Thursday, August 7, 2014

It's beyond me

The news we were all expecting was confirmed today: we won't be Council employees for much longer; instead we'll be working for the water management company whose name is as yet unknown. It's possible, but unlikely, that we'll stay in our current office. In all likelihood we'll be shifting to Petone, probably before the end of the year. I don't mind Petone at all, but it will still mean some added hassle and expense.

Work could be better. Or could it? I don't think I'll ever properly fit in, no matter where I work, unless it's by myself. Only a relatively small percentage of being at work, in an office, is actually doing work. The rest is all that people-related and politics-related and system-related stuff that I'm really bad at (and eventually, being bad at that stuff impacts on your work too, as you have less and less of a clue of what's happening). I'd say the split at my workplace is 40:60 in favour of the "other" stuff. My team-mate told me about her time at Saab (cars) in the UK, where it wasn't far off 10:90 by the sound of things. It's no wonder they went under. A shame, because they made nice-looking cars (I'm a bit of girl when it comes to cars: I'm much more interested in what they look like than how they perform.)

On Tuesday I went out into the field. It was a great day for it. I went with a young Czech woman who is fairly new to the Council, to try to find out how the stormwater network connected in parts of Berhampore and Island Bay. She was so good, and I felt completely hopeless. It's not easy (for me at least) to figure out what connects to where, when you have so many tiny channels that often give just a trickle of water, if that. It gave me some appreciation for why our data on open channels is so patchy.

I had my second Chinese lesson last night. It isn't getting any easier. In some ways it's a great language. I liken it a bit to Lego: to make a sentence you just connect the blocks you need, without having to add any funny embellishments first, and you can easily change a sentence by rearranging the blocks and maybe changing one or two, in a perfectly logical way. But obtaining the necessary blocks in the first place is really, really hard. As I said here, Chinese words have no "shape" to them; they're just sounds. We're a long way from learning the characters, which is a monumental task. Here's a brilliant article, written in the early nineties, explaining why Chinese is so damn hard. All the apps and clever programs that have been created since then probably haven't changed the situation all that much.

Last Saturday I went to Greytown in the Wairarapa with Martin, to pick up his drum kit. It was wet and windy, and I had to watch what I was doing as I went over the Rimutakas, especially on the way back. Then on Sunday I helped Tom take some electronic gadgetry off to the tip. He's going to Japan on the 20th, for a year, and is understandably excited. He applied for an English teaching programme at the start of the year and got put on a waiting list. This last-minute acceptance came out of the blue; he'll resume his PhD when he gets back.

With Tom gone, our fortnightly board games sessions won't be the same, if they happen at all. On Monday we seemed to spend more time eating cake than playing games, not that I minded one bit. The cake (in the shape of a Tardis), and ice cream and mousse and raspberry coulis (?), was for Tracy's 30th birthday, which is actually today. As for the games, we first played a printed game where you had to hop from one square to another, with certain restraints that could be relaxed if you had a special power, and collect all the gold before your health level reached zero. Or something like that. I've played a lot of games like this now. I was much more a fan of the second game, What's My Word? (A word game, yay!) Both players (or in our game, teams) have to pick a six-letter word, and take it in turns to guess certain parts of the word (e.g. the first three letters, or the middle four), and those parts have to be words themselves. You get 25 points for a correct letter in the wrong place, or 100 points if it's in the right place. The points system is what makes the game so good: the method of scoring also provides vital clues for guessing the word. Anyway Tracy and Tom's word was SLUICE, and Tracy's mum and I managed to deduce it. I picked INVOKE for our team, and they got it too, although I think we got more points overall. (Here's a review of the game - I'm enormously envious of the bloke who wrote it.)

On Saturday Tracy's organising an RPG from 1pm to 6pm (I bet it goes longer) and I foolishly said I'd play. I think there will be six of us. She's put a lot of effort into it and I'll have to spend some time figuring out how my character "works" tomorrow night, in advance of the game or battle or scenario or whatever I should be calling it. It sounds like hard work. Why oh why can't I play "What's My Word?" instead, over the best of 19 games? Is this what they call a first-world problem?

After ten years, a space probe has come within quacking distance of a rubber-duck-shaped comet. I have no idea how. Apparently the spacecraft will stay at that distance, rather than just drifting away again, and will analyse material from the comet that will help understand how planets in the Solar System were formed. It's all way beyond me I'm afraid. As I think this blog might be in future.

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