this morning, finding my security card didn't work nor most of my network logins etc. I had visions of the Dilbert strip on the same kind of theme... So I checked with reception, half expecting to be given five minutes to collect my things before being frogmarched out. Apparently there was a power cut last night and a lot of systems are down, so I'm not necessarily being singled out. Nice of someone to put a sign up or something to say so - not!

I wonder when anything useful will be restored? That is the problem when poor communication is endemic: things will break from time to time, and even if in hindsight we might do more to protect against that, the key is communicating what's happening in a timely manner. Yes, it's fairly early still, and it may well be that the people who can do anything about it haven't been in too long themselves - but I know darned well from previous outages of this nature that there will be no information, that systems will at some indeterminate point come to life again without any kind of fanfare, explanation or lesson learned.

And they want my opinions on how well we're doing as an "employer of choice" - not that I can help, because the document's stuck on an inaccessible server...

I'd love to be able to say something at least a little bit positive about things here, I really would. But I honestly can't think of a single thing that is done any better than averagely. I know when I got depressed earlier in the year, one of the symptoms was not being able to see any good in anything, but it really does seem to be the case here that there isn't any good here - or at least if there is, those in the know are keeping mightily quiet about it!

Oh, finally an email about the doors... Except it's from the first-floor admin person, who (quite reasonably, given no other advice) believes her door's being broken to be a special and isolated case. Obviously those with the knowledge aren't bothering to communicate it to those who can relay it to the workforce.

Well the fire alarm still works, that's something I guess.

Finally, two hours in, systems are slowly crawling to life... Sort of, anyway.

Ooh, I've got some work to do. Admittedly, "only a day's worth", and I've more or less knocked it on the head in an afternoon, but hey. A little bit tedious, transcribing data from printouts we do not have in electronic form into - erm - electronic form. I suggested OCR might be more efficient, but I do need work...

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