Anxious Silence

The Festive Season of Entitlement and Cajoling

Posted December 9th, 2014 23:59 by Bob

It’s the season of goodwill, kindness and giving. Unless you work in retail or the service industry or happen get in the way in which case fuck you it’s the season of aggressive self-interest.

I worked in retail once, for about three hours, after which I was ‘let go’ and advised that I probably shouldn’t attempt to work in retail again as I didn’t have the requisite social skills. I’m not going to disagree with this advice, my ongoing relationship with not working in retail is working out just fine for both of us. I do however really feel for those who do have the requisite social skills and have to deal with selling things to the great British public over the holiday season. The workload and shitty hours suck but that’s just the stale biscuit base onto which the mouldering cheesecake is built. The closer the Christmas countdown comes to the big day the more some people start to transform into screeching, selfish, entitled pricks with no sense of scale. I’m not sure what the exact date is because my copy of the cunts calendar never turned up, but there’s a date after which it becomes socially acceptable to treat shop staff like the dregs of society you always assumed they were. It’s clearly the assistant’s fault that you didn’t plan your shopping early. It’s also their fault there’s a queue. It’s their fault you have no idea what to buy for your nephew and it’s their fault you are acting like a colossal arse. None of these things could possibly be your fault.

It’s not just shop staff who make your life miserable. Designers and techies try our best to make you cry as well.

It happens every year, yet I always seem to forget about it until the next time round when it leaps out on me like an angry stress weasel robed in the hate-farts of a thousand marketing managers. Everything’s cool. Everything is under control. We’re winding down for Christmas, making plans to see friends and family, then starting as a slow trickle, building up to a flood they attack, the bad-planning zombies. Like an episode of the Walking Dead, but duller and more confusing. They rise up from nowhere, the marketing managers in need of urgent sign-off. They have somehow forgotten that Christmas happens. I accept it’s only recently it’s become a bit of a thing, but they seem aware of Black Friday and I’m sure that only started happening here THIS YEAR. They need to get their campaigns for the new year signed off before they can disappear wherever it is these people disappear off to over Christmas, so a sudden flurry of frantic phone calls and garbled confusing emails expecting quotes and timelines to be delivered RIGHT NOW. No time to get a brief together, no time to discuss exactly what’s required just give them the numbers so they can get the client to scrawl an agreement and they can stagger off to the office Christmas party to inhale free booze and bitch about that time Derek from accounts accidentally flashed his winky at the MD of Seiko.

Fine, whatever here’s some rough numbers, go to your parties, have fun. Eh? No, you can’t agree that as a final cost with your client, you’ve not actually told us what you need because you “don’t have time”. When do you need it? When in January? The first of January? Really? You didn’t think I might like to take some time off over the festive period myself? Oh, veiled threats. That’s nice. What’s that? I’m in tech so probably don’t have friends or family to spend time with anyway? Nice. My time’s not really that important compared to yours? Oh, ok then.

A real life conversation this week. One of many similar. A request for a piece of tech came in during the second week of December, launch date already agreed with the end client – first week of January, cost already agreed with end client – far lower that actual value. Having politely suggested that maybe making these agreements before discussing the feasibility might not have been the most tip-top planning the response was “you’ve got five weeks, surely that’s enough”, further suggestion that we may already have other things to do, and oh, there’s also Christmas which we were planning to take off just sent things down the dark path. Let’s not stray too far down that path, it brings the screaming and the crying and the desire to move into a forest away from technology and anyone who has ever had anything to do with branding.

Here it comes, can you sense it? I can always sense it before it arrives. Best way to deal with it is just relax and accept it’s going to happen. It shouldn’t, but it does. The suggestion, the attempt to shift the burden, the idea that the responsibility should change hands and in turn we should change our plans. Could we not, just you know, work through. Not on Christmas day obviously but the other days we can’t possibly have anything of value to do, because, you know it’s down to us to fix it when someone else screws their planning so badly they would otherwise have to put their hand up and take some responsibility. Dear Sirs, I appear to have ceased to give any flavour of fuck about this opportunity. I am off to find someone with a sense of empathy to talk to.

