Wednesday, November 30, 2005

You know when you go to Costbux tall means small and grande means large? Or something like that?

Well, I think we live in an uber-world, where language has eyes bigger than. Maybe we're all getting fatter and bigger because words are getting bigger and largelicious, and soon, East Anglia Primary Care Trust won't give any of us the time of day.

All this brought on because when I just filled up with petrol (hello, S), I couldn't work out the difference between Premium Unleaded and Excellium Unleaded.

Turns out premium means normal (sorry, regular) and excellium means premium.

I say hello S because when I got back in the car and we discussed the linguistic absurdity, she said "I know what I'll be reading on your blog tomorrow," but I beat you to it. It's today. By 47 minutes.
Here's the deal...

If I can extricate myself from my current project (rapidly going increasingly pear-shaped - I have been up since 7am calling people in SE Asia, and the data the client has supplied is not up to much), then I have a plan.

I should just add that I'm not in telesales: I do strategic commercial research (among other things, as you know), but the timing's not right for this one.

And thanks to those who commented/emailed: much appreciated.

If I can close this down soon, and I have a couple of other things to wrap up before the tinsel season starts, I think I will just write.

I estimate there are 24 available days before January work seriously begins, and I think I could get close to wrapping up my book, which has been on the back burner for like a year.

So that might be a plan.

I am also considering - only considering, mind - getting a very small pool of readers (people I don't know) to give me their view on the finalish thang. Any thoughts?
This morning, when I opened my kitchen cupboard to make a cup of camomile tea, my Rescue Remedy fell out, and smashed on the granite floor, leaving a pool of brownish rescuance residue. I wiped it up, and recycled the glass bottlette, obviously, but the whole kitchen smells... flowery.

I'm never 100% sure (of anything, but also) whether I believe in and Bach Flower Essences and the like. But there have been times in my life when the old RR routine worked.

But it's possible that I don't need rescuing anymore.
Does anyone know the difference between Jerusalem humous and the regular kind?

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Heard this evening on the Radio 4 news:

A news reporter in discussion with a British Gas executive about possible staff xmas strikes in relation to their ending the final salary pension scheme for new engineers:

"Have you made a time to talk, or are you just offering them a morning or afternoon slot?"

Truly hysterical. I was that nutter you saw in the car next to you at the lights, seemingly laughing at nothing.

Remember the British Gas Years? We've all been there...
I think I have made a mistake, and I don't know what to do.

I got a new client (mentioned below) and I was pleased. People come via recommendation, and it's cool. They happened to want to talk about this project about five weeks ago at not a very convenient time for me, but the client's always right, etc, so I did.

I think I didn't negotiate the terms/scope of the project as tightly as I usually might - I've had some other stuff on my mind - and got pissed off when they scaled it back, because the bit they scaled back was the buffer that made it work for me. I was in a corner. And they want the whole thing by Jan 10th, and it's nearly Xmas.

Today, I started calling people, and now I know that (a) it's a sector where no-one talks to you, (b) Xmas is a big deal in this sector, so they're all out of the office, (c) the data my client gave me is not up to standard, (d) it's a dud, basically.

I think I've realised that I don't want this hanging over me over the holidays, when really I want some time to write. Which is the reason I went self-employed in the first place. But I don't want to piss of the client. But they shaved the fee because "they were talking to someone else". So I guess they could go back and talk to them.

I've never done this before, and I think I have a reputation for professionalism, but I don't want to do it anymore.

I think I'm thinking of walking away. Giving them a credit note for the first invoice, sending them what I've done, and saying no-can-do this time/at this time.

My usual advice givers are unavailable, so I'd welcome any that you have...
I kinda like Holby City and Casualty, and I've just discovered The Holby Gazette. Sad thing is, not only do they tell you what happened (it's all "guilty secrets etc), but they're all written the same:

X confesses/tells Q to Y who is shocked/appalled/scared

Do you think life is really like that? Just a lot of meanwhiles happening in the backchannel?
SuntitledShiclockkgate decoration

... in case I forget who I am.

(You too can spell with Flikr)
I have a new client. It's always a good thing, so I'm not complaining, but so far she's managed to (1) shave 25% of the project just before we signed the contract (less required than she thought), (2) add a cancellation clause that differs from my regular terms and conditions (requiring a small wrangle), (3) push me on delivery dates but not send me what I require to get started (4) generally piss me off.

It's possible I need a holiday.

Monday, November 28, 2005

I realise that I derive pleasure from the strangest of things, but I have just thermal bound two copies of my final report. Yay.
I know I have better things to do (like a project report to conplete by 4pm) but up until about step five of the Guardian's how to make a paper aeroplane shtick, I was really up for it.

But, really, how much time can you spend procrastinating?
While I would love to be all brotherhood-of-man about this, and dearly wish I had better middos, if my neighbours don't stop DJing so loud on a school night, I may have to... er, do something.

What exactly, I don't know.

It's just that I have to be up at 7am to discuss derivatives, which requires a clear mind at the best of time, and he's offering me the best of descarga, and frankly, my dear, I'm not in the mood.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

(written at 5pm in Hampstead Starbux, but I was being good and not online)

I feel dirty.

I’ve done my usual Sunday routine – Costbucks (papers, people watching, writing) but I ran into someone I vaguely know (quelle surprise, Hampstead, after all) and was totally, compellingly, addicted to his conversation with his two buddies.

