Month: February 2007

Boom and Bust

The cycle of life continues to go round. Hence the phrase. I mean you wouldn’t say the “square of life” as that just doesn’t work, mainly because squares, due to the fact that they have corners, don’t go round all that easily and if they did, they’d go ka-THUNK, ka-THUNK and, quite frankly, I can do without the headache.

Hang on, is it cycle or circle? No, definitely cycle. I’m not discussing death and rebirth. At least not today.. mind you, the idea of being re-incarnated does hold some appeal, although that’s largely presuming that I get to choose what I come back as and I don’t think that’s quite how it works.

I digress.

I’ve spent 12,188 days of my life on this planet, and it’s only now that I’m, slowly, beginning to understand the patterns that repeat, and repeat, and repeat, and repeat. Only now that I’m beginning to fully comprehend and embrace the familiarity of my own moods as I swing from moment to moment, day to day, month to month. Busy one minute, quiet the next.

It seems that I spend my weeks balancing on the razor edge, one slip and I’m cut to shreds. Sometimes I pause and look back at where I’ve been, look back at that afternoon spent watching old movies, that long lazy lunch sipping coffee and watching the world speed past, all the times when it was quiet and calm, with endless possibilities hovering on the horizon.

I do this during the busiest of times. The busier I am, the more I yearn for the quieter times, wondering why, all of a sudden, I’m so busy I don’t know where to turn, so busy my head is pulling me in so many different directions, so busy that I can quite find the common thread and things start to unravel at the edges.

And when it’s quiet? When the cacophony has abated? What do I do then? Isn’t it obvious? I plot and plan and devise ways to make myself busy. I say “yes”, and “of course” and “I will” in an instant. I commit.

Sometimes. Not always.

And then? Then I procrastinate at length, postulating the possibilities, when perhaps I should pause and ponder and … ahhh wait!! Don’t you see?! That is where it all starts. No, not the schoolboy attempt at alliteration. The “perhaps”.

Maybe this, perhaps that, swiftly followed by the “I could” and “I should” before the inevitable last minute rush to complete something that I agreed on long before I fully understand what it was, what it entailed.

My eagerness to be busy, to stay busy, fights my desire to do nothing, to retire.

And such is the cycle of (my) life.

That’s how it’s always been, with me at least. I consider myself lazy by nature, and I have to presume that subconsciously I continue to make plans, continue to commit and agree, in an effort to not be that lazy person. Or maybe, perhaps, it could be that this is just the way I am, this is how I am wired. Always having to be on the cusp of being too busy so as to give myself the ability to enjoy those moments of nothingness. Those afternoons on the sofa, the indulgent days of black and white movies and endless rounds of toast.

So, on the one hand I seem to be hell bent on pushing myself over the edge, embracing the suffering of stresses, maybe even quietly desiring the attention and sympathy of others. Martyrdom by appointment. Whilst on the other hand I long to do nothing. To while away my days pottering, reading, lazing.

This post should not be taken as “woe is me”, nor as a cry for help. It’s merely an effort to stall the ride at the top of the rollercoaster, to pause before I plunge, once more, into the abyss. It’s yet another attempt at understanding why this is the way it is, it is not a complaint. I’m comfortable and happy, just wondering if the cycle of my life needs a little attention, a little alteration perhaps… just wondering… always wondering.

ka-THUNK.

Snippets

Recently, over at leisa’s site, I bemoaned the fact that most “web” events and conferences that take place in the UK are centred around London. So imagine my annoyance when I discovered, today, that there is a BarCamp happening in Edinburgh at the weekend.

The day AFTER I made plans to visit family and friends on the very same day.

Bloody typical.

– – – %< - - -

Movable Type – I’m dabbling with this at the moment for a client, and ye gods it’s … well… different. I’m used to WordPress now and things just don’t seem to make sense the way MT has them laid out. Most odd. Any pointers to good tutorials and the like would be very much appreciated. I’m not looking to do anything particularly code heavy, just a design/template.

