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You don’t Meaney it!

This week I’m on a training course: Enterprise Java Beans, at QA Training. On the first day, the trainer, as is usual at these things, asked us each to say a few words about ourselves, our expectations of the course, and so on. “And as a bit of light relief, your favourite book”.

I said, “I don’t believe anyone really has a single favourite, but one that I especially like at the moment is Hyperion by Dan Simmons.”

“Do you like science fiction generally?” asked the trainer.


“Do you know of an author called John Meaney?”

“Yes, I just read his Paradox,” I answered, thinking he was a fellow fan.

“He’s teaching Java for C Programmers upstairs.”

FX: Martin’s jaw hitting desk.

The out-of-context setting and surprise of it all left me feeling strangely star-struck — despite the fact that I haven’t actually met him, just spent a couple of days in the building where he works. I shouldn’t be affected like this: I’m an old conventioneer, after all. And indeed, half (or more) of my potential readers here were probably drinking with Mr Meaney last weekend in Hinckley; but still…

Do mention the war

So it’s begun.

I haven’t posted about the formerly-impending war here before now, not because of any reticence, but because faster (and better) writers than me have already said anything I would want to say. And we don’t want to get into “me too” syndrome, now, do we?

But I can’t let it pass without comment.

Today, as well as hearing about the first strikes on Iraq, we are being warned of the likelihood of increased terrorist risk now that it’s started. So finally somebody in authority gets it. Pity they didn’t get it soon enough to tell the US (or even UK) government. Because you can be sure that we (by which I mean the whole world) are entering a time of increased danger from terrorist attacks.

Not just over the next few week or months while the war actually happens, though: we are now likely to be entering a terrorist decade; maybe century.

Of course, as Robert Anton Wilson put it (or maybe he was quoting somebody) “Terrorist is what the big army calls the little army.”

And the biggest army of them all is going to cause the most terror. Though they might call it “shock and awe”.

Mixing pop and politics, he asks me what the use is?

Infrequent posts are me. But I have been scattering comments around various people’s journals, at least

Zotz posts about The (remaining members of the) MC5 playing a Levis-sponsored gig. I have to say that I’m not sure how I feel about this. I know I ought to feel upset that they’ve ‘sold out’ but I just can’t seem to get up the ire.

Perhaps I’ve become too accepting of the capitalist society in which we live. But it’s not like they’re being sponsored by a weapons manufacturer — or even McDonald’s or Nestlé, for that matter.

Not that Levis are likely to be angels, but I just wonder whether we should cut the MC5 some slack: why should we hold them to a higher standard than we hold ourselves? (and we all work for corporations or governments, ultimately, don’t we?)

At this point, though, I worry that I may be contradicting the spirit of something I wrote a few years ago , just prior to the 1997 UK General Election. in essence, there, I said that becoming a parent hadn’t made me more conservative, but if anything politically the opposite. This relative acceptance of selling out to corporate interests could easily be perceived as a step in the conservative direction. And maybe that’s so. But from where I’m sitting, it’s not me that’s changed, but everything else.

That sounds horribly solipsistic, but the political landscape has changed a lot in this country in the last five or six years. Though, if everything has moved right, that should leave the good Marx-fearing socialist* appearing to be even further left: unless they have been dragged with it.

Which means my parenthood piece’s assertion is contradicted; but it’s not because of parenthood. The question I have to consider is whether I want to be dragged around by society.

I should just add at this point that I feel that I was in no way moved to the right by the supposed move right of society during the Thatcher years. Obviously it takes a ‘Labour’ government to do that.

Then at the same time, Karmicnull tells us that Warner Hodges out of Jason and the Scorchers has formed a new band. This is a surprise, because I thought that a) he’d quit the music business, saying he didn’t really enjoy making music, and b) there had been a Scorchers tour planned, which was still sort of in a state of ‘might one day come to fruition’ if he ever did come back to it.

Still, people change (and moving ones do too); so what seemed right once may no longer seem so (and of course, having one band doesn’t preclude the possibility of playing in another; just ask Blixa Bargeld, for example).

The common theme here seems to be, ‘people change’. And in direct opposition to almost everything anyone ever says about that subject, I like change. Life is change: if you’ve stopped changing, you’re dead.

* This is irony.

