llywela: tree (Tree of Life)
Oh, damn. My former colleague Joan died last night.

It doesn't come as a surprise, we've known she was on her way for a long time now - she was given less than a year to live 18 months ago, so has lasted longer than expected. Still hurts, though. Joan was a quiet, peaceful soul, a pioneering female IT engineer from way back, started here at the Uni in the 1970s and came right the way through. She built our ID management system from the ground up, and left a huge hole when her illness forced her into premature retirement last year.

Rest in peace, Joan.
llywela: peacock in front of Cardiff Castle Keep (Castell Caerdydd)
Rush hour in Wales!

Picture taken at 5.30pm yesterday on the A483 a few miles south of Newtown in Powys. Of all the stereotypically Welsh things that could have happened on a road trip through mid-Wales!

But, you know, just picture the M25 at the same time, and it's not as if we were in a hurry - this was just the start of a very long drive back to Cardiff after a truly lovely day out, so we were quite happy to take our time and watch the farmers and their wonderful sheepdogs at work, mustering the flock from one side of the road to the other.

We had just spent the day at Powis Castle, which is at Welshpool in the north of Powys. It's a long way, there and back in a day, but I've wanted to go for ages, and I've got to say, it was totally worth it - we even had glorious sunshine on a day that saw drizzly dampness across most of the rest of the country. Just look how beautiful!


Picspam continued behind the cut - beware very long post! )

The zen of the lovely day out yesterday was then much needed for dealing with the alarums and excursions of today! A car crashed right outside my office this afternoon. It was a really loud bang, brought people running from all over the building to see what had happened. It didn't look that bad from the vantage point of my window, no one seemed to be seriously hurt, but...our street is one of two main arteries north from the city centre, and we had an emergency response vehicle, two ambulances, police, fire service, all sorts - a nice little blockage just as rush hour hit.

And this was not a good day to block up one of only two main arteries north of the city centre, since the preparations for the Champions League finals have hit a fever pitch, with the four day football festival about to kick off tomorrow. And, you know, I love my city, I'm really glad it's got the chance to host such a prestigious event, and I hope it all goes off smoothly and successfully. I have no doubt that the couple of hundred thousand people flocking into the city for the festival will have a great time…but as a local resident, I'm starting to get a bit frustrated with the mounting disruption and inconvenience. It'll be okay once the road closures and diversions kick in properly, I daresay, it's the preparations that have been so disruptive - key roads narrowed by the fencing and bollards going up ahead of the road closures, but without any mitigation in place, and the centre gets congested enough at the best of times without adding new bottlenecks to the mix.

What really annoyed me today was that the main westbound road out of the city centre was closed, putting the central bridge over the Taff out of action, and by closed I mean closed to pedestrians as well as traffic, which had not been previously communicated - and it's a bridge, it's not like you can just nip down a few side streets and come out in the same place! To get from where I work to where I hoped I might catch my detoured bus meant a huge detour, so huge that it simply wasn't worth it. So I just gave up and walked the whole way home, over an hour's walk, and the congestion I saw along the way was so awful I knew I'd made the right decision, way beyond our usual rush hour jams - not surprising, given that we had westbound road closures, that accident on the northbound road, and the state funeral for former First Minister Rhodri Morgan going on in the Bay to the south!

Speaking of which, RIP, Rhodri, I'll miss bumping into you in Tesco in your shorts and sandals, you always said hello, were the most down-to-earth politician imaginable, and the perfect choice for the very first leader of our devolved government in Wales.

I do sometimes choose to walk home from work, but ordinarily I'd walk through the parks, only on this occasion I couldn't face all the fences and tents set up ready for the football festival, so I stuck to the main road, and along the way actually caught up with and overtook a bus, that's how bad the traffic was. I did consider waiting for it at the next stop, but I'm glad I didn't, since having overtaken it, it then never caught up with me again! And I'd even stopped for an ice cream along the road, and had to wait ages for it because the people ahead of me were chatting to the sales person about the black market price of tickets for the game on Saturday, so the bus had plenty of time to catch me up, but it never did!

Yeah, the traffic disruption caused by the road closures is pretty bad. Sue, Carol – we really, really made the right decision, changing our plans for this weekend! No wonder the roads were gridlocked! Honestly, the difference between 5.30pm in Cardiff today and 5.30pm up in Powys yesterday couldn't be starker!

