Love them or loathe them, mobile phones have come a long way from the house brick of the 1970’s to the razor thin, smartphones that we are now used to. I got my first phone in the mid 80’s, and it was a BT phone on the Orange network. It was about the size of my open hand and just as thick. But the main problem was cost of the calls. At 30p a minute for local calls, it was very expensive to use, so it only got used in emergencies, of which there were thankfully very few. After that, I moved onto a Blackberry type of phone from Nokia and gradually upgraded to my latest Motorola.
Now to the point of this one. About 4 years ago, I took a part-time, free online Creative Writing course. It wasn’t a very good course and I didn’t pursue the offer of a paid course. But, one of the ‘ideas’ that were floated about was about conversations. It was the thought that we can get a better understand on how to write good dialogue, by having a discussion with yourself.
We were supposed to think of a subject, then have an imaginary chat to someone. All this was supposed to go on in your head but I often found myself talking out loud, which can be quite embarrassing, especially in public. To get around this, the tutor advised getting a pair of earphones, the ones with a built in microphone, and use them to pretend you are talking to someone real. I have never tried it, but it was an interesting thought. It made me wonder though, if many of those people you see with earphones in, chatting away are really just talking to themselves.
For the first few weeks, I felt a little out of place. All the team I was with, bar one had been office workers since leaving school and most of them had been with a Local Authority, so I was a bit of an oddity. Most of them couldn’t seem to get their heads around why, with the qualifications I had, would I want to work in an office. This was something that had been explained to us on the course and so I was expecting it. They soon got over it within a couple of weeks, and I settled down to become an “Officer of The Council” as we were called.
The briefcase was the first thing to be ditched, quickly followed by the fountain pen and dictionary. I had also bought a suit and I soldiered on with that for a couple of months. We shared our office floor with a couple of other sections of the Council and I soon discovered that literally nobody carried a briefcase. Most of the women had some form of shopping/tote bag to supplement their handbag , but the men didn’t seem to have bags at all. I still had my lunch and calculator to carry, so I needed something. I eventually dug out my old school bag, which was one of those thick canvas army types that we used to be able to get from the Army and Navy stores. Now what ever happened to them?
It had been noted at my interview, that I had an interest in computers and technology. This of course led to me being given a ‘very important job’. Everyday, at 4pm I was to perform the database back-up. Because there was two types of parking ticket (on-street and car parks) we had two computer systems. The reason for this was that back in 1986 the on-street parking service (parking meters) merged with the off-street car parks service. Each brought their own systems which were not compatible. So the off-street system (car parks) used Microsoft Windows 2.1 and a software package called DataEase, whereas the on-street part of the team had an old IBM machine that ran a program called dBase. It also ran Wordstar and Supercalc, but we never used them. It was dBase 2 that we had, but it was not like the other system which had it’s own built in back-up routine. No with this one, you first had to ‘drop out’ of the database and jump to a ‘DOS prompt’ Then you had to ‘Setpath’ which basically told the computer where to look and then type the back-up command. This had to be exact and had the location of the file to be backed-up, and the location where it was to be backed-up to. You then had to verify the back-up by following a similar routine.
It took me a couple of months before I realised that I could write a batch file to do all the leg work. When it worked first time, I was a hero. I had shaved a good 10 minutes of the time and it was far more accurate.. The only downside to this was that I was now the Parking Departments IT expert! Everything from changing the computer plug filing the back-up discs to replacing the printer toner was now my job. I even got asked to ‘have a quick look’ at the photocopier. Other staff started to come to me with their IT related problems and I came to the attention of the IT Department. I was now the unofficial IT support (more on that later) for Parking. If IT wanted any small work doing, then I got the call and was talked through the problem and solutions. I was loving it.
The much awaited online programming course with Future Learn started on Monday. It was a course, which would (hopefully) teach me how to program a mobile phone game for the Android platform. I enrolled before Christmas and had downloaded all the necessary software that I was going to need well in advance. I had got through about a third of the first weeks tutorials and everything seemed to be going well. But, I could not get it to work, without getting errors. I posted on the forum the problems I was have, and received some, what appeared to be good advice. So yesterday, after taking some of this advice, I proceeded to update the software I had previously downloaded. Two hours and 4.5 gigabytes later, I tried again. Same problem. There just did not seem to be an answer to my particular problem. Very disappointing. After another three hours of trying this and trying that, I gave up. Literally gave up and left the course. It is not what I wanted to really do, but it seemed the best thing at the time. Now I’m not so sure.
Future Learn is an online private company owned by the Open University. All the courses are free and some can lead to certification. It is still in beta stage, so maybe that is why I experienced a problem. This is the second course I started and not finished. The first one, I thought was about Richard 1st, but it was really about England in that period. Although it was interesting, it was not what I was looking for. I have another course starting at the end of April, to do with fiction writing. Maybe third time lucky !!
