Symbolic Forest

A homage to loading screens.

Blog : Posts from September 2005

Reading matter

In which I wonder why I’m having trouble finishing books

I love reading. Read things all the time. I’m not in the middle of any books at the moment though, which is unusual. On the other hand, there are lots of books that I started reading and haven’t finished; it’s just that I put them down too long ago to count as “still reading”. If I picked them up again, I’d have to start from scratch.

I’m not sure why this is, but it’s a bad thing. I read so many blogs and newspapers that I don’t have enough stamina to get all the way through a book any more. That can’t be good. Tips on how to solve this would be gratefully appreciated. Alternatively, I could just start a series of blog posts: “Books I haven’t managed to read yet, and why.”

Going when ready

In which I make a (wrong) prediction about Tony Blair

I’ve been getting behind on reading the papers. I’m still reading Sunday’s at the moment.

My eye was caught by an article on the Prime Minister’s resignation. I know he hasn’t, yet, but he is supposed to be, some time in the next few years. Apparently, lots of MPs are predicting he will leave in spring 2008. The general secretary of the Transport & General Workers’ Union, on the other hand, thinks he should go as soon as possible.

Now, this isn’t going to happen. He’s not going to resign next year, or the year after, unless he absolutely has to. At the earliest, he’s going to resign in the first quarter of 2009, giving his successor just over a year before the latest possible election date.

There isn’t a good rational reason for doing this, not at all. There’s a very good irrational one, though. Tony Blair has spent his Premiership haunted by the ghost of one rather undead woman: Mrs T. She held office for eleven years and seven months, near enough, and TB will do everything he can to try to beat that record. It’s not a sensible, rational reason for staying in office, but people often do things for stupid, irrational, hubristic reasons. He’s already equalled her election-winning record, and the closer he gets to beating her period in office, the more desperate he will be to hang on until he passes her. Every day closer to December 2008, staying in office will be more and more important in his mind; and to hell with how that leaves his successor. In three years’ time, I’m predicting, beating Mrs T will be the only thing he thinks about.


In which I think of a word

Standing in the shower tonight, I noticed – for the first time, probably – that it’s branded with the word “Aquatronic”. Or, rather, “AQUATRONIC”.

Now, this is a shower that was made in the 1990s, so I’m not really sure why. I mean, adding “…tronic” onto the end of a name to signify New! Scientific! Modern! really is such a 1960s thing to do. Plus, the “aqua” part is fairly self-explanatory, but the word you end up with is completely meaningless if not negative. Aquatronic? Electricity and water? Doesn’t that get you electrocuted?

It set me off wondering what meaningless-but-great-sounding words I can put together along the same lines. Filktronic? Definitely a plausible music genre even if Google hasn’t heard of it.* Plockfultronic? Squimtronic? This site is definitely very squimtronic, even if squimtronic doesn’t quite have a meaning yet.

* Not quite true – it returns one hit, a German-language page about a Momus album.

Panic Buy

In which I have trouble finding petrol

The car went in to the garage this morning, following the crash a couple of weeks back. The car I was loaned, of course, didn’t have any petrol in. Hardly any at all. The warning light was very definitely on, and the needle was barely lifting off its stop.

“No problem,” thought I, “there are plenty of petrol stations on the way in to the office.”

Not many with petrol, though.

Whether there is going to be a petrol blockade this week or not, clearly that’s what a lot of people have been expecting. Driving from the garage to the office, I passed three petrol stations closed from lack of supplies: “open later today”, one said. Eventually, reaching an open one, I sat in a ten-minute queue which had doubled in length by the time I left. We don’t need a blockade – the panic-buying has already started.

Update, September 13th 2005: I found out later that the closed garages hadn’t actually run out of petrol at that point; they were closed for other reasons. However, as everyone (including me) assumed they had run out, it didn’t help things at all. People were already queueing heavily at 7.30 this morning.

What's In A Name

In which we discuss the name of this site

So far, I haven’t tried to explain the name of this site; and nobody’s asked, probably because very few people read it. I thought it up whilst sitting one afternoon on Doncaster station, waiting for a rather late train, and ever since I’ve been worried that it’s too pretentious.

The meaning came second, but if you ask me it’s a good meaning, so that doesn’t really matter very much. The Forest isn’t made of solid wood and trees, but it is there, around us. It’s there all the time, but some days you can see it more than others. Some days you feel that whatever happens to you, however wonderful, you’ll still be feeling awful at the end of the day and you still won’t have achieved anything. That’s because you’re stuck in the Forest, and you haven’t managed to fight your way out of it yet. This site is – at its deepest root – all about doing just that, because it’s written by me, and that’s what I spend an awful lot of my time doing.

That last sentence makes this site sound as if it’s going to be very, very personal, all the time. That’s not true. It also makes this site sound as if it’s going to be very, very pretentious, all the time. I’m going to try to make sure that that’s not true either.