I just hope there are no more bangs or crashes tomorrow, when the football festival kicks off. Our building has been put into lockdown for Thursday and Friday – staff can get in and out through the access controlled doors, but the main door is to be kept locked, so we can better control who comes in and out of the building. I'm expecting it to be really quiet, though. A lot of our staff will be working from home to avoid the disruption and road closures, and although after the events of last week it is wise to be cautious, I really think this event is too high profile to be considered a soft target. Security is really, really tight, there's been a lot of effort gone into making this a safe, fun event for all the visitors. Here's hoping it goes well!
llywela: tree (Tree of Life)
Dammit

I just had an email from a senior manager asking if I could supply a chair to a desk that doesn’t have one, for a staff member moving into that office as of next week, which - it’s 3.30 on a Friday afternoon! We don’t have any chairs in storage! I can’t just pull a working task chair out of a hat! I am not a magician!

But then I remembered that there’s a spare chair in another office, so I popped over and collected that one and took it to the desk where it is needed, which means…

Dammit. My reputation as a magician is cemented and everyone is going to continue to believe I can conjure up chairs out of thin air at 3.30 on a Friday afternoon!
llywela: peacock in front of Cardiff Castle Keep (Castell Caerdydd)
dammit, now another colleague has got cancer - throat and mouth, when she’s already had breast cancer and survived

Pray for Nathalie. And for Joan, who was given six months to live about this time last year but is still hanging in there. This department has been hard hit the last few years. We lost the two Johns in as many years. And Ronnie. We lost two departmental wives just last year, and another is terminal now.

Cancer is a bitch
llywela: (FF-goingmad)
So this has been a pretty manic week! And I haven't updated properly in forever and don't often talk about work, so I'm gonna. This is going to be a long screed but don't worry, I don't expect anyone to actually read it!

The story of this manic week doesn't start this week. It starts a year ago, when we were a reasonably well resourced team. This team consisted of Boss Linda (building manager and departmental safety officer, working 4 days a week), two full time receptionists (Susan and Amy), two part-time administrators (Catherine, dealing with facilities, and Sarah, dealing with health & safety), and me, the full time administrator, ostensibly dealing with business continuity and meeting support (I have, like, eight meetings and counting that I support), but also filling in the gaps in everyone else's areas of work - seriously, we did a workshop to iron out all the tasks our team deals with and filled three pages of flip chart paper, and I was the only person in the team who could honestly say that they do all of those things, not just some of them. But, you know, we all had our areas of work and that was okay.

Then last May Catherine and Amy both got new jobs and left, within weeks of each other, with Sarah due to go on maternity leave in the August - only she didn't make it to August, she went into hospital on bed rest in the June and was kept there till the baby was born. So in less than a month, we lost half our team, plus we were already counting down to September when receptionist Susan was to begin flexible retirement - and there was no handover for Sarah's H&S work, because of the circumstances, plus she hadn't got around to writing up all the procedure documents she'd been promising me since January, so I basically found myself doing my job, Catherine's job and Sarah's job all at the same time, including having to make up most of Sarah's job from scratch because she hadn't written her procedures.

Last summer was a frantic time. We took on a temp for reception while the new receptionist was recruited, so that helped, but I was still doing three jobs - or, taking the part-time hours into account, two-and-three-quarter jobs. Then we had a new member of staff seconded into our team, Becca's full time hours supposedly meant to almost cover Catherine and Sarah's roles, with the surplus still falling on me. Except that it was never going to work out that way, because she was bringing her pre-existing workload with her, she does HR administration for the department, which supposedly took up 40% of her time - but that still left 60% of a full time person for our team's work, right? Wrong. That 40% has actually proved to be more like 75-80%, and increasing all the time. So although it's been good to have another person in the team, we've had very little practical benefit from her being here, and have gained an extra area of work from the deal. She's also, while pleasant enough, not what you'd call a team player.

The new receptionist Eleri is great though, which does help, but we have simply never replaced the staff resource that was lost last year, plus for the admin portion of the team (which is currently me and Becca) occasional reception cover has become weekly reception cover ever since Susan dropped her days in September - and if Eleri is off on a day Susan doesn't work, we have to cover the entire day. And Becca has never quite got around to actually learning how reception works (I've been trying to get her to spend some time with Susan training since September), so while she can handle a lunch hour, she flounders if asked to do more than that.

In February, Becca got a new job and handed in her notice - just two days before Boss Linda was going on leave, which wasn't great timing. That was the week before last. Now, she is the only HR administrator in the department, which means her HR work is going to fall on our already over-stretched team when she goes and filling that gap has to be an urgent priority, coming on top of all our other current urgent priorities (we're in the middle of health & safety annual management review, plus the aftemath of a major incident in the data centre in January). So there's that. Then last week, while Linda was off...Becca was in work on the Tuesday and Wednesday. I was with her all evening Wednesday - we went with a group of girls from work to see Pride & Prejudice on stage at the Millennium Centre (so much fun, thoroughly recommend!). Then on Thursday Becca phoned in sick, having been absolutely fine the night before, but was careful to leave a message rather than speak to anyone, and it was kinda fishy because...she had a long weekend booked to go up to Scotland for the rugby and did exactly the same thing last year, called in sick the day before going on leave for the rugby. Then this week she called in sick Tuesday and Wednesday as well, supposedly the same complaint as Thursday, a bad back, which, for one thing, you aren't supposed to mix sick leave and annual leave like that, and for another - you tell me how someone with such a bad back they can't come to work manages to travel from South Wales to Scotland, sit through an entire rugby match, and then travel back, and then when asked about it simply goes into raptures about what a lovely weekend it was without mentioning the bad back even once. To be honest, we were actually surprised she turned up at all this week - we'd half expected her to simply go off sick until her last contracted day! She has form, in that regard.