I’m power-cable chained to the wall with my laptop, and two guys come in and take the comfy chairs. I glance at them (surreptitiously) and immediately clock them as Jewish, north London, thirties. They are not tall. When they sit down, I get a good view of their baldspots.

They look nice enough, actually. The kind of guys I’d run into at a party.

I’m with my writing, but then a guy comes in to meet them who I do properly recognise. I try not to think about it.

Backstory: about five years ago I went to the largest, heavingest party in a flat above East Finchley tube station. Everyone I’d ever met in my life and their friends were there. You couldn’t move. Coincidentally, this was the party where my best friend met her now husband.

I remember what I was wearing (because I always do): a brown Whistles skirt, and a brown velvet shirt over a camisole.

It was really, really hot because there were like three times as many people as should properly have been allowed in the flat, had health and safety rules been observed, which they rarely are, at parties.

I got a bit overwhelmed, and decided to get some fresh air downstairs with my friend F. there were a couple of people milling around outside, too. F and I were chatting, and this guy came up, ignored me, and talked to her. She tried to include me in the conversation, but he was rude: glanced me up and down and returned to her.

After about fifteen minutes (it felt like, could have been less) and taking account of my feeling hot and sweaty and not so in the party mood, I decided not to bother going back upstairs and to leave.

As I walked away, I heard him say to a nearby friend “ugly bitch.”

Now I know that I am of above average attractiveness, and on a good day, I can see forever, but I wasn’t in the mood to debate my good looks or otherwise with this balding, paunchy guy (who little knows that I am – sadly – genetically disposed to finding his characteristics attractive).

But when I see him – which I do about once a year, usually at a party – I’m disinclined to engage with him. I don’t even know if I think he’s physically attractive anymore: his meanness of character is so etched on his face, to me, now, that I sometimes feel slightly nauseous when I see him.

Fast forward to now: he’s sitting there with his buddies, and I can hear them dissecting women like they’re on the biology table in the lab: pretty girl, didn’t fancy her. Blonde or brunette? I only do blonde. Too curvy by half.

“It’s only been two dates for you, but the way she’s been behaving, she’s already made her mind up. Which part of English do you not understand?”

And I realise they’re like modern day explorers: three shortish guys who should be in the gym instead of Starbucks (but then so should I) seeking out the most perfect specimen.

That’s what I call them. Seekers After Perfection. SAPs, for short. People who care more about muscletone than character, people who’ll fine-tune their search requirements on some online dating site, narrowing and narrowing the criteria till there’s no-one left to interview and they can moan to their friends that there’s no-one left.

Here’s my two’pennorth: relationships are risky. If you want to open yourself up to the possibility of love, you have to take the risk of rejection. And by passing over the whole of North London womanhood with a fine-tooth comb and deciding that no-one quite makes the grade, they can be sure that they’ll never be a rejectee, just a rejecter. Which is ultimately less painful, but probably less fun.

They just left. Maybe they can feel the vibe.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Oh, apparently in the UK Buy Nothing Day is November 26th 2005. Tomorrow. Saturday. It's shabbes, I never buy nothing. Anything.
I was just going to go shopping, and then I realised it's Buy Nothing Day.

I really believe in buying/owning less. In a big way. But do you think it's OK to buy food?
So, even though I'm mostly a homeworker, and can theoretically watch as much TV as I like, I rarely do because (a) I have work to do and (b) most daytime TV is crap.

This morning, still feeling slightly cold-y, I tuned into the Jeremy Kyle Show. It's possible that I've never seen this show. I certainly think my life has not been enhanced by hearing Jeremy say things like "get a job mate, and buy some condoms."

Maybe the faux Lemsip (third of the price, in Tesco) had addled my brain, but I don't really get confessional TV shows. Tell me any good reason why you'd want to go on "national TV" (as Jeremy is fond of saying) and tell the nation your troubles. Largely inarticulately.

Seems to be that people don't have community so much anymore - church, extended family etc - but it's a basic human need, so they try and replicate it by being humiliated on "national TV" by someone more polished who thinks faster than they can.
Sad though it is to admit it, I love filing and all things administrative. So when Christian Nellemann from Euroffice emailed me this morning (he feels like a personal friend, I get so much mail from him) telling me that ten-part dividers are down to 35p a set, I got kinda - I shouldn't admit this - excited.

Perhaps I am still in my stationery phase?

Thursday, November 24, 2005

I kinda always say that I don't really do Christmas - being Jewish - but I've thought about it more, in the last couple of years. A non-Jewish friend of mine always says, "Limmud, isn't that Yiddish for christmas?"

So for the last ten or whatever years, I've been seqestered away with two thousand other Jews doing all manner of cultural and educational stuff. I think I even felt good that I didn't have to engage with tinsel and goodwill and stuff.

Tonight, I bought satsumas in Tesco, and I realised that they herald the christmas season. And I now, know, that Christmas is a yomtov: whether you're secular or religious, it's a time for family, and broiguses (arguments), thinking of others, hanging out with friends, eating (and drinking). It's just like Rosh Hashanah, or Pesach or Chanukah, but with tinsel and gifts and other xmas minhagim (customs).

I was even kinda quite getting into the idea.

