30 June 2010

Out Of Work

9 Tir - Year 1389

It's my last day at my current wage-slave gig--I'm seemingly the victim of "down-sizing, off-shoring and out-sourcing". The entire staff of the department was summoned back in March for a 'company strategy' meeting. It was announced that six full-time staff members would be made redundant by September. The following couple of weeks, interviews were held about everyone's prospective plans. In mine, I did mention that I was thinking of leaving the department by the end of the year. I had also applied for a couple of in-house roles, which I subsequently wasn't chosen for. I know--probably not the best time to do so--but I didn't want to put my plans on hold.

When the announcements were made in early May, about who was on the chopping block, it wasn't much of a surprise that my name was among them. Each employee was 'rated' by their team manager, as far as following e-mail guidelines and a few other criteria (surprisingly, not productivity, though). My ratings were mysteriously low, considering that only a month or two before - my performance was roundly praised. Hmmmm...

I was told that my last working day would be September 30th - or as they put it, could be. That was probably important to remember, because last week--I had my 'final consultation' meeting with H.R. and the senior manager of the department. In the meeting, I was told that actually, my leaving day was suddenly moved to 30th June, not 30th September. Uh......Okayyyyy. Apparently, my team is 'over-staffed' by 1.9 critters. How they worked that out, I'll never know. I was told that I still get my full severance pay and I get my salary paid through July. As The Dead said once, "Set up, like a bowling pin/Knocked down, it gets to wearing thin.."

I have a feeling that the whole "over-staffed" thing was just a ruse to cover for the fact that the powers-that-be wanted me out before September. Maybe they think that my 'work-standards' have dropped (which they really haven't) or that I may be a 'disruptive presence'. I couldn't really say. That whole corporate/office politics thing bores me to tears, so I'm glad to be moving on now.

As I say, I've wanted to leave for a while now. I've been here for four years now and, as far as the context of the job I have, I've accomplished everything I can. Maybe it's my attention span, but I get really bored of jobs after a couple of years. I remember a statement of Robert Anton Wilson's, which said (I'm paraphrasing): "No matter how much you love your job, you should take a leap and try something different every five years, otherwise you become a zombie." I realise that not all have the luxury of leaving their jobs - but that definitely seems like sound advice to me.

From what I hear on the grapevine - there's more changes coming and more culling of the staff. Even if I had 'passed' this time, I might not have been so lucky next time. Ah well, so it goes in the world of wage-slavery. Perhaps this time, I can secure a gig where there's less of the politics and more enjoyment in 'work'. Heh heh....I can dream, can't I?

Time to get the CV updated and hit the pavment. Wish me luck!

21 June 2010

The Boat Trip

31 Jyaistha - Year 1932

Back from our holidays now - as I suspected, they flew by. In fact, I've already been back at work for a week (grumble..grumble..).

Pixie and I hired a narrowboat, in which we planned to head up to Chester and back. The marina we hired the boat from is located in Shropshire. The company is Maestermyn and their prices seem fairly reasonable. The boat we hired is called "Rhonwen" and is a 35-footer...small-ish compared to most of the boats on the canals now.

When we picked Rhonwen up from the marina, we were given a checklist of how to use the cooker, the lights, etc. He asked where we were planning on going...I answered "Chester." He replied with "You won't make to Chester and back in a week...it takes nearly a week to get there." D'oh! So, with a change in plan, we aimed toward Llangollen, in Wales, which was a much shorter distance to traverse. I nearly hit a couple of boats moored up in the marina as we left...such is the sensitivity of the rudder. It took me a couple of hours to really get used to piloting...by which time I had hit the canal bank at least once, along with the sides of bridge through-ways.

We made our way through to Chirk, which seems to be on the border of Wales. Between the over-night mooring spot and the village itself...there's a weird bit of 'no man's land' along the road. The sign stating "Welcome To Wales" is at the end of the road into the village..and at the top of the road is a "Shropshire" sign. I wish I'd taken a photo of it. There's also a huge tunnel to pass through. It felt a bit surreal piloting the boat through there. The light on the front of the boat worked well enough, but unlike the headlights on a car, it looks very dim when you're standing at the back. The ceiling of the tunnel was sliding over my head, but I couldn't really see it. It almost seems like you're not moving at all. We were quite lucky as well because sometimes the canal traffic gets heavy and the tunnel can only accomodate boats travelling in one direction. If that's the case, you have to wait along the canal bank until you are safe to go through...and if it's raining, it becomes a bit of a drag.