But I'm glad she has come back, because this week has been crazy. It started last Thursday, which was the first day Becca called in sick. Boss Linda was on holiday and Susan doesn't work Thursday-Friday, so it was just me and Eleri representing our team when all the doors suddenly stopped working.

Our building houses the main data centre for the entire university, so it has to be kept secure, so we have access-controlled doors everywhere, and they've been running at risk since before Christmas, because the system is end-of-life and in need of upgrade, but the newer controllers in use elsewhere in the university have had a different fault that's been under investigation, and we didn't want to replace our intermittent fault with the total failure experienced elsewhere, so we were waiting and monitoring...and then our end-of-life system died completely, at 4pm on a Thursday afternoon in half-term, when hardly anyone was in - including Boss Linda, the building manager. So I spent about an hour running around the building with the Director of Services & Operations, pretending to be Linda, checking all the PAC doors, figuring out how critical the failure was, helping to figure out what could be done about it in the short term, etc. I ended up working late that evening to keep a thoroughfare open through reception, because none of the access controlled doors out of that area worked, so it was the only way to get from the front of the building to the back. All the external doors had failed open, when they are meant to fail locked, so we had to get Security out to physically lock the building that night, which meant making everyone who would normally work late, go home early, and then I had to take the grandmaster key home with me and come back in at the crack of dawn to open up and let people into the building.

Then Friday night the same thing, after a manic day of attempted fixes with the problem just getting steadily worse and worse. And Monday morning the same thing - I've had to go in early to open up every day this week, in fact.

Monday was the craziest day, because it was the start of a window replacement project that had been arranged before anyone knew all the doors were going to break. I got into work about 7.35am to open up (my contracted hours are 9-5). By 8.15 I had contractors stacking up in reception - contractors arriving to move CCTV cables, contractors arriving to take down window bars, contractors arriving to replace the windows, contractors arriving to fix a roof leak...and contractors arriving to work on the broken door controllers. And then another contractor arriving to work on the fire alarm panel, which was in fault because of building work next door, which is on the same system. PLUS all the staff who actually work here, having to troop through our store room behind reception to get into the building, because none of the other doors worked (and I can't describe how much fun it is to spend an entire day yellling at people over the intercom because they don't believe you when you tell them the door doesn't work). AND then Boss Linda arrived - and I'd talked to her line manager on Friday and made him promise that he'd contact her over the weekend and warn her about the door problem, so she wasn't blindsided by it on Monday...and he forgot, so she was blindsided by it. And that was all before 8.30am.

So Monday was a busy day, and the week has just gone on from there. Every day has been insane. I've barely touched any of my actual own work.

Eleri is on holiday this week, but Susan is back, so we at least had a receptionist here until Wednesday - but Susan doesn't work on Thursdays or Fridays, so we already knew that Becca and I would have to cover the desk between us for those two days, but then with Becca calling in sick (very fishily) I was getting really worried about not having any cover at all for these two days, but luckily she has turned up - just when the worst of the week is over, because they finally got the doors working again at about 3.30pm on Wednesday.

More or less. They were still a bit dicey on Thursday - new controllers operational, but they kept dropping cards, so various people were experiencing intermittent faults still. But by and large the doors were working. And, touch wood, seem to still be working today. Although personally I'm not gonna trust 'em until after the Easter break, which will be the real test - will we develop the same holiday profile fault the rest of the university has had?

So the doors are working again. Thursday we still had window contractors on site, and window bar contractors turning up to replace the window bars, so there was still a lot of running around, plus I was tied to the desk all morning, although Becca was at least in work to relieve me after lunch. But Friday, I thought. Becca can do the bulk of reception for the day, maybe I'll actually get some work done, because I've had work stacking up all week that I've barely even touched, there's been so much going on. But no - because Becca has never bothered to learn reception duties properly, I was up and down all morning dealing with queries she couldn't handle. Plus the roofing guys were back out because the back corridor is leaking again, so I was up and down dealing with them, and now I've come down to the desk to do the afternoon shift, and there are people coming and going all the time so I still can't get anything done, and the fire alarm guy is back and seems to be having an absolute mare, he's been pacing around cursing for most of the day, which I'm assuming means he can't fix the fault, and he's so stressed he's making me stressed!

