|<< February 2006||April 2006 >>|
Nattle spent the afternoon waiting for the phone call that would say yes, you are moving next Friday (it didn't come) so I picked up the Bean from school. He'd taken his bike so we cycled back together. As far as I can tell, it only rained for about 15 minutes this afternoon, but those 15 minutes coincided exactly with our trip back. The first drops fell as he strode out of the classroom, they stopped as I rang the doorbell and in between it bucketed it down. In spite of the rain, and a misunderstanding resulting in him almost riding under the wheels of the Wake Green Road traffic, we had a pretty good spin back. The rainbow was particularly lovely.
To work at home, you need a proper space to work in. Much of our life is shaped by habit and ritual, and going to work is no different. I've seen people who were barely awake, let alone coherent, suddenly spring into life as the swiped their entry pass. If you ride the lift a few floors to your office, you can often see people getting into character. I recently went to a gig where the band, Enablers, had travelled from San Francisco to play to a crowd of maybe 60 in the back of pub. I'd speculated that they might be a little underwhelmed, but as they got up on stage their game faces were on and they went to work. They were so terrific I bought two CDs on the spot.
The trip to work is important - an hour in the car or up three steps - because it helps you prepare. When you get there, you're ready to go. Even though you are at home, it's important to make the journey. It's important for the rest of your household too - my children know that when I "go to work" they shouldn't disturb me, Nattle avoids interrupting me, even the dog and the cats act differently when I'm on the clock.
I work in the attic room. It's physically apart from the rest of the house so the walk up the stairs is my journey to work, it's high up so there's rarely noise from outside, there's plenty of room for bookshelves and things, I have a nice big trestle table to work at, and the window is out of my eyeline. It's comfortable. I get lots done.
My chum Paul is not lucky enough to have an attic, but he has a good sized garden. He built a rather splendid computing facility next to his veg patch.
The only person I know who worked at home for any length of time on his dining table has no children, pets or noisy household appliances. He started when his wife left for work in the morning, and stopped when she came in. He did alright I think, but wasn't entirely comfortable because the boundaries were blurred. He works in a office an hour away now, and I think he's happier.
You don't necessarily need a room or outbuilding set aside, but you need a known, defined space that you're in - and so at work - or not in - and so not at work. If you can't keep them clear, then you'll never be quite at work and never be quite at home, you'll spend your time feeling there's something you should be doing and never be able relax properly.
Simply shutting the door has a huge effect.
I may have to rejig the house a bit: I hate having a north facing office window, much too dim. Sod the glare on the monitor, I'll take sunlight any day of the week ;)
My most productive time is between the hours of 8pm to midnight. I can't say I'm happy with that, but I work quicker and more accurately. The trouble is I work in an industry where you're still expected to man the phones during "normal" hours.
Hohum, three months in. Early days.
Well I thought it was funny.
* Revision 1.79 2001/09/10 15:18:28 jez Corrected and simplifed
* addPIsToChanges. All new elements are now correctly marked. threeWayDiff no
* longer does disjuncion checking or change consolidation. As it turns out they
* were just taking perfectly valid results and buggering them up.
PrintPreviewDialog ppd = new PrintPreviewDialog();
ppd.Document = printDoc;
PrintPreviewDialog ppd = new PrintPreviewDialog();
ppd.Document = printDoc;
ppd.MdiParent = this;
ppd.WindowState = FormWindowState.Maximized;
Can you see the mistake here?
canvas.DrawString(ra.Name, font, ra.Pen.Brush, x, y);
ra.Pen.Brush, but only because ra is returning a built-in Pen from the
System.Drawing.Pens class. If I return a
new Pen(somecolor), this code works. The stock Pen objects are immutable, which is fine, but reading the Brush property of a stock Pen throws this childishly worded exception. Reading the Color property doesn't, by the way. I didn't bother to experiment with other properties.
As usual, this isn't documented anywhere. It isn't possible to work out at runtime which Pen objects it is safe to read the Brush property of and which it isn't, rendering the Brush property effectively useless. To be safe, if you want a Brush which is the same colour as a Pen, you always have to construct it yourself.
Conceptually, the built-in Pen objects are constant, but C# has no way to express that. Turning a read access, something that should be safe to do to a constant object, into a modification and a runtime fail is sloppy design if deliberate, or sloppy development and testing if it's a bug.
const and the idea of const-correctness. Being able to express immutability directly in the language helps in all kinds of ways, often simply by making you think about it. Can't help feeling it would have helped here.
(I did force myself to read the common-sense issues raised, pertinent points one and all for anyone who can be arsed to stick with it - a real shame.)
This is what I'm working on right now -
a list box, sitting on a dialog box. It does all the right things at the right times, but I'm not entirely happy with it. The box itself is read-only. You change the contents using another dialog box popped up by the button on the bottom there. Since the list is read-only, it doesn't make sense to be able to select any of the contents. You can see bbb is highlighted here. I've looked at using a text box, but when you mark that as read-only, it changes its appearance completely which is even worse. It's a little thing, but I'd rather it wasn't there.
Poking around I find this
which looks just the thing. So I switch One to None, rebuild and everything blows up
A compile time change has lead to a runtime failure. There are a multitude of problems here, but the two most obvious are
I'm using DataBinding to populate the the listbox, and I suspect the problem lies here - OnBindingContextChanged is the clue here. There's a bug report describing something similar in an older version that also suggests so.