So, the 2nd disappointment was work related. More specifically ICT work related. We are all to get new computers. Laptops to be more precise, or Netbooks if you want to split hairs. The ones that had been decided on was the HP EliteBook 2570p. Now I, and others have been told, that this is what we need for our new work system. Because we are to be more ‘mobile’ we will ‘need something that is easier to carry …….’ Now, I know that I’m going to be a little incapacitated for a while in the future, but I think I’ll still be able to walk 300 yards with a laptop on my back. But, in order to be objective, I’m going to test the thing out, over the next few days. However, I think I’ve made up my mind already. I’m going to keep my original laptop. The Elite Book will go to someone else, or maybe I’ll say “keep it for me …. for later …. if I need it …. after the ‘op’ ….”
I’ve decided to have a go at ‘proper writing’. Well a short (very short) story anyway. I spotted a competition, in the Wetherby News, to write a short ghost story for the Friends of Harrogate Library. I mulled over it for a week or two, then decided I had nothing to lose, and so, inspired by a fellow WordPress blogger (Sue Healy) I had a go. The competition closes on the 5th November, so I hope to hear something soon after. Fingers crossed it is not all bad.
Remember I mention a so called email course I was doing. Turned out not to be as good as I thought. There should have been 18 parts to the course, however parts 10 through to 15 did not get emailed. I emailed them back and asked to re-send the missing parts, and left a message on their message board, but to no avail. I still have 6 parts missing, so a bit of a disappointment.
Apparently, the youngest escaped from his class again !! This time he was just in the school grounds, but again, no message from school !!! They either think, that it is not worth worrying about and that he was quite safe, or there is some other reason, which is even more worrying. I think Mrs H, may have to talk to the Head or Deputy Head.
So what has happened since the last time. Well not much really. I finally got a reply from Yorkshire Life magazine in answer to their appeal for bloggers about ‘Village Life’. I am hopefully going to write a monthly blog for the magazine (think it is the online version) about the village I live in. It has taken a while for them to get back to me !!! At least three emails to the various editors with no reply. But yesterday the reply came. I posted off a quick introduction about me, along with a couple of (scary) photos, so we will see what happens. Quite excited really.
Eldest son has got a job !!! Well done him !! He dropped off a CV at the Costa Coffee in Wetherby, just after Leeds Festival. Had an interview just over a week ago, then a trial day on Sunday last, when they offered him the job. To say he was pleased would be an understatement !!! He had his first day on Wednesday. A bit tiring he told me and his mum. Then yesterday, they told him that after a month or so, they will train him to be a manager !!! He could not believe it.
The drama group have started their rehearsals for the pantomime in earnest now. They are doing Cinderella, and the eldest has got a comedy part, as Norris the Gnome. I will may be asked to to do the tickets again, but I may decline this time. I quite enjoy designing them, but I really like a free hand, and there were so many ‘want this/that’ requests, that it kind of took some of the fun away. We shall see.
I have signed up for some kind of free email course on creative writing. I will get an email every day for about 10 days, which I have to work through. It looked quite reasonable, and there seemed to be a lot of links to the site, from various ‘e-learning’ sites, so I though I would give it a go. It is a website called Email College. Nothing to lose I suppose. I will let you know what happens. If it is any good, then I have have a bash as one of the others.
My Speed Awareness course went very well. In fact, I have to say, that I actually enjoyed it. The course presenters (is that the right name ??) were excellent. I feel I can name them, as it is highly unlikely that they or anyone on the course will read this. Well done Jo and Gary. It was not what I expected. There was no blame, guilt or fault, in fact we were all made to feel, as if it was just a momentary lapse of concentration. Although, we were left in no doubt, that we had done something seriously wrong and got away with it. Still it’s done, and at the end of the day, I was more aware of the speed I was driving. So job done. Mind you, a couple of the people were real numpties. Some of the things they came out with were quite funny, and some were quite worrying. What I found a little strange, was that fact, that by the end of the course, I was convinced that I knew some of the faces. I probably didn’t, but a couple of faces looked familiar.
The software upgrade went as well as can be expected, with only one problem. Wrong build !!! The version was correct, but the build was wrong. As a consequence, certain parts of the software failed. So who’s fault was that ? The software house for sending the wrong client build?? Our IT department for packaging the wrong client build??? Well the IT department will say, that they packaged the client build that they were sent. I can believe that that could be the case. However (enter Hercule Poirot) the upgrade files that had been copied to the server, contained the correct client build !!!!! So the dilemma is, where did the wrong build come from, and why are there two builds ??? Once again I feel the answer is down to a lack of communication between the software house and our IT department. The next major project, is moving the whole data file structure to the new SAN storage area. This time, I will take a more pro-active role, and will insist on a detailed project plan. This will not go wrong.
On a different tack, the eldest rang his Mum today, to apologise for his money mismanagement. I don’t know if he meant it, but no one asked him to ring, so maybe there is something there.
My ‘Speed Awareness Course’ invitation came through today. I need to log on to a website to arrange a course and pay the £60.00 course fee. I’ve been getting lots of ‘expert’ advice people who have been in the same situation. Advice ranging from challenging the accuracy of the speed camera, to pay the fine, but send £60.01p !!! Apparently, the latter will stop the points going on, as the police cannot send me a refund for a penny, and they cannot keep the penny, so the point do not go on. Do I look stupid !!!! If they cannot process they payment, because of something I have done, then the law says that ‘I have failed to pay the fixed penalty’ and the case will proceed to court. End of story.