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26 Mar / Meetings

I remember a time, long ago now, when a meeting was something you held when you wanted to get something done.

There was a problem that needed to be fixed? Hold a meeting.

There was a decision that needed to be made? Hold a meeting.

There was a new staff member you wanted to tear to shreds behind his back? Have a girl’s night out.

The remnants from this time live on in my memory, and whenever I’m invited to a meeting (or just when I see one naturally forming) I feel a little frisson of excitement that something effective is about to happen.

Rest assured, it’s not.

Nowadays the meetings being held tend to involve looking at a problem from all sides before disbanding with a promise to get together again later to consider it further. And don’t worry, if perchance we make a decision, we can always meet again to backtrack out of it without any cause for concern that events may progress in the meantime.

I had four meetings on Wednesday. What did I get out of them you ask? A familial acquaintance with a cupboard. No more.

But not to worry, I had another meeting today. I’ll have another two tomorrow. I also have a lunch date and I think I’ll get more out of that hour than any of the ones taken up in meeting rooms.

Not that I’m entirely complaining. After all, if I wasn’t in a meeting room I’d be staring at a Sharepoint site or an Excel spreadsheet.

They can almost make people look good.

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25 Mar / The cupboard

Before I start I’d just like to say, what happens in the cupboard stays in the cupboard. My cupboard buddies will know what I’m talking about.

I played a part in today’s unit presentation. We call it a quarterly presentation because it happens two or three times a year. Everybody gets a section, apart from that time when somebody had “car trouble” and somebody else “slept in” and we ended up with one person doing three of the sections while the rest of us who’d bothered to turn up did one.

Traditionally we’ve booked out the really large room at work for this so we only have to do one presentation. However, for the last two presentations it’s been booked out earlier by some far more organised business unit, and we’ve therefore had to make do with a smaller room and tag-team presentations to get everyone through.

Prior to the refurbishments the room was just a room, but now it has a secret. Hidden in the corner of the room is a secret cupboard. It looks small from the outside, but as any Doctor Who fan could guess it’s bigger on the inside.

Not having enough chairs for everyone to sit down the Team Leaders chose to wait out the presentation in the cupboard, only emerging as their section was ready, and then popping away again neat and clean.

The first time around we were remarkably controlled. We paid attention to each other’s segments, and supported our increasingly hot selves against the door leading out of the cupboard.

The second time around we had less patience and more ease. Lacking chairs in the cupboard, we knelt and then lay down on the floor. This was a bit of a worry because apart from one member most of us had waved goodbye to forty and knees just don’t cooperate the same as they used to.

I can’t say too much, but some stuff happened, and if you weren’t there you might take it the wrong way. Needless to say all the Team Leaders are now fully bonded thank you very much.

Oh, and if anyone’s still on the floor could you let us out now? A joke’s a joke, guys.

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24 Mar / Air conditioning

It’s simple in theory, right?

You mount sensors throughout the floor in various high-traffic locations. They take the temperature and relay that information to a central unit which then pumps out the required air to raise or lower the temperature as needed.

This keeps the room at a nice even temperature within the bounds set by the operator.

This is the reward. This is the reward that all white collar workers reap in exchange for forsaking the sky and the sun and the grass and the earth to work in little pods with other people. Other people! Within arm’s length.

It all sounds so good. It all sounds so easy. It sounds like the kind of system that might keep an office building at a steady temperature of 18-22 degrees celsius.

Certainly what it doesn’t sound like is a recipe for meeting rooms to alternate from freezing cold to boiling hot, and the open plan floor to vary by eight degrees from one end to the other.

Eight degrees. Air temperatures outside vary by less than this from full sun to deep shade. It’s not natural to put a human body through this.

Even worse is the claims made to have the unit installed in the first place, which use words like ambient and controlled, when they mean aggressive and erratic.

When did air conditioning go from being a caring way for a company to ensure that staff were in comfortable working surrounds to a war that the blue collars are stealthily inflicting on the white collars?

