David's diary: June 2006
Another not-too-bad day, and heading home early again soon! Happily the extra hours I worked Monday evening that I'm making up for in doing so had been noted already - I guess because it was more than the target 7.5 hours in SAP, my line manager was automatically alerted. Glad something works well with the system!
Sadly the internal interview I had last week turned out not to be successful, though I can't say I'm immensely disappointed even if it does leave me unsure what doors to push on next. My technical experience really wasn't up to scratch - as I suspected would be the case - and they didn't want to have to train me. Although it may not have been the death blow, I unsurprisingly came across as a bit scarred by my experience here so far. I'm assured that people move around all the time, but not so many after only seven months in post, and it would be hard to explain very positively why I would be wanting to make a move so soon. But anyway, at least they got back to me rather quicker than they did before, and their feedback was useful - and it also reassures me that they weren't having their hand forced to accept me, greatly reducing the risk of an "out of the frying pan, into the fire" scenario. I've already had my current assignment extended, as had been requested the other day but declined due to uncertainty, but that uncertainty has dissolved for now - though I have been assured that if something else comes up they won't jeopardise my chances by hanging on to me.
I was mildly miffed to get back from my lunch break to find a note stuck on to my desk to ask if I could fix some web page or other. The note was from a bloke I've been having to share a computer with, and who I'd helped with a couple of things. The trouble is, as so often happens, he misunderstands the scope of the work I am doing... Nice to be wanted, but there does come a point where I need a proper defect raised before I'll touch anything. Thankfully he accepted that, but I will need to be careful what I get talked into doing "under the radar", not helped by my project manager doing a bit of that himself, quietly extending the remit of defects he's given me to work on. But hey, at least I'm busy...
One hour to go!
Having been persuaded to participate in our office's World Cup sweepstake, I seem to have drawn Togo. I despaired even before I read in the paper today that half their squad are refusing to play in Germany because they want more pay...
Having had the distraction for a few days of actually writing some code (not much, but surely doubling what I had already to date while working here), today I'm back to the original part of this task, tidying up a complete disaster area of a webpage that really should never have been released in the first place. The last person who looked at this had some reasonable ideas for improving it, but they were all turned down for unspecified reasons. I may well find similar frustrations, being tasked with improving it but having my wings clipped with regard to actually doing so... For the moment I am waiting for a meeting I was promised a week ago, to determine what is and is not sacrosanct in the current layout. Ultimately it's a silk purse / sow's ear (or the alternative involving Mr Sheen) scenario, but I hope I can make it at least a little bit better in a way that will meet with approval. Otherwise this will be my death knell here.
Well I had that meeting, and it was equally as enlightening as depressing. Apparently the basic appearance and layout of the page is exactly what the customer wants, and my task - far from being one of visual overhaul as it was "sold" to me - is one of doing some behind-the-scenes tweaks. In a way that's a good thing because I am not a graphic designer, much preferring the programming side of web development to HTML scripting, and the existing page is such a dog's dinner it would be impossible to visually improve without ripping out the lot and starting all over again - something that seems to happen whenever I take stuff on, not sure whether it's "just me" or that I really do just get all the dross that no-one else wants to touch with a bargepole. But it's a bad thing because it means I've now been told four quite different stories by four different people (all of whom will probably still have their expectations), what I need to do hinges very much on getting information out of others, which always proves to be difficult in this dysfunctional "team environment", and no matter how happy the evidently visually-impaired customer may be with it, the page in question is undoubtedly hideous and nothing I can ever take pride in.
Anyway, when anyone can be bothered to get back to me, I might actually be able to quit my whining and actually get on with it. Better to meet the expectations of one in four than none in four, right? I strongly suspect the hour and a half remaining until I hit the road home will pass before that happens, though.
Thankfully my project manager was just as exasperated as me, and has advised me to hold off that particular task until he's had a chance to mediate. My sense that people are fiercely protective of their own little empires was pretty much spot on, so I'm glad there's someone with a bigger picture view to sort it out.
Anyway, that was yesterday and this is today. This morning we've been round for breakfast at Becki and Simon's, along with half a dozen or more others, which was really nice - especially in the garden enjoying the glorious sunshine! Good to have it confirmed that true friendships totally transcend "church" as it is perceived. It was our first such breakfast, but we'll be back in a fortnight!
But it's way too hot out now, so I think we'll probably pass the rest of today inside (though with all the windows and back door wide open no doubt) enjoying the puzzles in the paper, Mediterranean soup, and copious cool drinks. No matter how lousy work may be on the whole, and no matter what other trials day to day life may throw at us, not enjoying our weekends simply isn't an option!
Ooh, slippery slopes and all that. I've just bought my first item off eBay... Specifically, a nice big memory card for my new phone. Regardless of the number of A+++++++'s the seller might have, I will worry until it arrives - and works.
