- I’ve been going to lots of hospital appointments, mainly pregnancy-related (I’m having extra check-ups and scans because of my heart condition), but also the usual regular pacemaker checks and appointments with the cardiologist. I passed my MOT today.
- The garden is a mess. I haven’t done anything with it for months, and Mr C is not the world’s keenest gardener. We may have to enlist the help of gardening friends.
- I’m knitting a baby blanket (for someone else), which is taking quite a long time because it’s a lace pattern and I’m a slow knitter. Only 2 more pattern repeats to go!
- The raspberry plants are still producing edible fruit, even though it’s now December! They are an autumn variety, but even so! I suppose this is because we had a relatively mild autumn this year.
- We forgot to get our Advent calendar out yesterday! Mr C’s mum gave us a chocolate Advent calendar. I am against chocolate Advent calendars (I know, I am a miserable thing, as my mum would say). They just seem wrong to me because surely the whole point of Advent is waiting (not necessarily for chocolate, obviously); not having your chocolate and eating it, as it were. Anyway, I don’t know if I can really bring myself to eat the Advent chocolate, but I will probably succumb to temptation before the 25th (or maybe even the 5th) of December…
- As mentioned in the previous blog post, we have two choir concerts this week.
- The trains have been late quite a lot. This is as annoying as it is predictable. I would like to know whether the train companies calculate their reliability statistics based on when a train actually arrives at a station or when the display board says it’s arrived. These are often two quite different times.
- There have been some nice winter sunsets. I tried to take a photo of today’s but it came out rather blurry and full of trees.
As you can probably tell from the title of this post, I don’t like interviews. They are definitely not my friends. This is, of course, because I’m not very good at them.
I do the things you’re supposed to do in terms of preparation – I go through the job description and person specification and make sure that I’ve got something to say about each point, I research the organisation, I try and find out about things I don’t already know much about – this time I even read a whole book about cataloguing, which I do know about, but I did it anyway, just in case – I pick my outfit carefully, I arrive well in time, I actually feel OK, but then the interview starts…
…and my brain empties itself of knowledge and I lose the ability to speak coherently. I waffle, I forget things I know perfectly well, so I waffle some more, talking around the subject in the hope that I might say something the interviewers want to hear. I can’t think of anything to say so I just sit there looking at the table (there’s usually a table of some kind) until the interviewers take pity on me and prompt me or ask me another question. This last time, I was so relieved that we’d reached the end of the interview that I forgot my carefully prepared list of questions to ask and didn’t even think to ask the panel when I could expect to hear back – I usually remember to do that, at least!
Bizarrely, it seems like the more preparation I do, the worse I perform in the interview, so perhaps I’m over-thinking things – quelle surprise, this is me, after all. Or perhaps (and I think this is probably more the case) I need to practice the interview itself, as in literally have a pretend interview, beforehand, because it’s the actual thinking on the spot, speaking and expressing myself verbally that I find difficult. You will again be unsurprised to learn that I might also be a bit nervous. I’m not sure what I can do about this, especially as I don’t feel nervous until it’s too late and I’m in the interview room! Sigh.
It’s all very frustrating. But the above points fade almost into insignificance behind one major problem: I (usually, though not always) don’t really believe I’m good enough to get the job. I gradually lose confidence in myself the further the application process goes on. I write my application, and I feel OK about it. I can write words about myself. I might even believe them. Then I get offered an interview. I prepare. But then I get into the room and I have to talk about myself and explain why I want the job, and tell people about things I’ve done well, etc., ad nauseum, and I can’t do it. Nervousness plays a big part, but I think if I believed in myself a bit more I could get over that or use it in some way.
So, it comes down to lack of confidence. This is what stops me from jumping, not just in terms of jobs, but in lots of other areas of my life. Of course, this is [probably] not news to anyone who’s read this blog before, and it’s definitely not news to me, but I still don’t know what the answer is. However, I’ve been successful at interviews before, and I’ve certainly done better interviews in the past, so all is not lost.