And all in all, I'm really looking forward to the weekend!

On Monday, I get to lock the spare reception keys back in the key cabinet, after having to take them home with me every night for over a week. And at least I'm not carrying the grandmaster around with me any more.

But then Susan is on holiday next week, so we still have daily reception cover to arrange between us, and I've been booked for another halfday on the desk while Eleri does emergency HR training to take on some of Becca's work (I refuse to touch HR, I've got more areas of work than I can fit into a week as it is), so I'm still going to be spending too much time on the desk to do any of my own work!

Hopefully there won't be any contractors or crises to deal with next week, though.

This rather incoherent blog post has been brought to you in about a dozen different installments over a period of days!
llywela: (SN-facepalm)
Okay, so apparently I have a poltergeist in my office today, one with a penchant for technology

The background is this: in work, we have just had a swish new phone system installed, digital phones linked to the email system. Ten weeks ago, my colleague S was moved to a different office, on the ground floor, because she was having trouble with the stairs as her pregnancy progressed, so then when she went off on maternity leave I brought all her stuff back here to the attic, including the phone. I haven’t been able to log her phone in ever since, however, even though she gave me the pin number. It just won’t work. So I should have logged a call with the service desk then, but I’ve been busy so I just left it, and now…

This morning, I was going about my business when S’s phone rang, which it should not be able to do, because it isn’t logged in and hasn’t been for weeks

It rang off before I could get there. I hurried over to look, and found that it was logged in as a completely different person.

That’s weird, I thought. But maybe he’s come up here and used her desk for some reason, although I don’t know when because I’ve been here the whole time...

I logged the phone out. Tried to log S back in with her pin, but again it didn't work, so I left it logged out. Dead.

I got on with my morning. Then the phone rang again - the phone that I just logged out an hour earlier, so I knew for sure it wasn’t logged in, it shouldn’t be able to ring

It rang off again. I hurried to look, and...the wretched thing is now logged in as a completely different person again.

So apparently I have a poltergeist up here, one that likes to play with phones!

update

Oct. 3rd, 2015 09:00 am
llywela: (Cymru-CastellCaerdydd)
1. Well, the new semester has just barely begun and already Freshers Flu is rife all through the department. Atchoo!

2. This is how my city has chosen to mark the Rugby World Cup:

It just appeared one morning. Hilarious!

3. It's been one of those weeks. I went back to work on Monday after a week off to find that one of my colleagues had died while I was on leave! Not a direct colleague within my department, but the maintenance manager from Estates. Bless him, Ron is the only person in the entire university who has their name highlighted in my telephone directory, I rang him that often, because he was the person I liaised with every time about redecoration projects and repair work and all the rest of it. I knew he was unwell, and had guessed from small clues that it was cancer, but he didn't like to talk about it - always brushed it off and maintained his image as the chirpy little sparrow. I spoke to him just a week before he died, he was still in work, although probably shouldn't have been. Turns out, it wasn't the cancer that killed him, though. He took his own life. That's what's so awful about it. He had cancer of the oesophagus and was due to have surgery just a couple of days after he died, but he'd already had three rounds of surgery and it kept coming back...it seems he just couldn't take any more. He took an overdose. It's really horrible to think of him being so scared and unhappy and not feeling able to talk to anyone about it. :( Rest in peace, Ronnie.

4. On a more pragmatic note, I have all kinds of outstanding jobs with Ron that will probably never now be completed!

5. Also this week, we've had a two-day bus strike, which coincided with train problems and Rugby World Cup road closures, so that thanks to a combination of all these factors I ended up walking to and from work for two days straight, a journey of over an hour each way. Which...I actually quite like the walk, because most of it is through parkland and along the river, and will picspam on that subject another day, but still! Good thing the weather's been so lovely this week, crisp and clear. I'd have had a harder time of it if it had rained!

6. When I moved into this flat two years ago and began to turn the wasteland out back into an actual garden, I made a point of planting a lot of bee and butterfly friendly flowers, to encourage insects. I wasn't, however, expecting to end up with a whole colony of these guys!

This, apparently, is a speckled bush cricket, although it looks more green than speckled to me. I've got loads of them, they've been living mainly in my mint and salvia all summer, but the one I photographed was chilling on a rose leaf, enjoying a spot of late afternoon sun. This is the rose:

Pretty, yes? It's called Harry Wheatcroft and was the very first plant to be planted in my garden.

