Sunday, 31 July 2011

Catching up

Tomorrow we will collect the keys to our new casa and our stuff will be moved on Thursday. We have packed about 75% and the rest should be finished by the end of the week. Everything but the bed and the tv have been dismantled. The garden haven’t been touched at all. Most probably we will be moving them ourselves as we have the present casa until the end of August. We haven’t done any food shopping and I have been cooking whatever is in the freezer. Some very strange combinations…:-0

Besides packing, I have been playing catch with my work. I am literally drowning and how I managed to stay afloat was a miracle in itself. A new Metadata Librarian, SLA, reported for work and I had 3 sessions with her. Although her main work will be with the Publications Database, she will be required to help out from time to time. I had to make sure that she was up to it and I think I was a little bit hard on her. I do expect cataloguers to know the basic procedures. Anyway, welcome to Data Services, SLA.

My colleagues and I too were busy setting up our display board for the Staff Open Day. It was supposed to be a team building exercises but it failed miserably. We’d so many ideas and everyone wanted theirs to be accepted. Lots of arguments and tempers were flying about. It was good to see my colleagues very passionate about their work. After deliberating for about a week, the final display was up and it received a very good response. A big pat on the back for everyone. The display board was still standing beside my table because I wanted to photograph them and upload it on the Intranet. We’d spent so much time on it and I want it up a little bit longer.

I was also busy doing a write-up for my Merit Pay Scheme which moi is eligible to participate.. This Scheme is for staff who have reached the top of their grade or are paid more than the maximum salary of their grade. Awards will be made in the form of one off lump sum or ‘bonus’ payments. which will be neither pensionable nor consolidated into base pay. I’d to list my key (agreed) objectives and summarised my achievements towards these objectives in the past academic year. I had to express them using the SMART rule: Specific, Measurable, Agreed, Realistic and Timebound. Wish me luck.

There was also another library induction programme for a group of Japanese and Chinese pre-session students. A very enthusiastic group which bombarded me with loads of questions. I was glad that the very erratic mobile shelving behaved itself and worked. The students wanted a tour of the top floors which I wasn’t able to do because the 3rd. –5th floors were silent study areas. But they were allowed to check out these floors themselves and familiarise  with the surroundings. 

My colleagues and I ended the academic year of 2010/2011 by having a fish and chips picnic in the lovely summer sun. Even our manager joined us on the lawn outside the MRC building and he said that we should do it often. Everyone relaxed over tall glasses of iced-cold lemonade and work was the furthest thing on our minds. Then it was the Summer Degree ceremonies that took place from Monday 18th to Friday 22nd. A week to celebrate our students’ successes and achievements and there were 4k of them. A pity that it rained the whole week.

Babe and I checked out the Scott May’s Daredevil stunt-show at the Coventry Stadium, home of Coventry Speedway. We need a break from packing and a change of scenery. It was a fast moving, action packed show with Monster Truck destruction, Europe’s only monster ride-truck, car-crushing action from “Thundertrax” (a tank/monster truck hybrid), motorcycle, quad and all-terrain buggy jumps, car crashes and amazing fire stunts. We were also entertained with incredible two wheel driving displays using a quad, buggy, car, van and 7.5 ton truck. Coventry Stadium D300s  10-07-2011 14-51-60

The show started with a  Freestyle Motocross ramp system, where we saw some of the UK’s top FMX athletes flying between ramps at heights approaching 40 feet, pulling off insane tricks and manoeuvres. It was an adrenaline fuelled high flying performance which was a big hit with the younger audience and was undoubtedly be one of the highlights of the show. Coventry Stadium D300s  10-07-2011 15-39-34

Scott May has been touring with his stunt show throughout the UK for almost 20 years and brings an unrivalled reputation and level of skill to his daredevil show. The stunt team demonstrated incredible skill and precision throughout the show that was a thrill to the senses. We felt the stadium rumble under our feet with the extreme power and roar of the “The Bandit” and “ThunderTrax”. As with all Monster Trucks, the thrill begins when the engine roars into life and we could feel the power right through our bones.  Watching this massive beast take flight as it leaps over a heap of scrap cars was nothing less than awesome.You could even hear the twisting metal of the car crashes and smell the burning rubber of the full throttle motorcycle stunts. Coventry Stadium D300s  10-07-2011 15-44-35 I wasn’t keen on the  crazy fire stunts such as the Motorcycle Fire Wall, Exploding Coffin, Motorcycle Fire Jump, Fire Run, Fire Drag, Human Battering Ram and the Human Torch. Anything could go wrong but thankfully everything went according to plan. And every show has the infamous Stunt clown, who bounced into things and causing trouble wherever he decides to get involved. He was everywhere taking the mickey out of the stuntmen.We’d a wonderful afternoon and took hundreds of shots. It was a change from the usual stuff that we do and a challenge that we thoroughly enjoyed. Coventry Stadium D200 X14  10-07-2011 14-20-15