Before I took the above photo I hadn’t taken any pictures on an analogue camera for about six years. A couple of months ago, we were looking through photograph albums full of pictures of my maternal grandparents, their parents, my grandma’s sisters, and my mum and her sisters as children. This led me to wonder whether people in 50 or 100 or more years time will be able to see pictures of our generation who predominantly choose to use digital cameras and very rarely actually print any of our photos. I suppose things like wedding pictures, and maybe pictures of new babies and graduations and things still get printed out more often than not, but the ‘everyday’ things, and even more unusual things like holidays, are often only recorded and stored using digital equipment. A friend of ours recently returned from Brazil and all his photos were on his iPhone. Even if we continue to have access to digital images, it’s probably fairly unlikely that anyone in 100 years time will be able (even if they had the inclination) to look at the photos that are currently stored on my (or indeed most other people’s) digital storage devices – laptops, hard drives, mobile phones, etc.
Apart from the interest of the images themselves, the photograph as a physical object holds its own appeal. As the physical form of a printed book can tell us about the time it was created, so the photograph as object can tell us a lot about the time and circumstances during which it was taken, developed and printed. For example, the type of paper the photo is printed on can give us information about when and where the picture was produced, and who produced it, and I’m sure there are many other things about the printed photograph that photography experts find useful and interesting, but which I know nothing about.
As well as this, there is something good and even a bit exciting about looking at and handling an old photograph, whether it’s from 1944 or 1984. It’s something that was there – an artifact, a piece of history. In some way, I think that old photographs are the nearest thing to time travel we have so far – moments in time captured and recorded to enable us to see into the past. Of course, this applies to digital photographs too, but the finality (for want of a better word) of the recording doesn’t really exist in the same way as with printed photographs. Nowadays we can change images, editing out the bits (or people) we don’t like – what does this mean for memory if a photo is the only thing you’ve got to go on?
With this in mind, after I’d spent time looking at the old family photos I decided to print off quite a lot of pictures of family taken over the last few years. I don’t know if anyone will want to look at them in the future, but you never know.
On a related note, I found it very interesting to read that the Impossible Project, who began producing new Polaroid-type film after Polaroid stopped making it, have now developed a machine to print Polaroid-type photos from an iPhone! It is quite cool. I suspect it will be also be fairly expensive, and I don’t even have an iPhone, but never mind! I still have four pictures left on my old Sun 600…
a person whose physiological functioning is aided by
or dependent upon a mechanical or electronic device.
There are plenty of us out there who fall into this category; people with pacemakers, mechanical valves, artificial legs, eyes, hands, whatever. Some people would argue that even people who wear glasses are cyborgs. A discussion about someone wearing glasses being a cyborg was actually what started me off thinking about this whole subject of cybernetic humans. Here is a bit of it:
I don’t know whether people who wear glasses really count as cyborgs, though. Mainly because the glasses are not a part of them in the same way that the pacemaker is part of me – it’s in me and literally intertwined with me. I can never be without it. It’s part of the mechanics of my body in a way that is very different to the interaction between someone and their spectacles. However, I see the flaws in my argument – what about people with removable prosthetic limbs? for one.
The idea of people-technology hybrids as being “more than human” is an intriguing one. Cyborgs are more than human in that we’re humans with ‘add-ons’, as it were, but not usually in the sense that we’re enhanced beyond normal human capabilities. However, we are also not less than human (which was Simon’s point). We usually think of cyborgs in the context of science fiction, where they’re quite often portrayed as the bad guys; and we think of them as being somehow less than human – robots, rather than people enhanced with machinery – so the term ‘cyborg’ can carry quite negative connotations. [I'm not sure whether the Cylons in Battlestar Galactica really count as cyborgs, but there is an excellent and fascinating case in point if they do.] As well as this, some people can get a bit freaked out when thinking about machine-human hybrids. Being part-machine is not natural, it’s not ‘normal’, and humans tend not to like things or people that don’t fit their ideas about what is natural or normal. Bizarrely, when I went to see the surgeon before my heart surgery in 2008 the thing he said that upset me most was that I might have to have a pacemaker. I still can’t coherently explain why, but I think it was just the idea of having something in me that wasn’t me. It just seemed wrong. But now I know it’s perfectly alright, and being a cyborg has improved my life tremendously!