7. During my week off work the week before last, I didn't really do much beyond hang out at my mum's house helping out with the new baby, because Chelsea was really unwell after her traumatic birth, but I did take a day to go for a walk along the promenade and cliff path in Penarth, which is always lovely. Look at this view across to Flatholm and Steepholm and the north coast of Somerset:

Timing is everything - while admiring the view, a gorgeous square-rigged tall ship came sailing along from the west, past the islands...

And around toward Cardiff Bay:

All she needed was Captain Jack Sparrow!

8. My Uncle Colin is in hospital having a coronary bypass today - and while his wife is in New Zealand visiting their daughter and grandchildren, as well! Get well soon, Uncle Col!

9. Layla-May is three weeks old today and gorgeous:

llywela: (sunrise-treeoflife)
One of the guys I work with has a little girl who was born without a hand.

One of the other guys I work with has a 3-D printer, which he has used to design and build a prosthetic hand for the little girl, with hinged fingers that flex and grip.

It also glows in the dark. Because she is 7 and glow-in-the-dark hands are cool.

Technology is amazing. And so is the love and generosity of friendship.

on alert

Sep. 4th, 2014 08:00 pm
llywela: (Cymru-CastellCaerdydd)
We had a minor bomb scare in work this morning. That was exciting at 8.40am when I'd barely even walked through the door and hadn't officially started work even. False alarm - suspicious package left in the porch - but better safe than sorry. At least we weren't evacuated for long this time.

It was really eerie around the centre today. We've had lane closures for a few weeks now while the security fencing went up ahead of this NATO conference, but today the roads around the centre were closed completely and it felt really fricking eerie - so quiet, no traffic, only police, so very many police. This is apparently the biggest security operation this nation has ever undertaken and I can believe it. So many police! The centre was like a ghost town all day - and then I had to fight my way through crowds (hoping for a glimpse of a VIP) to a bus stop (not even my usual bus stop, that was closed) in search of a bus that might take me even part-way home. Made it away before the worst of the crowds and demonstrators built up.

Loads of helicopters going over now.

I hope all the heads of state enjoy their dinner at the castle tonight. The banqueting hall is very lovely, I'd rather like to have a meal there myself, if only money were no object. I'm not sure what their discussions can achieve in only two days with so much turbulence in the world right now, but I hope something positive comes of it all.

Another week and we get our streets back to normal.

security

Sep. 1st, 2014 08:56 am
llywela: (FF-workingwithchimps)
So one of the things about heightened security and the NATO conference this week is that we've been told we have to wear our ID badges openly, where they can be seen, as the police are likely to be challenging people wandering around what are deemed to be sensitive areas. So that means wearing my ID card on a lanyard around my neck, instead of carrying it around in my pocket as I usually do. As a result, I have discovered just how often I tap my pocket to check that I've not lost my card - all the time, apparently, so I keep scaring myself because it isn't there at the moment! The other downside is that our lanyards are all branded as Information Services, which is the old name for our department that doesn't exist any more, because we were dissolved and reformed into two new departments earlier in the summer. So not only am I now branded, I am branded as obsolete!
llywela: (DW-10-grr)
A few months ago, I attended a liaison meeting between IT, Estates and Security here at the University - this was not unusual, as these meetings take place regularly and supporting them is part of my job, but as this particular meeting drew to a close and the request for Any Other Business went around the table, everyone said no until we got to the Security guys, who said yes: they did have more business to discuss. There was to be a NATO conference in Newport in early September, they said, and the security arrangements were likely to have a knock-on effect on the University here in Cardiff. The conversation that followed was peppered with "don't minute this, but..." and "we can't put this into writing yet, but..." and "don't write this down, but the police have told us..." and so on. It was a long conversation. I boiled it down to a single sentence for the minutes, because none of it could be minuted! It was an illuminating discussion to be part of!

That was months ago. We're now just a week away from this NATO conference and I will be glad when it's all over! Most of the security arrangements I heard about way back when have now been made public, at least within the University, and at least at the level of those who need to know. South Wales is preparing. We've got road closures in effect already - my bus is having to take an alternate route for a full month, which I'm not happy about, and the city centre is now gridlocked every day. We've got massive fences up along major roads and along the river. There are fences and barricades at key locations in the city centre and around the castle. At work, we've had the police and the Counter Terrorism Unit out to inspect our security and offer recommendations, which have had to be put into place quick smart. Three of our University buildings have to close completely for three days next week; and my building is on standby, because we're very near to the area where demonstrators are expected to cause trouble, so might have to go into lockdown, no one in and no one out - I suggested laying in supplies, just in case, and my colleague started listing sensible things like cans of beans, so I said no: chocolate and teabags! Priorities!

So much fuss, for a two day conference.

I hope Barack Obama and the other delegates enjoy Wales, but I doubt they'll actually see much of it.

