You are currently browsing the monthly archive for January 2013.

A few days ago, I went to London with my Brownies.

GirlguidingUK’s ICANDO centre is just around the corner from Buckingham Palace, and we took the girls up for a badge day to earn their Healthy Heart badge.  The day was full of exciting activities, involving running around carrying balloons pretending to be blood cells, poking fruit with sticks, putting on plays (about how to resist peer pressure and not start smoking, although you would hardly know that from the results), and so on.

So afterwards we asked them what they enjoyed.  Here’s a selection of the answers (suitably edited to provide context!):

“Going on the train.”

“Seeing the pelican in St James’ Park.”

“Seeing Prince Harry!” (For the record, we’re not certain – but how many other young men who look extremely similar to him would be driving a black range rover into the grounds of Buckingham Palace?)

“Seeing Paddington Bear!”

“Going to the shop.  I bought a teddy bear with a Brownie jumper on!”

“The underground.  Except there were two people snogging!

Hmmm.  No mention of the activities that we actually went there for?  Interesting. Next time, perhaps we could just take the train to London, hang around outside the palace for a while, and then go home.

What will the office of the future look like?

Paperless or Wallpapered?

The phrase “office of the future” dates back to the 1940s.  It used to refer to the paperless office (and anyone who works in an office these days can tell you how that one turned out).  This article from 1975 makes for an interesting read, balancing optimism with realism in such a way as to actually get pretty close to the truth.

Pake says that in 1995 his office will be completely different; there will be a TV-display terminal with keyboard sitting on his desk. “I’ll be able to call up documents from my files on the screen, or by pressing a button,” he says. “I can get my mail or any messages. I don’t know how much hard copy [printed paper] I’ll want in this world.”

 The question that amused me was this, though: “Can desk-top terminals be made “friendly” enough so that executives will use them?”.  A good question indeed!

Missing in Action or confusingly omnipresent?

Some people are suggesting that it won’t exist at all – everyone will work from home.  I don’t think that will catch on.  Sure, a lot of people will be more mobile, but humans are social creatures.  If we all stayed at home and only interacted through the internet I for one would go stir crazy!

And some people’s offices travel with them wherever they go – a bunch of fully staffed offices are already scattered around the world, ready to be hired by the hour, day, week, or year.

Another vision

So if we go to the office, will it be the same as it is now?  Better technology is pretty much a given.  Personalised lighting and temperature control, computers which actually work at a decent speed (unlike the ones in my office, which suck).  Some people, however, are suggesting that offices will be slightly… greener.

Roots instead of foundations, walls covered in pipes of algae which absorb any nasties from the building (and then get recycled into bio fuel), canteens serving food grown on the walls and roof.  Apparently the possibilities are endless.  Will the office of the future be not just carbon-neutral, but actually generate power?

“Honestly, it’s a very simple system.  I don’t understand why you can’t work it.”

John shifted his feet and stared at the desk, avoiding the disappointed gaze of his senior secretary.  He had tried to do his own filing, late one evening after she had left for the day, and now he desperately needed the file and it couldn’t be found anywhere.

“I know I put it in that cabinet, Susan, I just know I did.  Somebody must have moved it.”

He knew he sounded whiney.  He couldn’t help it.  It was almost time for his appointment with Mr Wyndham-Smythe, and if he didn’t have the file he would miss key points, and Mr Wyndham-Smythe was notorious for sacking his solicitors for the most minor of reasons.  Losing a file would probably result in a lawsuit.

“Tell me again where you put it.”

He sighed.  “In there,” he pointed once more at the offending cabinet.  “In the bottom drawer, in the section labelled ‘W’.”

“Hmm, but this was last Tuesday, wasn’t it?”

“…Yes?”

“So it should have been two drawers up, in the ‘T’ section.  The imps probably realised it was in the wrong place and re-filed it for you.”

Susan turned to the cabinet and riffled through the papers for a moment.  When she turned back she was clutching a file, bursting with papers.  She handed it to him with a despairing shake of her head.