The other bit that can be hairy (if you don't like heights) is the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, near Llangollen. It has a walkway on one side and the canal bit for the boats on the other. The walkway has a railing--the boat side, however, does not. There's about 12 inches of raised metal to keep the boats from going over the edge..and that's it. The aqueduct is about 120 feet above ground. I mainly just looked ahead of me and tried not to look down over the side...not so easy to do. Luckily, time-wise, it's not too far to go and soon you get into the twisty canal route to the town itself. We moored up and went to have a look around. It's a small, but picturesque place. I found a huge used book-shop and scoured the charity shops for LPs. I ended up buying two Thomas Hardy novels (Tess Of The D'Urbervilles & Return Of The Native) and a Mick Farren sci-fi novel called The Last Stand Of The DNA Cowboys. Looking forward to reading that! We stayed there over-night, which meant getting dinner in town. A pizza restaurant located near the centre of town fit the bill and we enjoyed some yummy grub and a couple of Italian beers, too.

Our plan was to go back toward the marina, then bypass it for a day to trek to Ellesmere. We made decent time back to the aqueduct and Chirk. Past that, though, we underestimated the canal traffic at one of the two locks, which we had passed through so easily just a few days previously. About twelve boats were lined up, waiting to pass through the lock. We held Rhonwen to the side of the canal by mooring ropes, for three hours in the pouring rain. Ugh! Ah well, I suppose that's to be expected. While piloting back from Llangollen, Pixie noticed that the electrics were hardly charging, though we were running the engine constantly. A stop at the marina and a check by an engineer showed that the alternator was kaput. He changed the alternator and chucked a new battery in, in just over an hour.

Ellesmere itself is pleasant enough. The wharf area is under development at the moment and the sight of a massive Tesco, when walking from the mooring spot into the village doesn't make for pleasant scenery. We ambled around for a while, checking out a wooded park area and trying to locate the 'Castle Mound' (possibly the site of a Saxon fortress) among a bunch of small hills. There aren't many shops, so we quickly looked in the more interesting ones. Dinner was at a local pub/restaurant and we shot a couple of games of pool, too.

The next morning marked the end of our journey. We duly dropped Rhonwen back at the marina, loaded up the car and before getting on the road back to Oxford, stopped by Whittington Castle for a bit. The grounds are relatively small and you really only need about an hour to see everything. Pixie suggested we also stop in Shrewsbury for lunch and brief shopping excursion. I found a Manitas De Plata LP in one charity shop and a Gordon Giltrap LP in another. We arrived home in the late afternoon, then picked up the cats from the cattery. For a few days afterward, I still felt as if I were swaying back and forth just a little. I didn't realise you had to get 'land legs' after being on a boat for a week.

02 June 2010

Slouching Toward Middle-Age

2 Pepper - Year 43 p.r.S.P.

Jaysus! June already - sorry I only managed a couple of posts in May. So much for my plan to blog more than I did last year. I still blame Facebook and eBay...been spending far too much time at both.

So...what's new, you ask? Not a lot. Still on the chopping block at work and still not really fussed by that fact. I've applied for a couple of gigs, but was turned down. Ah well, still a few months to go before I'm officially unemployed. Plenty of time..plenty of time..

I completed the second anniversary show of the Kaleidophonic Stroboscope podcast. Really weird that it's been two years since I started it up. Thanks to all who've listened and to those who made requests for the anniversary show. I hope to start the new episode when Pixie and I are back from holiday.

Yep - we're away to Shropshire in a few days. We've hired a narrow-boat and will be afloat on the canal for a week. Muggins here gets to do the piloting. It'll be an adventure, anyway--trying not to collide with the banks of the canal or other craft. You can only go about 4 m.p.h., top speed, so I don't foresee any serious accidents.

Monday (7th June) marks the 40th year I've been on this backward, superstitious planet. I honestly don't know how I've survived for so long--I suspect a combination of luck and genetics and sheer will (sometimes). It seems strange to me, becoming "middle-aged", whatever that means these days. Critters are living longer, at least it appears that way to me. I remember when reaching 100 years was a feat of incredible doing. Now, it's almost expected that most humans (at least in 'The West') will live well into their 90s. I do hope I stick around a little while longer, but one never knows. I think it takes a lot of hubris to state how long your life will last...and I've got no idea. Still, I've had a pretty good run so far and I can look back on it and be fairly satisfied on how it's turned out. Maybe in about twenty years (if I'm still here)...I'll jot down my memoirs on some sort of holographic recording machine...or to a robot who will file my memories away on whatever replaces DVDs. Maybe.