Archive for December 2002
“Wrap-around” experiment a total success: I stayed awake from 2PM on Saturday to 7PM on Sunday, using reasonable amounts of coffee and small meals. This meant that I woke up at 6:30 this morning, ready to go.
I have a little time before work, so I’m browsing through a New Scientist magazine I bought earlier this month. It’s a good starting point for various interesting topics, though definitely a popular science rag, so it can be a bit shallow. I don’t buy it regularly, but the ones I did each had at least one subject that I would like to look into more deeply. An item of trivia from this issue: if you add up all the members of the three political parties in the UK, they are vastly outnumbered by the membership of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB). Good. Don’t vote: it only encourages the bastards.
Now off to work. I think I’m working every day this week, even New Year’s Day, but we shall see.
Watching – while typing this – a film I first saw not long after it came out in 1981: Escape From New York, directed by John Carpenter. It’s set in 1997, but the set designers suffered from a slight lack of imagination when it came to the hardware, shall we say? Even five years ago, a countdown timer on your wrist didn’t weight a pound and feature a bright red LED display, even in the movies. They certainly didn’t anticipate cell phone technology at all – must have seemed too much like science fiction. I haven’t seen the latest James Bond film, but it now features communication gadgets which were once beyond Q’s imagination, even in the 80’s.
Like just about everyone else, I have a theory about culture. Mine will probably sound overly simplistic to any serious culturist, but here goes anyway: for culture to grow and thrive, I think that the main requirement an excess of resources, used inefficiently. Most of the things we associate with culture are wasteful and inefficient.
How many trees are cut down to feed the printing presses for the books and papers I read? How much energy have I wasted in my life so far? I take several flights a year, travel on trains and buses, and little of it is really required. I don’t drive a car, but I enjoy motor sport such as Formula One, which is a complete waste of time, money, and resources. This laptop has more CPU power than all the computers in the world had in 1955, and although it uses almost no power in comparison, that is still coming from a power station powered by peat or coal. This web site, like 99.9% of all web sites, is totally unnecessary and without practical purpose.
And what about people paid money to do things that have no practical use whatsoever? A major reason why Britain has so many rock bands is “the dole”, so young people can be supported while getting their shit together. (I was on the dole for a while, but the taxes I paid when working in London reimbursed the government several times over.) Writers? Put them to work in the fields – people can’t eat books.
At the risk of stating the obvious: if we only did the things that were required, this would not be life, but merely survival.
I’m watching an interesting Discovery Channel documentary on the Pentagon. From the day that the War Department decided it was required, until construction started, took just over 2 months, an incredibly short approval process. Construction started on September 11, 1941, exactly 60 years before terrorists knocked a chunk out of one side, and there used to be a cafe in the central courtyard nicknamed “Ground Zero”.
Most of its systems are in need of major renovation after 60 years: to quote the chief renovation engineer: “whatever building ordinance you name, we’re not in compliance with it.” The section that was hit on September 11 2001 had been renovated, and some estimates suggest that the structural improvements saved over 4000 lives, both in the crash itself, and by the fact that the strengthened surrounding structure stayed in one piece long enough – 45 minutes – for people to get out.
My internal clock is still out of whack, resisting any attempts to wind it back, and I woke up at 2PM this afternoon. I’m going to try to “wrap around” this weekend, staying up tonight till as late tomorrow as possible, at least 2PM, preferably 6PM. More coffee, please…
Back to work again tomorrow, which is going to be a challenge, since staying up till 6am on Wednesday has thrown my internal clock out of alignment. I’ve done very little these past two days, not even going out. Christmas is not a formal celebration for me, but it’s a nice break from work routine, and there are even one or two good movies on TV among the usual “family” garbage.
I had no complaints or comments when I arrived back to work on Monday. I found that in the three working days I had been out of touch, one of my colleagues had resigned and left to go to work for a competitor, taking holidays in lieu of the 28-days notice time. Faced with that, I guess my attitude must seem entirely reasonable to management. This means that we have four fewer staff at the end of this year than we did at the start, and the work keeps on piling in.
I drank too much coffee earlier, so here I am wide awake at 3am on Christmas Day. Last time I did this was when I was about seven, I was too excited by the thought of presents downstairs. Now, though, what does Christmas mean to an atheist? Whatever the other people in your life want it to mean, I suppose, as long as it doesn’t involve any religious activities.
I have taken stereoroid.com offline temporarily, but have decided to bring it back up on 1 January 2003 after a clean-up. I’ve had an annoying “blast from the past” that has made me think about how much personal information I’ve been giving out on this site. Who needs the hassle?
That all happened on Monday; but I also received a more pleasant reminder of the old days, when one of my old school friends sent me his new contact details. He’s now a doctor of biochemistry, working for the UK government farming department on research into the Brucella virus. I must reply to him on Friday.
I also got the results of my Open University Engineering Mechanics course: a score in the low 70’s and a second grade pass. I was expecting something in the 60’s, so this is one little victory.
I’ll do a little site cleanup in the next week, maybe cut out a lot of the unnecessary photos which are making it too big. The right-justification is going, too – it looks OK to me, but throws some people off entirely.
Back to work tomorrow. No doubt I’ll be dumped on from a moderate height about my attitude, the idea that my holiday time is my own and I resent any intrusion. Well, the same attitude affords me more-than-adequate protection against such assaults. I’m at the point, in this job, that I expect my career to move forward. I’ve learned, from experience, that it does not make sense to bow to all corporate demands, since there is no reward for that. The way I see it, I am helping, by example, to shape a more professional attitude at work, by drawing a clear line between work life and personal life.
I’ve heard it said, in different ways over the years, that one should be able to finish one’s work within working hours, and I agree. If you find yourself using personal time for work purposes, that will go unnoticed and unrewarded. Producing high quality work should be a reward in itself, but I’ve found that the main effect of being more “productive” is to be given more work. I’ve said here before that I haven’t seen everything, but I have seen a lot, more than enough to shape my attitude and make me less tolerant towards the arbitrary demands of other people.
My boss has called me twice in the last two days to ask me stupid questions. The first time he says something like “there is some confusion over your holidays”. Really? I’m not confused in the slightest. I explained that I had been away on training in France for three days, which he knew about but forgot to enter into the HR computer system.
Today he called me to ask whether I had filled in an online form about the company benefit scheme, which had done before I left. Before I hung up I told him, in so many words, that I was on holiday and did not appreciate hearing his voice.
My attitude in cases like this is: I am on holiday, and you are calling me at home because you have a problem which you are trying to offload on to me. Well, I am under no obligation to take any of this off your shoulders, and I am not going to. I’m sure he will try to “discuss” this when I go back to work next week, but I’m ready for him.
Currently on the headphones: Lumpy Gravy, by The Mothers Of Invention. “A little nostalgia for the old folks.”