“Really, Mr K, you should put some effort into learning the system.  Papers are filed under the letter of the day they were last accessed, except on weekends and bank holidays when they go to the previous Wednesday.  In each section they are organised alphabetically by the second letter of the client’s dog’s name, except if the client doesn’t have a dog, when they are filed by the last letter of the client’s surname.  It’s not that hard once you get used to it.”

John retreated into his office, resolved never to do any filing ever again.

I’ve been listening to Songs to Wear Pants To, and specifically, the Zombie Ninjas.  I started to consider where I would go in the event of a zombie apocalypse.

Given full and free choice, I would of course choose a well-stocked (food, water and weapons), comfortable castle, fort, or other defendable location.  Preferably one with a secret back exit tunnel that allowed me to escape if the defences were breached, a full medical staff, a laboratory and scientists who could cure the disease, and a large number of people I trusted.

However, within the realms of places I am vaguely likely to be, Winchester School of Art seems like a good choice.  It doesn’t sound promising, from the name, does it?  But they have this:

Winchester School of Art

Winchester School of Art

And they are right next to a large park, so once we’ve waited out the infection we can plant crops to help us survive.  If there are Zombie Ninjas we’re all doomed, of course, but for normal zombies it might do in a pinch.

Have you considered what you would do in times of disaster?  Do you have a fall-back position planned out?

The threads of five seemingly unrelated lives are woven together to create a story which hangs together in the end. I found my enjoyment increased once I reached the point where I could start to see some of the connections between the different people.

A university professor, making ends meet by singing backing music for resonance advertising and the occassional high-class soiree; an honest senator trying to get re-elected and run his district well; the crooked head of a multinational family-run corporation; a police detective investigating a series of suicides (or are they murders?); and a researcher working for a news corporation looking for the next big story.

Each of the characters percieves beauty in a different way, from the traditional music/art to the beauty inherent in politics, police work, and data analysis.  That explains the “beauty” in the title, although I had to look up “archform” to find out what it meant.  This is what Wikipedia says:

In music, arch form is a sectional structure for a piece of music based on repetition, in reverse order, of all or most musical sections such that the overall form is symmetric, most often around a central movement. The sections need not be repeated verbatim but must at least share thematic material.

This does describe the book quite well, in fact.  One theme in several sections, all revolving around a central mystery.

At various points in the book it is pointed out that what is technically beautiful might not appeal to everyone – and this is the case here.  The book was quite slow to get started. I found the constant jumping from one character to the next to be irritating, as it took much longer to find out anything about the characters. However, overall it was a good read.

I haven’t felt much like blogging recently.  I haven’t had much to say, which is odd considering all of the things I’ve been up to!

My Brownies had a Christmas Bazaar – lots of random stalls of interesting things, refreshments, even Santa was there.  My Brownies, though, are not your typical believe-in-everything girls.  We had a long debate just before the bazaar about Santa.  Does he live at the north pole?  In Lapland?  Somewhere else?  Was the Santa we were getting for the bazaar the real one?  A fake?  One of Santa’s actual helpers?  (I did have to admit in the end that he was a fake – because he was one of the girls’ grandfather!)

IMG_1466And then there was Christmas, and all that entails.  A mulled wine and mince pie party, in which the Christmas Tree was edible.  Travel, family, presents, food, walks in the semi-country (it was very wet, so we stuck to pavements), church, games, food, Doctor Who, and the (surprisingly disappointing) finale of Merlin.  I think my favourite present this year was actually one that I gave. Who knew contractual variations could be so fun?

New Year’s has mostly been concerned with Dave’s present.  More on that when the Grand Plan has been successfully executed.

So that was the last few weeks.  Hopefully a more normal schedule will resume shortly.

 

The Author

Nicola Higgins is a 30-something martial artist who runs two Brownie packs and works full time. She somehow still finds time to write.

Her favourite genres are near-future and alternate world science fiction and fantasy.

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