abendgules: (monsters)
I'm finding it hard to pay attention this week, with my trip to Double Wars just a couple of sleeps away.

Our early May bank holiday was a social one: visiting with one of Robert's highschool mates (visiting from NZ w/ his sweetie). They've settled in Wellington after years in London, and a few years in Skye, while one then the other went to Gaelic college. They seem their usual lovely selves, and it was a treat to see them both.

Then we were hosting J [livejournal.com profile] pall_vert on her return trip, acting as a pied a terre in London. She's been traipsing round Europe and the Middle East for an extended stretch and was just passing through.

I'd warned her I'd be madly sewing and crafting the weekend before DW and sure enough, I bounced between projects for 2 days while she unpacked, laundered, downloaded, repacked, and headed once more back to Ealdormere, for at least a stretch of time to sort the remains of her worldly goods and chattels.

It's a big change from the lady whose house was stuffed with Stuff, absolutely to the rafters, for so long.

Weekend outcome:
- finished sleeve details for 14th c gown
- finished gambeson prototype for C&T
- assembled new fencing hood, which now needs edge finishing, lots of it
- finished gifties

Fell into bed on Monday evening (end of long weekend here) knackered from doing nothing but fine artwork and sewing, plus one ramble in the park with J to show her the restoration on the 16th pathways in the park. Delicate petal me.

I've now done my printing (travel docs, DW schedule) and am trying not to spend the whole day on Twitter.

This break means I get to vote and run, and don't have to listen to the endless election waffle and palaver. The prospect of a second coalition gov't seems to be scaring the parties more than the voters. The emphasis on Fear Uncertainty and Doubt (FUD) about the outcome - whatever you do, don't vot X because that means Y will get in! - is really discouraging.

I sincerely hope that this election exposes how broken FPTP is, but having just had a joke of a referendum on the topic a few years ago, I don't know if the Electoral Reform Society has enough ooomph to make it a tipping point again.

In other news: way to go Alberta. I'm impressed. Let's see all the oil companies run screaming for the border...
abendgules: (self-portrait)
...I'm finally working with a Genevieve in my office.

And of course, she sits next to me.

She's a contractor here, has been for most of the winter, continuing into the spring, and she's from Lochac.

She's a Jenna-Veev, rather than a French-sounding Je-ne-viev, or any other versions, and she sometimes goes by Jen.

But just now when someone said her name, both of us turned around.

I haven't mentioned my Society name to anyone, so it just makes me smile. Noone else is in on it.
abendgules: (monsters)
...I now have downloaded more 19th c books than I can likely read in a lifetime of commuting.

I'm intrigued by the iBook tools, that allow you to select from 4 very closely related serif fonts for reading, as well as a white background, off-white (like old paper) and black with white text).

These tools don't work equally well for all publications; possibly only work w/ the crack dealer's offer those items from the Apple shop, rather than just any e-book.

The archive.org PDF copy of 'Last of the Mohicans' doesn't benefit from them.

To me the interesting part is imitating the typeface of print. In user research, research showed that

  • people reading computer screens understand more if the text is in sans serif font, w/ serif fonts for headers

  • people reading paper copy understand more if the text is in serif font, with sans serif for headers

It appears that this was possibly a screen resolution issue, rather than a human-being issue; something I hadn't considered.

With better resolution (even for small screens) you could read something in serif fonts, and not get eyestrain.

Still trying to master the tapping skills required to turn pages, and not accidentally select text.
abendgules: (self-portrait)
...apropos of not very much, except that I'm working with contractors and am responsible for correcting their work.

All You Need to Know About the ‘Learning Styles’ Myth, in Two Minutes

I think it's one of those 'commonsense' myths that we find comforting: it fits with our idea of ourselves (I'm a visual person, I'm task based), which can mean anything.
abendgules: (self-portrait)
Impulse buy: a 'roller' to help ease the ilio-tibial band tightness (outside of my leg from hip to knee), and a couple of novelty balls for training fencers. Good result.

Impulse buy: 20m of natural linen with a blue stripe, eBay. Bought without noticing that it's described as having fire-retardant on one side, suitable for upholstery.