Colleagues always used to ask me what I was doing for xmas, and when I said nothing, I think they felt sorry for me, and then I would just say I was going up to Nottingham to see some (two thousand) friends. I never felt seasonal-disconnectedness, or anything.

Now, I even think that the present thing is OK. Good even: it's a time to be thoughtful about friends and family and really, that can only be a good thing.

I think I might be wittering. I may have overdosed on Lemsip. I have a quiche in the oven (caremalised onion and goats cheese, since you ask).

It's possible I don't get out enough.

Although, often I do.

I have a lot of work on.

And I haven't collected my dry cleaning for three weeks. They might have sold it.

I am wittering. There's nothing worse than hearing someone's interior monologue. Once, I went on a date, and the guy said to me, "what's it like inside a woman's head?" (we were in a coffee shop in South End Green) and I spent twenty minutes telling him everything in my head (she shouldn't be wearing those trousers, does my hair look good, what should I cook for supper, great boots, good hair, bad hair, nice smile, getting cold (this has been censored, slightly)). He looked scared, and ran.

Night, then.
So we've all missed our chance to see the Diamonds exhibition at the Natural History Museum, then. One less thing to do, I guess.
Actually, I think I may be really ill. I feel dizzy when I stand up, and my head's pounding and I have a sore throat.

I'm only posting this because if I had a "real" job I could discuss it with colleagues in the coffee room and they'd tell me to go home and stop infecting them.

Except I am already at home.
As I don't yet have Tivo, or some other Tivo-esque product, I won't be able to watch Death Metal Murders at 9pm tonight, as I'll either be out or asleep.
I have a cold. I know I don't have flu, but I feel quite crap. R gave me homeopathic things last night, but I am not so convinced. A tiny fraction of me thought I might wake up this morning full of the joys of a ... cold snap. But no, I feel achey and tired and all blocked up. I must seek out all manner of Lemsipness and faux-Lemsip. I must get my act together. I must get out of bed...

If I had a job, I'd definitely call in sick, but when you're self employed, it doesn't really work like that. I do think I probably can't go to bookslam tonight, which I was really looking forward to.

Maybe I'll feel better later.

Might just go back to sleep for 5 minutes.

If I wasn't vegetarian, I'd definitely have some chicken soup, although probably not for breakfast.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Weird Yeshivish Subculture

(Cross posted from Jewschool)

I have just discovered this (weird to me) subculture on the recently launched Google Video.

Mobius linked it a short while back, but check out L'Cha by The Chevra (and here was I thinking we were all like one chevra) - it's like thirteen minutes long and it's freaky: these guys don't get out much, there aren't a lot (read: any) women, but they can formation dance, and they've got a thang for faux wet t-shirt competitions. And they've clearly got quite a lot of time on their hands - this one's filmed in three locations.

This one even has a "faux" woman in it.

They all sing like they're singing at their cousin's Barmitzvah.

Jewspotter that I am, so then I did what I always do in these situations: I searched for all the Jewish stuff; it's a veritable cornocopia of chassidische tishes, weddings, breakdancing, cool combinations of the two, visiting graves, turn-of-the-century New York.

Sheesh. Mindblowing.

I love this one: Grand Rebbe Shmuel Halberstam of Sanz-Klausenberg officiating over the Purim tish in his Boro Park shul. Look how they move.

And also, if you play the first one and the Rebbe at the same time (Firefox tabs are your friends), it's like a freaky DJ mix for the post-E generation.

Turns out yeshiva bochrim are not the only all-male groups who get up to the crazy song and dance thang.

Seems like there's a lot of frustrated creative energy out there. Do girls do this?

Thanks to Yoz and assorted J-Geeks for the original link.
Just got back from the Constant Gardener at my local (the Tricycle). Good movie, if slightly over long, but very, very beautiful to look at. Though disturbing.

J told me this: the Rabbi when she was growing up used to make sermons like this:

"God is like a vashing machine. You put the sins in, and he vashes zem out. Now, let me read you some of my poetry..."

I don't know if it was Vogon poetry, but then there was not so many Vogons in North Manchester.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

curly hair stuff

curly hair stuff
Originally uploaded by sashinka-uk.
I think I bought this comb in Altrincham market in about 1985. It is the absolute perfect thing for my hair (although I realise looks scary to some/most). I ocassionally worry about what will happen if/when I lose it. Hence digital evidence.

Monday, November 21, 2005

nighttime milk

nighttime milk
Originally uploaded by sashinka-uk.
I am slightly perturbed by the idea of Night Time Milk. I snapped this in my local Tesco.

Unpack the copy. It's "specially selected." Isn't all milk in these heavily EU regulated times? And "contains natural melatonin" which means, probably, that all milk contains melatonin naturally, but now they're just highlighting it. And anyway, isn't melatonin slightly contentious, and it's FDA or whatever approved in the US, but the UK is not so sure? You certainly can't get it OTC.

Feels to me like marketing taken to the ultimate, wallet-defying extreme. I mean, now we have to have two milks? One for nighttime and one for day time? Or maybe there's breafast milk, and elevenses milk and tea time milk, and they all come in a neat little branded package, or you get a discount for collecting the complete set.

Product diversification has gone too far. I am tired.

Remember cows?
I was reminded of this story at the weekend.

My early pre-teenage years were at the tail end of the Abba era, and we were all "thank you for the music" and flicky hair.

