apel: (train)
I've been working from home yesterday and today. The tube strike is over, though, so tomorrow I'll have to commute into the office.

The last two days have, again, brought home how much the commute detracts from my quality of life. It's only about an hour each way, so it's not by any means out of the ordinary. But the fact is that it takes 2 hours out of my life every day.

Yesterday evening I was able to spend several hours in the garden working and watering. It was fun and the garden looks a lot less unloved now. I was done by the time I usually get home in the evening. This means that on the weekend I can choose to spend a little extra time on the garden or on going walking. Or maybe I'll clean my windows.

Today I find myself wanting to do something with the remaining 3 hours of my day. Maybe I'll sort out my garden pictures, maybe I do something more active. The point is that I feel like doing something and I have the time and the energy.

Another part of what makes the commute so tiring for me is that I commute on the tube. I have in the past been driving into the office and, even though this was in London traffic, I was a lot less tired afterwards. Being safe in my little cocoon of metal is much less stressful than being open to noise, smells and jostling on the tube. In my car I decide over the temperature, smells, noise etc. and I always get a seat.

My strategy for finding my next flat is going to take all this into account. To begin with, I'm staying in a long-term hotel in the Bay Area until I've found a job. Once I have the job, then only will I start looking for a flat. There are lots of things that are important about the flat, not the least the neighbourhood, amenities and rent. But being close to work is very, very important. Anything over 30 minutes is pretty much out of the picture.

Also, public transport will not figure into where I choose to live. I know it's heresy but I hate going on public transport and as long as I'm not compelled to use it, I'll leave it to others. They'll be glad of the extra seat. Not having to use public transport is quality of life for me.
apel: (triskele_Animated)
Discussing the Tube strike one of my co-workers linked to a site that allows you to map walking routes in central London. I tried it and found out that at a medium pace my walking commute would take 5 hours. Not happening, then. The site doesn't seem to be very adapted to walking, as it generally chooses major thoroughfares rather than nice, quiet side roads.

I've read a couple of articles by relatively young people about how horrible it is or would be to have your mother read your page on a social networking site. This is from a mother who gets on Facebook and her daughter's reaction.

If you thought the Driving Theory Test I linked to last week was too much work, you can try a short version with only 10 questions (and no registration) at the BBC site.

Fascinating thoughts on stages of spiritual development. I particularly like the idea proposed by one of the commenters about how, to the extent that we approach our religion with the mindset of "I choose" rather than "I'm right", is the extent to which we can apply the principles of our religion to our own lives. If we approach it with the mindset of "I'm right" we end up locked into top dog/bottom dog struggles with others to prove that we are indeed right, instead.
apel: (train)
I've just come home because of the tube strike. The strike is announced to start at 18 but Transport for London was asking people to complete their journeys by 17 and saying that they would have to start reducing service by 16.30. Since I live pretty far out, I thought I'd be better off going home early. I hate it when I have to spend hours waiting for trains that may or may not be working.

It's the ever strike-happy RMT that is holding Londoners hostage as usual. The strike is supposed to last for 72 hours. TfL say that normal service can be expected by Friday morning. Jubilee, Northern and Piccadilly lines will be running but are expected to be extremely crowded. Buses and DLR are running. The congestion charge is NOT suspended.

On the radio on my drive home from the station just now I heard the presenter, Jamie Crick, tell an extremely bad joke. I won't mangle it by retelling it here except to say that the punch line was "ex-tractor fan". Right after the "ex-tractor fan" the presenter switched on Verdi's Prisoners' Chorus (Va, pensiero). It was perfectly deadpan. I was still groaning as I parked my car, through the beautiful music.
apel: (pillarbox)
Something to keep in mind when reading Londoner's responses to today's car bomb near Piccadilly Circus, is that bombs are not new to this city. The 7 July public transport bombs from two years ago killed an unprecedented number of people but there have been people prepared to kill and maim innocent London passers-by for fun and profit at least since the nineteenth century.

Irish people were responsible for lethal bombings from  the 1867 Clerkenwell Prison bomb (yeah, that's eighteen hundred something) to the 1996 Canary Wharf bomb. In the spring of 1999, the year I moved to London, a solitary bigot from Hampshire set off three nail bombs in Brixton, Brick Lane and Soho.

At the time I was amazed at the public reaction, or rather lack thereof. But it's all part of the background noise of living in London, and has been for hundreds of years. It's scary when It happens every now and then but the chances of being one of the unfortunate ones are slimmer than winning the lottery. In a couple of days it will all be forgotten.
apel: (garden_inthe)

Garden 27 June 2007
Originally uploaded by Mjausson
When I got off the tube this afternoon, it was sunny but there were very dark clouds visible to the west. I knew I'd have to walk as fast as I could or I'd be drenched. It was spitting by the time I was halfway through my 20-minute walk back home. By the time I was 50 yards from the door, the spitting had turned into large drops. I ran and the downpour started right as I was walking through the door.

The photo of the Pink Border in my garden is taken 20 minutes later when the worst of the downpour had calmed down.
apel: (train)
I just discovered that I'm booked into a meeting in Norwich on Thursday at 9 in the morning. That would mean taking the 6.25 train from Liverpool Street. That's quite early.