I sympathise, I really do. I’ve been there, a pushy client wants a thing, you don’t really understand what the thing is and the best way to get a thing is to point at the nearest person and make it their problem now. But then I stopped being 12. I have a four year old son, all he wants for Christmas (aside from a massive pile of toys) is for me to take some time off to spend with him and his mum, if you seriously think your campaign is going to prevent that you should take a good long stare at your empty soul.

I know. I know. I really know this is getting out of hand. I know the obsession with manners and treating people acceptably is going to get me into trouble. I also know I’ve pissed off clients, some to the extent they are no longer clients. I care because I don’t want my family to have to live in a skip on the A4 and I’m slowly dragging us there, but you, YOU can help stop this and I really want you to, I don’t want my child growing up in a skip with rats for friends (no offence to rats or people who live in skips). Help me with my Christmas wish.

Please don’t take offence, but for Christmas what I’d really like is for people to stop being selfish, finger pointing entitled pricks. It takes a bit of practice but we can all get there, here’s some handy tips.

1. Look up ‘empathy’ and understand it. Here you go, I looked it up for you: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Empathy you’ll need to do the understanding yourself. In short, remember that other people are actually people, real actual humans with real feelings and everything.

2. Find yourself berating a shop assistant, designer, developer, postal worker, or ANYONE ELSE over a situation caused by your own bad planning? Stop! See point 1.

3. Find yourself berating a clerical worker, hairstylist, fishmonger, or ANYONE ELSE over a situation that was out of both of your control? Stop! See point 1.

4. Trying to shift the blame onto someone else for a situation you caused? Stop! Take some damn responsibility, also, see point 1.

5. Attempting to co-erce a builder, web-designer, piano tutor, or ANYONE ELSE into giving up on their time to fix problems you have caused? Stop! See point 1.

In general try to obey the tenets of Wheaton’s Law. It’s best all round.

Think you may have been a bit of a dick to someone lately? Why not try and balance that out a bit, do something positive:

Be excellent to each other!


Hammerhead

Posted April 24th, 2014 19:52 by Bob

Here is a gif of me smacking myself in the head with a hammer while wearing a metal helmet that my good friend Phil made…


To dream of a coat stand

Posted February 17th, 2014 00:52 by Bob

I cannot sleep because I need a coat stand. Indirectly.

I can not find a coat stand I like and can afford. A normal person would just buy a fucking coat stand and not think about it.

So I spent an hour looking for a coat stand, rather than just purchasing the first one I found for a tenner on ebay.

I found nothing to make me happy. So I designed one. In my head.

Then I spent an hour working out where I could source the materials from.

Then I had a bit of a think about the fact I’m not very good with my hands.

Then finally I thought about how little spare time I have in which to build a fucking coat stand. This was upsetting because the one in my head is really nice and it would be a shame for it to not exist, and frankly I really want to build something. But by taking time out to learn how to and then build a coat stand I will be letting people down.

I should probably just buy a coat stand on ebay for a tenner.

The source of my insomnia is a coat stand. I am not normal.


Welcome to Slough… …now go away.

Posted August 9th, 2013 08:11 by Bob

Look what I found round the back of the bins (or their digital equivalent). I take no credit for this, it was made by a friend who will remain nameless for now. These are real quotes from a facebook group. Not a far-right facebook group, just a normal facebook group the purpose of which is nostalgia about a local community. There’s also a version with people’s full names on but since I live near them and they are clearly unbalanced I’m too much of a coward right now to include them.

welcome_to_slough_initials2

Look! A downloadable version you could if you so desired print out and put up somewhere.