Having resolved some of the contentious issues coming up at the end of last week, today's been another reasonably productive and satisfying day - though I still have a backlog of issues needing clarification. It's all very well saying that something behaves incorrectly, but surely a good defect report should also include what the correct behaviour should be if it's not self-evident! But at least it's kept me out of mischief, the day's not dragged too much and I will be able to drive home with my head held high in a little over half an hour.
Prawn stir-fry tonight, having found some particularly succulent king prawns on special offer at Sainsburys at the moment, and it looks like we might be having croissants for a couple of breakfasts now. The hardship is overwhelming y'know.
After a very dodgy few days with our broadband, it seems to have settled down for about the last day at least. The sync rate has dropped to 1.9Mbps, from the unreliable maximum of 2.2 or more Mbps over the last couple of weeks, and it seems much happier there. The data transfer rate is still stuck at the 1.4Mbps it's been all the time during this process, but I believe that when this MaxDSL "training" is complete, BT report back to our ISP and that will be increased. Although it's not as high as the 3Mbps BT reckon our line is capable of, it's still a big improvement on what it was. To some extent the speed of ADSL is just the icing on the cake, with it far more significant that it doesn't tie up the phone line and it's "always on", but every little helps, n'est-ce pas?
Today seems all right for one so loaded in numerological symbolism. Of course, the dreaded "666" is now believed not to be significant after all, the result of a misinterpretation of scripture, and that the true mark of the beast is in fact "616". Not such a ring to that, we can relax about barcodes, and as far as I know, 6 January 2006 (or 1 June 2006 in countries with even more stupid date ordering than ours) passed without any abnormal Antichrist activity. Though there is a good chance a few parents unwittingly named their sons Damien then.
And today my new memory card arrived - or, rather, a non-delivery card arrived and Katy kindly collected it from the post office this afternoon. All seems well so far, currently ripping and uploading a few albums to get me started. And before anyone accuses me of being an evil pirate, it was reported on the BBC news website today that personal use copying is now officially allowed!
Towering clouds, stair-rod rain ... and rumbling thunder! Yay!
Breaking headline news on the BBC this morning that Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, alleged bane of coalition forces in Iraq, is dead. How many times is that now?
Carried on re-writing Excel today, amidst dealing with other defects bounced back to me for minor tweaks. As others have noted, I seem to be doing much the same as Google's latest venture, but even more evil due to the nature of the business. It's getting there, anyway, and tomorrow I hope to have something demonstrable that I will get the go-ahead to try and plug in to the existing system. Needless to say, I hugely prefer this "actually writing stuff" lark, especially when I can be a bit of a free spirit. I know it won't last, so I'm making the most of it, but it's clearer where a happier future may lie.
Not too bad a day, again, pressing on with programming this spreadsheet thing. Without giving away any official secrets, the web page in question currently displays a spreadsheet-like grid, containing reasonably restrictive data that can be edited a cell at a time and whose overall structure can be rudimentarily controlled. Needless to say, the customer wants a bit more flexibility than that, for things like applying changes to multiple cells, being able to move and copy rows and columns, etc, and quite right too. Hence why my new version of this system is ending up pretty much like a spreadsheet. One version even had in-situ cell editing, but that wasn't really scaleable for editing multiple cells at once. All looking good and slick now anyway, but there are still a few additions and bug fixes I need to apply before I let anyone else have a look.
Anyway, it's just about lunchtime, and I'm glad today is a "Casual Friday" given how roasting hot out it's looking. Hmm, was curry tonight a good idea?
Togo's hopes in the World Cup go from bad to worse. Not only are their players threatening to boycott the tournament, the BBC report today that their hundred "official supporters" have been denied visas, so won't even be there to cheer on those players who do make it on to the pitch. But on the other hand, their chief voodoo priest, Togbui Assiogbo Gnagblondjro III is confident they can beat South Korea and France to proceed to the next round, so maybe my doomed looking sweepstake entry from the other day isn't quite so worthless after all.
I'm really not interested in football, as in really really. If England can make it through the group stage, we'll probably start showing a bit of patriotism, but not before. Certainly no silly flags on our cars, which reportedly can impact fuel economy almost as dramatically as air-conditioning. Though I must say I was pleasantly surprised listening to the Eagle this morning: Three songs played during my entire journey to work, all football inspired and all actually rather good - namely World in motion, Three lions on a shirt and Sham 69's utterly splendid Hurry up England. But unless England make it through (and I am not as optimistic as the singers on the aforementioned songs) that will almost certainly be the last you read in this diary of anything World Cup related.
Togo notwithstanding, that is!
Today we have treated Cate to a birthday fry-up at Frensham Garden Centre, watched most of the final of the ladies' singles from Paris, and walked down to an "open studio" art exhibition by our friends Sam and Mel amongst others. I don't think we will be doing anything else until it's a bit cooler, though we have some really nice prawns marinating in the fridge that we plan to grill and eat with salad later on. At least one of those activities was on the Times's list of "ten things to do at 2pm", and the others really should have been.