It seems that the definition of who or what is a cyborg has moved far beyond my personal opinion and what the original definition of the word referred to. If I remember rightly, the conversation on Twitter went on to discuss cyborgs and librarianship. If you’re interested in such things you might want to have a look at Simon’s post on the subject. Further afield, at least one person is arguing that “we’re all cyborgs now”:
What do you think?
*Although I may be paranoid, this is not to be confused with an android.
** Interestingly, not every dictionary defines “cyborg” in the same way. Some define cyborgs as being fictional or hypothetical, and as someone who is technologically enhanced beyond normal human capabilities. However, if one goes back to the original of cyborg (cybernetic organism) as someone who is part-machine and part-human then cyborgs certainly do exist, although most ‘real’ cyborgs are only enhanced ‘up’ to, rather than beyond, normal human capabilities (if that). Even with my pacemaker I’m not going to win any races! However, I’m pretty sure I exist…
If it wasn’t for the Internet, I wouldn’t have got very far with my knitting. I still count myself as a novice knitter, but without the Internet I wouldn’t have got much beyond casting on. Most of what I’ve learnt about knitting has been learned from the Internet – from blogs, Twitter and particularly YouTube. I know there are lots of books about knitting, but they tend to be relatively expensive, and, being somewhat lacking in coordination and (I have discovered) the ability to decipher diagrams of yarn and needles, I find it much easier to learn to knit by watching someone else actually doing something than by looking at a 2D image or trying to follow written instructions.
I suspect that a lot of people learning to knit now have the same experience – using the Internet where previously we would have asked our parents/aunts/uncles/grandparents. I’m sure many people are still taught how to knit by their parents, particularly, but for a lot of people this is no longer as practical as it would have been in the past where people tended to stay living close to family for most, if not all, of their lives.
It could be said that the learning of knitting skills is an example of a microcosm of how society and particularly learning have changed over the past twenty years or so.
The cold/cough/associated horridness is still lingering on. I’m still off sick from work, as I’ve been for the last couple of days. However, I’m feeling a lot better than I was and my brain is just about back to normal – well, as normal as it ever gets.
In other news, the kitchen ceiling has been leaking! Argh! So far, it only leaks when we use the bath, so we haven’t used the bath (or the shower, which is in the bath) since New Year’s Eve. We have been cleaning ourselves, though, fear not. We’ve reported the leak to our landlord, who rang the plumber, who told the landlord he would sort it out “straightaway”. We have not seen or heard anything from the plumber to date. We phoned the landlord again last night, who said he was surprised he’d not received the plumber’s bill yet. Well, that is because he hasn’t been! It is the same useless plumber we had all the trouble with before. Sigh.
To cheer us up, here is a picture of the Lego Christmas tree that was at St Pancras station last year:
I found the following (among many other less interesting (?) things) in my desk yesterday*:
- A copy of The Independent from the day of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s wedding. I’m not a royalist.
- A folder full of music from Other Choir.
- Quite a lot of wrapping paper, including some nice Doctor Who paper, and some that I got free from John Lewis.
- A pink butterfly that decorated a present I got once.
- A short length of (also pink) feather boa type material that was also used on a parcel for me, I think. It shed feathers, which may or may not be real, everywhere. If they are real they must be from a very small bird.
- Half a pretend menorah – the top bit with the candlesticks. It should go into a stand, but the stand is missing, which is why I ended up with it in the first place.* Happy Hanukkah, by the way!
- Some bags of 1p and 2p coins I meant to take to the bank ages ago (my own, not the library’s).