Well I watch Game of Thrones dudes so I’m up for this, bring it on.

All air-conditioning men must die.

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22 Mar / Printouts

No matter how many years I do accounts solely on a computer, whenever something goes wrong (and usually horribly wrong) I have to print it out and tick it off, item by item.

When I started work back in the 80s there was still the dream of the paperless office floating around.

At work we currently have two screens just so we can look at the “paperwork” on one, and the entry screen on the other.

And if something goes wrong with the processing? We print it out.

When I’m doing my final proofread, do I perform it on a Kindle, which is the library which I read most of my books from?

No.

I order a physical copy of the book, and sit down with a ballpoint and a highlighter to pick up all of the errors that myself and my editor had no hope of seeing in an online copy.

Damn if there isn’t some strange substance in paper that makes errors spring out from the page and yell “here I am.”

And that paperless office is still a pipe dream that our physical storage company is hoping will never come to pass.

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21 Mar / Nearly back

After my incident earlier in the week where my book decided to go for a nice stroll and never came back, I’m happy to announce I’m almost back in the same place that I was.

Oddly enough, it doesn’t look or feel the same as it did the first time. The same basic stuff happens, but all the characters are thinking with different words in their heads, and different similes in their minds eye.

I don’t know why it comes out different every time, except that if it didn’t the second draft would just be the first draft, retyped. The characters are coming through a bit stronger too, bolshy things both of them.

Having lost a week’s work, and forever changed the course of the first quarter of my book, you’ll all be pleased to know now that I am once again backing up to the cloud.

And this time, when I say backing up to the cloud, I actually mean backing up to the cloud as opposed to previously when I meant not doing that at all.

So, all in all, a good week. I lost work, I put work back, I’m in the same place I was. One step back and one step forward. It’s almost like exercising on a treadmill, but without all the sweat.

And having spent time redoing the same things, I’m actually looking forward to seeing where these peeps go next. As opposed to just complaining about the work that involves.

If I’m going to get back on track completely, expect that next week.

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20 Mar / Powerpoint

Along with all the real work that I’m meant to be getting on with, today I realised that I’m supposed to have submitted the powerpoint slides for my portion of our quarterly presentation to our branch manager today.

I haven’t.

I did try very hard to do so, however. All in all I think I probably pulled together a good half-dozen slides. And when I say good what I really mean is below standard.

I tried to work out how to draw up some easy graphs to explain how great things I’ve done are.

I couldn’t work out a way. For a moment I even wavered and considered that maybe the things I do aren’t as great as I think.

Nah.

So I decided to put a funny picture on a slide and just talk to it.

I was surprised to find that there are no funny pictures left on the Internet.

Nope. I’ve seen and shown them all.

So I ended up dazzling with screenshots (yawn) and raw numerical data (snooze).

At this point I’m thinking the only interesting thing I’m going to have in my part of the presentation will be if I can convince all the team leaders to stand in the cupboard and run in and out of the presentation.

Oh, whatever. It will so be fun.

I’m beginning to think that Powerpoint is a bit like Excel. I know that back when they first came out they were miraculous and ground-breaking and allowed people to do things that either couldn’t be done, or would take some serious moolah to do, but now they just exist as the bane of my life.

Maybe I could just pin a poster to the wall and trick people into staring at that instead? Or pre-record my session and not worry about checking in for the presentation at all.

Ohhhh yes. Girl, I like the way that you think.

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18 Mar / The lost story

An easter ago my computer threw a fit and decided that the hard drive was corrupted.

I spent a tough three days wondering if I would ever retrieve my completed manuscript, but eventually it was saved. I did, of course, have a backup copy – I’d be a fool not to – but that was a hard copy which would have required me retyping the whole blasted thing, and I was not in the mood.

Eventually I got my laptop back up and running. It turned out my hard drive was perfectly fine, but windows 8 had decided to go looking for the boot disc in the wrong place, and I had to tell it that the drive was a different type of drive before it could see it as a drive.

