Friday, May 20, 2011

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

I've had a busy few months, but this evening my wonderful husband is cooking dinner, and I have time enough to blog.

I have once again over committed myself. I have not yet completed the project to scan all my back numbers of Omni magazine (though the end is in sight), and despite that I took on another large project. I am editing (and designing) a book about the history of a Presbyterian church in Northern Ireland. I am also knitting, with yarn backed up waiting for the needles to be free so I can start the next project, trying to read several books at once, and trying to change jobs. I need more hours in the day, or days in the week.

The history book was an unexpected opportunity. I've been researching the history of my late father's family (family history - there's another sink hole for time), which is extraordinarily badly documented. In the course of dredging through the online resources, I stumbled across the First Donegore Presbyterian Church website. One of the church members kindly sent me their baptismal records: hundreds of pages of photographs of hand written records stretching back to 1806. As soon as I saw the first pages, I knew that I would have to do something to make the records more accessible: finding anything in them in their raw state would be extremely challenging. So I said "I'll get the whole lot converted to a spreadsheet", and they kindly sent me a draft of their church history as well. I had a look at the document, and it brought back fond memories of cataloging family history for the National Library of Australia: erratically formatted documents with amateur-hour illustrations and no indexes. We used to get scores of these things, under Legal Deposit requirements, and their sole virtue in my eyes was that I could catalogue half a dozen in an afternoon (the subject headings and Dewey numbers would be almost identical for every one, leaving only physical cataloguing, which isn't that time consuming) and keep my daily averages up. We aimed to complete 8 books a day: cataloguing takes a lot of time, and we were still doing hand written coding onto data entry sheets when I was at the NLA.

So I outsourced the baptismal records to Freelancer, and got stuck into the book itself. I've thoroughly enjoyed it - it is actually much more interesting than it sounds. Social history, about people rather than war or politics, has always interested me, and I hope that the lecturers who taught me history at university would approve of my efforts. I actually read Irish History in my third year, and I still have some of my text books, which has proved useful. We hope to publish in August.

Then there is knitting. I'm part way through an interesting cowl, and then I saw the Mr Fox stole in an issue of Yarn Forward. Even my husband, who is normally immune to knitting patterns, concedes that this one looks like fun. And I still have a bag of Noro yarn (and a pattern for same) from my Christmas trip. I need to knit faster.

And I need to change jobs. This is by mutual consent with my bosses. Things didn't go as we expected: while there is plenty of work, it is not work that I am particularly good at, so it is everyone's best interests that I move on. And now is the time: the amount of work out there is staggering! I've got a couple of interviews lined up next week, but as word of my availability spreads, I'm getting calls from people who I have worked with in the past who would like to work with me again. This is really nice: it is not that easy to explain what I do on a standard resume, but the people who are calling me have seen me at my best - what one former colleague was pleased to describe as "charging $2,000 a day to fix things you know nothing about". And that is essentially what I have done for many years. I have a career based on saying "OK, I'll have a look at it, come back in a couple of hours and I'll have something for you". I am "the third engineer": if two people have already tried to get something working and failed, I'll come out and fix whatever it is. This not because I know a huge amount about anything - it's because I know a bit about everything, and I'm prepared to take calculated risks.

So I have opportunities with a couple of systems integrators and couple of top tier vendors, and more coming in. Every time I get a call I have to re-evaluate what I want to do next : interesting work versus commute problems versus financial stability versus employer stability etc. Interesting times.....


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