A little research reveals that there isn't actually a tube that arrives early enough at Liverpool Street from my station. I'll probably have to drive to Shenfield and take the train from there. The train from there leaves at 6.37. With time for mishaps, parking and me being rather slow at that time of "day", I'll have to figure 2 hours for the drive. That means leaving home at 4.40. I'd have to change trains in Chelmsford for the Norwich train.

Alternatively I could drive to a the centre of my suburb and get the very first tube train. If the train is cancelled or delayed, I'll miss my connection at Liverpool Street. Delays and cancellations are unfortunately not unusual at all. In fact my tube this morning was canceled. But I wouldn't have to leave home until 5. Although I'm not sure the parking garage is open that early. I'd have to find that out.

Another alternative would be to take a mainline train to Euston. There are a few mainline stations within easy driving distance. I'd still have to find a tube from the mainline station to Liverpool Street but lets check if what used to be called British Rail can get into town at this unreasonable hour. Yes, that's possible. I'd have to drive to a rather scruffy station but it's not more than a mile or two and there shouldn't be much traffic at that time. There will be plenty of parking.

Only worrying thing is that the tube journey from Euston to Liverpool Street is reported as taking 43 minutes. There's no way of finding out what the National Rail Enquiries journey planner thinks should happen during those 43 minutes. Even the bus doesn't take more than half an hour. Walking to Euston Square and taking the Circle or Hammersmith & City lines takes 20 minutes, according to the London Transport journey planner. That sounds more reasonable.

The advantage of taking the train is of course that I can concentrate on eating or getting some shut-eye while being taken where I need to go. That's important in the morning. The disadvantage is that in the afternoon it's going to be crowded. Still, I think safety takes precedence. Driving when tired is almost as bad as driving when drunk. I'll just confirm the time before I go ahead and book.
apel: (Default)
Window cleaners on Gothic building in London, EC1
Window Cleaners
Originally uploaded by Mjausson.
Yesterday I brought the camera in to work. I took photos both on the commute in and on the way from Farringdon to Holborn in the afternoon. This was the first photo I took. It's from the corner of Greville Street and Farringdon Road. Unusually for me both this and many other photos contain people.
apel: (cranky)
Yesterday on the train into town two regulars argued. One of them is a known trouble maker. He has apparently been banned from his home station in the past. He's the kind of person who immediately sets off my alarm bells. Even in winter he dresses in only shorts and he looks straight at people in, what is meant to be, an ingratiating way. Yesterday he was wearing his customary shorts and no shoes.

The person he was arguing with was another man in his forties or fifties. He looks unremarkable and I don't think I've heard him speak before. Of course that doesn't mean he was innocent, just that it takes a bit of doing to get him riled up. He was sitting behind the Trouble Maker.

I didn't catch the beginning of the quarrel but by the time it got loud enough to penetrate my noise insulating ear phones it seemed to be about space. Presumably the Trouble Maker had complained about the Unremarkable Man rustling his paper above his head. The just kept going on and on. Every time I thought it had died down, one of them would start again.

After just a few exchanges I could feel my stomach starting to tie itself into knots, so I moved halfway down the carriage to get away. It seems to have gotten even louder after that. I could still hear them. At the next station I moved right to the other end of the carriage. After that I couldnt' hear them anymore.

Blessed silence! Blessed Etymotic ear phones!
apel: (train)
This morning as I was waiting for the train, a woman came walking to the end of the platform where I was standing. She looked British, slim and was probably in her sixties or late fifties. The platform was not very crowded but she placed herself rather close to where I was standing. That seemed odd to me because British people are usually pretty good about keeping physical distance when there is plenty of space. I edged away and she followed with her back toward me. This happened twice until I felt cornered between the platform edge and the platform end barrier. I moved around her.

When I got on the train, the carriage was mostly empty. The two end seats were occupied by a person each but there was only one more person at the very front of the train.

The seats on the Metropolitan line are mostly three-seaters facing each other. The end seats are two-seaters facing the back of a three-seater. Because sitting there you don't have to share foot space with others, the end seats are very popular with people who like to be left alone.

The woman made a beeline for one of the end seats, sitting down for a clean-shaven, Indian-looking man in his thirties. It took only a few moments before he got up and moved to another seat on an empty three-seater.

I wonder what went through her head. Twice within a few minutes people had moved away from her. Surely she would have noticed. Did she think that she smelled bad? Or was she just happy to get the end seat to herself?
apel: (train)
It's very hot here in the office. It's hot outside too, even summery. When I was walking back from lunch the sun on my neck was very pleasant. I didn't even wear a jacket. The max temp today was forecast to be 25C. Tomorrow it will be slightly cooler and on the weekend it's going to rain.

We need the rain but I'd rather it rained during the week and was sunny on the weekend. I need to garden. I've got two more bags of manure to spread out and I want to empty the compost bin too.