Herby Explosion

Posted June 19th, 2013 17:43 by Bob

2013-06-19 18.27.29

We actually remembered to harvest some of the edible stuff from the garden. We did pick some herbs last year and froze them but it was at the end of the season and they had mostly died down already. We’ve already left it a bit late this year as the herb garden looks like an explosion and much of it is probably far too mature but hopefully now I’ve hacked it back we’ll get some new growth.

Rather than freezing them this year we’re going to try and dry them. Vaguely following instructions from Grown your own month by month I’ve given them a good wash and left them hanging over the sink to drain a bit before moving them somewhere dry to dry out properly. They are probably tied a little too tightly at the moment but just want to get enough water off them that they don’t drip all over the floor.

The plan is to pick up some large pickling jars to store the results in once they’ve dried out. If nothing else the kitchen smells good and my hands are lovely and minty.

We’ve also picked our second crop of forced rhubarb, mum got us a Rhubarb forcer for Christmas which is working amazingly.


Divorama Drama

Posted May 22nd, 2013 21:06 by Bob

Once more I am grateful to the NHS in general and the staff at Wexham Park in particular. In a moment of terrifyingly bad parenting, following a long day I decided to have a quick blink at which moment Alexander opted to dive backwards off our garden bench onto the concrete floor. I’m not sure if it was hitting the floor or my sudden scream of “FUCKING HELL” which caused the most distress but we had to drive to A&E.

Everyone was lovely and spent the entire time repeatedly telling us that (a) we had done the right thing by bringing Alexander in, we were not wasting their time; and (b) it happens a lot, really a lot. I still feel intensely guilty for allowing momentary distraction but slightly better. Given he’s spent the evening breakdancing and demanding food I’m hoping all will be fine by the morning.

The biggest upset of the whole event was trying to leave the hospital as Alexander had grown very attached to the toy train in the waiting room and screamed “back back back” all the way to the door where he became instantly distracted by the ambulances and police cars outside.

Lessons learned today: Don’t blink EVER and if you want to get through A&E quickly try being a two year old. On a serious note, we are incredibly lucky to be living in a country with a health service and it should be protected at all costs.

Here’s a handy link to a campaign to save the NHS from the Tory shitbags.

I made some more stupid videos. Here are a couple from this week:


Diabetic Lunch Hell Solutions

Posted May 12th, 2013 16:18 by Bob

After a near heart attack following working out how much I spend on lunch at work I’ve decided I need to find a better solution.

Work lunchtimes are becoming a bit of a challenge, although Maidenhead has a reasonable selection of places to buy instant edible food from once you factor in cost, general health and then diabetes the selection drops dramatically. I appreciate as a grown up I should be capable of preparing a decent meal to bring in with me but mornings tend to be incredibly hectic with a toddler yelling for his breakfast and a general sense of panic to get to work before the world implodes whereas evenings are work filled until late or I’m just too tired to care.

Buying food in the town centre was fine pre-diagnosis (cost issue aside) but since has been a bit more of a problem. I can eat relatively easily if I go to a restaurant but that’s right out on a regular basis for both time and budgetary reasons. So, I’m stuck with supermarket food or takeaways, both of these suffer from the same problem – they tend to be stacked full of the stuff diabetics should avoid: bread, pasta, potato & rice. A large amount of what’s left is either salad or high in fat. The high in fat has to be avoided both because of general health considerations and because diabetics are prone to heart problems. There’s only so much salad I can face and have you looked at the price of a decent salad recently?

The main frustration is with myself, I’m a competent cook, the majority of what we eat at home is cooked from scratch and we have a varied diet I just have trouble transferring this into food I can take away from the house.

So, I need to find a way to eat at work without spending half our profits and without killing myself, my requirements are:

- Must be easy to prepare in advance, preferably in large batches to be frozen.

- Preparation time on the day of eating (or the night before) should be an absolute minimum. Sticking something in the oven for half an hour is fine, anything more is out.

- It must be financially sensible, ingredients should be those we use anyway or things we can make use of elsewhere. If it’s going to cost the same over time as buying lunch in town there’s no point.