So it's only good for...actually upholstering, rather than everything else I could do with 20m of natural linen with a blue stripe. Sigh.

Work continues, fencing continues, next SCA outing is not strictly SCA but the original reenactor's market this weekend - as much social as for shopping. Looks like a good turnout from our shire expected.

Looking forward to a birthday treat: trip to southern Spain later this month.

After several intense months at work I'm looking forward to a break that, unlike SCA, doesn't require me to plan a class, make new clothing, prepare scrolls, or pack an entire trailer's worth of kit for. What a joy.
abendgules: (editor)
...I invite you to read a chief exec's weekly message. This is in the public health field, in England, and is in the public domain.

Tell me: what do you think he's trying to say, and do?

For those of you who are business professionals: how do you respond?
abendgules: (monsters)
The Tube has been on strike for the past 2 days.

Unlike strikes in Canada, though, they are short, timed events. They announce them well in advance, and both sides (unions and TfL) proclaim that they are actually the ones who have the best interests of London at heart, and pretend to apologise for the inconvenience to the public.

Fortunately I could dodge this, this time, working at home. It's not as efficient as being at work. Only one screen, relying on a virtual intra-net, the laptop has software setup glitches; it doesn't belong to any single person, so noone has taken the time to sort it, always handing it back in before getting them resolved. It's fiddly to keep phoning my coworkers instead of just turning around to talk to them. The chair and desk aren't comfortable for hours at a time.

But my god, waking up at 8.45 and being home for an extra few hours feels sooo different. It's the hours at the end of the day that feel so different to me. Home at 5pm, 5.30, 6pm, 6.30! Luxury.

Robert simply walked to his office - 45 mins, almost the same as being on the (regular) bus, definitely faster than waiting for buses this week.

Next strike is set for next week. Lather rinse repeat.


Jan. 29th, 2014 08:44 pm
abendgules: (Confesse)
I realised this week that GDS, the agency that runs GOV.UK, have broken me.

After a year of involvement with this group, I cannot see a way of keeping my job, and retaining an even keel. I'll have to leave my current work place at PHE - a place and role and job that I was so pleased to find, and so happy to hold, when I got it - and find something else. Because I can't work with GDS, and PHE's future lies with them.

I've been angry with GDS for awhile, and my anger has seemed out of proportion to the scale of their offense. They're arrogant, smug, cavalier about other people's work, utterly convinced that their way of developing a website is the One True Path. And they seem collectively oblivious to the effect they have on others - on other professionals, with their own experience and knowledge of the field, who might have something to contribute.

But I'm beginning to think that their approach has daily undermined my sense of self - my sense that I'm a capable professional with good skills.

And it's their choice of communication (or lack thereof) that I think is the breaking point. I, and PHE, are powerless in this project - GDS hold all the cards, and we have no means to resist the mandate of the Cabinet office. If they had been a traditional supplier, we'd have thrown them out a year ago and found someone capable to negotiate with - but that's not an option.

This week it's become clear that their intent to change the language of government and convert it to plain English is strategically unsound.

To get any major change in a large organisation, you need the cooperation and support of management from the top. But they haven't approached anyone in senior management that I know of; instead they've set out a style guide and told those who upload content to it that they have to adhere to it. That's the people like me.

This would be fine, if I was actually author to the works I publish. But I'm not, and there's many times that really quite tortured press statements have been through multiple rounds of approval, with the participation of many people. Having me rewrite it at the end so that GOV.UK are happy with it is a non-starter.

Instead, I find myself trying to sell plain English to people - busy people, who are not trained authors, who are struggling to understand why their writing isn't acceptable, after they've checked with all their superiors.

And I and my colleagues are the ones getting squashed: I can't please my scientist colleagues in the Agency who have important health messages to convey, and I can't please GDS because even if I change 4/5 of the dreadful style points, they'll still point out the one that was left as a peace offering.

GDS seem to have no grasp of how comms departments function. They want to train editors, but they don't seem to want to teach writing skills to the actual content authors.

GDS have neither the people skills, nor the communication skills, to work with other agencies - instead they spend their time testing google stats and slapping themselves on the back for their awesome work. It's an echo chamber of awesome for them.