The marinated prawns worked very well last night, grilled on skewers with peppers and chestnut mushrooms, served on a bed of salad and drizzled with a honey and ginger dressing. Hmm, maybe I could get a job in a top restaurant - even if only writing the lavish descriptions for the menu...
We were planning to have crumpets for breakfast, but alas found they'd gone mouldy (well within their best-before date) so had to change plan. We would have taken them back to the supermarket, but they were strangely absent from our receipt so I suspect they never got scanned and we inadvertently never paid for them! Oh well, boring old cereal it had to be instead, but we decided we'd go to Waitrose after church and have since been munching on prawn purees and jam scones, with yummy fresh pasta to come in a short while.
Meanwhile, I am pleased to see that I can expect the quantity of incoming spam email to be reduced. Mauricio Alexander assures me it's the "last chance to supercharge my performance", after others have previously announced that the enlargement patch sale must end soon. Well that's a blessed relief, isn't it?
On the way home, I spied a red and white flag languishing at the roadside. Katy was just waiting to see someone open their car window and their flag go flying in the more literal sense of the word. Although I obviously only witnessed the aftermath, I'm pretty sure that would have been the precise cause, not shame.
(I think I just about managed to avoid mentioning the forbidden topic, right?)
Back into the pit I descend; I knew if things were good they couldn't last.
Today I've been starting to look at a slightly nebulous requirement for a "little web page" that had conveniently been forgotten about up until now but suddenly needs to be sorted out this week - and obviously, for all the terms like "web guru" bandied around, the truth is I'm simply the only person free right now, with others far more suitable and experienced. I'm clearer now about what needs to be done, but not remotely how to do so. I think the guy I've been told to liaise with on this is fed up with my ignorant questions and need for constant hand-holding, but how am I supposed to do any better when I am thrown straight in the deep end with something I have no prior knowledge of whatsoever - or any particular desire to acquire, being utterly non-transferable? It's like playing Twenty Questions, though I don't exactly blame him when he's so unaware of my background and situation, and has plenty enough on his own plate.
Just incredibly frustrating, and I feel my "denial shield" going up minute by minute. I hate ever having to admit defeat, principally because there seems to be so little in which I can claim victory. I just want a corner I can curl up in and let the world collapse around this useless waste of space called me.
Also, in the name of keeping my sanity, I decided I would check the internal vacancies list. And guess what, no updates for our region since 3 May. Straight on to the bloke who maintains it, also asking about a job Katy had spotted being advertised externally but that had possibly not been mentioned to me, but of course not a sausage back. Trouble is, as of the end of this month when this project phase ends, I'll be just one of dozens desperately trying to find work. Mind you, although it may make my individual plight less noticeable, at least management really can't ignore a whole department twiddling its collective thumbs. Even redundancy would be OK, given the currently viable alternatives.
Anyway, just half an hour to go, and a bit of music might accelerate that.
To cap it all, a stinky journey home. I thought with the Upper Hale roadworks finally over, it might now be better through town, but oh no. Apparently there was a broken down horsebox somewhere in town ("southbound on West Street", however that works exactly) but it looked even worse on the bypass so perhaps I did go the right way after all and it was simply atrocious everywhere.
Then got home to junk mail from MBNA, faking sorrow at all the things I've been missing out on by not using my credit card. Oh, you mean things like spiralling debt, losing my home, family, etc etc? I think I'm OK as I am, thank you very much - well apart from the loss of my sanity but that's nothing to do with you.
Well that pretty much completely backfired. I emailed my project manager to explain that I really wasn't up to speed for doing the work he sprang on me the other day. He couldn't really understand that, though eventually seemed to get the message. But now we probably have an even worse solution than before, meaning I have to work alongside Twenty Questions Man to get this done. I still maintain if they want the job done they'd have been better off just giving it to him in the first place, since it's all his code anyway, and he understands much more of the entire system. I just know this is never going to work, and the more I believe that, the more it's likely to be self-fulfilling, isn't it?
It's clear that my project manager is not remotely familiar with my background here. I'm not after sympathy, just an understanding that no matter how well I may have been "sold", my background is eight months of intellectual atrophy, being messed around, broken promises, and dipping in and out of depression as a result, so it's hardly surprising if I can't do tasks that others might have been able to. That he's pleased with what I've been able to do so far is all well and good, but that's only been because it's been so utterly trivial. One day these people will have to wake up to what the company's done to me, wasting most of a year and ruining my career, and today could be as good as any.
Just finished the Times crossword, my biggest achievement of a day I want to consign to the landfill of history - except that it'll be filling up with all the other days needing to be similarly discarded until whenever a new escape route from this godforsaken place materialises, so there might not be enough space. Ironically the last clue I got on the crossword had the answer "basket case", which turns out to be defined as "one that is completely incapacitated, inoperative, or worn out (as from nervous tension)". A clue about me! Hooray!
Anyway, just over an hour left to refrain from killing anyone with what little energy I have left for anything. I've tried dosing up on St John's Wort for the first time in ages; let's see if that makes any difference given the physical causes of my current slump. Although it's a bit controversial, I don't think I have anything much to lose from trying. Tonight we're going to try out one of the Vineyard homegroups, but we're not pinning too much hope on this particular one since they are soon going to be running an Alpha course for a season (sound familiar?) and we really need to be part of a more traditional group for a bit.
