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Sunday, August 2nd, 2015 05:37 pm
I've finally got my computer to talk to my TV, something which before I 'upgraded' happened natively and now doesn't.

I had to install something called "Plex", which works but is something of a nightmare to set up. Getting the two things to admit they both saw the same IP address was an uphill struggle.

Reading the "help" sections on their website, I discover that the files have to be named in a particular way in order to show up properly. This will involve me in a huge undertaking to rename and reorder my video and some audio files to make the best use of the software.

This is a huge undertaking. I have around 600 video files of one sort or another and they'll all need work. Needless to say, I view this as a bit of a nightmare job. It'll take me hours of work.

Stupid computers.
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Tuesday, September 16th, 2014 03:42 pm
Having written out for information on the current position on filing and listened to colleagues telling me that “we don’t have time for this”, I’m rather nervously waiting for replies as long as “War and Peace”. This is not what I want. All I want is a few well chosen (and truthful) words on where we are with our filing in case the filing fairies (otherwise known as an audit team) come dancing in demanding to know why our files aren’t up to date. It’s very simple. Colleagues, eh?

I’m coming to think that the ideal way of working would be to have a job where I work in a room on my own, self-employed. And even then I’d have customers, who are annoying in a whole new way. A job with no colleagues and no customers would be perfect. Lighthouse keeper, except that lighthouses are automatic these days. Cormorant wrangler on a remote island except that that would be wet and involve walking about in the rain covered with bird poo. Other ideas considered in comments.
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Monday, June 16th, 2014 01:00 pm
I've spent part of the morning today trying to support a member who's lost her cat. She's devastated, and probably shouldn't be at work. No doubt management would regard this as a waste of time, but people love their animals, and some total bastard – a person with no conscience whatsoever – poisoned my member's cat with strychnine.

Yes, she is reporting it to the police; her husband is a policeman. We gather that her cat was not the only moggy poisoned in this way, and there is a risk that if some animal picked something poisoned up and then was scared off, a child might pick up whatever it is and end up the same way. So it has to be taken seriously.

But my member is really upset. As I was for her – I can't help thinking that an indoor cat is much easier on the whole. I'm probably over-careful with Smokey, but I love her so much.
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Saturday, March 29th, 2014 11:53 am
Same sex marriage started in England and Wales at midnight, so a total "Yippee!" for that.

Pats on the back, too, for my colleagues who were involved in working on it with my employer, because I know they put in some serious hours to make the supporting legislation work.
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Monday, October 7th, 2013 03:53 pm
This is very much the case where I work - does it sound familiar to you?

An extract from Risks 624 - TUC Health and safety newsletter

28 September 2013

A managerial offensive is taking place at work, with a new report claiming the government's blitz on employment rights and welfare is being mirrored in a 'new workplace tyranny' and a massive intensification of work.

Professor Phil Taylor of the University of Strathclyde Business School, writing in Hazards magazine, says the phenomenon 'has brought narrow tasking, stress, bullying and lack of voice.

The combination of unremitting intensity, insecurity and claustrophobic control and coercion is now characteristic of work across the economy.' He warns that performance management is the main tool used to up the pressure at work, with a proportion of workers set up to fail by design. Professor Taylor warns: 'In the worst cases, managers are given targets for the numbers of workers under their control who should be underperforming, put on sickness absence management actions or 'exited' out of the organisation. Should they fail to meet these targets, the managers themselves will be judged to be underperforming.'

The professor concludes: 'Unrelenting work intensity and the insecurity caused by fear of the consequences of underperforming induce profound pressure and cause deep anxiety,' adding: 'The outcome frequently is a vicious circle. A worker gets a poor performance ranking and it affects their confidence. They are put on a PIP [performance improvement programme] and they believe that they have been targeted. Stress might follow and they go off sick.

When they return to work, often prematurely, they are in 'a two-pronged cycle', facing warnings over their performance and sickness absence triggers. The resultant pressure compounds their insecurity making them even less likely to make the improvements the performance managers are demanding. The result can be acute mental ill-health with the threat of capability dismissal looming.'

Comment: I've had several lambkins come to me caught in that stress - sickness - underperforming - stress - sickness - underperforming cycle. It's seriously not funny and you can be eased out of even a government job in as little as three months.
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Monday, September 23rd, 2013 01:26 pm
I know you’re all still on the edge of your seats to hear how I’m doing with Smokey.