In the last year of junior school, me and my then-best-friend, (whose name I figure I shouldn't publish on the internet, although I did hear an unsubstantiated rumour that she'd had a long standing affair with the managing partner of a top tier law firm), were very into them.

Let's call her Miranda Green. There are two things I remember about her: one, when we were like twelve and her older brother went off to university in Edinburgh, her parents were unphased. He left in October, and sent them a postcard at christmas. They didn't think he was dead or some tragedy had befallen him, they just thought he must be having a good time. Two: her Dad was a QC, and when he got his letter from the Queen he said to us "now, no cutting this up for school projects."

Anyway, Miranda and I bonded over our shared love of all things Swedish, and made each other compilation tapes.

Aside: there was one girl in our class who came in one Monday morning and told us that she'd spent the weekend making "all her tapes blank." Like, recording nothing?

I think she's an investment banker now.

Anyway, we were buddies, and fluffy round the edges, and did formation dancing and singing.

When it got to the (competitive) entrance exam at eleven, we were both hoping to stay on into the senior school (we were at the prep). Both our parents sat us for other schools, including Cheadle Hulme School, a mixed school with a scary green uniform and unfriendly prefects at the exam.

Miranda was more strong-minded than I was (then). She didn't want to go to Cheadle Hulme, and most of the exam was multiple choice (of four, as a I remember), so she just put A B B A all the way through the exam.

She got a reserve place.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

There is a full moon. Well, almost. I briefly saw a site this week that showed you all the stages of the moon and I lost it. The ephemeral nature of the web...

I am going to a party. Two, actually. Although not as a werewolf. And neither of them are fancy dress.

I am, however, wearing a lot of black.

Some person (Ruby Wax? Some other unhinged/Jewish commedienne?) said: "how do I manage to look so good? I wear a lot of black."

I do it with burgundy accessories. I think it's slightly less weird/goth.

Waddyu think?

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Long story, but I'm in Paris.

I don't have that much to say, I just like the coolness of blogging on the hotel's wifi network. Only yesterday I told B we'd had a modernity failure, when his phone kept cutting off mid-conversation, but today I think modernity is really good. Although you have to bring a lot of cables with you.

I am staying in the Hotel California. It has the bizarrest collection of faux art I've ever seen. I don't know what is Californian about it: it's not the decor (seventies hotel renaissance), the art (over-displayed and weird), or the location (quite a long way from California).

Oh well.

The Eurostar was delayed, and then I had to make my own way to the hotel, so when I got here, the clients had already gone out for dinner. So now I've ordered room service, and am reminded how little vegetarian food there is in France. I think it's extremely likely that my salade de saison will come with a ham garnish. Even though I asked them not to.

Oh well.

Is being away better than being at home?

The hotel room smells of that weird room-smelly-stuff that if you have asthma makes you feel ill. If you don't have asthma, it just makes you feel like can't breathe. Or maybe it's the other way around.

Paris is about as cold as London.

I did quite a lot of writing on the train, although the woman sitting next to me was headline surfing my screen, so I wasn't exactly writing with the door closed, so to speak.

Must go, room service.
David Irving has been arrested in Austria. Watch Deborah Lipstadt's blog: I'm sure she'll have an interesting view.


Originally uploaded by sashinka-uk.
So saturday night's movie sent me to google to see what Myla Goldberg has been up to, and now I have a brand new shiny copy of her new book, Wickett's Remedy on my desk.

I think she's a great writer, but also, it's got a dual narrative (we like), lots of that McSweeney's crowd layout, and it's about the 1918 Spanish flu epidemic. Very now. Very HN51. Although I'm sure she's done it for her art, not for the commercial possibilities.

Will keep you informed. If you like.
William Hague earns a lot of money for a man who couldn't win an election. Such is the political life.
Tough times in the Anglican communion. It's so interesting watching other faith groups fight it out.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Saturday night, I saw Bee Season at my local, The Tricycle, as part of the Jewish Film Festival.

Let's just say the film has ripped the heart and soul out of Myla Goldberg's wonderful, beautiful book. Even the filmmakers know we'll never buy Juliette Binoche as a Jewish mother, so she's recast as a Catholic convert.

The people watching was the best, though. Waiting in the bar while the start ran late, was like a hundred and svansig pushy Jewish people all trying to protect themselves because we all know they're out to get you. Two people I didn't know elbowed me in the ribs to get past to... nowhere. There was a lot of that bullet-proof hair and over-jewelled jeans, and more designer handbags than you could shake a lady-who-lunches at.

But this, is priceless. We took our seats, and I was sitting between R and B, and as the credits open, a grandma-y voice from two rows behind leans forward, prods me in the shoulders like I have bad posture (and we all know I do pilates) and says, "gurrl. Take your hair down, it's in ze way."

I collapsed in hysterics. Not because it was funny, but because I was properly hysterical that the cinema was peopled with boundary-less Jews keen to tell people they don't know how to get it right.

But then, I couldn't take the pressure. I knew she would tut and hiss every time I moved. At this stage, I didn't know it wouldn't mar the movie.

So I took out my scrunchie, and my hair's quite long now, and falls around my shoulders in a curly-hair kinda way. R and B were still spluttering at the Friday-night-kiddush-at-your-grandparents style of it all.

Then, two women sitting behind me (and in front of the grandma) say "she thinks it looks better down."

You really couldn't make this stuff up.

