Saturday, February 19, 2005

SaffronLast week I had to become the resident expert in Cyrillic, and now I have to take a crash course in planning (of the Town and Country type). But the only person who might help is in Australia, and is swamped (helpfully I've been told it's mostly common sense. Yes, but which bits?). So, what do you lot about know planning? It doesn't help that the people I have to talk to about it are (after some not very extensive research) apparently pretty damn incompetent. Unfortunately, of the many articles which mention them, most are so varied it's impossible to know which lines I should be reading between.

So I know there is odd stuff going on, but I'm not sure what, by whom, and on what scale. Only somehow I've now got to treat them as if they aren't dodgy, yet make sure they act as if they aren't. I also need stuff out of them.

And as for people who expect a presentation, and send out a letter revelling in TLAs [that's Three Letter Acronyms, and I thought only geneticists had this disease], several of which are meaningless, or worse, they mean something, but not what is intended. Eventually I discover that the "LCD" may or may not be a CRT (it's catching) television, and that if one wants to use it, one has to bring a laptop with appropriate cables, and no, they don't know what the fittings are.

Ah, now the only laptop I can lay my hands on is the doorstop (being a couple of tons heavier than the door), and the screen has an erratic vertical hold, yet manages to crumple several versions of the horizontal image together. So I ask if I can bring it in on a floppy and use one of their computers. Oooh, as she's not the person I was told to contact (who sent the letter out on a Friday, and promptly went on holiday for a week), she'll have to check.
She rings back, and yes I can borrow one of their computers, zip-disk okay?
Um, no. Ich habe keine zip-disk. J'ai une disquette de trois point cinq pouces seulement.
She: I might be able to get one with a CD drive.
I'm terribly sorry (though I not sure why, as a floppy isn't that archaic is it? It's hardly one of those big old really floppy disks with the bar that clicks down over the end of the BBC diskdrive, is it?), but I only have a three and half floppy. Perhaps I could email it?
Oh, I see, you're not allowed to get attachments (what kind of muppet factory do you work in?), and you can't access most of the internet, including any webmail site. God, they must trust you a heck of a lot.

She then manages to sound really pissed off when I start inquiring about OHPs. Which now means I have to find a way to print or photocopy Powerpoint slides onto acetate. I've done it before, but not round here. But as I haven't actually written the presentation proper yet (LMS, and I don't mean the railway or the teacher's pay thing).

Isn't procrastination great? It means all the odd little things which have been bugging one for months might actually get done, if only to distract from the sheer loomingness of the big bad whatever.

And switching to another topic...
Dappy girls. Who try to be officious yet nice, and can be heard turning the pages of "Manipulation for Dummies" whilst on the phone. For some reason I had to give out a private email address. Figuring that most of the stuff that goes to Hotmail remains unread, and I really must do something about that, I gave her my gmail one. "Oooh, I've not heard that before. Is it new?"
"Really? It's Google's."
"Oooh, thanks for the tip."
And then she ends on: "Stay well."

Other than the utterly irritating Oo-give-me-time-to-think-even-though-I-never-think-oooh, but, what tip was she talking about? I offered virtually no opinion on it, other than to imply I used it, which given how thick she thinks I am (when she remembers who I am, our conversations being dotted with a great many "did you?"s and "really?"s), can hardly be taken as a recommendation. As for "stay well", please do not let it be another fashionable term. Hearing that umpteen times a day is sure to either induce mental instability, or some not-quite-funny comment about ordering around about holes in the ground (I mean, have you tried playing fetch with a sewer?).

Needless to say, she didn't email me the information, and 3 days later it came in the post.

As this is the same place which spent several months asking for a copy of my passport (what the hell for? You've already got name, address, a couple of phone numbers, DOB, NI number, photograph, bank account details and enough information on me generally to completely bugger my life). They didn't seem to think that faxed copies, or posted photocopies would count, except they only said that after they asked for them. Eventually I take it in, only to have them look blankly at me. No, they don't need it. I convince them to make a copy just to be safe. I go home. I get rung up and asked to bring my passport. I say I did. They claim they haven't got anything vaguely like what they need. A while later, and eventually they admit they have a photocopy of it. But that's not good enough, as they apparently cannot accept photocopies, and need to see it in person. I say they did. Yet another "Really?" Eventually I get them to admit both I and it were physically present in their offices (and it's not my fault half the staff had adjourned to the pub were in a team meeting), and that was when one of their members of staff made the copy.

Sometimes I want to swear before I put the phone down. Which someone I know actually does. He doesn't seem to think that when calling prospective clients (and incidentally using a name which isn't the company's name), and trying to persuade them to buy stuff from him, that swearing loudly as he slams the phone down might reduce his future chances of success with that potential client. I know the chances of the repeat cold-calling working are low, but I think having a conversation like the following probably lowers it:
"Hi, this is X calling from Y. I'm calling for Z...Hi Z, this is X calling from Y. As you will remember, I rang you A months ago. You said were unable to offer Y any work then, but that we should call back in A months. It is now A months later...Ah, right, I see, so when Hell freezes over just before Christmas then? I'll call you in B months then. Goodbye now. Fucking tight whore [crash]"

And what's the one thing Z will remember in B month's time?

Speaking of odd little phrases, I found myself, whilst admittedly rather het up, typing in an email "You cannot let them uh-Houston on you."

I only noticed after I sent it. I'm worried because I hadn't been aware of using it then or ever before. And oddly, I expect the person on the other end will probably understand it without thinking it odd.

Moving, and you can tell how old some bits of this post are by the following:
Newsnight really shouldn't allow poor defenceless [middle-eastern, in this case Syrian] diplomats to be exposed to full Paxmaning. Paxman hardly had to look at the man before the contradictions rolled out. It's like nailing a mouse to the doorstep and then putting the cat out: it's just not sporting.

And am I the only person who, went presented with sushi (for some reason it's everywhere now, despite only first eating it less than a month ago), eats it all, being fairly unimpressed for the most part (I have to admit to not being a fan of fish eggs which pop in the mouth with a searing saltiness), but tends to keep the pickled ginger till last because it's so ridiculously gorgeous. I know it's meant to be a condiment, but it's the nicest taste on the plate.

Returning to a long-ignored [ir]regular feature: Banana news. The tallest leaf is now over my shoulder, but the entire thing is being perpetually invaded by greenfly. One tip for banana growers: do not place it next to one's bed. As not only will it weep onto the bed, but also one can find one wakes up, scratches one's head, and is bemused by the curiously rubbery feeling of said head. One then wakes up a bit more, and finds one very crumpled banana leaf. Oops. But apparently it's still alive.

Anyway, I'm off to wonder how many more pictures of crocuses one man can do without getting uncomfortably numb (and breaking through to insanity). Yes, I still have photographs to take, and having used for this course two previous films around the house and the town, and another last weekend of every available landscape (my fallback is Silchester, but I'm not sure there's all that much to take pictures of, beyond simply the wall), I'm running out of topics I actually want slides of (for some reason this film is a slide film. I think the tutor meant to explain why we were using it, but ran out of time).


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