DC and I were invited for dinner at CC’s chateaux. CC wanted to christened  her new rice cooker. She cooked the rice and we ordered food from her local Chinese takeaway. It was king prawns galore. I ordered Satay prawns, CC had prawns in black bean sauce and DC, the scrambled fu-yong with prawns!!!. We also requested a portion of mixed Chinese vegetables and battered squids for starters. CC must have been a very good customer because the takeaway added a portion of egg fried rice, prawn crackers and a large bottle of Coke for free!!! The table was groaning with the banquet and we’d a lovely time polishing up the meal, It was also CC’s birthday. She’s off for a week’s camping holiday in Scotland the next day. Have a safe trip.

My colleagues and I also attended an African-style lunch to raise money for the Horn of Africa DEC appeal at the University’s Chaplaincy. Large areas of Kenya, Somalia, Ethiopia and South Sudan were affected by the drought  with people - most of them children - finding their way to the Dadaab refugee camp in eastern Kenya, near the border of Somalia. The camp is already home to 350,000 people - the equivalent size of Leicester. The DEC East Africa Crisis Appeal will use donations to buy food, water, care for starving children and medical treatment.

The humanitarian crisis was caused by a combination of factors including severe drought, rising food and fuel prices, chronic poverty and conflict.  The worst drought in 60 years has also been compounded by the violence in Somalia. Unless sufficient levels of aid are raised there is a real risk of the famine spreading to all eight regions of southern Somalia and afflicted nearly 3 million people. It was devastating to see once again the images of famine haunting our world in 2011. They need our help.

My thoughts too are with the people of Norway.  They have turned out in their thousands carrying flowers, united in defiance of someone who wanted to divide the Norwegian society. Norway's openness and lack of security was a result of it having such a small, homogenous population. It seems paradoxical that an extremist who have fanatically wanted to protect Norway from outsiders and the "dangers of multiculturalism” would himself do such damage to its own people. Norway has a very tiny population that a large proportion of people will be directly or indirectly touched by the events.Warwick University D300s  12-07-2011 12-11-17 In the words of the Norwegian poet Nordahl Grieg, who was writing during World War II:

"We are so few in our country. Each fallen a brother and friend."

Muslims in the UK will begin fasting tomorrow. To all Muslims, a Happy Ramadan and please pray for those affected in conflicts and famine around the world.

"(It was) the month of Ramadan in which was revealed the Qur’an, a guidance for mankind and clear proofs for the guidance and the criterion (between right and wrong). So whoever of you sights (the crescent on the first night of) the month (of Ramadan i.e. is present at his home), he must observe Sawm (fasts) that month…"
~ [al-Baqarah 2:185]~

Brandon Marsh D300s X2  09-07-2011 15-38-43

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Stop the badger cull

I have just signed the League Against Cruel Sports' petition against the badger cull.

The League opposes the proposed badger cull on two main grounds. Firstly, a cull would fly in the face of scientific evidence about how to control the spread of bovine tuberculosis, and could even exacerbate the problem. And secondly, authorising a cull would create a new bloodsport by licencing the shooting of badgers for gun-toting volunteers. We are calling for a badger vaccination programme instead of a cull.

It is vital that they reach 100,000 signatures to ensure the subject is debated in parliament but to show the government just how opposed the public is to the cull, their target is ONE MILLION SIGNATURES.

Please help them reach this target. It only takes a minute but could save the lives of thousands of badgers.

Just follow this link

Thank you


Monday, 18 July 2011

Mi Casa Su Casa*

It was back to back house-hunting this week. We had seen 5 houses and each was an experience we will never forget. Our main criteria was affordable, 3 bedrooms with a driveway or off-road parking or 2 bedrooms with a garage, a garden and one bus-ride to the university. No pressure then…

Our first was DA which belonged to our landlord. It has 3 bedrooms with a huge, huge garden, a very tiny kitchen, one bus-ride and street parking.  High rent but our landlord was willing to negotiate. We asked him to open up the side fence so that we could park the car in the garden. But according to him, it was impossible because there was no right of access. We’d to say no to the house. Our car was vandalised a few times before and we never want it to happen again.