Jews. Dontcha love'em?
It's Wednesday, it must be Tunis: The World Summit on the Information Society. Hosted by the UN, reducing American control of the internet is apparently high on the agenda. Watch that space.
This morning's Guardian on west end Board Guys (remember the Golf Sale guy?) A heady mix of minimum wage workers, exploitation and global warming.

But, of course, I get bored," he says. "I'm only human. And you know what? I am very, very cold".

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Oh, you couldn't make this up. The Kazakhstan government are considering legal action against Ali G.

It's a strange, strange world.
Apparently, the Home Office are announcing a new initiative tomorrow, A Generous Society (can't find much about it online), which I think was part of the 2003 Charities Bill, and will give each school £500 as a start to encourage a culture of giving among children.

I grew up in a giving society, place. As a child, I collected for (largely Jewish) charities, and saw my parents regularly give. So it's second nature to me. Last year, I went to a talk where people spoke about tithing - which is a faith-neutral concept - and I think I think we are better people if our lives are not just about ourselves.

I think I have more to say about this. I also have quite a lot of work to do.
The Times has an interesting article on the dual-pricing of tech goods. Short form: do all your christmas shopping price comparisons online now, and buy, before the world gets crazy.

Monday, November 14, 2005

I'm looking out of my office window at the sky... it's a little after four on a wintry autumnal afternoon and the sky is the most mind-blowing colour. It's candy floss pink and irridescent purple. It's like God photoshopped the universe with a psychedelic palette. Or the gods have great back projection at a rave. The streaks of pink are interwoven with violet-ink translucent clouds. It's the colour of my parents sofa in 1976. It's this season's party clothes. It's a rainbow at dusk. It's getting pinker and pinker and purpler and purpler, the intensity turned up like a Kilburn kid with a boom box on his shoulder.

The party pink is reflected in the windows of the houses at the end of the garden, shimmering and shimmying in the almost-dusk.

This is the time that if the world had secrets, we would know them.

And I'm not even taking drugs.

Sometimes, it's the small things that make the difference. There is a wonder in nature and the universe that's bigger than any of us, or our experiences.
Did you know that this week is Enterprise Week?

But then, I have a friend who's a DJ, and he's got some book you can look up where every day is something day.
Operation Eden is Clayton Janes Cubitt's incredibly moving blog about going down to New Orleans after Katrina to help his mum and brother pick up the pieces.

Clayton's a photographer by trade, but his writing has drawn me back to this site again and again.

Makes you/me/one happy (in a way) to know there are good people out there just doing the right, respectful thing.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Banterist - the weblog of that guy with the leather pants ad on Ebay.

So I have this client who gives me extremely intellectually challenging work, but is quite chaotic. But I can live with that - that's kinda why people use consultants sometimes: to get some clarity through all their internal guff.

And there's a certain satisfaction derived from see through the trees to the wood.

There's quite a lot of making meetings, and cancelling them, and remaking them, and then some key people not coming, and them changing their minds about what they want. And I'm training them (managing upwards or whatever you call it) to do this stuff better.

So they insisted on having a (three hour) meeting on erev Rosh Hashanah (which is kinda like Christmas Eve, to me). It was for twenty people, and my contact was very insistent that that was the only day everyone could make, and as I was the person leading the meeting, I needed to be there.

Client's mostly/always right, so I said yes. Get there at 11am, my client and her sidekick are there. Fine. Wait a little, no-one else shows. She gets on her mobile and makes some calls. Turns out no-one's coming. Because they hadn't actually built internal relationships with the people they were bringing to the meeting, they'd just sent them an Outlook diary request which they'd collectively ignored.

Given that they'd just cancelled a whopper of a contract (which was going to buy me all manner of new geekery) the previous week, which is the way the game goes sometimes, I wasn't happy. My client was embarrassed: "you must bill us for your time, obviously".

I left, and thought about it, and decided to bill them for half a day: there was two hours travelling, and half an hour hanging around, and the mental preparation, and she'd asked me to bill her anyway. Also, I thought that maybe in a slightly Pavlovian way, if she had to run around looking for a code to bill it to, she might learn to change her behaviour. Not that I'm her CBT therapist. I checked it out with a couple of other freelancer friends. Seemed fair.

A couple of weeks later, I send an email with the invoice attached. I get an immediate, irate email back from her, saying who do I think I am, and this is outrageous. In conflict-avoidance mode (and it's not really worth it for this, anyway), I pick up the phone, and she's quite ranty and says she expected me to bill her for like £30. I resisted the tempation to say I don't get out of bed for less than £30, and we sort of agreed on half, and I said I was interested in the long term blah blah blah.

Then, other stuff happened, and I didn't send a credit note (because being self-employed means I'm my own accounts department, and it's frankly not worth raising/chasing an invoice for less than a certain amount of money). Her sidekick gets on the phone and says it's outrageous, and she'll sort it. She comes back to me a week later, and tells me a slightly higher figure (like, 60%).

I kinda don't really care, but it's all too far gone, and sending them a credit note for 40% has sat on my list, and I got distracted and shit happened.

Today, I get a statement from them saying they paid my last invoice for a big piece of work - AND THIS ENTIRE INVOICE.