So after a year of this...I can't wait for my job to improve anymore. We've had promise after promise of change, that there's new people coming, new positions to apply for, work that will advance the transition to GOV.UK, restructuring of the team...and none of it has happened. And I don't think I trust my own department's ability to hire, restructure and find the right people to make this happen. I've tried - it hasn't happened.

I'd hoped I'd be strong enough to see it through - to not let them get to me, and ruin a job I've loved. But I'm not. I'm out of energy, and they've driven off the person who is best suited to help them do their job for PHE.
abendgules: (hot choc comfort)
Last week was broken up by New Year's day, which I spent mostly snoozing or reading. It felt like Sunday night on Wednesday, and felt like Monday on Thursday. The highlight was finding that the day that felt like Tuesday was actually Friday - straight into a weekend.

This week is uninterrupted back to work-ness: most people back in the office, usual routines returning. Certainly commuting transportation was back to its usual squeezed-ness: takes 3-5 buses passing before one stops to let anyone on, no seats on the Tube right away. I'd be very happy if the whole year could run like Christmas period: no schoolage kids on the transportation, parents out of the office, easing pressure on transport just enough to enable it to run smoothly.

We've looked at the calendar, and ruled out most events this winter and spring, in favour of hunting for housing. So not a great deal to relieve the tedium of winter work. Sigh.

So since there's not a lot on - have some kittehs. Well, one kitteh, multiple times.

We already live over another flat, so our windows are one storey up. It would be a big drop for a cat, not a jump a cat would choose without an intermediary step.

Knowing this, I don't know why adding another 2' of height as she balances on the window frame makes me so much more nervous, compared to her sticking her schnozz out from the usual window-ledge level. She's not really at any greater risk from that extra height, but I flap like a chicken...


She gained these dizzy heights in pursuit of flies, this summer. Flies are excellent entertainment, and she's quite good at cornering them against the window and pouncing. Delicious - the self-serve snack that staves off boredom.


On to winter mode: more snuggling, snoozing and flopping.

Cat-like typing detected: this is Haggis guiding Robert's gaming, elbow on the spacebar, on my ancient slab of a Windows laptop.

haggis - the paw that controls the keyboard controls the world

Later that week: Haggis stakes her claim on someone's lap. I've known many cats who occupy a lap with commitment, enthusiasm and serious sprawl - never seen one splay like this to make sure noone can edge their way in.

abendgules: (fierce)
Found this guy's summary of the so-called National Health Service - it won't be for much longer (won't be national, won't be about health, and won't be a service).

Very discouraging, and not certain what anyone can do to combat it, short of a revolution...and a meaningful reform of the voting system, which was shot down fairly thoroughly 2 years ago. It would be the only way of evicting the architects of the changes, and possibly pushing back on them.
abendgules: (self-portrait)
...I started work on a 6 month fixed term contract at CARE International UK. I'd landed at Heathrow the day before.
abendgules: (self-portrait)
...I've joined them. I hadn't realised that you could 'just' read Tweets - basically it means refusing any followers, and not writing anything.

Since tweets make up a big part of my workplace's social media approach, I set up an account to start following them and related commentators.

My first impression? this is an even bigger time sink than Facebook. OMG

Holy mackerel there must be people who do nothing but tweet and retweet. What did these people do before mobile phones??

I bring it up partly to show my hip-ness and sophistication, and partly to point out that the British Library tweets too, and their tweet feed is a real pleasure - how can breaking up your day with beautiful images be bad?

And they retweet a few followers who are clearly browsing and enjoying the MSS too:

SO: can't recommend all of it, but the BL feed is totally worth it.
abendgules: (monsters)
My back has eased enough that I can run again - or run and walk, 5 mins alternating, which honestly isn't much slower than me running all the time. So I've done 2 runs this week, a long one on Sunday and a lunchtime one yesterday.

Because it's been weeks since I ran at work, I discovered I was towel-less having carefully taken all my sweaties home before my holiday. Even better, I realised it just as I was returning from the run, only lightly sweaty, but too sticky to simply change back into work clothes.

