Thursday, 26 February 2009

Night Thoughts

It's 04:32 GMT and I'm wide awake which is really annoying because I'm also really tired. A combination of too many cats and too much back-pain has driven me out from under the warm duvet to down here in the cold.

I love my cats, I do, but lately they have taken to sleeping in the most awkward places on the bed, taking up way more than their fair share of the space. I wake up in the night to find myself lying in a position that a professional contortionist would envy. One of my cats just loves to sleep within a curve of my body, so I end up with my body in a kind of "C" shape. Then there's my other cat, who claims all the space at the foot of the bed as his own, so my legs are all bunched up.

Of course, it doesn't start out like that. When we all retire for the night, everyone is occupying a sensible amount of space and everyone is in a comfortable position but, somehow, in the wee smalls, everything changes and the cats take over. I'm not sure how they do this, they're much smaller than we are so, presumably, don't physically push us to one side. No, it's way more insidious than that: they just exert some kind of psychic force which we puny humans are powerless to resist.

I suppose I could just shut them out of the bedroom at night, but I do like having them around (at least, that's what they want me to think).

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

What has it got in its pocketses?

I like pockets, I really, really do.

Ever since I was a kid I have always wanted clothes that had decent-capacity pockets. My mother always used to tell me off because my pockets were always full. Full of rubbish that I hadn't got around to throwing away yet (sweet wrappers, etc), as well as snotty hankies (I was a snotty little kid), plus all my little treasures that I was trying to keep out of the thieving hands of my siblings.

It really annoys me that women's clothing in particular is so badly served in this area. I suppose the clothing manufacturers assume that

a) bulging pockets ruin the look of the garment

b) all women wander around with handbags into which their can't-be-without possessions can go.

OK, the first point is a fair cop, I suppose. But I've learnt my lesson and don't stuff my pockets anything like as much as I used to and, damnit, I want to be able to make the choice to be bulgy or non-bulgy and not be dictated to!

As to the second point, I hate handbags with a passion. They're too easy to leave behind somewhere, they are a target for muggers, and generally just get in the way. Men's garments have pockets, so why not women's? There's a definite inequality here!

On a more philosophical note, what would the world have to be like for us not to need pockets (or indeed handbags)? Let's look at my usual pocket/handbag contents as an example.

Hankie/tissues – I would need to be cured of my chronic allergic rhinitis for this to become an unnecessary accessory. I suppose I could just let my nose run, but that would hardly be attractive.

Keys – why do I need keys? To open locks, and they are needed because otherwise all my stuff would get pinched. The world would need to change quite radically for my stuff to be safe if left accessible.

Wallet – To carry my money/credit cards which are needed because we don't have a barter system or any or realistic alternative to money as yet.

Monocular/glasses/shades – I'd need to get a new set of eyes to be able to do without these.

iPod – definitely a luxury item and I could get by quite easily without – after all, I wasn't born with one, was I?

Phones – again, I got by for years without these and probably could do again but I have got rather used to having them handy (one's for work anyway, so I tend to keep it around in case – especially when I'm on call).

Notebook & pen – why I feel I have to have these to hand I don't know, but you know how it is, the minute you haven't got them, you need them - and they don't need batteries. Could function well enough without I suppose, but I'd kick myself if that dazzlingly brilliant lyric or story idea went un-captured just for the lack of some way to note it down. Who am I kidding, I mean, really?

I've just realised that the thing all these items have in common is they all are about giving me a feeling of security. The glasses and such have an obvious safety function – especially when crossing roads, but all of the items represent some way for me to feel safer (maybe not so much the iPod, but its music could be construed as comforting at a pinch). The notepad and pen give me the ability to have some measure of control by recording things that might be important or by giving someone a message.

How very much the world would have to change – and I would have to change – for me not to need my pockets.

Friday, 13 February 2009

That's a couple of hours of my life I'm not getting back

I work in IT, in a highly technical role. This is not to say I'm some kind of uber-geek with an autism-spectrum disorder and no social skills (OK, yes, I do write code in my own time for fun, AND I keep my books/CDs/DVDs in alphabetical order, but there's more to me than that, honest). I work on the techie-toys because I enjoy it.

Where's all this leading?

Recently, because my company has become a "Partner" with a leading database software supplier, everyone in our team was told to sit a "Technology Support Champion" (why does everything have to have a "Champion"?) exam, which we were required to pass by the end of the month.

Never in all my born days have I come across such a colossal waste of time. The exam had a pre-assessment test, which I did to find out which areas I was weak on. Fair enough, but when I came to do the exam proper, most of the questions were just repeats of the pre-assessment.

What am I complaining about then?

I'm complaining about the fact that there was no rigour to the thing to start with, which renders it worthless. You could sit the test as many times as you liked and, at the end, it gives you all the correct answers so you could just print out the pages and use them next time you sit the test. The question bank was so small that you were guaranteed a high number of repeat questions anyway, so a chimp could pass it eventually.

But there's more. The test had more to do with knowledge of buzzwords like "delivering excellence", "maximizing customer experience" and "leveraging customer assets" than with anything actually useful to me in my job.

Personally, if I met the pony-tailed, goatee-wearing marketing freak that come up with this kind of drivel then I'd leverage his global synergies so far up his value-added self-service portal it'd make his eyes water.