Well that was a good evening out at the new homegroup. Still not sure where our future lies, but it was good to be part of something like that for the first time in many months, and our experience as we discussed Alpha was appreciated. And we had cheese and wine and posh soup and salad and French bread - mmmm!
Somehow made it into work on time this morning, but given that I fell straight asleep again after my alarm went off and slept clean through Katy's going off twice, that's a bit of a miracle. I was on the point of calling in sick through physical and emotional exhaustion, but once I realised Katy was making me up my lunch I decided I'd better give it a go. The worse they see me here, the better I guess. The most exciting thing that's happened so far is that we've received orders from on high to cook the books and make sure we screw the customers for all the hours God gives us until the end of the month regardless of whether the time involved has been used for project work or not. If I've never told you who this bunch of cowboys is that I work for, you have surely worked it out by now.
Well that's great. My query to get a vacancy list updated within the last month and a half got no response. So I email the other person I was once told dealt with these things. I immediately get an out-of-office reply explaining that she is on leave, and guess who I should contact in the meantime..? If this was a brewery I really wouldn't be rating the chances of a drunken celebration.
Trying to get on with the task that was reorganised a bit yesterday after they drove me into a corner as they stood around me menacingly slapping their palms with baseball bats until I said "yes". But ultimately it's a case of fitting a round peg into a square hole, and I think I'll be needing one of those bats. Once again it's to modify a web page that's clearly never undergone any design or usability testing. The solution will be simple, but determining what it should be, constrained by the fact that I will be forbidden to make any of the more substantial changes required to do so practically, will be "non-trivial".
Quarter of an hour until I can legitimately head home. I wonder how empty the car park will be already? Main achievement of the day has been finishing the Killer Su Doku for the first time in ages for a "tough" one, though I have also managed to write a little bit of clever (but probably thoroughly inefficient) Perl that may or may not be of any use in the end. Zero 7 are keeping me sane for the last few minutes, as well as looking with some amusement at the photo of Steven Gerrard on the back of the paper, not too surprised he's got spinal problems given that his head is completely the wrong way round, owl-fashion.
OK, so after looking at the picture for about the dozenth time, Gerrard is not actually contorting himself as much as it at first appeared. But still a lot!
Since England have now qualified from the group stages, even with one match to go, I think I am allowed to mention the topic a little more openly now. Fear not, this diary isn't going to display a virtual white and red flag, but it is quite nice to be "allowed" - even encouraged! - to be patriotic for once.
We didn't watch last night's match, well not properly anyway. Instead we were watching the end of the BBC news, and they had a live interview from some food festival in London. An almighty cheer went up in the background, whereupon the interviewee exclaimed that England must have just scored. The BBC shot itself nicely in the foot then, as we along with many others no doubt switched channel to ITV for the live coverage! There was a nice comment on the BBC this morning though, with a viewer emailing in to commend England for their consideration in waiting until most people were home from work before they started playing.
As for today? I've kept sane so far, and it's just about lunchtime, but it's mainly been by hiding my head in the sand and convincing myself this is all just a silly dream that I will wake up from and kick myself for worrying about. Long weekend coming up though (yes, it's our second anniversary), with quite a lot of good stuff lined up, both definite and speculative. Should be fun!
Saturday afternoon, and enjoying being most definitely inside and out of the heat. We had breakfast in Simon and Becki's garden again, and that was quite enough sunshine for the day! Last night we went to the pub with Meryl and Vicki from the Alpha course we helped run at our old church. Tim made it along, as did Vicki's husband, and we all had a jolly good time, especially those of us who appreciate real ales. Good to do these things, especially since changing churches, demonstrating clearly that these are merely human inventions - God not seeing us as Anglicans, Pioneers, Catholics, Vineyardies or whatever, but just as his people, and hopefully rejoicing when we break down these barriers.
Nice day, altogether, but there's a noisy party somewhere a couple of streets away with a live band, carrying on well after midnight, and it's way too hot to shut the windows. Either way, not going to sleep, so no point rushing to bed...
Ah, at 00:12 I think silence may finally have descended upon the neighbourhood.
That turned out just to be a short lull in proceedings, and at least the noisy bit of the party ended a good half an hour later. As we noted, the band were actually quite good, just the revellers were clearly getting increasingly drunk as the night progressed so the "backing vocals" were of not such high quality.
After church this morning we went for lunch in Aldershot. We weren't sure until the last minute whether we would have company or not but decided we'd go for it anyway, and AM's buffet came up to scratch as usual. Aldershot's shops continue to stagger from bad to worse, with even more empty units than ever throughout the town. In WH Smith, prices on the shelves didn't tally with those on the system, and in Woolworths the drawer under the counter containing all their CD stock was jammed shut so they couldn't sell us anything much though they wanted to. We still got a few bits and pieces for ourselves and for others, so it was an altogether worthwhile little trip, but we've run out of energy now I think.