I got a While-you-were-out card in my letterbox yesterday. It's probably plants. I wonder if it's from T&M or Gardening Direct. On the weekend I was rummaging through likely places but I couldn't find any record of having ordered from Gardening Direct. That's a bit worrying. On the other hand, if no plants arrive I guess I'll get them from the garden centre instead. That's more expensive but the plants are bigger so per area unit it's probably not much difference.

I'm waiting for access to an application that I'm supposed to fix the stylesheet for. It was due this morning but I hadn't received anything in my inbox when I got into the office and when I walked over to the PM he acted all surprised that I needed anything. He had a calendar event with a list of the things I needed but I guess he hadn't looked at that.

I think I need to make the point with him that when he has my time scheduled, he needs to make sure I've got the assets the day before. If he relies on the vendors to get me stuff on time, he'll be forever rescheduling and never releasing anything. He's relatively new so hopefully I can still get him to change his way of working.

Still, I've been using the unscheduled time productively, working on my presentation about compelling web content. It's well underway now. I'm going to talk a little about usability in general first, then about text and finally about images. The main presentation will be in Power Point but I'm going to print out some things to put up on the walls, I want to give handouts and we'll do exercises during the session. It will be like a training session. Hopefully people will actually learn something.

Tonight is the FPM's leaving do. I'm not sure how long I'll stay. It's a school night after all.

On the train this morning, some idiot had sprinkled what looked like cereal all over the seats. I swept off the seat before I sat down but I think I still got some spots on my trousers. They're are khaki and the slightest spot shows very well.

Just found out more about today's scheduled activity. Apparently the PM had been pushing on the vendor for 2 days and they had done all they should do. But somebody in my team hadn't read her instructions so things were missing from the page. Modern web technology is so complicated and if just one little bit is missing, it all falls apart.

We're rescheduling for mid-May. That's a slot that somebody else cancelled a few days ago. Apart from that lonely day, my next open slot is on 5 June. Of course that includes my holiday at the end of May. So really I'm just booked solid for 3 weeks.
apel: (train)
From the London Underground Realtime Travel News right now:
NORTHERN LINE: Severe delays are occurring due [to] earlier track search for a missing member of staff.
Message received 07:16am
Wonder if they found him. Wonder how they lost him.
apel: (cute)
This morning I had an email from an old friend. The way she broke off our friendship was rather baffling and indirect so I was very surprised to get an email from her. It was a notification that she's going to stop using her AOL address and will be using a Yahoo.co.uk email address instead. It looks as if she sent it to her whole address book so I don't think she thought of me specifically. Not much point in answering, I guess.

Unfortunately yesterday's calm at work didn't last. Today was another full on day, even though I had another no-show. I had a contractor in for some stylesheet work and he'll be there the rest of the week and on Monday next week too. It's such a relief that he's so dependable. But it's also hard work to keep him occupied with the most useful things he could do at any time.

The commute this morning involved four changes of trains, including one fruitless. Not a barrel of laughs, exactly. What was funny, though, was that the cute Mr. North Harrow and I ended up in the vicinity of each other on all platforms and trains. I guess I'm not the only one who naturally gravitates away from the crowds.

My Amazon package arrived today. That was good. I like some time to study the maps and walks in Norfolk before I go there. A colleague has spent quite a lot of time on the north coast of Norfolk, so she was going to give me some tips. I'll show her the maps tomorrow if she's in the office.
apel: (shoes)
It was almost eleven before I got home. On my way I stopped to buy some chocolate and a book. I ended up with the Discworld companion. Got as far as Ankh-Morpork (heh, Google knows how to spell that) before we got to my station. It felt like frost outside.

Tomorrow I need to go to the Post Office.
apel: (train)
This morning there was plenty of room in the train when I got on. As I was settling down, one of the regulars, a well-groomed, late-middle-aged man, came walking down the aisle and sat down on a bench. Apart from his neat appearance in a navy jacket and grey trousers, the only thing that made me pay attention to him was that he was wearing a pager on his belt. Pagers are getting quite rare these mobile phone days. Opposite him sat one of the other regulars. She is a rotund Indian woman in her thirties who always greets me in the morning. I think we talked once when the train was scandalously late.

Behind the man, a much younger man in a beige suede jacket was sitting. He was listening to loud music in his white earphones. You could hear the tinny guitar riffs through the din of the train. After just a few moments, the older man frowned and turned around in his seat to see where the noise came from. Apparently considering himself outmatched, he got up and sat down again further down the carriage. The young man smiled smugly. The Indian woman and I looked at each other and rolled our eyes in unison.
apel: (train)
On the train into the office this morning, an elderly man in an oiled jacket was sitting opposite me. He was wearing his jacket zipped all the way to the top and sported a brown felt hat. The book in his hand was the Da Vinci Code. I've seen it so many times now that I recognise the cover. After a while he was leaning forward more and more. Why became clear when he dropped the book. He had fallen asleep.

With a slight smile and an apologetic gesture he dived down into the space between our seats to retrieve the book. Once again upright, he had a hard time finding where in the book he was, fumbling with the scribbled bookmark that he had torn from a brown envelope.
apel: (Default)
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