– – – %< - - -

My routine is broken. Already. Two late nights meant that the 6 a.m. alarm was ignored, meaning that, by the time I get into the office, it’s too late to go for a run. That might mean I go out tonight. Maybe.

But it’s AWFULLY wet today.

– – – %< - - -

My home PC is dying. That may mean a new PC and … Microsoft Vista …

I’m still not sure if I’m that bothered about the OS anymore to be honest. XP has served me well and I’m sure, in time, Vista will be hacked and tweaked to my needs as well. As long as it stays out of the road enough for me to use the applications I need then it’s fine by me.

It’ll definitely be a desktop, not a laptop, and with that in mind, it probably won’t be a Mac.

– – – %< - - -

Got your “handsfree” headset for your mobile phone? I hope so as they are increasing the fine for using your phone whilst driving AND chucking 3 points onto your license. What a shame it’ll make absolutely NO difference whatsoever.

After all, it’s been illegal to use your mobile phone whilst driving for.. how long now?? Quite a while but I see at least 4 or 5 people a day doing just that.

How to stop them? Don’t double the fine, quadruple it, hell multiply it by 10! And why only 3 points on the license? Why not 9? If you want people to stop doing things, and believe that the only way to do that is by introducing higher fines, then don’t do it half-arsed.

On being professional

Since starting my new job I’ve been getting re-acquainted with a lot of the different facets of my profession (that’s Technical Communications for those who haven’t been playing attention). I’m working on the basis that if you don’t ask, you don’t get and, to that end, I’ve put myself forward to be part of the Usability team. One step forward.

Expanding the empire

I registered a new domain name the other day, it’s in keeping with my “brand” and will form part of a triumvirate of sites which I’ll pull under the same umbrella at some point in the future.

I love that word “triumvirate”. TRIumvirate. TriUMMMMvirate.

The new site will host my musings about my “profession” and it will, naturally, be a blog. Technical Authors dabble in many areas so I’ll be writing about (amongst many other things) usage of industry specific software (mainly FrameMaker), writing techniques and approaches, planning the content, creating graphics, indexing manuals, working with developers, and everything else that makes up part of my day job.

It’s an outlet for a lot of the thoughts I have about my profession, most of which I don’t post here, but will not ever be specific to the company I work for and I will be telling them it exists. The aim is to post regularly, but not once a day, and to keep it focussed, much like many other professional blogs.

That’s the plan at least, but it’s very much a baby-step at the moment, more of an experiment than a commitment. Time will tell if it is successful.

I wonder if anyone can guess the URL?

Umbrella? It’s not raining!

As part of the above, and further to some of the ideas I’ve mooted here (another great word MOOT MOOT!!) I’ve been trying to figure out a way to link the sites I run. A little bit of cross promotion if you will.

I think I’ve found a nice, subtle, way of doing this. No details just yet but it was sparked by watching a demo of the Apple iPhone the other day.

Hey, if you are going to steal, steal from the best, right?

It pays to seize the initiative

As well as taking some bold steps with my employer, my ‘other work’ is benefitting from my new found enthusiasm.

A flyer for a local computer services company was posted through my door last week. The kind of thing I generally glance at then throw straight into the recycle bin. For no good reason (other than the fact I’m considering getting a new PC before my current one dies) I looked it over. It was a fairly crude job, and I spotted that whilst they had an email address listed there was no mention of a website.

I nipped upstairs to the computer and when I tracked down their website (using the details after the @ in the email address) I was presented with one solitary page which was an image of the very flyer I had in my hand. Not great.

So, taking the bull by the horns, I emailed them to suggest that, for a modest fee I could provide them with a simple website. A couple of emails later and things are underway. As it happens, the guy I’m dealing with knows one of my previous (oneman) customers and as we all know that word of mouth is THE best marketing method, he was quick to say that he was happy to be doing business with me. This is before he’s even seen the design brief!

Sometimes living in a small world helps!

She is home

Waiting. Shifting my weight from foot to foot.

Trying to stay relaxed, trying to “be cool”. I’ve done this before, no big deal, not to me. I’m continental, worldly, relaxed in this environment of jetsetters.