- A screwdriver. I have had this screwdriver in various drawers for about five years. It followed me from the Library of Doom to the Shiny New Learning Centre. I have no idea why.
- An ex-colleague’s mouse mat. She asked me to look after it when she went to work in another department. She’s now left the university altogether.
- A pair of shoes. I have these in my drawer for the days when I wear my boots and then my feet get too hot in the office. Not that this is likely to happen at the moment as the offices have been freezing this week!
- Lots of plastic carrier bags.
- A box of plasters. Always good to have some around, I think.
- My ECDL passport. They don’t use these anymore.
- A whole box of stuff I used for the CILIP Chartership. Most of it went in the bin. (Don’t worry, there are copies of it in my chartership portfolio!)
- A folder of staff development-related/job-related things; including the job advert for the job I first applied for in my current place of work, a copy of the presentation I did on the interview day and the letter offering me the job. How things have changed since 2005! My colleague, with what I felt was unnecessary glee, told me that he was doing his A Levels in 2005. I feel old.
*In case you were wondering, I’m not clearing out my desk because I’m leaving, but because we’re all moving desks (and some people are moving offices) next week.
**It’s from the ‘resources for use in classrooms’ section of the library and is meant for helping people to teach about Hannukah. People tend to leave broken things (mainly books) on my desk. I like mending them, or at least trying to.
In a sort-of old-fashioned way, I have books I generally only read on Sundays. I started this ‘tradition’ when I stopped going to church so often because, frankly, I find it meaningless and boring most of the time. I would quite like to go somewhere else, but Mr C is settled there – he helps out with the children’s work, reads the readings and occasionally gives the talk and generally brightens everyone’s lives (I’m not biased at all!) – and I don’t really want to go to church without him. This is not logical, I know, but it would just feel wrong. Also, where would I go? I think it’s me that’s the problem rather than the church. In all my years of church-going (34, give or take a few) I’ve only ever really felt part of the community in my childhood church (mainly because I was the choir – a community in itself) and the church I went to while I was doing my undergraduate degree, because they were great at reaching out to and involving students and the teaching was interesting, wise and sensible so I found it easy to engage with – and obviously it didn’t hurt that most of my friends went to the same church.
I know we’re not supposed to go to church to get something out of it, but when it gets to the point where going to church is actually not helping my faith I think there’s a problem. In fairness, my current church isn’t always bad. We had a great sermon last week, which I may write about another time, and one of the things I like about it is that in some ways it is possibly the most counter-cultural place you could possibly go to, at least in the local area. But I still feel like I’m on the outside, even after being a part of the church for seven and a half years and being involved with music and children’s work and making the tea and going to the knitting group and editing the church magazine. Again, I don’t think this is necessarily the fault of the church community – I think it’s probably my fault in some way, because I feel like an outsider in lots of situations, but I’m not entirely sure what I should do about it.
And also, I should admit that I’ve never been very good at being a Christian. I think I’m too liberal in my views and not self-disciplined enough to put my faith (such as it is) into practice, and I think I may have read too many theology books for my own good. I ask too many questions and I find it hard to understand how and why even the most basic doctrines actually ‘work’ (for want of a better word) despite reading all those books. Of course, my lack of faith is really the main problem, but who can I admit that to? I feel like my Christian friends/the vicar/whoever will be disappointed in me and I don’t think there’s anything they could say that would help me, and I’d just end up feeling worse than I do already.
Anyway, I’ve been reading Soul Survivor: How My Faith Survived the Church, by Phillip Yancey, for a few months now, on some of the Sundays when I haven’t been to church. I wrote a review of it for the church magazine, which I now reproduce for your reading pleasure:
Soul Survivor: How My Faith Survived the Church by Philip Yancey
At the moment, I’m in the middle of reading Soul Survivor: How My Faith Survived the Church, by Philip Yancey. I expect some people reading this magazine will have read it ages ago, as it was first published in 2001, but I’m a bit behind! I borrowed it from the library in the church foyer and I’m enjoying it so far. I’d not read any Philip Yancey books before, and I have been pleasantly surprised by this one.