Sometimes, you don't know what to think. So you just think nothing.
I'm very sad to hear that Lord Lichfield died.
Technical Update

So after a lot of tears and strong coffee, I know the answer. If you ever have the problem where Adobe is obstreperous, and you can't add/remove programme in Windows, and you can't rename the directory in Program Files, so you can't reinstall, and you can't repair 6.0.1 because it hangs... I know the answer (now, thanks to my expert technical advisor) - rename the Adobe directory in safe mode, and then reinstall 7.0.5.

Mental list of other tech things I must do:
  • Fix the Palm synchronise thing - it's synchronsing back the mists of time, for some reason, and it takes too long/hangs/never ends, and now my diary doesn't work
  • My Vaio is apparently back next week, with a new motherboard and wireless card, but I agreed that they wouldn't do a factory reset, because I couldn't face having to resintall XP and office, but it does mean that "they have advised me" that some things might not work/need new drivers, and I don't know what this means yet
  • I am having a nice time with my HP Tablet, though. Small pleasures...
  • My mail is currently in two places: my old colo (who I love, guys, obviously), and my newer commercial set up. I need to centralise it, get with the program(me), and work out how to use their webmail.
  • Buy a digital camera. And a Tivo-like thing. And a flat-screen TV. Well, a new TV: my old one doesn't have scart sockets or anything.
  • Thursday, November 10, 2005

    Even though both Madonna (sorry, Esther) and my neighbour's DJ buddy go to the Kabbalah Centre, I'm a sceptic.

    Partly, because I know a little about Kabbalah (pronounced Ka-Ba-La, all short As, not kur-bar-lar, in that weird way) and I know the last thing it includes is the crossing of palms with silver. My scepticism was validated by Rabbi YY Rubinstein on the Heaven and Earth show this weekend.

    So I'm both apalled and not so surprised about last week's story about a poor woman who ended up donating nearly £30,000
    for a fake cancer cure.

    Say after me: C-U-L-T.

    Side note:

    This ridiculous paragraph at the end of the Guardian piece:

    Kabbalah has only gained popular appeal in the last 20 years, after being developed by a lapsed rabbi, Philip Berg, and his second wife, Karen. It originally evolved in the Middle Ages as a mystical interpretation of the Torah which aimed to reach a better understanding of the divine than could be attained by literal or metaphorical analysis. If the bible is a code of laws for man, then Kabbalah is the attempt to work out the laws by which God created and governs the universe. It was restricted to Torah students over the age of 40 because of its complexity and the ease with which it can be misinterpreted. The Bergs divorced Kabbalah from its traditional roots, simplified it, opened it up to all faiths and commercialised it. They created the Kabbalah Centre, which has branches in Tel Aviv, London, New York and Los Angeles. In the new interpretation, the drinking of Kabbalah water and the possession of books that have never been read can lead to magical cures for illness.

    So. The bold is the Guardian's doing, not mine.

  • Does the Guardian think we're so dense we can't read a whole paragraph without highlighting their version of key words? What do you think this is, the internet?
  • Kabbalah has not only gained appeal in the last twenty years: it's an ages old tradition that has been studied for generations
  • And it so hasn't been "developed" by Philip Berg. It's been bastardised, whatever.
  • I just don't care what his wife's called
  • At least they didn't spell Kabbalah with a Q
  • The tradition is so much more complex than you can get in a stupid soundbite
  • Why does Kabbalah have a capital K, and Torah a T, but bible doesn't have a B?
  • My pick of today's stories: Martin Rowson on Blair's defeat, Nick Lezard on the ubiquity of cocaine (I used to work with him at the Modern Review. I was not one of the aforementioned cokeheads), and is Tesco getting too big for its boots?
    I am torn, so torn.

    Matisyahu, the Jewish Rapper is playing a gig at the Scala on November 28th, and it's my writing class.

    Checkout that clip above: it's crazy. Remember in the Big Lebowski, the guy who was shomer shabbes? There's that disconnect: the TV interviewer asking Matisyahu how much it'll cost for him to play a gig on a friday night, and asking him if there's a lot of East Coast/West Coast rivalry in Hasidic Regge.


    Choices, choices, for me.
    Forget West Side Story - I saw this short, West Bank Story at the Jewish Film Festival on Tuesday, and it was great. Sadly, it's the kind of thing that's hard to get to see, so you'll just have to keep your eyes peeled, but it's an entertaining, insightful, witty, humous-laden romp through Middle East politics. No, really.
    You know how it is... a series of random conversations, and then I needed to check out exactly who Typhoid Mary was. So now you know. If the wikipedians know, that is.

    Wednesday, November 09, 2005

    I think I may be in technical melt down...

    So I hired a laptop while my Vaio goes on a not-so-well earned vacation to Brussels. Except my hire machine came with the wrong power cable.

    Then, something weird happened to Adobe Acrobat reader. A client sent me a contract via fax, and I use a fax to mail service so I always have copies and don't need a fax machine.

    But Acrobat is weird, so I think I'll uninstall and reinstall, so I had loads of Acrobat stuff, removed it all in add/remove programmes, but now can't remove 6.0.2, and can't load 7.0.5 - both just hang my machine. I have googled, but all I can find is other people with the same problem, so it's a pooling of ignorance.

    Do you think if I just delete the programme files I'll leave other trails of Acrobat which will upset other things?

    I think it will. I have tried renaming the Adobe folders, but it won't let me ,and when I change the attributes from Read-Only, it won't remember it.