- It must be healthy.

- I need to allow for variety, I can’t face eating the same thing all the time. So ideally things I can cook in large batches which can be frozen for a decent length of time.

- I must want to actually eat it. This sounds obvious but since I was diagnosed I’ve picked up some real food issues. There are some meals now which I cannot face and will make me nauseous to try and eat, it’s entirely psychosomatic but I don’t seem to be able to get past it at the moment.

The first solution – pasties! Obviously. Bear with me on this. Normal pasties are clearly right out what with the white flour and fat and all but the general concept is a strong one, a fully contained meal which requires no additional preparation and nothing extra to go with it but contains a decent combination of foodstuffs (carbs, protein, fibre, etc). I make quite a lot of diabetic friendly flatbreads/pancakes at home using a mixture of spelt flour, wholegrain flour, oat bran and flax (it is nicer than it sounds) so I’ve modified the recipe to make a basic pastry/bread type case which I can fill with STUFF, more importantly different stuff each time I make them.

I’ve just finished making the first batch with a samosa type filling (less of the potato and the addition of some mixed seeds/green veg to balance up the carbs/fibre). They look edible, which is a start. Will find out tomorrow and hopefully get away from wasting a hell of a lot of cash.

Any suggestions on recipes will be gratefully received.


Mental Stagnation

Posted March 21st, 2013 20:41 by Bob

I’ve been worrying about mental languor. It’s crept up on me slowly like some insidious mind eating creature from a nineteen eighties Doctor Who episode. Cultural and intellectual entropy has taken hold without my realising, leading me into a spiral of apathy and draining what little creativity I had. In short, I’ve stopped trying. I became aware of the problem a couple of weeks back while at work, eating the same lunch I always eat while checking the same website I always check – for the fifth time that day. I’ve allowed myself to get into a routine, something I’ve previously actively avoided.

Routine in some ways is a good helpful framework for existence, there are aspects of life which shouldn’t need constant appraisal: my son’s bedtime, where we buy our milk, how often I clean my teeth. In other areas it can really cause trouble. Without a flow of new ideas, opinions and images I stop coming up with new ideas myself, without new things to feed my mental process my problem solving skills start to wane and to some extent my intellectual processes generally drop.

In honesty I’ve always had trouble challenging myself to read and watch anything outside of my immediate area of interest and comfort (less so with music for no clear reason) and have often felt jealous of those who can just pick up a book on a new subject and dive in – I do have certain mental issues here to do with fear of failure to understand new things but there’s far too much baggage there to go into. Recently I have reached a new low, in my sparse spare time rather than learning something new I’ve been visiting the same very short list of websites none of which have very much in the way of stimulating content. I’ve made no effort to go anywhere new or do anything different outside of my daily routine. It’s killing me (mentally anyway).

Moving forward, I’ve recognised the problem and am making attempts to remedy it. There’s a world out there full of places to go, second hand bookshops, libraries, art galleries, forests, towns, museums and other things. There’s a massive internet of stuff in here, I can learn anything I want to learn and read about any subject imaginable. This is an amazing time to live in, humanity has never had more access to more information and experiences at such short notice, it’s brutally lazy to ignore these opportunities in favour of quick fixes of cheap entertainment and celebrity culture.

(This may have been partially inspired by going to see Robin Ince the other week).


The Pancakes of Sadness

Posted December 9th, 2012 09:31 by Bob

It’s 9am on a Sunday and I’ve already questioned my mortality and made the worst pancakes it is possible to make without actually poisoning my family.

Had a lovely dream in which I was terminally ill, going to die in three days and needed to work out how my family would be provided for, but my clients would not let me have my remaining time off and insisted I work extra hours those last few days to make up for it.

With this cheerful start it seemed only right to make pancakes. Making pancakes is a fucking convoluted challenge in this house with our growing list of food issues. It wasn’t so bad when I could use eggs but they are now verboten following a toddler face swelling horror. Last week I tried just making (wholemeal/spelt flour) pancakes with no egg and no egg replacement. They tasted acceptable but didn’t behave as you would like a pancake to behave.