For these, and other good reasons, I no longer trust my laptop computer to hold my work-in-progress manuscripts.

Instead I’ve taken to uploading the precious wordies into the cloud. Directly after producing them. At least that’s what I do at home.

I also have a laptop in the office, which I sometimes use to write on in the mornings, or break times. Not often, because my preferred occupation during break times is gossip or staring into the middle distance, but sometimes.

It’s quite a rigamarole to hook up my mobile phone so the laptop can connect to the internet (and it drains the battery super-fast) so I usually carry a copy of the WIP on a USB stick that I use instead.

So at home I save it into the cloud, and at work I save it onto the USB.

Except, I also have trouble remembering to save the work in two places when I’m at home, so for the past couple of weeks I’ve only been saving it on the USB stick.

But that’s fine. It’s not like it’s going to corrupt or anything. I even carefully go through the steps to remove it safely from the computer each time. Often.

And I was right. That little USB stick didn’t corrupt. Not while I was in possession of it.

Unfortunately, I’m no longer in possession of it.

Not in my bag, not in my computer, not in the car, not at my desk.

Possibly on the street, possibly on the bus, possibly safely in my hand in another dimension.

So, in my pursuit of safety I’m now working on the second draft of my novel a lot more quickly than I thought I would be. Especially considering I hadn’t yet finished the first draft.

Oh, and if anyone sees a blue USB stick in the greater Christchurch area with a manuscript in progress, and a slew of embarrassing photos, please feel free to drop me a line.

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17 Mar / The Jinx

Wheeeeeeeeeee!

Well that was a wild ride, wasn’t it?

Did he do it? Do he do the other it? He definitely had something to do with that third it, but how much?

Is there going to be a season two?

All these questions will remain unanswered (apart from that last one) and I’m sure that’s not how a good scripted television program should end.

What do you mean it wasn’t scripted?

I wish that I’d never heard of Robert Durst just like I hadn’t at the beginning of this series, so I could go back and watch it all over again.

That poor guy with his string of mysterious bad luck that somehow culminated in him being a blink-monster with spelling difficulties.

Kind of nice to see a series like this where you’re wondering if a free man should be locked up, rather than watching something like the staircase and wondering if a locked up man should be set free.

Maybe owls killed Kathleen Durst just like they did with Kathleen Peterson? (and if you think that theory sucks then you should definitely read this!)

And most awesome of all is the opportunity to debate someone saying “I killed them all” rather than the far more pedestrian “I didn’t do it.”

Andrew Jarecki, Marc Smerling, Zachary Stuart-Pontier and HBO – you rock. Now don’t take another five years to bring me the next incredible viewing experience.

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16 Mar / The 5:2 diet

In my quest to try every diet fad at least once before shaking my head and going “it’s just not safe,” and pretending that it wasn’t the ravenous hunger, or the carb cravings that turned the tables, I have recently embarked on the 5:2 diet.

Also known as the Fast Diet (which just makes it all the more attractive ’cause only the bad boys of the diet world go under a pseudonym) it basically consists of eating normally for five days, and being on restricted calories for two.

I realise that by saying “basically” above I may have misled you all into believing that there is a deeper and more complex premise awaiting your discovery, and that ain’t so. In this case the basic version is the version, and everything else is just personal experience or evidence based results.

Now, usually when I embark on a fad diet full of a mix of hope and cynicism I clean out the cupboards of all non-fad diet food related items (admittedly by eating them, but clean them out anyway) and then embark on my hunger and craving phase.

For this diet I don’t need to do this, because no food is disallowed.

That’s rather brilliant in and of itself because now I’m not behoven to any particular food group I don’t need to worry about not being allowed all the others.

Anyway, I started this diet on Friday and it went really well the first day. And then on Saturday it also went well. Sunday was just cruisy. Today, however, I started to experience some of its drawbacks.

This may be a design flaw in the diet, it may be a design flaw in me. It may be that Friday, Saturday and Sunday belonged to the five day part of the diet, and today belonged to the two.

It could be anything.

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