By way of celebrating our second anniversary, we'd both taken the day off work and headed down to the coast for the day. Worthing was our chosen destination, first parking at the not-yet-world-famous (but still jolly good) Sea Lane Café for a coffee, a brisk walk by the sea and lunch - ham, egg and chips for Katy, whitebait and chips for me. Then on a little way along the seafront, to have a couple of rounds on the putting green (first won by Katy, second drawn) and a walk along to the pier for coffee and cake. Back to the car via the bowling alley - beating Katy on the skittles, scoring one win apiece on the pool, and being equally successful (though Katy was noticeably better really) on the DDR. Back home via the Haslemere Tesco where we picked up some nice fresh curry to heat up and eat when we got home, and having done that we're chilling awhile. Not a bad day out by any means - but both pretty shattered, in a very good way!
Ah well, back to work after that nice long weekend. Only one just-about real email for me, a notification that one of the fixes I delivered a couple of weeks ago failed integration - without much more information to go on. Hey ho. Just had a bit more advice, but all looks Greek to me, and again I will have to waste other people's time to sort it out. Oh to be useful in my own right.
OK, I've got to the bottom of the errors reported this morning. Honours shared between me and someone else. Thanks to our half-baked development system I inadvertently managed to get stray carriage returns into a file that won't work if thus afflicted - and these were unfortunately missed by our code reviewer. However, even with the carriage returns removed, the scripts still fail because whoever that someone else was forgot to deliver a key script I'd updated at our code reviewer's request, without which the whole lot falls apart. Just waiting to find out who I need to progress this to next. I'm guessing our code reviewer again, but the hit rate with my guesswork thus far has been decidedly mediocre.
In better news though, Katy's just phoned to say our new bedroom furniture is to be delivered this morning - well before schedule. It'll be nice to finally relegate most of our fake beech stuff to the spare room, and for Katy to have a proper bedside unit rather than the old TV stand she's had to make do with for the last couple of years! The bookcases in our room are still a bit naff but they'll stay there for now I think. Everything else apart from the bed itself will be pine (or pine effect) and hopefully all reasonably matching tones.
OK so the bit I thought was someone else's omission turned out to be reasonably fairly and squarely my fault, albeit the product of having such a convoluted manner of getting files between development systems, integration rigs and our version control system that it's all too easy to miss important things. In this case I did the ultimate no-no and committed assumed-correct but untested code, oops. Well it was trivial, self-evident (but wrong) and would have taken longer to transfer than to test, right? Oh, and I didn't exactly test my fix either - but that would require transferring files to and from a system to which we only have VNC access... Hey ho, well at least all being well I should only have a week and a half to tolerate here. Yep, nothing is yet confirmed but I think this time I really might have at least a temporary escape route. Not going to tempt fate by saying anything more here, given past experience, multiple times.
Nothing's ever as simple as it should be though - and I've lost count of the number of times I've had to say that. It turns out that there's a Java course next week that my prospective new department would really like me to go on. Of course I know plenty of Java, but this one is apparently specifically tailored for the project and it would be a good opportunity to meet some of the people I would be working with. But needless to say the powers that be here really want to screw every last drop out of me before they let me transfer, even though in doing so they could be jeopardising the chances of the new post working out. Apparently everyone "on the ground" basically agrees with me that my going on this course cannot be negotiated, but someone on high is sticking his or her usual spanner in the works. It's all very well finding me plenty of work to do - though funny how it materialises for the first time in the eight months I've been here only once I've got my provisional exit visa - but not if it's going to prove to be a thorn in my side with regard to getting out, or compromise the chances of the move being successful as and when I do. If I was more of a cynic I might even suggest they were being deliberately insensitive, but I'm sure it's just the sheer ignorance of people too far removed from reality to care.
It's the longest day (in common parlance), and feels like it already.
First task is to determine which of four copies of the same file, all with different dates and sizes, is the definitive one I need to work with today.
I was right not to get too excited about that opportunity, because it has now fallen through - albeit at my decision, little choice though I felt I had when it came to it. As usual, communications had become garbled, misleading me into believing something that was far from the truth. The opportunity was a revival of one from a few weeks ago, for which I was turned down at the time. I was told then it was mainly for technical reasons, with a little concern that I came across as overly jaded by my experience here. The reality was quite the opposite, that the technical concerns weren't that significant, more that they feared my unhappiness spoiling a happy and well-functioning team - and they weren't offering me a job at all, only the opportunity to be re-interviewed to see if I could come across any better at a second attempt. I really didn't feel able to even contemplate joining a team so prejudiced against me, or that in truth I could answer the probing questions they asked any differently were I to be interviewed again. The lady I talked to this afternoon was perfectly civil and constructive, but ultimately considered me to have brought this all upon myself, so I think I'm right to have decided for now to give up on this one if their attitude towards me is going to run from their management downwards. I know there have been times when I could have done better, but at least there is an acknowledgement on this side that I have been significantly screwed around and that it's not all my fault by any means. What happens next I don't know, given that the work here runs out in a week's time, but I feel at peace having made this decision, no matter how big a question mark now hangs over life.