This week we had a box of American style pancake mix Caitlin had given us. I found some advice that a reasonable egg replacement was apple sauce. That sounds nice doesn’t it? You would assume pancakes with a build in  apple-sauceyness would be full of tasty goodness wouldn’t you. Well they probably would be if that’s what I had delivered to the breakfast table (which also doubles as the lunch, dinner and any other arbitrary meal table). What I delivered was a confusing stack of crispy burned items with a near liquid centre. I’ve not been to the states but I’m pretty sure this isn’t the intention. Karen bravely made her way through two, I stupidly attempted three of them because I had to make the damn things and was not going to throw them out unchallenged. As responsible parents we didn’t give any to Alexander in case it constituted child abuse.

Feeling a little funny now, should probably call a doctor but need to get these servers configured first.

 


How to not throw a laptop out of a first floor window

Posted September 9th, 2012 19:14 by Bob

On the verge of finally defenestrating my laptop my beautiful friend Tim saved it with the power of SSD.

The birth of my (awesome) son brought many changes to my life, most of them brilliant, some expected and some utterly not so. One change I failed to divine was the effect it would have on my illustration time. I’ve worked from home most of my life and as such have been able to use my work tools (desktop computer) in my own time for my own creative ends. This didn’t work out so well once I had a tiny person depending on me. My option to disappear into another room for a few hours of pixel pushing dissipated somewhat, doubly nixed as I was no longer working from home having moved into an office with the dual purpose of being a bit more professional and converting my home office into a nursery (still work in progress, I am nothing if not inefficient).

The most obvious solution was to get a decent spec laptop so that in the moments my tiny child happened to be sleeping I could pop it open and bugger about with Illustrator to my hearts content. Following a bit of research and advice I went for a Sony Vaio. It’s a nice piece of kit, looks lovely, fairly lightweight but sturdy, has all sorts of slots and ports for all manner of devices, runs like a brick. Right from the start it was a struggle to work with, it took a few minutes to boot, would overheat quickly and crash on a regular basis. If I tried to play games on it I needed to reboot after 45 minutes otherwise they became too sluggish to play. As far as using it for design and illustration went, it would open Illustrator and Photoshop but as soon as I had put together anything of any complexity it would become unbearably slow. I gave up using it for a few months as it was just depressing, it was taking hours to draw something that I could knock out in ten minutes on my desktop at work.

Recently, frustration at lack of opportunity to work on personal projects at work drove me to try it out again, I spent a couple of days desperately trying to make it work by removing anything from it that may be eating resources. I even did away with the desktop background. It made a difference but not enough to render the damned thing actually usable. On the verge of giving a thousand pounds worth of barely used laptop to charity, Tim suggested I try an SSD (Solid State Drive). I was wary, they looked expensive, but he lent me one to try out. It was like a completely different machine, no freezing no overheating, I could open Photoshop and Illustrator at the same time and work on hi-res images. Bit of research later and I picked up an OCZ 480GB Agility3
. Tim kindly fitted it for me and my technical problems have gone, a laptop which used to take a good few minutes to boot is now ready for use in under 15 seconds. The offset is that I have less space to play with but I’m happy to learn to keep my files in order in exchange for a computer that actually works.

All this does beg the question as to why Sony had made the decision to include such a crappy low-spec HD in an otherwise decent quality machine, the SSD is the only hardware change I’ve made but it’s like I’ve bought a completely new laptop. Had I been given the option at purchase to have gone for (and paid for) a decent quality HD, SSD or not I would have done so. Bad call Sony (although your walkman’s still kick arse).

This will not of course stop me procrastinating, I could have been drawing tentacled bunnies instead of writing this whinge, but there’s always tomorrow, plus I appear to have a computer which will run video games now, so might have a bit of a play before I get started.

Yay for SSDs…