So I became that despised creature, the person who borrows your towel without asking. I offend even myself - except that the alternatives were ickier for me and my coworkers.

My osteo, unsurprisingly, says people should move more: our bodies are made to move and to walk, and everytime he asks if I sit all day I have to say, uncomfortably, 'yes, I do'. (No great surprise: my last osteo said 'most peoples' backs would heal up if they could walk half an hour a day').

When I mentioned this to my mgr, she pointed out an unused height-adjustable desk, bought for someone who has decamped to another office. To my delight, it's a powered height-adjustable desk - very whizzy. We all gasped when the estates guy first pressed the raise and lower buttons - none of us knew it was so cool, or as cool as office furniture can get.

So now I'm standing part of the day to work, and man, does it make you concentrate; it's way harder to doze off and veg when you're standing.

My lower back is still achy, but it's the default achiness, not the ohmygodI'mseizingup achy; my legs are chiming in, in sympathy. We'll see how it progresses after a few weeks.

Summer has reached London, and it arrived just in time for Wimbledon - I thought running Glastonbury and Wimbledon at the same time was simply asking for a weather apocalypse, but apparently not this year.

This week is hot and sunny, and commuters are sprouting sundresses - cute little sundresses that are aired only a couple of days of the year. The fact that so many women have turned out in their cute little sundresses with so little notice shows that sartorial hope survives in the face of experience of English weather.

At least two dresses seen this week I suspected of emerging from my mother's closet, or possibly my own, circa 1982: I haven't worn anything with wide elastic smocking through the bodice since then, and the was just something about the cut of one that said 'early 80s'.

If we've definitely reached '80s vintage' maybe the Apocalypse isn't so far off after all.

The local park is sprouting too - the roses are sprawling. I associate roses with formal carefully maintained gardens, but the parks here are full of them, and they seem to thrive with just a sort of benign neglect of parks staff: spring treatment, autumn cutback, and not much else (well, probably more, but I don't see it). It's very cheering.

For the first time in 4 years, I'm in an office with functional air conditioning - something I took for granted in Canada, but it is by no means standard issue here. I can't put into words how much better it is than the retrofitted glass-walled box I worked in til this spring.

Our new office space was furnished and outfitted for us specially, including working heating and cooling systems, auto-detect lighting (not working very well, at least not over my desk), and TVs, which proved a boon during the tennis.

For some reason, the aerial isn't working this week - good thing it's this week and not last, or there would have been rioting in our office among the tennis fans.

Can you break a digital aerial from overuse? I've no clue, but god knows it was in heavy demand last week.
abendgules: (abbey_cats)
...has figured out how to open the catflap from the outside, without it being propped open, just by pushing firmly at it. So half her training is complete - just have to work out the inside-heading-out step, without hooking the propped flap open.

This means we no longer have a wicked evil draft coming into the flat.

And next step is to fix the danged thing so only she gets let in, rather than her guests and suitors too.

(I'd note I never encountered catflaps before I moved to England - Canadians don't cut holes in their doors. Canadian cats ask to be let in and out...sometimes over and over again.)

On cheerier news - my patterns have arrived, all of them. I'm now awash in paper!

Can't wait til the weekend - I'm sick of work. this week, this whole month really.
abendgules: (self-portrait)
but this cheered me up.

WTF evolution?

Strapline: Honoring natural selection's most baffling creations. Go home, evolution, you are drunk.
abendgules: (maciejowski)

UK government is on an ambitious course to change the way British people contact and use government services.

The government digital strategy http://www.publications.cabinetoffice.gov.uk/digital/ has a strap line of

Digital services so good that people prefer to use them

The publishing strategy alone is really breathtaking.

It's the moving to digital service provision, and then to gov.uk so everything is in one place, that is really challenging; challenging to the way that people think about who provides the services that they use, and challenging to the people who work in these departments, to think of themselves not as just department civil servants but part of a greater whole.

You no longer have your little corner of the web; it's part of a single service, that is accessed the same way that you access all your services from government.


The blog is tracking what is happening in this process


And the design principles are the kind that make communication pros cry with joy. (Don't know if this is visible to all, but check)


The biggest change I see in the communications side, aside from moving to digital, is to deliberately and thoughtfully create a new style - one that is in plain English.