She had a good weekend, lots of cuddles and scritches, though she is definitely not as clingy as she was when she first came to me. Having a cat that won’t let you out of the room without following is sometimes quite fun, but I’m rejoicing at the fact that she’s growing more confident. She still doesn’t like the computer or the iPad, though. They take my attention away from cats, which is where it should be in her opinion.

She did really well with my gaming friends. I sorted out a place where she could go and hide, which had food, water, her favourite blanket and so on. In the end, though, she hardly used it.

She insisted on staying in the room with my friends, occasionally drawing attention to herself but generally happy to watch them and blink slowly in the way of cats and when she wanted support she came and sat on me. She did have a mad twenty minutes where she ran from the living room to the kitchen and back again repeatedly – I don’ t know what she was about there – but it was short lived.

Today, she meets the cleaner. That should be fun and games for all as it’ll be her first encounter with that creature of evil, the vacuum cleaner. Also the hissy thing that is the iron.

I changed the litter in her tray and gave the tray a wash; never a fun job but it has to be done. I have to say, modern cat litter is very much easier to cope with (if no lighter) than the stuff we used when I had cats before in the early 1980s to the early 1990s. There seems to have been a step change in cat litter technology in the intervening years.

Her appetite seems to have improved considerably – one thing that’s helped is that I tested a different brand of dry cat food on her, and she much prefers it. The down side is that it’s Iams (the only ‘serious’ cat food you can get in supermarkets) and one of my FB friends says that Iams test on animals.

I’m a bit torn over this news. I see any animal testing as a bad thing (though I accept that in science it’s sometimes unavoidable) but on the other hand at least someone has tested the food to check that cats like the stuff. It seems better than formulating and manufacturing a cat food just hoping cats like it (which the manufacturer seems to have done with Go-Cat judging by Smokey’s attitude towards it). However, I’ve ordered some small bags of alternatives from an online pet store to check against it to see if she’ll like those even better.

Then I won’t tell anyone what brand she went for, in case it has an even worse reputation. Frankly my definite preference is that my cat eats her food and fills out a bit – because at the moment she’s a bit of a thin thing and a thank-you. I don’t want her fat, but I want her flanks to fill out.

In other news

It seems there will be a voluntary retirement/redundancy scheme advertised today or tomorrow. I’m very tempted to get a quote just to see how much I’d get if I decided to go. You don’t have to accept the quote and anyway I’m a bit young to retire – but I hate working for this government so very much.
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Thursday, September 5th, 2013 10:59 am
My work laptop's not working, meaning I shall have to take today off as leave and get it into the office to be fixed tomorrow.

I don't have many days left this leave year to spend on things like this and I can't go in to get it fixed today because I have Tesco delivering my week's food at about two.
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Wednesday, June 26th, 2013 04:00 pm
I hate this government so very, very much. They would look good on a lamppost, like Mussolini.

The Spending Review. Yes, that’s what it’s about. For welfare claimants none of it is an improvement.

The key policy elements of the settlement include:
• 7 waiting days at the start of UC, ESA and JSA
• Increased requirements at start of claim, including an English language test for JSA, mandation* for CV and UJ (Universal Jobmatch) registration
• Increased signing, weekly for at least 50% of claimants
• UC claimants subject to full conditionality to verify claim every year
• Increased requirements for IS lone parents
• Looking at pilots for new ways of encouraging ESA(WRAG) to take steps to improve their health and significantly increasing requirements for claimants over 3.5 years on JSA


Seven waiting days at the start of a UC, ESA or JSA claim. Now, that’s seven days without money for the poorest people. My savings are such that I could last seven days without pay, but many people, including many poorly paid people, are skin-close to borrowing from loan sharks to keep the wolf from the door as it is.

Increased requirements for the start of claim…we may live in England, but nowhere is there a requirement to be able to speak English. Speak what you like has always been the rule.

Besides, I can think of at least one or two situations where the outcome of this would be very unfair indeed. Think of the situation of a woman who has come here as the wife of a Pakistani man. She speaks only Gujarati. He’s abusive and she leaves him, leaving the children behind her. She can’t go to family: they will shun her because she left her husband. She can only claim UC/JSA – but now she can’t because she doesn’t speak English. What does she do? Her only option is to return to her abuser, because she can’t live any other way.