The monster up at the top right does have a name. I’ll get onto that another time, though. I might even make t-shirts.

Update, April 12th 2022: No, I know the monster’s not there any more, and it hasn’t been for a while, but it’s on the About Me page.


In which I dream about work

Work must be getting to me. I know it must be, because I’ve started dreaming about it every night. Bizarre, twisted, warped dreams it’s true, but still dreams about being in the office and with all the co-workers.

I do my best not to think about work when I’m not there. I don’t always manage it – if I’m on a long weekend I usually log into the office network to check my mail at least once – but I do try. I just wish I could stop the office popping up in my dreams too. Last night was a bad one: one of the company directors discovered I had a list of People At The Office Who Regularly Download Porn and came over to my office to ask me to explain how I’d discovered it all. The only problem was: he brought all the people on it with him.

Update, April 12th 2022: At some point I should probably post the story about how and why that list genuinely existed.

The Scream

In which someone is excited

The Boss’s first grandchild was due yesterday. He didn’t’t seem unduly excited, concerned, or worried. In fact, he didn’t seem to care at all.

The Office Secretary came rushing up to us this morning: “Has Your Boss’s grandbaby been born yet?”

“Um … we have no idea.”

“You mean you haven’t asked him?!

“Well, no.”

She scurried away, leaving us to get on with stuff. Five minutes later, a high-pitched scream echoed through the office corridors.

“Baby’s been born, then.”

“Must be.”

Filing System

In which we discuss taxonomies

Yesterday’s post made me think about blogging slightly, because I found myself creating a new category just to put it in. I’m still not sure how I should be creating categories, so I wasn’t entirely sure if I was doing the right thing.

I know this site hasn’t been going for very long, but the list of categories seems to have an awful lot of “(1 post)” entries in it. Somehow, it doesn’t feel as though I should be creating an entire category just to put a single post in; but I’m doing it in the hope that they will fill up over time. No doubt I’m going to make some wrong choices over time, but I can always try to re-sort this later.

I’m doing it that way round because I know that if I don’t leave categorising until I have a sample supply of posts to sort, it’ll never get done. It might give me some idea of what sort of category headings I need; but I’d be too lazy to get round to doing the filing. And where tagging might fit in, I’ve got no idea at all. My own category headings make no sense at all as post tags; but if I do start to tag things I don’t want a paragraph of tags cluttering up the bottom of each post. I’d need some way to disguise them.

Anyway. I know I don’t have many readers yet; but what do you think? What’s the best way to categorise stuff, and what’s the best way to go about categorising stuff?

On Display

Or, the BBC are exhibitionists

One thing new about Saturday’s trip to the NMPFT: the museum now houses Bradford’s local BBC radio studio, usually used to broadcast BBC Radio Leeds. The studio and offices are in one of the ordinary museum galleries, with large windows, presumably very thoroughly sound-proofed, to make sure everybody gets a good look at the presenter at work.

Now, the BBC seems to have made a habit of doing this in the past few years. Their studio here moved from a cupboard in one of the council offices, to a shop by the bus station; again with big windows so passers-by can watch. The same has happened to their studios in Hull. Somewhere at the BBC, a few years ago, someone made a note: “all radio studios to have big windows for random passers-by”, and they’ve stuck to it ever since.

Thinking about it, I’m wondering where they came across the idea. Back in the 1990s, I rather liked the TV series Northern Exposure, which, as it happens, featured a local radio station which broadcast from an ordinary town shop, the DJ sitting by the window watching everyone pass by as he talked. Maybe, someone at the BBC is a Northern Exposure fan too, and ever since then has been doing their best to put the BBC’s radio presenters into public view.

The Expert

In which I provide blogging advice

A few weeks ago, after I’d just bought the hosting and domain name for this site, one of the friendlier managers at work came up to me in the office…

“Do you know much about website hosting?”

“Well, funny you should ask that, because…”

It was nothing to do with work at all; he’d decided he wanted to set up a family website, with a [surname].org address, to keep in touch with friends, family, and the distant relatives in Australia.* And I told him that I’d been looking into it, the prices I’d found, how much I’d paid, and so on.

This morning, he came up to me again:

“I’ve bought some webspace from the same place that you did, and I was trying to work out how to put stuff on it. I was wondering … do you know anything about setting up a blog? I was looking at WordPress, and I was wondering if you knew much about it?”

“Well, funny you should ask that, because…”

So, it looks like – at least as far as this manager is concerned – I’m going to be the office WordPress expert in future, even though I only have a couple of weeks’ experience with it. Lucky for me that it’s easy to set up, I suppose.

* If you’re not British or Australian you might not know this, but everyone in Britain seems to have some distant relatives in Australia that they never get in touch with more than once per decade. I’ve got several separate lots, apparently. Presumably if you’re Australian than the reverse applies.