Saturday, June 09, 2007

So much to do, so little time.....

OK, things are now officially back to normal. After nearly 2 years (basically since I left Sun in 2005) of having enough time to do most of what I wanted, when I wanted, over the last couple of months the old status quo has re-established, and I now have too much to do. I have a simple way of determining when I have reached that point, and it happened today. I looked at my backlog - all the people who have been waiting 48 hours or more for me to answer a question or an email, all the tasks with a deadline that falls within the next 72 hours - and realised that I couldn't afford to spend 90 minutes at the hairdresser's just knitting (which is what I usually do to pass the time). So I reluctantly packed up my PowerBook, and my iLap, and went to the hairdresser's and worked. Fortunately my hairdresser, the wonderful Victoria, is used to me bringing a laptop to the salon (if you live in the Randwick area and your hair needs attention, look for Gino's Hairstylist in Avoca Street, near the corner of Alison Road), so I type while she works her magic. The things that make this work are the iLap, which I actually bought in Amsterdam last year, and a good pair of noise occluding headphones from the lovely folks at Koss. I use a pair of ear buds that block out the normal parrot house chatter of the salon, and make it possible to think. Combined with an ocean waves sound track, the Koss buds block out the salon radio, the traffic on Avoca Street, and everything else quite effectively. I have that 20 minute MP3 of surf sounds (scroll down a bit on the web page) in my iTunes library, and honestly, the Sonic Waves folk should charge for it. I have a playlist which is just that track, repeated, which I use to provide thinking space in noisy environments. I'm one of those people who can't concentrate properly with music in the background - music ties up too much of my brain (OK, I am more likely to listen to Vivaldi or Bach than some modern stuff, most of which is, in my opinion, content free and does not engage the brain in any way).

So I knocked off a bunch of memos and emails while Victoria did my hair, and I'm sort of back on top, for now. The problem in the last couple of weeks has been the number of vendor training courses and events running. Last week I did a half day certification with Quantum, spent Thursday on my company's stand at a Cisco trade show, and then the whole of Friday doing a new products training thing at Sun (under NDA, I can't tell you anything). Real work gets fitted around this.

And of course this is the Queens' Birthday long weekend (Monday off!), Tuesday I have a long meeting in Parramatta with a government customer, Wednesday and Thursday I am on an APC certification course, and Friday I am taking a day of annual leave to go to the Good Food Show - I go every year, and the Friday is always less crowded than the weekends. I booked the day's leave months ago, before all the training stuff got onto my calendar. So getting real work (you know, solving customer problems, things like that) done is going to be tricky. Still, my management regards the vendor stuff as work - the state of our certifications affects our product buy price - so it must be done.

Certifications are a sort of oblation to the vendors: they prove your love. The whole thing is rather tragically negotiable and, in the case of the Sun courses, utterly farcical. Most of the Sun courseware has not been updated since around 2003-2004, which is as I recall about the point where the Sun "reduction in force" initiative reached the technical writing people. However, Sun has to have a hoop through which vendors can be made to jump, to prove their commitment, and they have been forced to construct the hoop out of superceded junk. It is seriously annoying to have to listen to some (really rotten) actor enthuse madly over equipment that is no longer on the price list.


Here in Sydney it is raining, the sort of rain that we haven't had for a couple of years, with high winds and massive sea swells . A lot of New South Wales is drought declared, and the dam levels are very low. Our brilliant state government, after doing nothing useful for years, has finally panicked, and decided to build a desalination plant so that we don't run out of water (this was beginning to look like a very real possibility). New South Wales actually has plenty of water, its just very badly managed. We don't recycle water. Our water infrastructure is old and leaky, so a lot of water is just wasted. Our dams are in places with relatively low rainfall - millions of litres falls on Sydney proper every year, and just flows into storm water drains and runs out to sea, while the dams get no rain for months on end.

But this week it has rained, and shows no signs of letting up for a while: there have been devastating flash floods in some areas, some towns may have to be evacuated, roads have been washed away and people killed. We are fortunately to live near the top of the coastal ridge: if the water gets this high, somebody had better build an ark! I've just been outside to drain the water from all the plant pots around my garden, so the plants in them don't drown. The wind has knocked all the cherry tomatoes that were close to ripe off the bush, and my basil plant is suffering in the wind. And the long range forecast is for more of the same!

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