It’s not that unusual a situation in the district where I live. One of my colleagues has a wife who manages a Jobcentre in central London. Where she works, about 65% of the clients don’t speak good English.

The mandatory registration on Universal Jobmatch means putting your details on a site known to be unsafe (see what Johnny Void has to say about it) and known to be glitchy, in a way which means the staff at your Jobcentre can see what you’ve applied for and harass you to apply for unsuitable jobs in places you can't travel to. It’s a rubbish idea and someone’s going to be killed, I swear it.

The rest of the ideas are appalling, too. It’s as if they think that there are jobs to be had easily which people are not applying for. If there were decent** jobs to be had, people would take them. That’s how it’s always worked in the past and it would work that way now, too.



* Is mandation even a word? I don’t think it is.

** Properly paid, not part time zero hours contracts, or weird jobs which don’t exist when you make further enquiries.
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Wednesday, July 25th, 2012 01:26 pm
London is a frustrating place to be right now. I met some friends for dinner and a catch-up yesterday and found that just getting from my workplace to the place we were meeting (three streets away) was an exercise in itself.

Firstly, all the buses running down Victoria Street and up Whitehall were delayed by who-knows-what event at Trafalgar Square, and then when I got off the bus in Whitehall I discovered that the reason the driver had let me off in the middle of the street rather than at a stop was because the bus stop I wanted was closed for the Olympics.

So was the crossing where I wanted to cross the road to the pub.* So I had to dodge between the traffic to get to the side of the road I needed, and if you know me, given my speed and level of surety of foot, 'dodging' isn't something I'm all that good at. Years ago, when I was a young, slimmer civil servant who didn't have knackered knees, I could dodge. Now, not so much.

Then when I came out of the pub later I noticed that sections of the road are blocked off so that people needing to use the bus have to walk out across the road to get on. Not what I'd prefer, frankly.

Luckily, I should be avoiding most of this, because I've arranged to work from home during much of the Olympics, only coming in to the office once a week. It does mean that any union related meetings will have to take place during the little time I'm physically in the Dull Grey Tower, but I hope that should be enough time. The rest I'll have to do by phone.

I wish everybody taking part in the Olympics well, I hope it keeps fine for them and I hope everyone who finds that sort of thing enjoyable enjoys it. But I wish it was happening somewhere else.



* Or rather, newly gentrified gastro-pub. The food is very good, don't get me wrong, but the prices are twice what they used to be when it was a dark and poky hole.


ETA: Scotland has announced that they're bringing in gay marriage in the face of whipped up objections from the usual suspects. Well done, Scotland.
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Thursday, August 4th, 2011 04:15 pm
I've also asked around the managers of my office about this, but this came up in my union work recently and I thought I'd find out what everyone thinks.

Poll #7675 Reasonable ad-hoc tasks
Open to: Registered Users, detailed results viewable to: Just the Poll Creator, participants: 57

You employ a person whose normal job is to do post opening, stamping, preparation of papers, scanning - adminstrative tasks, in other words. Would you regard it as reasonable for them to be asked to do "sweeping out the filthy basement" as an ad-hoc task?

Yes
3 (5.3%)

No
9 (15.8%)

In the context of an office move or "tidy friday" when everyone's mucking in, but not otherwise
44 (77.2%)

Something else I will tell you about in comments
1 (1.8%)

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Monday, March 14th, 2011 10:56 am
The 'have a nice day' fixed grin required of many hospitality and other service staff could be seriously bad for their health.

A study published in the Academy of Management Journal has discovered that fake smiles can actually depress mood and hurt health. The researchers examined a group of bus drivers who often have to display a positive, courteous demeanour as part of their job description.

Lead author Brent Scott, an assistant professor of management at Michigan State University, said the findings suggest customer service workers who fake smile throughout the day worsen their mood and withdraw from work, affecting productivity. 'Employers may think that simply getting their employees to smile is good for the organisation, but that's not necessarily the case,' he said. 'Smiling for the sake of smiling can lead to emotional exhaustion and withdrawal, and that's bad for the organisation.'