I've just checked my email from home, and thankfully my line manager (who is ultimately responsible for finding me work) understands, and obviously had been lied to herself about what the terms were for my transfer. Really just confirms that I made the right decision in not touching these people with a bargepole.
It's Thursday morning, and decidedly unexciting here in limbo-land. So far I've not heard a single word of criticism about yesterday afternoon's decision, which is reassuring. But equally there's no real sign of what might happen next instead. I've hopefully arranged for a recruiter to give me a call at lunchtime - she's been trying to get in touch for a while, but security restrictions get in the way, and besides, until yesterday I thought I had secured a new job without her assistance. I generally despise recruiters, as you know, but I get a better than average sense about this one, and she has been trying quite hard to speak to me for a couple of weeks so I'll give her a few minutes of my time.
At least in the meantime I do have a job. I may be doing mainly inappropriate tasks and I may have nothing to do after the end of next week, but it is a job, and it does help pay the mortgage. I can't sustain work with that mentality, but it does fulfil an immediate and practical need, and I'm grateful for that.
But the lady yesterday did have a point. Although obviously she was judging me based entirely on second-hand evidence, I do indeed come across as negative as a result of my experience here, and find it hard to avoid doing so whilst being as open and honest as I would like. She wondered if I would be the same at an external interview, and it's very hard to say. I may already have been, even. I really don't know which way to turn now, but ultimately I now feel I'm at the back end of at least two years (and possibly more) that have blighted any hopes of a career as such - and it's certainly not just this company to blame, let me be entirely clear. There were various times at which I could have been more proactive and done something about it before reality bit, but hindsight is all very well and I haven't always been left with the energy or willpower to pursue the alternatives when it could have made a real difference. I will give this recruiter a fair listen if she phones, but I am seriously worried that I am now perhaps even deeper into the pit of despair than ever, and cannot possibly come across well - or is it just the power of suggestion getting the better of me? If the latter, then, well, gee thanks, yes thanks for sticking the boot in and destroying any last tentative shreds of self-confidence I might have had left.
Kit had a good line to sell to recruiters: that I wish to leave because the current project is drawing to a close, and that I saw it to completion. True as far as it goes; that's the art of lying with a conscience! I did speak to that recruiter who I'd hoped would phone, though, and something good might come of that. Her "dream role" for me didn't really appeal for several reasons, but there's another one she's prepared to put me forward for, and although she wanted to know why I wanted a change I think I put myself forward positively, and didn't labour the "hard done-by" angle. Nothing ventured, nothing gained...
Really no diary entries yesterday? I guess I was reasonably busy, and there was even less worth writing about into the bargain. Hey, Saturday now, and off out for a picnic with the rest of Katy's family to celebrate Katy's mum's birthday. OK so we had dinner round with her parents Thursday night for the same reason, but well, why not. Any excuse to be sociable, especially with food involved!
Yesterday's picnic in the woods at Wisley was nice and very civilised. More than enough food and drink for everyone, so just as well we went for a walk by the lake there afterwards. We didn't get to sit at our picnic table of choice though, with an off-duty police motorcyclist having a leisurely lunch there - but then a low-loader arrived and we realised he wasn't off duty at all but was stuck with a flat back tyre. All jolly good entertainment for Daniel anyway!
This morning we really didn't feel at all motivated to drag ourselves out of bed. OK, so that's basically like most of the other days of the week, but church doesn't pay the bills, so we decided to do a rare thing and have a Sunday lie-in instead, eventually surfacing gone noon. We'd been thinking of maybe going into Farnborough after church, so we did that anyway - grabbing a burger and doing a little shopping. Asda hadn't done anything to redeem itself since we last went there a year or more ago, but it was convenient and cheap.
It's Monday morning, and the rush is on to get this current work finished by Wednesday - with still no real indication of what happens thereafter. Well, the rush would be on if someone hadn't chosen now as a good time to bring down the development system altogether - but hey at least it wasn't me I don't think, and it does give me a breathing space to put a few words to be ignored in here.
Tea yesterday was round with Simon, Becki and Mali, watching ("enjoying" would be a little too enthusiastic a word) the second half of England's lacklustre win over Ecuador, then ordering and tucking into a mighty and fine feast of Chinese takeaway from our friends at Jade Garden. Not too late a finish though, both still pretty shattered as we were earlier - and still this morning too...
The Grand Old Duke of York and his men had nothing on this development server of ours. Up, down, up, down, half-up, down, up, whatever. What a load of junk! I'd really like to get to the bottom of some issues I suspect to be with file permissions, but there really is not a chance while the whole system is being so unreliable. But hey, we're delivering it at the end of the week, whereupon that will be someone else's problem, pending the inevitable compensation deal.