I'll be glad when it's over!

work

Jun. 25th, 2014 09:47 am
llywela: (FF-workingwithchimps)
Last Friday in work we had our annual Showcase - this is a yearly half-day internal conference that I organise, designed to bring the department together so that our staff can get to know other teams and learn about the various projects we have going on, etc. We have a bite to eat, view an exhibition of work, attend presentations and breakout sessions, and just generally enjoy half a day out of the office.

This year's event, however, as fate would have it, just happened to fall the day after the dissolution of our department was announced.

Yep, we are being disbanded, apparently.

I work - or used to work, rather - for a University department called Information Services, which combined IT, Libraries, Media Resources and Advanced Research Computing. But now it seems, Information Services is no more. The Professional Services of the University in general are being reshaped, and our department is bearing the brunt of that change. Media Resources are moving to the College of Biomedical and Life Sciences, the Libraries are joining the new department of Academic and Student Services, IT is to become a new department of its own as IT and Programme Management...and as for the Advanced Research Computing team and the various support teams...we simply don't know. Within Information Services we have several support teams - we have our own HR, our own Finance, a communications team, a secretariat and my own team, Central Support. And for now, those support teams are just left hanging - like the children of a divorce waiting to find out who gets custody. The larger divisions want us to exist, they rely on our support, but they haven't decided yet who should own us.

This is such a huge change. It affects every area of our work. Yet for the moment we seem to be in absolute limbo - so much to do, yet so little that can actually be done until all the decisions have been made and the full extent of the restructuring has been mapped out, in truly granular detail.

Interesting times, as they say.
llywela: (flower - dandelion clock)
Today in work we had a retirement presentation for a very dear colleague. John formally retired at Christmas, but hasn't actually been in work since last summer, when he noticed while driving that he was having some issues with peripheral vision and went to see the optician, who referred him to the hospital, who diagnosed a large and aggressive brain tumour. For John, it was the end of life as he knew it - everything just stopped, because treatment had to be immediate. For everyone here in work...I don't think I've ever seen a workplace so united in shock and upset. It isn't an exaggeration to say that everyone loves John. He's worked here for the best part of 40 years, knows this department and this university inside out, and you won't find a single person with a bad word to say about him. He really is an absolute sweetheart - gentle and placid, supportive of his staff, a calm head in any crisis. The crowd that turned up for his presentation today had to be seen to be believed - even people who themselves retired years ago turned up for it. It was lovely to see him again - looking changed, to be sure, his treatment and surgery have taken a pretty visible toll, but he's in better shape than I expected, and still his sweet, generous, thoughtful old self. I just hope the treatment is successful, because if anyone deserves a long, happy and healthy retirement, it's John.
llywela: (LoM-can'tlook)
Well, that was all fun and games. Caught my bus into work as usual and before we were even half way, a fire alarm went off and we ended up stranded for ages while the driver tried to switch it off.

I’m not sure whether to be concerned or not that none of us actually evacuated the bus on hearing the alarm. We all just sat there looking at each other, going, “Is it going to stop? Is the bus on fire? Should we get off? When’s the next one due? Will it be packed already?” and when the alarm suddenly became even more shrill and insistent, we actually burst out laughing.

Because the bus wasn’t on fire. But the alarm wouldn’t stop and the poor driver was going nuts trying to silence it.

In the end he decided to try moving the bus a bit because it was blocking the road and as soon as he turned the engine back on, the alarm stopped. So that was that!
llywela: (birthday balloons)
Wahey! Back in work post-move and got called straight into my boss's office to be told that my contract is being renewed and will convert from fixed term to open-ended - huge relief!

I also have an interview on Friday, which I've told her I still want to attend and she agreed and said she'd encourage me to go along anyway, both for the interview practice and because it may have better prospects, career-wise.

Things are looking up a bit. :)
llywela: (Cymru-CastellCaerdydd)
I have a week off work, hooray!

Work has been a bit subdued over the last couple of weeks, partly because a lot of people are on holiday so it's very quiet, but also because we're all very worried about a dearly beloved colleague of ours. John E has been with the department for over 30 years, he's one of our old-timers, a real stalwart and an absolute sweetheart, everyone loves him. About four weeks ago he took a holiday in Ireland - he went with a friend who wanted to re-trace his parents' honyemoon journey; the friend was on a motorbike and John followed in his car. During that trip, John noticed that he kept clipping the curb and misjudging distances, so when he got home he went to the optician to have his eyes tested. They found nothing wrong so he went to his GP. He was in work that week, three weeks ago - I had meetings with him and he seemed his usual self, friendly and cheerful and very much on-the-ball, he's the guy you go to if you want to be sure something will be done, always efficient, always willing to help. But he was already starting to have migraines that week, bad ones - had to be sent home from work one day it was so bad. And that was the last any of us saw of him. The GP referred him to the hospital for tests and the scan showed up two tumours in the brain. Two weeks later, he's lost the sight in one eye, has gaps in his memory, and it is terrifying to think how rapidly those symptoms have progressed, that three weeks ago he was sat alongside me in a meeting chatting away about everything and nothing as if he hadn't a care in the world, and now he's in Velindre, the cancer hospital, being treated for these frighteningly aggressive brain tumours. Everyone loves John. We're desperately worried about him.