    Also, I borrowed a digital camera from a friend, to take some photos of my parents seventies furniture that I'm supposed to be doing something with, and to a very strict deadline. But it's a Sony with a weird Sony Memory Stick that only works with a Sony machine. Which is now abroad.

    Any ideas?
    If you've got money, you can travel...

    (I think that quote is from the You Don't Have To Be Jewish record, but the whole internet doesn't seem to know, and my memory's not what it was...)

    So I decided to hire a laptop for two weeks. My vaio is going to Brussels on holiday, and even though it's kinda expensive, it makes my life easier, and I'd like that right now. And it means the couple of client projects that require me to go to someone's office with a laptop can happen. And if I've learned one thing in the last two years, it's that drama is very energy draining, and what I basically want is a quiet, nice life. One that probably includes a Succah.

    So that's one less thing to worry about, even if I did give short shrift to Mr Trogwell from the Sony Vaio Escalation Department (can't help thinking I can't be the only customer with this problem, then) and tell him he'd lost a customer.

    Because, as we all know, technical hitches are just that. Nothing to sweat about.


    Tuesday, November 08, 2005

    I'm kinda into eBay (even if it is capitalised like a bad nineties software package) and I like the karma of clearing out the stuff I don't need.

    This one, however, takes the biscuit: Lot 328: a pair of embarrassing trousers.

    £58? Priceless.
    I am pretty high up on google for The Google Generation, which lead me to this very entertaining snippet on Gawker about how people talk like ad-agencies nowadays.
    So my cable modem was slightly tempermental this morning, and then I did a speed test and realised that Telewest Broadband have upgraded me to the "elite" product, from 4Mb to 10Mb.

    Know what? Uploads have gone up to 384bps, but I still can't tell the difference. I mean, it might be slightly, imperceptibly faster. Sure I won't be the only person to go back to the "complete" product which at 4Mb, is still faster than my original 1Mb.
    Dead Parrot

    I wish to register a complaint. And to tell you NEVER to buy a Sony Vaio - for the second time in a year or so, my Vaio is resting. Stunned. Dead as a proverbial.... parrot.

    I used it yesterday, and it was well, fine and dandy, and we were both happy. Get home last night, turn it on, dead-dead-dead. No power, nothing.

    I did all the things I vaguely remember from last time - removing the battery, etc, and even totally powered it down all night, but it's still more than unwell. AKA dead.

    Luckily/unluckily, Sony service was so beyond par last time that the Head of UK Customer Relations extended my warranty till January 2007. However, I think, due to a combination of inefficiency and a distributed service offering, it's possible they will keep my laptop till then, and I won't be able to do any work.

    Like I'd planned to go into some friends' office this week - I' having a bit of a hard time concentrating - but I can't if I haven't got a laptop.


    I have a spare laptop, but it's a 1999 ThinkPad running Windows98 and it won't read my USB keys, can't do the internet, and weighs the same as a small Scottish island.

    I know shit happens (brief moment of victimhood, which will be over before it's even begun, I promise), but why does shit always happen to me?

    Monday, November 07, 2005

    The view from my window.

    Mostly, I work from home, my spare room turned into an office-sofabed space, with lots of books and geekery.

    My window looks out over the garden, and for a London garden, it's pretty big. What I like about it is that it's moderately unkempt: my downstairs neighbour mows the lawn and looks after it, but it's not manicured or chichi, it's just outsideness.

    I derive a lot of pleasure - sustenance - from looking at my garden. And my neighbour just planted some pink flowers under my window, and they make me happy.

    The last couple of weeks, I've noticed that the sky is a bluer-than-blue colour. The blue of the Windows 98 screensaver, with perfect white clouds, and the greens and browns and reds and oranges of almost-autumn starting to happen (global warming permitting).

    But there's this one thing: for the last two weeks, there's this one, perfect, grey cloud sitting atop the roof of the people at the end of the garden.

    And I think what it's saying to me, this cloud, is that everything will be ok, there might just always be this one grey cloud on a sunny day. Life isn't perfect.

    I think I may have lost my mojo.

    Sunday, November 06, 2005

    Y'know, I'm never really comfortable with call waiting.

    I don't have it any more on my home phone, because I was constantly not-really-having attention on the person I was talking to because someone else was calling, or playing phone call arbitrage in trying to keep everyone happy.

    Now, I have one voicemail if I'm on the phone, and my answerphone if I'm not home. I know, I don't get that many calls, it's not really worth it.

    But when I call someone who's got call waiting, I don't feel good. I feel like I'm interrupting them - they're talking to someone else, and invariably they'll pick up, say a hurried hi and juggle calls for a minute and then either ditch you and call you back, or ditch the other person.

    Either way, it's not a good scenario.

    So usually, when I get call waiting, I spend a couple of seconds wondering if they'll pick up, and then give up, and then they call back and say "I got your call waiting, but you'd gone".

    The whole thing is not exactly what you'd call quality communication, and as I get older, I'm more thoughtful and careful about how and when I talk to people.

    Seems to me, the only people who win out of this situation are the phone companies: two calls at one time, you can't make more money than that.

    I think they should invent a new thing: a special tone that when you call, and someone's on the phone, you hear it, and you know they're busy, and you hang up, and if it's really important, call them again.

    I know, they could call it the engaged tone.