I look around as the crowd slowly arrives, sauntering towards the meeting point. I edge forward slowly, a half pace here, a shuffled step there, trying to maintain my line of sight, maximise MY chances, screw everyone else.

We are all thinking the same. Me first. Not them. Me. I deserve. Me.

Children run around, swing from the barriers and annoy nervous parents. Elderly couples sip tea to give themselves something to concentrate on whilst a businessman, too important to bother with such humdrum reality, consults his laptop and pretends to ignore it all, we responded and pointedly ignore him for we know he is faking, we know he too is excited, impatient, waiting.

Suddenly the doors slide open! A man pushing a mop saunters through, oblivious. The collective sigh and shuffle, trying to gain that extra space, anything and everything to minimise the time between now and then.

We wait.

I edge forward slowly.

It’s getting busier, the noise level rising. People shouting down phones, eyes straining at the screens above, waiting for the briefest of confirmations. Landed at 1432. The screen flicks through the pages as more people arrive. Strolling nonchalantly their gaze betrays them as they frantically scan the crowds, necks craning to gain a better view. They are one of us now, one of the waiting.

I edge forward slowly.

The babble continues when, near the doors a head pauses and turns, reacting to sound. The trundle of a trolley, a laugh, footsteps click clack through the echo of a long corridor. Still faint but growing louder, the conversations descend, faltering, as we all turn to watch. Waiting, waiting, wanting. The echo becomes sound, louder still and then the doors slide open.

We move forward, unthinking, involuntary, scanning the faces as they scan ours. A hundred faces meet a hundred more, each one frantic, looking and looking, waiting and wanting. Every face is wrong, every face rejected, not her, not her, not her.

Then, instantly, the rabble dissolves, the kilter of the world is righted, and everything is calm. Silence falls and the light changes.

She is home.

Mix CD #4583924

Despite having other things to do, I spent some time last night making up some new mix CDs. I’m spending a lot more time in the car these days and sometimes the babbling idiots on the radio MUST be silenced.

I tend to try and theme things, either by pace, volume or genre. However I always seem to have trouble naming them. I’m not a fan of “Mix CD #21” as a naming convention because I invariably forget which one is which. Not a problem if they are just a grab-bag of anything and everything but a bit of a hassle when you want a few quiet tracks after a stressful day and end up with Metallica and Rage Against the Machine blaring out at you.

Anyone got any suggestions? I’m fine if I limit things to, for example, 3 or 4 bands. Last night I burnt a CD that was titled “Radio Musings on Pearl Fighters” which was limited to four bands, but I also burnt two others which were a mix of tracks from entirely different artists… they are currently unlabelled.

Or perhaps I should just learn to write REALLY small and just list the tracks on the CD itself.

Coming up

I’ve received some nice compliments, both in the comments and via email, about my God of Morning post. I was quite chuffed with it when I published, so it’s nice that others appreciate it. Thanks to all for your generous words. I knew there was a reason I enjoyed this funny little hobby of ours.

It’s Friday, and the weekend looms. It’s been a quick week, mainly because I’ve been so busy both at work and at home. More on that later though.

Tonight I’ve got two nights out, yes I’m THAT popular. One is with the development team and technically isn’t a night OUT, as it’s a games night. Pizza, and computer games. There are at least two Wiis kicking about, and I reckon I can probably grab one later, see if anyone notices…

The other is a night out with ex-colleagues, primarily a birthday celebration but that’s really just an excuse. I’ll hopefully catch up with them later on, depending on the state of the headache I’ve not been able to shift all morning.

Tomorrow morning I’m going for a run, and then I’ll be spending the afternoon clearing out my Gran’s flat, ready for the buyers to move in. She’s moving to a home in Dumbarton next week, so it’s all change on that front. It does mean that my Mum will be much closer, a 5 minute walk rather than a 45 minute drive, and will also allow Louise and I to visit whenever we are through.

And on Sunday my darling beloved wife is home. No more sleeping with a giant stuffed toy in the bed. Umm.. not that I was.. honest (and if I was it most certainly WOULDN’T be the giant Winnie the Pooh I bought Louise several years back.. no no no).