In it, Yancey begins by describing his early experiences of church, which were very fundamentalist. He was raised in a Southern Baptist church, which was very insular and also quite racist (this was during the 1960s) and, although he went on to Bible college, he found himself questioning (rightly) a lot of what he had been taught in church. In order to help himself recover from “church abuse” (as he terms it) he started to read widely about people of faith who lived extraordinary lives driven by what they believed in. As part of his work as a writer he also met, interviewed and worked with many interesting people of various different faiths and none, who showed him how to live in an authentic and faith-filled way.
Yancey writes about thirteen people who have inspired him over the years, people who have lived extraordinary lives because of their faith. This faith is not always Christian, or even religious, but it is faith in something beyond themselves, and a belief that they are called to follow a particular way of life and to change things for the better for others. Some of the people are ones I’d heard of (for example Martin Luther King and C. S. Lewis), but others are people I’ve never come across before, so reading the book has introduced me to new people whose lives I’d like to learn more about and whose writings I want to read.
I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to read about faith in action and learn about people who may not be (or have been) what mainstream Christianity (if there is such a thing!) would find acceptable, but who lived by faith and changed the world for the better as a consequence.
Someone once told me that we (I suppose that means we in a western, capitalist society) spend one third of our lives at work. This is a sobering, and somewhat saddening, thought. One third is a lot of a lifetime to be spending in a place you might not really want to be in, doing things you’d probably rather not be doing. Even those of us who enjoy our work would surely prefer to be doing things other than being at work, most of the time?
I enjoy my particular role at work (cataloguing), I get satisfaction from helping people to use the library resources, and I’m fortunate to work with some lovely people. However, I don’t enjoy all the other things that seem to go on continuously; the communication breakdowns, the unjust or quite simply foolish decisions that are made by those in power, the lack of courtesy with which library staff are treated (mainly by their own managers), the processes that go wrong year after year – mistakes made that we (as an institution) never seem to learn from. It gets very frustrating and very wearing, and I don’t even have to deal with much of this stuff directly anymore – although, like everyone else, I suffer the consequences of it in various ways.
Every year that I’ve been in my current workplace I’ve thought that, surely, things have got to get better at some point. But, in terms of the overall management of the place, they never really have. At the moment I feel literally (not clinically) depressed by work – not the volume of it (I’m lucky in that my personal workload is very manageable at the moment), but by the mess of it. Someone said to me today, it feels all wrong at the moment, and it does. It feels like a big tangle of wrongness that I can’t unravel – that none of us can unravel apart from the people in power, and they’re the ones causing the mess in the first place. Unfortunately, it’s felt quite wrong for a long time and I can’t see it getting much better anytime soon.
I suppose if I want to make things better I should start by being more positive, but I find this quite hard to do!
Last might I dreamt about dreaming. Does that mean I had a metadream?
As I may have said before, I dream about the same places, things and people a lot. I don’t have recurring dreams, because I don’t think I’ve ever had exactly the same dream twice, but the same themes show up a lot in my dreams. I dream about friends from university a lot, and it’s safe to say that my dreams are quite an accurate reflection of the real-life relationships (or lack of) I have with these people.
The places in my dreams are usually sets from my university life – the hall of residence, the arts building. I don’t know why this time of my life seems to influence my subconscious so much – maybe because I want to stay there in some way. I don’t think I’m ever happy in my dreams there as I was in real life, though.
The other recurring thing I dream about at the moment is running. I love running in my dreams, because I’m really good at it. I run for ages and my feet are so light, I fly across the ground. The sense of freedom is immense. I don’t know why I run in my dreams – there often doesn’t seem to be any context for it; I’m not running to or from anything, or at least not that I can remember. I think I just do it because I enjoy it. I’m enjoying my dream running so much I’m thinking about doing some running in real life, which is probably ridiculous, but I do need to do something to improve my fitness. Maybe I should just start off with a few long walks.