Thought it might be a "wet play" lunchtime, but I braved the elements and got out anyway - and the haul of alcohol I bought at Tesco really had to be tucked away in the car upon my return rather than so blatantly flouting office rules! Any idea what a council van towing a little yellow buzzing trailer might have been doing, going backwards and forwards many times along one stretch of road? It was like it was measuring something - perhaps road surface conditions? When I got back to our building, I was surprised to see a familiar face waiting in her car outside - not Katy, but our friend Jo. She was waiting for a friend of hers who works here, but it was a good opportunity for a catch-up natter, and a good excuse not to get back to my desk any earlier than absolutely necessary!
Hmm, Katy reports a power cut back at home, and the suspicious sound of nearby roadworks... Still, at least if it was them who dug through the cable, they're down the hole already so can darn well get it fixed before our food goes off. Still very murky outside, the server's died again (this time definitely not my fault!) and I think I've got to the end of what I can really do for the moment. Heck, if our web access here was half decent for the amount our department gets charged for it, it might be more bearable, but I guess even that is better than sitting in the gloom at home with nothing at all to amuse but the odd book.
Still, just an hour to go until I can reasonably go home - though it may well end up being a little earlier than that at this rate. I wonder if there will be fewer idiots out on the roads this evening - given that this morning I nearly had my windscreen taken out by some impatient BMW-driving fool who decided that 80mph was a reasonable speed to blast past on a freshly gritted road. But I'm really not counting on it, especially given this unfamiliar liquid stuff that's been coming down from the sky all day, coupled with having a BMW office almost next door, with far too many of their young upstarts having swish company cars.
It's not being the most auspicious of starts for high definition television services in this country. In the last week we have heard that the extra delays in the broadcast of the signal means that those lucky people getting to watch the football in HD have their experience spoiled by hearing the oohs and aahs from their neighbours before they see the action; that a huge number of cable customers in the west country haven't got to see anything at all after alleged malicious damage to Telewest's cable infrastructure; but best of all, Sky and Sony are offering a fantastic footie-friendly package (including a couple of hundred quids worth of beer) as the prize to a World Cup themed competition, but with small print explaining that due to high demand the HD service wouldn't be activated in time for the final... You know, sometimes there are times I'm glad we went for the free service that simply works. OK, so football proves to be content that isn't at its best on standard definition television because of compression artifacts, but it really is good enough for most people, and at least we were mercifully spared too much detail of Beckham's charming vomit.
Only a few more holes in the windscreen from today's journey home. Trouble is, when the grit was really fresh, people went a bit cautiously, but now it's settled down a bit, people reckon they can cane it again. Fat lot of use for those of us who still try to be a little cautious, suffering others' idiocy.
I love some of the language used in hyping miniaturised technology. The latest example is the Samsung P300 mobile phone, at 86x54x9mm described by Pocket Lint as being "the size of a credit card and only slightly thicker". I'll remember that if I ever have to explain going "slightly overdrawn" by a factor of nine.
Quiet start to Tuesday, fairly self-evidently. Web server's still dead, so only a limited amount I can do, though I have at least been able to confirm that it is a permissions issue that's behind the latest problems with my Perl scripts - just not at all clear exactly what files or folders are causing the problem.
It's all a bit of a mess really, and my "team-mates" are being remarkably uncooperative. We shall see what happens tomorrow when this is all supposed to be delivered. I really am a bit fed up with this "suck it and see" approach, but it seems to be the way things work at this particular company. Anyway, had a nice evening tonight, my pay's in the bank, and this time tomorrow we'll be over half way through the week, so things really could be a whole lot worse.
It would be reasonable to think that the last few days of a major project would see a hive of activity, as people scurry around, selflessly mucking in to make sure that all the threads come together and the software is smoothly delivered.
But then, this is... no, I'm not going to say who if you don't already know. As I have observed before, outside of the cliques that exist, team-working is next to non-existent. I'm sure fingers will be pointed happily enough if we don't manage to come up with the goods in time, and that heads will roll in order to at least partly offset the cost of the compensation that will be inevitable whatever happens, given the general overall quality of the software we sell.
However it is indeed the last day of development on this project, with a plea that all work is completed, reviewed and delivered by close of business today. Words clearly speak a heck of a lot louder than actions round here, sad to say.
The farce continues unabated. I thought I had nailed the permissions problems I was having, but now another permissions-based lump's popped up from the carpet - apparently completely unconnected, and one for which no-one is offering any explanation. No-one appears remotely concerned that we have a deadline for a major release in a couple of hours, though it wouldn't surprise me for a moment if it's been postponed but no-one's bothered to let me know. I'm really quite bemused. I try to be conscientious in all I do, but when there is so little feedback from anyone whatsoever, it's like trying to escape a maze blindfolded - and there does come a point where no matter what the alleged urgency is, there seems little benefit to be gained from further struggling. If I'd been round here a bit longer and knew what I could get away with, I would be kicking some butt, but I know I would just end up digging myself into a hole because I know very well my own contribution hasn't been first class. Mainly through sheer lack of experience as I was thrown in at the deep end on a project I'd never worked on previously with only a couple of weeks to get up to speed and develop and deliver significant new functionality, with a project manager unwilling to take "no" for an answer (because he had been led to believe I was some kind of rent-a-saviour, perfect in every way) breathing down my neck every day - until the last couple when he might actually have been vaguely useful.