Next was HC which I was hoping to get. It has 3 bedrooms with a garage and one bus-ride. When we arrived, we weren’t alone. A group of students and another couple was already waiting to see the same house. Just imagine 9 of us, including the estate agent and tenant, trampling about in the house. There was no privacy to discuss things. I didn’t like the way things were run especially if you’re interested in the house, you have to hand a deposit of £250 in the car-park. How unprofessional was that. Business carried out in the car-park. We watched the students paying the deposit.

The estate agent told us that it wasn’t a first-come, first serve basis. Deposit was collected to ensure that we were in the running for the house. We have to go to the office to fill in the forms which included lots of personal details. Then the landlord will choose the “best tenant”!!! We didn’t have confidence in this system at all and decided to forego the house.

Then another viewing of KC. This was our second trip. It was a 2 bedroom bungalow with a garage and walking distance to the university. Eureka but… It was the most expensive house to rent. We think we could manage because of the ideal location but it was just too small. We’d to store a lot of stuff in the garage which defeat the purpose. Since it was a bungalow, it was very dark inside as it was surrounded by double-storey houses. I guess another no-no.

The 4th house was at BA, close to our favourite playground. 2 bus-ride, 3 bedrooms and a garage. We were asked to meet the agent at 5.30pm. We’d a leisure drive and reached the house at 5.15pm. We checked out the house and an electric sub-station was just beside it with a sign “THIEVES BEWARE”. Hmm…don’t like that. We waited and waited and waited….until 5.45pm. We could see the neighbourhood curtains twitching. I’m sure they were wondering what we’re doing outside the house since there was no “To Let” sign. I guess it was time to go home.

On Saturday, we viewed a house at PD. Our chatty tree frog aka GPS wasn’t talking because the road wasn’t listed in the database. We drove around three times, even called the estate agent before asking 2 people for directions. One was scratching his head because he’d never heard it but thankfully the 2nd knew the exact location. We’d driven past and it was partially hidden behind lush trees. My oh my…it was an oasis and there were only 4 houses in a gated compound.

As soon as we parked, we were met by the estate agent. There was no garage but it has its own driveway, 3 bedrooms, a huge kitchen and dining area and a garden that could house our present casa. Wow…wow. We liked it a lot, much further but there was a direct bus service, which meant I’d to get up early. I guess I could manage that. We told the agent that we were going to think about it and will confirm on Monday. Fingers-crossed, it will be ours.  

Apart from casa hunting, life goes on as usual. On Monday, I was late for work because traffic was much heavier than usual. We were crawling down Fletchemsted Highway. What was going on because the students had already gone for their break. We carried on and came across a breakdown bus blocking the road. Hmm…and then a sign welcoming the NEBOSH graduation event. Why wasn’t the staff informed about this??? There was nothing on the Intranet.

I also had a session with a group of students from the Hong Kong City University. To break the ice, I greeted them in Mandarin, asking how they were and introduced myself. I could see the surprise and appreciative look they gave me. Unfortunately, I couldn’t do the rest of the induction in Mandarin. I might gave them the wrong information :-). They were very enthusiastic and eager and it was a joy to answer all their queries. I hoped they’d had a memorable stay.

On Thursday was the much anticipated teachers’ strike. It was the biggest walk-out by teachers in a generation. Planned changes meant that they will have to work longer, pay more and get less when they retire. That doesn’t sound right at all. I fully support a teacher’s right to strike as I would any other professions.

First they came for the communists,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a communist.

Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a Jew.

Then they came for me
and there was no one left to speak out for me.

~German Protestant theologian and pastor Martin Niemöller (1892-1984)~

We’d a wonderful surprise when we went for a late evening stroll in Brandon Marsh. We were about to head home when we decided to check out the Teal Pool. The goslings have grown to be replicas of their parents. Common Sandpipers, Redshanks and Black-headed gulls were busy feeding along the mud-banks. Suddenly, there was a big commotion and the birds just disappeared. We looked around and up in the sky when we spotted this handsome fella skulking low in the background. We were expecting a battle when the Canada Geese strutted towards the fox, checking him out. I bet he was surprised to see these  big birds coming towards him and made a quick dash into the bushes with his tail between his legs.Brandon Marsh D300s X2  01-07-2011 19-02-54 This post was long overdue. At the moment, we’re drowning in storage boxes. The casa was like a tip and weekends was spent at the tip too.  We deposited a lot of stuff at the recycling centre, donated tools to the Brandon Marsh Conservation Group and sent bags of bits and pieces to the charity shops. There was still a lot to do. The kitchen was still untouched and the garden…still growing. Although exhausted, we are looking forward to the move.

*”My house your house in Spanish”