The worst thing is that he was due to retire at the end of September and if anyone deserves a long, happy, healthy retirement, it's John. I just hope his treatment is successful and he'll get to have it.
llywela: (sunset-africatree)
Phew. It's been 29-32oC and a consistent 62% humidity in my stuffy little attic office all week - and that with both windows wide open and two fans on full. The joys of working in a listed Victorian building. At least we can't say we haven't had a summer this year! It does come as a bit of a shock to the system, though, after so many washouts - last year we had one glorious week in March and then it rained for the rest of the year!

Tomorrow we are taking our Sunday School to the seaside at Barry for the day. It's been planned for months, we go every year, but...usually at this stage we are afraid of being rained off, this year we're panicking about sunstroke!

Boss Mine has been off sick for the last two days. Not gonna lie, work has been much more pleasant and relaxed without her, although I am concerned that the stress is really getting to her now. But on the bright side, I've got next week off, yay! I don't have any plans for the week - I had leave to use up and a clear week in my calendar with no meetings, so I booked it, randomly. Chances are the weather will probably break, since the schools will be out by then, but such is life and the Great British summer! If it's dry and not too hot, I might take myself off out and about - or I might just hibernate for the week and potter about the house and garden! The only thing I really intend to do is have a good rest, because I desperately need it.

The most interesting thing to happen in work this week was when I was covering reception the other day and had a long conversation with a business school post-grad from Durban, South Africa, about Welsh and Zulu phonetics!

The other Saturday, I went on an afternoon excursion to Bryngarw Country Park, which sits along the Afon Garw, at the mouth of the Garw Valley, Bridgend. On a baking hot day, the woodland walks were cool and lush and green and glorious, and I took a bunch of photos, so stand by, here comes an overdue picspam!

Starting off with the one picture I took in the formal gardens
P1080820

And then rambling on into the woodland and the riverside footpaths
P1080826

More pics behind the cut )
llywela: (Cranford-boating)
It's been ages since I updated, so what's been going on?

Well, it's actually properly summer at the moment, so that's something to appreciate - or, you know, complain about, since it does come as a bit of a shock to the system.

Things have been pretty stressy in the life of Jo these last few weeks, for various reasons - mostly work. We've been rushed off our feet lately, and Boss has been stressed to the hilt and has a bad habit of letting that cascade down to be shared by the entire team, plus my contract is up at the end of the year and doesn't look like it'll be renewed, so I'm now registered for redeployment and actively job-hunting, on top of house-hunting because of my house being sold from under me. But at least one big source of stress is now over, as the conference I've been organising went off last week, without a hitch I'm pleased to say - and I'm consoling myself that if my job does go, at least I won't have to organise another Showcase again!

What with one thing and another, I've not been able to distract myself with my usual creative outlets lately - neither creative writing nor analytical writing seems to want to flow just at the moment. So I've found myself a new hobby to play around at. It's the University's fault. Every year it holds something called PHEW - Positive Health Environment Week (except it's actually a fortnight). During that fortnight, all kinds of activities are organised, from sporting events to relaxation sessions to craft workshops to taster language classes to health checks to musical events, and staff are allowed to go to up to five of those sessions in work time. It's all about staff enrichment, boosting health and wellbeing, and some such. So this year my colleague Sarah and I decided to go along to a beaded jewellery making workshop, and absolutely loved it. I made this:
P1080879
Silly little bracelet and earring set, made using whatever combination of beads I could scrounge from the communal pot - but so much fun! There's something so soothing and therapeutic about messing around with beads and bits of wire. And one of the handouts from the course was a little card offering a 15% discount at the local bead shop, which is an incredible shop to walk into - it looks so small on the outside and then you go in and there's so much stuff, you just don't know where to begin! So I bought a beginner's kit and some beads (well, I mostly trawled around a few charity shops and bought some el cheapo old necklaces and pulled them apart for the beads, which is also a wonderfully soothing and strangely therapeutic activity!), and downloaded a few free patterns to give me ideas, and since then I've been experimenting with a few basic techniques to get me started. And I've made these:
P1080876 P1080887
(that's an anklet, bracelet and earring set, plus another matching bracelet in a different style)
P1080888 P1080889
(two bracelet and earring sets)
P1080890
(and a necklace)
All far from perfect - even just looking at the pics I'm shuddering at all the mistakes I can see and want to take them apart and try again...but not too bad for a rank tyro, no? It's a learning curve, but it's also a diversion that I needed, so I shall carry on having fun and hopefully will improve my technique and eventually manage to manufacture items worth wearing!
llywela: (DW-11Tardis)
Actual email sent out by our Occy Health Department this afternoon:

"The Safety and Environment Team Christmas Message

Safety and environment colleagues will be having a traditional yet safe Christmas. Christmas Eve sees the annual OSHEU Carol Singing event, which due to control of noise at work regulations will now be a Carol Whispering Event, and glowsticks will be replacing the usual candles due to the inherent fire risk. Presents will be small and light enough not to cause a manual handling injury, and will be placed under a well positioned and supported sustainably grown tree, decorated with recently tested low voltage LED lights.

Lunch for many of us will be a sustainable bred turkey, thoroughly thawed and roasted prior to Christmas. Sprouts will be cooked for the statutory three days prior to Christmas Day and consumed in accordance with accepted recommended daily allowances, (5 for adults, 3 for children, none for dogs). We've made crackers in true blue peter style, which rather than bang will rip disappointingly; each one containing a nut-free chocolate which is large enough not to cause a choking hazard. To avoid risks of muscle fatigue from excess laughing, we've replaced jokes with (Santa) Clauses from our raft of legislation.

Brandy will be used to ignite the Christmas pudding, but only on completion of an appropriate hot works permit issued by estates and with a fire extinguisher available should things get out of hand. Who knows, we may even break out the non-alcoholic egg nog after lunch, and in accordance with the working time directive we will then be insisting on a little snooze. After Eights will be eaten only after 8pm. Our fires will be smokeless.

Following Christmas we will be carrying out a post-Christmas review, together with an audit of compliance with BS XMA 52012, the accepted international standard for the management of Christmas and Similar Festivities. We will report findings to the local festivities committee. Any specific learning outcomes from the Christmas event will be forwarded to the New Year Festivities organising committee in good time for their implementation.

With thanks to all the DSOs and ECOs for their help and support this year, and looking forward to working together in 2013

Best wishes from the OSHEU Safety and Environment team."

Heeeee! It's good that they have a sense of humour about all that red tape...

In Other News, LJ emailed me earlier to say that I’d had my paid account extended as compensation for log-in problems today, which is cool and all except that they sent that email before I’d experienced any log-in problems. Prescient, foreplanning, or just plain timey-wimey?
llywela: (SN-facepalm)
We had an actual Major Incident in work today. Because what afternoon would be complete without noxious gases and risk of explosion, a full-scale evacuation and a phalanx of fire officers in breathing gear?!

A weird smell was reported to me pretty much the moment I stepped through the door this morning. Now, I have pretty much no sense of smell whatsoever, so couldn't really comment, but apparently it was pretty bad and was being investigated throughout the day. The source was traced to the new UPS (Uninterruptible Power Supply - basically a giant battery) in the data centre. The dratted thing was commissioned exactly one week ago! It's brand new! But it was overheating badly and was bulging and swelling and emitting noxious fumes and mid-afternoon my boss L made the decision to hit the fire alarm, get everyone out of the building and call the fire brigade.

I heard later that if action hadn't been taken, the UPS would have exploded within about an hour.

In total we had four appliances in attendance, plus a fire officer in a marked car, plus police to direct the traffic since the fire engines were parked in the road. Our business continuity planning had to swing into operation, with an emergency management team convening to make decisions and disseminate information and whatnot - I spent the afternoon running back and fore supporting them, found an empty desk in an adjacent building to log in and print off documentation and whatever was needed, posted 'do not enter' signs on the back door, etc. It was all go.

About half the staff who were evacuated hadn't stopped to pick anything up, because you aren't supposed to, so had no money or house keys or anything, so couldn't get home, so we had to make plans for what to do about that if we weren't allowed back into the building. The Chief Operating Officer and Vice Chancellor both wandered down the road to see what was happening and rally the troops, or something along those lines. There were big discussions over whether cutting power to the building would help the situation or simply make things worse - and cutting the power to the building would be a Very Big Deal because our machine room is the primary data centre for the entire University. About 80% of the services should, in theory, fail over to the secondary data centre in the event of an emergency, but that wouldn't happen for all of them, and just cutting everything off without powering down properly would cause all kinds of damage.

After about two hours, we were allowed back into the building in small groups, escorted by fire officers, to collect personal belongings. Then we were sent home - but as we left, the Emergency Management Team were just convening for phase two of the crisis. It remains to be seen if we're able to return to work in the morning!

photo0051 photo0049

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