Plain English is the absolute opposite of 'government-ese' that Sir Humphrey lived and thrived on in Yes, Minister. It is the antithesis of political language as it is used by ministers. So this is a huge, huge step.


As someone with a passion for writing and communicating, I think it's amazing.

But as someone who has worked with authors, I wonder if this will really happen. I don't have the same confidence in people's willingness to change as I do in the ideas of clear communication in English.

Several other changes on the project management side

- using existing tools: no longer spending squillions on consultants to redesign tools that already exist. The blogs are wordpress; the stats are googlestats; the coding is on something unfortunately called github (another in-joke gone public). https://github.com/

I think this is a consequence of past huge gov't digital projects that have crashed and burned, costing huge amounts of money - trying to digitise the NHS is an example that is still in progress.

- using 'agile' development; which IIUC means develop as you go, release what works for the moment, build on it and update. It avoids the more traditional hangups of 'sitting in a room for months in meetings' gathering requirements; it introduces other problems that require everyone to be up to date, all the time, and never assume that what was decided last week is still valid this week.

- releasing in stages - different depts are getting onto gov.uk at different times, and GDS are developing components as-needed, rather than trying to set the whole framework up perfectly from the outset (and possibly living with legacy errors indefinitely). It requires a modular approach, which is scaleable.

In a way, it's an approach that you could only make work, once people have worked in other environments, seen other systems that didn't work, and thought a lot about what they'd like to see in future. 

It relies on digital-friendly workers who know how to use e-mail and online tools, who know its weaknesses, and who are prepared to learn new tools throughout their working careers.

It couldn't have happened from the start of the Internet; I think we had to go through other approaches, and build the tools and the network and the computing speed we have now, to get this to work.

I am excited; I'd thought my job was ending, and in fact there's scope for me to really get into this approach of working, and I've loved plain English from the first time I met it at Nortel. The prospect of making it work for people rather than be a stick to beat them with is really marvellous.

abendgules: (seneschal_cat)
Work is taking off like a shot, and even my refreshed virus free brain is struggling to keep up.

Went on training yesterday offsite; interesting to see someone else's office culture. The geek culture has moved on since I worked in a startup, and also since I worked at Oracle - but by Internet standards Oracle is old school fuddy-duddy.

I'm not certain I could work long-term in a hot-desk office, where *noone* has a permanent seat. My impression: it's cluttered and messy. Maybe it feels young, fresh and busy (we're too busy doing exciting stuff to put things in cupboards) but it doesn't look that way to me.

OTOH it disarms the pissing matches over preferred seating - something my colleague who is assigning desks in our new office (we're moving buildings later this month) is dealing with right now.

Robert is away to Investiture this weekend, and I'm staying home for a change; mix of worry about my health (2 colds in 2 months + back stupids) and work fatigue has made me shy of another indoor winter event. Will be using the weekend to shop, read, think, knit. And of course roll on the dancing boys.

Finished my scroll assignments last night for Investiture. Not terribly happy with the guilding (consequence of feeling rushed) but overall pleased. Will post when I can.

It's rather charming that when I'm doing a piece all I can see is the mistakes; coming back a couple of hours later I think 'hey, that's not so bad for someone who doesn't know what she's doing'. I felt the same way when I wrote essays in school. :-)

Gave blood this week for the first time in 2 years - I was kicked off the donor list for a year because of anaemia, and was slow to go back to the MD to get tested again. While my MD prescribed ferrous sulphate, the nurse who explained the results in the bloodmobile said simply, 'eat 3 apricots a day. Works for everyone I know.' So I've been eating my apricots, and sure enough I'm now good to donate again. 

In shire news, I'm stepping up as seneschal for 6 months again, to bridge the time between our outgoing, and our next incoming. The latter has to finish his studies first, and I'm happy to pick up for a short period.
abendgules: (downhill)
I'm now feeling more human, as in functional and thinking, rather than just walking, talking variety. Coughing mostly limited to morning, and far less serious.