I wasn't too far from the truth, actually. It turns out that contrary to all previous understanding, the work I'm doing is not for delivery today, but for an anticipated patch at some indeterminate point in the future. Nice of them to be upfront about it... There is still a big deadline for close of business today, which developers somewhere will undoubtedly be hurrying to meet, but it clearly doesn't affect hardly anyone here given the fact that half the people involved aren't even in the office today. And it doesn't involve me, which I can be quietly relieved about, even if I am a little irked at the obvious endemic communication failure and the stress that I've been caused by people's extreme lack of cooperation in what I thought was a time of crisis.
I know it's an eternal gripe, but recruiters are "getting to me" once again. Even the ones who sound like they might be good turn out to have no more brains than the more obvious lost causes. Amusing though to see a sycophantic opinion piece in today's paper, describing the recruitment industry as having "more than its fair share of detractors". It goes on to boast that the most obvious benefit to our lives of the industry is the £24.5 billion generated each year for the UK economy. I would be lot more reassured were its most obvious stated benefit being securing the right people the right jobs, but obviously even mouthpieces of the industry can't bring themselves to lie quite that much.
Out of the kindness of my heart I've decided to let this latest recruiter have a last go at proving herself. Ultimately it is just plain depressing how you can fire off applications for well-matching jobs and never hear a thing back, but instead get deluged by calls from complete idiots pushing irrelevant posts. I swear the recruitment industry is basically no better than spam harvesting, tempting you in so that websites can sell your contact details to mercenaries, with no genuine product on offer in the first instance. What really needs to be done is to turn the industry on its head, so that it's the companies who become the candidates rather than us, so that the recruiters consider us to be their clients rather than the companies. When we got our degrees or whatever, for a while we found that we could call the shots for a change, but as things stand, certainly in the IT sector, we might as well be school-leavers all over again.
Friday morning, and it's the last day for this project. Probably... A little bit of chaos is starting to develop, but it's not a "healthy hive of activity" kind of chaos, more a "no-one really has a clue" variety. Specifically, I have just overheard our code reviewer (who's about the most senior person around this morning!) announcing that anything not delivered by noon today will never ever make it into the project. Yet this is in complete contradiction to what my project manager was telling me only on Wednesday about patches and things. Left hand, please may I introduce you to a rather splendid matching mirror image? Oh well, I'm not going to lose sleep over it. My project manager seemed content that I've done what I can given my limited expertise in this area, and am now being held up by needing help from people with more urgent tasks to complete. So I'm pressing on with tidying up that spreadsheet thing I was working on a few weeks ago, and adding a few bits of desirable extra functionality while I'm at it. It might also make it into the aforementioned patch I guess, though what happens after today with regard to project team assignments remains to be seen. Yep, that's right, I'm not sure if hardly anyone knows where they stand - or even in some cases sit! - come Monday morning... Certainly a few people have managed to secure places on other teams, but far from everyone. I guess that given that this delivery is almost certain to have problems, they will need to keep a few people notionally attached to the project, which might also support this disputed talk of a patch to incorporate the stuff that blatantly simply never made it in time. I do hope this isn't the way all real companies work...
Local radio advertising is generally pretty bad - and, obviously, the more "local" it is, the worse. My pet hate at the moment - apart from the Ocado Man, who almost certainly blights all commercial radio stations, local or not - is the trend for conversation adverts, where "ordinary people" drop company names, special offer terms, web addresses and whatnot into "ordinary conversation". For example: "Oooh, I like your new car, Steve!" // "Yes, Robert, I got it at Jumpstart Motors, as part of their super 50% off sale this month (ends today, terms and conditions apply), and did you know they've got a new website..?" Gah! But ironically amusing advert of the moment is one for Qinetiq, who're recruiting insomniacs for sleep research - presumably not a cover for more evil experimentation. Now everyone knows that "Qinetiq" is probably amongst the most stupid names for a company ever conceived, but it's funny when not only does the woman narrating on the advert have to spell it out, but falters doing so.
Good thing I gave that recruiter a last chance, because she's managed to come up with the goods. Obviously there's a long way to go until hope is translated into something concrete, so that's as much as I'm going to say for the moment.
One thing that does come out of all this though is the question of why it is that almost all recruiters insist on withholding their phone numbers. Surely the few better ones amongst them realise that most of their type are gits, but in making it impossible to tell whether an incoming call is from a good one or not, they tar themselves with the same brush of disrepute. Right now I need to ensure that this particular better recruiter can get hold of me easily, but in doing so I have to open the floodgates to all kinds of undesirables. Hey ho.
Ah, c'est le weekend!