Anyway, more nonsense coming soon, including more on my push to be “more professional”, musings on Vista and a question about Mix CDs. Exciting stuff, huh.

God of Morning

As the sun struggles through the grey, I take to the street, headphones already pulsing. I’m not sure how far, how long or how quickly it’ll be over, but I know it has to be done. I prepare to enjoy it, to revel in my new found routine.

It’s early and eerily quiet as I veer away from the main roads, sticking to the business park for the first two sides of the square, the outward leg. The first seconds pass into minutes, and I feel good. Music pounding in my head, driving me on. I take in the view, the flat land before me, the sky arcing upwards as planes drone away into the clouds.

It must have rained last night, remants of puddles bring the occasional welcomed splash. Each one evoking childhood memories of red wellies, Paddington Bear, duffle coats and sandals. The memories twist into different forms, car journeys at night, chips on the seafront, a panting dog in the back. I run on, unaware of my movement, lost in thought, concentrating on nothing. My mind gleefully pulls at the threads of my memory, enjoying the departure back to times forgotten…

Shouting a happy <em>Cooeeee</em> down the long hall at my grandparents house, mince and tatties just for me, the big dark sideboard full of treasures, sweeties in the tin, the dank basement. Onwards my mind races, days out, lying on the grass in the park, a frisbee thrown, a glimpse caught, a first kiss.

The beat changes as the sun emerges to bounce off the glass walls of modern architecture. My pace slows. I always start too fast, too eager to do well, riding the high of achievement too far, it always comes to an end. I curse myself, pushing onwards I start to struggle. The memories disappear, everything is now.

Each step is an impact, each breath is concentrated, my body speaks to me in a million voices, each one begging for attention. I claw at my memories, hoping to bring them back from their hiding place. They remain hidden and the voices demand more attention. Each niggle, each stride, every ounce of effort is measured and accounted.

Turning the corner I join the main road. Two sides of the square remain and the horizon has disappeared from my view. Head down, I ignore the cars as they zip past. Focussed. Breathing hard. Determined. My mood pulls me down, my legs heavy. The sun skips behind clouds as the drizzle descends.

Time changes, slows and retracts. I fight against it, stronger than any head-wind, driving myself forward. Not long now. Not long now.

The final corner and I realise I am almost there, the home straight lies ahead, opening up before me, the pavements stretching out on either side, welcoming arms. I push on, the horizon swings back into sight, head back, pounding the pavement hard, revelling in all my glory. I’ve done it. I am here. I am now. I am everything. Adrenalin swirls through me as I sprint for the finish.

The final few steps are flat out, legs struggling to match my momentum, arms pumping as I glide across the earth. Then it’s over. I ease back, my legs are shaking, my heart thumps in my chest, a deep bass percussion.

Still breathing hard, I inhale my air, survey my kingdom and head for the shower.

For I am the god of the morning.

Not Planned

I’m a planner. I plan. It’s what I do.

But sometimes things happen and plans need to be adjusted.

I received a somewhat alarming email from 34sp, an ISP I use for a couple of sites I run, including this one. Apparently a couple of my sites were hacked recently. I don’t visit the sites in question very often so it wasn’t something I noticed, although as they were both only ‘down’ for a few hours I seriously doubt that anyone else noticed either. Thankfully both sites have now been restored to their previous state.

Of course this mean that I’ll need to change my FTP passwords and review my internet security in general. I very much doubt that my machine has been hacked, and I’m fairly careful when sending emails around but it pays to be vigilant, and a few additional precautions won’t do any harm. Of course I don’t want to go over the top but it’s funny how these things make you more paranoid than usual.

And whilst I’m at it I need to get the miniblog working again. I’ve tried a couple of plugins and neither have worked. Admittedly I think recent changes to WordPress haven’t helped much, but until things settle down on that front I’m just gonna go with some custom code. More hassle for me but at least it should work, and will protect me a little the next time I upgrade WordPress.

These things were not planned.

However I did manage to go out for a run this morning, that WAS planned, and there will be more on that, later.