    Friday, November 04, 2005


    Originally uploaded by sashinka-uk.
    Sometimes, only a picture can speak.
    Did you know the UK is the worst place in Europe for asthma?

    Hidden History

    Hidden History
    Originally uploaded by sashinka-uk.
    Last week, I had a meeting in Farringdon, and found myself walking past the Guardian's offices, and the Newsroom centre across the road.

    I spent half an hour or so at this micro-exhibition about the history of the Guardian and the Scott Trust, which is quite fascinating: all sorts of ephemera, including a signed table plan from the Guardian-hosted Israel/Arab talks in 2002 - quite something.

    Not entirely sure why I'm mentioning this now, as you'd need to get down there before 5pm today, and I guess most people are at work.

    edvard munch

    edvard munch
    Originally uploaded by sashinka-uk.
    Remember The Scream? The image on the front of nearly every personal development book you've ever read?

    I think I'm quite up for this Edvard Munch exhibition at the Royal Academy.
    That incident with Rebekah Wade and Ross Kemp?

    I know this isn't the most important thing, but they'd just returned to their South London home from a birthday party at 4am. Let's say they returned at 3am, as the police were called at 4am.

    How could she possibly expect to get to work in good enough shape on a daily newspaper if she'd had such a late night? Or perhaps she thinks that special celebrity rules apply to her, too.

    Thursday, November 03, 2005

    You know me, always a little late to the party.

    So I just discovered Ruth Gledhill's Religion Blog at the Times, and there's a fascinating post about her views on a story intially reported in Manchester's very own Jewish Telegraph (a newspaper whose headline once ran "Average Age in Heathlands (old age home) 73") (scroll down on the Times site to her entry for 21 October, permalinks shaky).

    It's about a boy who wrote a poem effectively praising the Holocaust, that has been included in a collection to be used in schools. The editor states:

    "This poem shows a good use of technical writing and he has written his poem from the perspective of Adolf Hitler. Key Stage 3 history requires people to show knowledge and understanding of events and places, to show historical interpretation and to explain the significance of events, people and places, all of which World War II and the Holocaust is part of. The poem clearly states, I am Adolf Hitler and is not a reflection of the child's view, the editor's or the publisher's. The poem recounts a historical fact, something which Young Writers and Foreward Press are not willing to censor.'

    I'm slightly at a loss for what to say, and am disinclined to say "PC gone mad" because people always say that.

    Let's just say that I'm a little worried about the world I live in. Today, anyway. Oh, and yesterday (Blunketgate II).
    Today is - apparently - World Usability Day.

    Although it sounds like a website usability thing, which I guess it is to some degree, it's more about geek stuff and stuff in general. For anyone who's ever asked “why doesn’t this work right? What am I supposed to do with this now?" (and as someone who rarely reads the instructions, that's happened to me quite a lot), it seems like a great idea that some people have got into, but there's a lot of noise out there on the web, and how do you fight for attention?

    Maybe today's the today I get over my skype-inertia. Although Yoz tells me I should go open source. Skip? Obviously.

    Wednesday, November 02, 2005

    I'm kinda excited about the UK Jewish Film Festival - bigger, better and with more stylish graphics and a new logo. Starts Saturday, with a couple of must-see films (for me, anyhow: Ushpizin, Divan, Bee Season). Check it out.
    Let's face it, we're all pretty relieved that David Blunkett's had the guts to resign.

    I'm not disputing the fact that people lead complicated lives, and seemingly more so if they're under the public gaze, but I want politicians with integrity.

    Do I think every politician has to be lilly-white and angelic? No. Do I think that they have to be perfect? No. Do I think they have to get everything 100% right? No.

    So while I'm prepared to give the benefit of the doubt, and forgive to a degree, David Blunkett has broken my trust. And the more he does, the worse it gets.

    So he had an affair. I think maybe a lot of people do, and it may not be a hanging offence. But then there was that power-crazed stuff with Kimberly's nanny's visa, and that estate agent woman, the personal letter on government headed paper and now DNA Biotech, and I read a brief mention of some other thing he hadn't checked out with the committee.

    I think that sometimes people in the public eye (and I think I bundle politicians with celebrities on this one) forget that they're not in a first class carriage where different rules apply and it's OK to jump the queue or whatever. My grandpa was a JP (magistrate) and he used to say "justice does not only have to be done, it has to seem to be done" and maybe those are words that David will reflect on in the time he will doubtless now be spending "with his family."

    Here's a few things I'd like to say to people in public office who take the piss, (and celebrities who think the world owes them a living): no special rules apply. You're just a person elected to enact the people's will, (or a prat who thinks being on Celebrity Big Bonker gives you a licence to bore), and that comes before anything else.

    I come from a long line of people who've done some kind of public service, and believe that making your contribution to your community, whatever it may be, might be one of the most important things we are here for. I remember as a kid, a friend of my Dad's who was a part-time chair of an NHS Trust describing himself as having an "outmoded sense of public duty", but I don't think it's outmoded. In the language of New Labour, you have rights and responsibilites, and you don't get one without the other. Public life is a delicate balance of the two. You can't just take, especially when there are very clear rules. I don't even care about the "letter of the law" stuff (he put the shares in his sons' names to replace the inheritance he spent on his younger son's custody battle).

    Sometimes, the right thing to do is just very obvious, and no amount of weaseling and squirming can replace that.

    Oh, and Steve Bell's said everything I want to say in one image.