The study is one of the first of its kind to examine emotional displays over a period of time while also delving into gender differences, Scott said. The results were stronger for the women bus drivers. 'Women were harmed more by surface acting, meaning their mood worsened even more than the men and they withdrew more from work,' Scott said.

The fake smile is an employment pre-requisite for many in the service sector, particularly retail and hospitality staff. The practice is more widespread than you might think. Many call centres require a fixed smile when dealing with callers, despite the penned-in workforce being visible only to their supervisors.

  • Brent A Scott, Christopher M Barnes. A multilevel field investigation of emotional labor, affect, work withdrawal, and gender, Academy of Management Journal, volume 54, number 1, February 2011

(I always had a suspicion that the fixed grin of shop workers was bad for them as well as annoying for me.)

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Tuesday, May 4th, 2010 01:07 pm
It's amazing what you overhear in the Ministry of Magic's canteen – or rather, what becomes mangled between someone saying it and my ear. I was minding my own business trying to cope with spaghetti bolognese when I overheard two blokes at the next table, one of whom was saying to the other, "He was in a band call the Gelatinous Poodles."

A quick google search shows up that there is no known band of that name, so what on earth can he have actually said?

Somewhat similarly, I'm convinced that I once saw a band called "Careful with that axe, Eugene". It was in a pub, in a back street in Birmingham in the mid-to-late 1970s – the best I can say is that it was before I left school, but only just before. I know that there's a Pink Floyd song of that name, but as far as I'm aware there's no band.

Now, I could have misremembered or misunderstood - perhaps they did that track and I've remembered the track as the band name, or something like that. Or perhaps they did just one gig and never played again. I'll never know.
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Tuesday, April 20th, 2010 03:20 pm
It is strange not to have vapour trails going across the sky and to not have the sound of aircraft. When they're there, you don't even realise that they make that much noise.

At the Ministry of Magic we have various people either stuck abroad or unable to leave to go on holiday. (The Ministry rarely sends people abroad for work related reasons.) The level of grumbling among those who've booked holidays is rising slowly – I was toying myself with going abroad for once, but my laziness seems to have been the wisest move. Or non-move, if you see what I mean.

Good news

The good news for me is that I'm having three days off – my birthday and the two following days. Go me!

Dragon Age: Origins )
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Wednesday, March 24th, 2010 06:37 pm
I picketed, I demonstrated, I went home, I went to sleep.

zzzzzzzzzz

I'm still in pain from all that standing about.
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Wednesday, February 17th, 2010 03:56 pm
Yes, yet another political entry.

From "Tax is the best form of defence" a circular produced by an old friend of mine, Anna Owens, and which is here.

"Currently the UK debt is £175 billion, an increase in £45bn from 2008. This debt could be nearly eradicated if HMRC (what was called the Inland Revenue) were given the resources to collect the £100 bn tax which is lost to the exchequer each year through tax avoidance, tax evasion and failure to collect."

Remember, she's not talking about introducing any new taxes. None. Just actually having more civil servants to get out there and do the job of identifying and collecting taxes that are already owed. And tax debt can go back six years. The government could eradicate the UK debt without cutting services, by spending more money where it's needed.
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Tuesday, February 16th, 2010 10:08 am
Summary (from here.

While the recession places increased demand on local public services, they are also under mounting pressure to make savings and become more efficient. One suggestion often put forward to tackle the country’s growing debt problem is to outsource or privatise our public services. The TUC have produced a pamphlet which examines this proposition and attempts to explode some of the myths and misconceptions about privatisation to show that it would cause more problems than solutions.

MYTH 1 During the economic downturn, the best way to save money is to privatise public
services


In reality, public money is best kept within the public sector during the downturn. For every pound of public spending in a local area, this generates an additional 64p. Outsourcing and Public Private Partnerships – often undertaken with large multinational companies – take money out of areas when local economies and communities most need to be supported. Public spending has a stabilising effect, particularly during a recession; privatisation would only undermine this.

MYTH 2 The private sector costs less than the public sector and is more efficient.