This bout reminded me that my dad suffered from lingering coughs for years and years, long before his most frail years.  I wasn't terribly sympathetic at the time - Dad was a hypochondriac of the first order so giving any time to his ailments was risky (one of those vexing people who, if you said, 'how are you?' as a greeting, he'd tell you, in detail!) - but as I'm aging, I'm remembering him.

Dad was a longterm smoker, and lived with smokers, like the rest of his generation. He grew up in an industrial region of NE England, long before anyone considered occupational health, and then lived through WWII. I've always thought his asthma and emphysema (now called COPD) was life-related, rather than genetic.

Similarly, his father was a painter and decorator, and worked with all the best chemicals for that purpose that the 20th century could create (lead paints, solvents, etc) with little concern for his breathing, and unsurprisingly he was short of breath in old age.

Returned to the gym this week, testing the waters cautiously for coughing fits. Haven't keeled over yet.

Am still working on my 30 day challenge, but have taken time to do commissions. I'm expecting to incorporate gilding into at least one.

Even though I've not mastered authentic gilding, the main upshot of the 30 day challenge for me is that I'm not afraid of it anymore; afraid of getting it wrong, and afraid of using the wrong stuff. I've now seen that both the authentic stuff works (for flat gilding) and the easy-peasy one-step gilding sizes, and I can use what works, as needed. 

This is a good thing (TM) since I've long avoided exemplars with a much gilding, and have grudgingly used gouache as needed to accommodate any. I can now do better, and am free to choose those exemplars that include gilding without fear.

Ok it's not fear like fear of the dark or something - more that I don't like biting off more than I can chew artistically, and falling short (though this is a tried-and-true method for lots of folks, and guaranteed to teach you lots).

I'd much rather do something well within my capability, and do it really well. I generally avoid human figures, a lot of naturalistic details, and complex shading on this basis.

But adding gold to the repetoire, even in small quantities, opens up loads more options. 

Last weekend we went to the Hobbit, and I started a review, but now that I have a brain, I'm actually working at work, rather than blogging, so it's not finished.

Short version: The Hobbit - a disappointing journey. 

abendgules: (monsters)
2nd day of training of 2 day course (Sharepoint). Nowhere near enough time to even scratch the surface of this platform...
abendgules: (monsters)
Today I made my first foray into getting ahead of the Games by cycling halfway to work.

I've done this before, but found that my road rage with obnoxious drivers and clueless oblivious pedestrians took the pleasure out of the cycling, and I arrived/got home much agitated. I chose to put up with the Tube over raising my blood pressure.

Now: there's a new reason to avoid the Tube, at least within Zone 1 and our neighbourhood.

Our manor in 'ackney is directly in the path of the stampede to the main Olympic venues, and the first four stations I travel through are described as will be exceptionally busy, defined as 'wait 15-30 mins for a train'.

This projection assumes noone changes their travel routine, and carries on as if there were no Olympics.

SO: today I tested out my road route on my new bike - a cheap made-in-China folding bike, in red.

The cheapness is evident: the gears don't change smoothly, many components are cast metal or plastic rather than bent/rolled metal, or otherwise made more robust. It smelled of plastic, very strongly, when I pulled it out of the box.

But I'm hoping that it gets me to and fro without actually falling apart; it could pay for itself in cheaper Oyster cards in a month.

First observation: seat is rock-hard. Ugh.

Second observation: I should have brought my Leatherman, because both my seatpost and my handlebars crept downward over the journey, requiring me to stop to undo the screw and hoike them up again. This is pesky when you don't have a set of pliers to hold one side of the screwing-tightening-thing (technical term). Something to remedy tomorrow.

I'd tested the route once, on a Sunday morning, on my trusty smooth and desperately unfashionable 10-speed. It was a very different experience at rush hour, on the folding bike, and it took me quite a bit longer than my first go.

Hoping to gain speed as I gain comfort with the route, and no longer have to check my A-Z every few minutes. Would also like a small pannier, that fits on the  small parcel rack - my ancient and trusty MEC panniers (which have served me lo these 15+(?) years) do not fit. If anyone knows where to find or bodge such an item, please drop me a line.


abendgules: (Default)

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