Some ranting nutter with a blog talking about the modern business world

See, I like my job. I know this is considered unusual by a large percentage of the population *. But on the whole I do. I’ve had my ups and downs, of course, but I wouldn’t have stayed there for fifteen years, through name changes and takeovers, reshuffles and redundancies, if it wasn’t a reasonable place to work; and I wouldn’t have gone into that area, and stayed in it — not to mention resisted all inducements to move into management — if I didn’t like the work.

I’m a programmer, which, in my humble opinion and personal mythology, is the third best job in the world (and I do the top two in my spare time anyway: see my bio). So when, some fifeen years ago, the precursor of the company that I now work for offered me a trainee programmer job, I, having been on the dole for a year since graduating, was delighted. Not only was I starting a programming job, but also I was moving to London, which, despite burning with boredom, had been calling to my faraway town for a long time.

My personal graph of contendedness and the ups and downs of the job market combined to ensure that I stayed there ever since. I have occasionally looked around for another job, but never quite got round to moving. At the time when I was furthest down that line, for example, I was offered a move to a more interesting role, so I stayed.

Towards the end of last year, senior management announced the latest round of redundancies (I wrote a blog piece about it, which, for various reasons, I never posted). That safely behind them, they feel they have to justify their existence by doing the latest spot of restructuring.

The division I work in is being split into three independent (allegedly autonomous) operating companies. This comes some eighteen months after all the prior companies (the group grew by acquisition) were renamed and rebranded under the group name and logo.

Both the rebranding and now the split can be seen as good decisions in business terms, and there are some aspects of the latest split that seem positive from where I’m sitting. But here’s the rub. Each of the new companies is to have its own HR and Finance departments.

Now, I’m sure if you asked the board they would tell you that they had no plans to sell off any of the companies; and they probably wouldn’t even be lying; but could it be any plainer that they’re positioning things such that they easily can sell off the various bits if they’re seen to be performing poorly?

Furthermore, the company in which I am to find myself has announced the following facts (among others):

  • it’s going to become a nicer place to work
  • they’re going to tighten up on the dress code
  • they’re going to tighten up on timekeeping (which had, over years, become informally flexible) and definitely not introduce flexitime

I invite the reader to join me in musing about the incompatibilities in the above statements.

Oh yes: and they’re going to improve communications; but they announced all the above without the vaguest hint of consultation with the staff. No, wait, this is management-speak: “communication” means “We will communicate at you”.

And on that note, all this is being badged the “Step-Change Program”. Now I don’t know about you, but to me a step-change sounds like quite a small thing; like a stepper-motor in electronics, maybe, or just the first steps of a child. Apparently not to management. In management-speak, our new boss (same as the boss before the current one, as it happens) tells us, “step” means “huge”.

Do what you want with the company, guys: but give us our language back.

* Or is it? Perhaps we should have a poll.

Memetic morphology, or: How I wrote a lyrics quiz

You know I said a while back that, though I hadn’t yet done a lyrics quiz, I would? Well, the more observant among you may have noticed it appearing right under your noses, gradually, in the very titles of these posts.

Yes, eight of the posts since I started this have titles that are quotes from popular (or not so popular) songs. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to identify the posts and the source of the quotes. It should mostly be pretty easy (I think).

As an extra clue, the song in question (if not the quote itself) always has some relevance to the content of the post (now there’s a way to get people to (re-)read my posts).

Go on, give it a try. I bet Swisstone has got the first one already.

This will probably be ongoing, with periodic roundups. And anyone who says, “Martin can’t think up decent titles of his own,” will probably be agreed with.

I noticed this morning that, judging by her titles, Purplerabbits seems to be doing the same sort of thing.

Another tube of superglue, another quarter to get through

Duct tape. I ask you, when, in this country, did we start calling gaffer (or gaffa, I’m never quite sure) tape, ‘duct tape’?

The answer seems to be about two or three days ago. Certainly The Guardian is blithely referring to it as if we talked about it every day.

And anyway, what ducts exactly is said famous tape intended for? It holds cables to floors, patches up guitar cases and even amps; but what ducts?

Thing is, I realised in these troubled times that all my ‘duct tape’ is at Karmicnull’s, since our recording sessions.

The Nulls, of course, live out in the countryside, many miles from civilisation; so perhaps their need for taped-plastic-sheeting protection is greater than we inner-Londoners. But I doubt it.

Anyway, it gave me the idea for another of my obscure post-titles, which, if you haven’t worked out the purpose of yet, I’ll explain in my next post.