In reality, there is no evidence that the private sector is more efficient than the public sector. Outsourced services are concentrated in a few large firms which dominate the industry and have proved able to earn large profits. PFI projects often go far over budget while contracts are inflexible, binding the public sector into contracts for buildings and services which often later prove unfit for purpose. PPPs and outsourcing are too often the cause of a downward pressure on staff terms and conditions, the
fragmentation of services and a divisive effect on public sector ethos.

MYTH 3 Competition is the best way to improve public services

In reality, public services are too important to compete on price. Public services reduce inequality, promote economic, social, and environmental security. Competition merely leads to a race to the bottom, with providers racing to compete on costs to the detriment of service quality. Competition leads to the fragmentation of services and increased transaction costs, linked to making and monitoring contracts, accounting, auditing, legal services, advertising and shareholders’ profits.

MYTH 4 The private sector is more responsive to service users’ individual needs

In reality, only the public sector can respond to society’s collective needs. Public services must be subject to democratic accountability and transparency. Privatisation erodes this accountability and treats vital services merely as contracts to be bundled up and sold off.

Myth 5 The public sector has a worse productivity record than the private sector

In reality, public services create public value – but this is hard to measure. It is notoriously difficult to measure public sector productivity and even harder to compare it to the private sector. An increased class size might appear to show a teacher working more productively, but it is doubtful this would improve the quality of education. Private sector productivity can be assessed by looking at the balance sheet. In the public sector, it is more about public value, with services that respond to the needs of citizens, that are sustainable, provide long-term value for money and are trusted by citizens.

Myth 6 “Back-office” functions can be outsourced without impacting on the front-line

In reality, support functions are just as important as the front-line. Without “back office function”, frontline workers would not be able to do their job. The NHS would not be able to survive without the people who book appointments, analyse blood tests, process X-rays or make sure staff get their wages on time. A false division is being created between front-line and support services which is fragmenting and damaging vital public services.
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Wednesday, February 10th, 2010 10:25 am
Standing in the lift of the Dull Grey Tower, I came across a poster for the Civil Service Art Competition. I'd had no idea there was one, so I read on.

Aparrently, the entrants are being asked to "represent what it means to be a civil servant" and the work should "be underpinned by the civil service values of honesty, integrity, impartiality and objectivity." In art.

One of the suggested media (mediums?) on the poster - it doesn't appear on the website - was clay. Which made me wonder...how would you represent honesty, integrity, impartiality and objectivity in clay?

That'll distract me all day, now.
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Tuesday, January 5th, 2010 07:37 pm
I was attending a meeting, called in December when obviously they didn't know that northern Britain was going to resemble Canada.

I had an exciting journey up, in which a passing train broke a window in our train and showered everyone in the carriage with glass and snow. This meant that our train was delayed as they obviously then had to go slowly. (This is the third time I've been on trains where windows have broken for one reason or another, and people wonder why I don't like to sit in the window seat.) It didn't get really snowy until north of Peterborough - the Arctic conditions around Doncaster came as something of a surprise, though possibly wouldn't have if I'd paid more attention to the news.

I arrived in Leeds, late, to discover that the meeting was called off. D'oh. The only two people who'd turned up were myself and another colleague who'd come from Inverness - he said the snow got really bad around Aviemore. Everyone else cried off, even the people who work in Leeds - proving that they had more sense than we did.

I ate a baguette in an accusing way, (bacon and brie if you were wondering), commiserated with my Scottish colleague, turned around and went back to Leeds station.

This is where I stood for two hours, in the freezing cold, while they cancelled trains to London. At last about three trains worth of people piled on to the one train which was going to run, and sat back in the relatively warm. That train crawled back to London, allowing us plenty of time to admire the pretty snow around Doncaster and Wakefield.

Now I've had tea and a delivery Chinese meal I'm feeling a bit more human.
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Tuesday, October 27th, 2009 01:52 pm
I haven't many spoons at the moment. I have the problem solving capacity of a nematode worm and my comprehension level is at 'See Spot run'.

Knowing this (it's kind of hard to miss) my boss gives me a big document to read, understand and compare with legislation, with the expectation of a big secret document tomorrow. Let's hope the big secret document has pictures and is in big writing, or they're stuffed.
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Monday, October 26th, 2009 12:04 pm
I give in. My problems about space/time/whatever have now reached a point where I don't know what day it is.

The meeting I came in specially for is next week.

Has anyone a hole I can crawl into?
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