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Wednesday, February 15

More course-like fun
3rd day of the course. Is it getting harder? Well, not really. I'll admit that one particular exercise somewhat confused me, but only because I couldn't be bothered to delve through the blether too much to work out exactly what was needed to fit my 1 single line of code into their nonsense.

Overall, the day was productive, but only because I sorted out some things related to managing my life, while the other guys slowly worked through the exercises. I'm not exaggerating when I say that I'm going over 10 times the speed they are at the exercises. I'm finding it a bit embarrassing when I ask questions too. I am fascinated by the non-run-of-the-mill, since I want to be able to use this stuff properly. The other guys seem to be largely silent. If they can't eat through these exercises quickly, then perhaps their background knowledge is significantly different to mine.

Still, I've got to keep myself interested somehow.

Lunch, as always, was nice. The last couple of days we went out. First to an Italian restaurant, then to a Chinese. Today's was just sandwiches, but they were still very pleasant. I got to sort things out online. I've hired a skip. The hire company is Barney Rubble. Brilliant!

OBE one
On the train home, I got talking to a woman who had been to London to see her brother get an OBE. I was telling her about the course and she asked if the lunches were ok. I think she must know a lot about courses - ultimately, the lunch is a large part of the course. They were certainly the highlight of the courses I did in Washington, Tyne and Wear, where the local pub - the Waggon Inn, provided some of the most hearty and delicious food I ever recall eating. The mixed grill came with a plate piled high with meat. High. With a fried egg on top. Just as you were marveling over that, they brought the second plate with the chips!

Anyway, I whiled away the train journey in conversation (I was on an earlier train, having left the course early as we finished on an exercise and I ran out of things to do after about 10 minutes). We talked about education and the Queen. I think it's a shame that the Queen will never be able to stop being royal. I think she's got a cracking sense of humour and, if she weren't the Queen, I reckon she'd be the sort of person you'd want to go to the pub with. She's too royal and too ensconced in being regal to break with politeness and say what she really thinks. I bet the jokes she shares in secret are evil!

A trip to Newcastle
Over the course of the day, I planned my weekend. On Saturday morning, first thing. I'm picking up a van. I'll be driving this van, along with a ladder and a few tools, to Newcastle where I have to pack up the contents of my house. The purpose is to pack up everything that I plan to either store for my own use later, or take down south and use in the short term. Everything else is either going to stay there for possible use by my tenants (who start next month), or is going in the skip which I hired too.

I'll have about 24 hours to do all of this in. That's not very long. It should probably be enough. I need to get some boxes from somewhere, though. I have a loft in which to store anything I don't immediately need, which should do the job ok. I also have a bed to buy, on the way to the house, from IKEA.

If I'm honest, I think that this weekend is going to be a whole heap of work and I'm not looking forward to it. However, it's planned now and I'm just going to have to get on with it!

But first a trip to Farnborough
My last trip to Farnborough was on Monday night, where I got a couple of nights' clothing and put some washing in my washing basket. I was due another Farnborough trip - for the purposes of clean clothes at least. I also needed to unpack the last of my boxes, readying them for reuse back in Newcastle. So, I spent the evening in my Farnborough residence. I am still staying in Reading at the moment - it's a lot easier for commuting to London for this course (among other things).

I had planned a quick-in, quick-out trip to Farnborough, with a quick run of some shirts through the machine. A couple of things got in the way of this. Firstly, the machine's "D" cycle takes 115 minutes (apparently!) which meant that I was there for about that amount of time. Secondly, I think some socks sneaked into the wash, so my quick run through the wash of some shirts may have turned into a quick "ruin in the wash" for those self-same shirts. I'm not sure. They may have looked darker because they were damp and it was dark. We'll see.

Anyway, I had spare time enough for unpacking boxes, chatting with my housemates and even restringing my guitar, which, thinking about it, hasn't been restrung in all the time I've had it (coming up to a year, I think - actually, it was April 5t last year that I got it. I looked back).

With the shirts hung up to dry, I zoomed back to Reading in my car, which is, quite frankly, misbehaving itself completely. Its revs don't seem to come down in between gear changes. Its running is ropey, especially at low revs and high-torque (e.g. driving at low speeds in 2nd gear) its acceleration is rubbish. This is not a happy car. It stalled as I reached the parking space. Luckily, I was about to stop it anyway.

Freedom! - ability vs management
Apparently, I caused a bit of a fracas with an earlier post about idiots, management and freedom. Let me add a little more to this idea. At the moment, I am on a course where IT people learn new things. Everyone's friendly enough, but it's clear that I've taught myself more about this from a few days' using a text book, than this entire course can teach me in a week. Not only that, but I've been able to assimilate the information quickly and can rip through exercises. In short, I'm not bad at this computing malarkey.

I used to be in a job where I would use my skills and make stuff. Over time, it got harder and harder to achieve this. Partly through my own laziness, and partly through a general loss of drive around me. At one point, my boss took me aside and make it clear that I should get my arse into gear. There followed a good couple of months where I put my ship in order. The team noticed that I'd gone from the back seat to the front. Where I'd been in a position to encourage the talented people to get on with the work, I was now trying to get alongside them at the front line and get my hands dirty. All in all, I enjoyed that the most. I learned a lot from a few of those guys and I still have a load of respect for them. They could easily double their salary working where I am now and still be head and shoulders above some of the more senior staff. I have profound respect for "them what do" back at my last place.

Meanwhile, my life at my last job simply flushed its way down the toilet, as management seemed intent on shaking things up and putting on pressure, rather than creating an environment in which talented people get to make good stuff. I want to think that I have some talent. I want to think that I'm good (to some degree or other) at what I do. I know, by comparison, that I'm not the lest capable person in existence. In fact, moving to a new environment has pretty much forced me to reevaluate what I can and can't do. Do my ideas cut it in the big wide world? I think that they do. Yet, I feel like I was pretty much undervalued and considered a problem at my last place.

The reason I was a problem is because I'm not afraid to be outspoken and I'm not afraid to disagree. Moreover, the reason I was a problem is because the whole management approach was riddled with holes and I was one of the people who could see them and couldn't ignore them. I know that things change and that the place I left has changed its management structure recently. The bottom line, though, is that a team needs constructive and consistent leadership. It should be lead from within by peers/seniors, but it needs a sensible and thoughtful leadership from above. If there is discord within leadership, then people don't know what the hell they're supposed to be doing. If leadership comes in the form of dogma, rather than pragmatism, then nothing realistic can be achieved, since life invariably doesn't come in neat pure samples to which dogma can be effectively applied.

In a challenging environment with multiple, disagreeing views on what's right, people latch on to what they want to believe in. So, process junkies latch onto process, hackers latch onto delivery and pragmatics contact the recruitment agencies.

Bizarrely, I'm more idealistic now than I've ever been! I can afford to be, I'm working in an environment where there are serious commercial pressures and everyone's focusing on delivery. So, now my idealism makes sense. If I worked in a purely idealistic environment, I guess I'd aim for pragmatism, as idealism alone will only lead to failure.


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