I currently recommend the .NET Framework as the easiest way to develop GUI applications for Windows. It's got decent tool support, it's free of charge, it's got a pretty thumping library that covers all the important things you might want (or at least I want to do, so far). I'm not all rah-rah C#-is-the-one-true path, but the alternatives - Java, C++ development with MFC or another class library, Python, whatever - just can't match it in terms of getting Windows stuff done.
You are in a box though. The .NET Framework and its libraries define the boundaries of what you can do, and when you bag up against the edges of the box things can get unpleasant. It's nowhere near as bad as Visual Basic was, when an experienced Windows developer would smash up against hard barriers within about five minutes. The .NET box is much bigger, and you can, if you need to, use things like PInvoke or COM Interop to breach the boundaries. It can be a little hairy-scary, but you can do it. But you are in a box, and you can never quite forget it.
March 21, 16:23 GMT, and the first ice cream van of the year is jingling outside. That's fully five weeks later than last year, conclusive proof (if such were needed) that this spring is chillier than the past few years.
I'm sure this sort of PC madness does occur: this particular story? Who knows?
Got the wrestling bug pretty hard at the moment, although trying to limit myself to one match a day. Yesterday I watched Mick Foley vs Toshiaki Kawada from May 2004, which is, much as I love Foley, a bit of stinker. Kawada obviously thought so too, judging by the kick he gives Foley at the finish. It's got "don't get booked against me again" written all over it.
Today's match is a completely different league - The Great Muta vs Jushin Thunder Liger. I've been a Liger mark for years - who isn't? - and while I'm aware of Muta's reputation, I've never seen him in his prime. As far as I know this match, in October 96, was the only time they wrestled. It's not a classic as far as scientific wrestling goes, but it's a terrific match because of its great ring psychology. The entrances are bonkers, the match has a good narrative, both men can really work the crowd (some people seem genuinely scared of Muta), and the finish is terrific. It's also wackily Japanese in the details; after Liger's pulled a chair out of the crowd and brained Muta with it, a man scuttles in with a replacement chair for the unseated audience member to sit on.
It's been announced to day that the national curriculum is to prescribe synthetic phonics as the primary method of teaching reading. Synthetic phonics teaches the 45 basic English phonemes from the outset. Once a child has mastered these, they move on to actually reading books, composing the words from their basic sounds. Proponents often use phrases like "basic common sense" and "tradional methods of teaching" when advocating their position. Analytic phonics - breaking words up into sounds - doesn't cut it apprently, nor does whole word, teaching children to pick up hints from sentence structure and surrounding context, or any other so-called "modern method".
A study in Clackmannonshire on a pretty small group apparently shows children taught using synthetic phonics being 3.5 years ahead, in terms of reading, of their peers at age 11. Unfortunately, if you look at the results in the slightest detail, the headline figure doesn't look as rosy. In terms of spelling, the synthetic phonics group were 1.75 years ahead, which still looks good. In comprehension they were 3.5 months ahead, which I doubt is significant. 3.5 years ahead in reading, but with no comensurate increase in comprehension. Unfortunately, results at 16 aren't available, but I'd hazard that it comes to nothing. A much larger study in the US found no difference in primary age children.
I have to confess that I still don't understand how synthetic phonics is supposed to work in practice. The composing words from basic sounds part appears sensible, but English is one of the most irregular languages around. Armed with your basic letter sounds, your average five year is going to have no trouble reading the word "toe" - t is "tuh", oe is "oh". Easy. Unless you have a girl called Zoe in the class, when you have to explain that while z is "zuh" but, in this case, oe isn't "oh", o is "oh" and e is "ee". How you sound out tough, plough, though, through is rather beyond me. I guess you teach the 45 sounds (or is it 44? or 43? 42? - experts don't agree) to begin with, then spend the rest of the time teaching all the special cases. You can't satisfactorily sound out short words like the or one, you just have to know them. That's a whole word approach though, which won't be allowed. Perhaps you could explain how an e at the end of a word modifies a vowel - hop becomes hope, for example - but that's part of analytic phonics. Oops. You can only understand the some words, like read, in the context of the sentence in which it occurs, and sometimes you might need even more than that. Oops, that's not allowed either.
In a statement welcoming the change to the curriculum, Chris Woodhead, the former Chief Inspector of Schools says
Jim Rose, who wrote the report, was working with me at Ofsted in 1997 and he argued for synthetic phonics and he was defeated.I don't see anyone suggesting "magic osmosis", and feeble insults about current teaching hardly constitute a compelling argument. The only idealogues here seem to be those "tradionalists" advocating a synthetic phonics only approach. I've never met a primary school teacher who taught reading using a single method, nor have I heard one say any single method is best, or even better, than any other. They use a multi-faceted approach, and I'm fairly sure teachers always have. I wasn't taught using solely synthetic phonics at any of the four primary schools I attended - perhaps because my Mum had indvertantly ruined my future by teaching me to read at home. I'm pretty sure my brothers weren't taught using synthetic phonics alone. I bet you weren't either, no matter when or where you went to primary school. The tradional method, as best I can tell, is to use a combination of different approaches. It worked in the past, it works now.
David Blunkett, who was secretary of state at the time wanted to listen to ideologues, the advisors, on the other side who believed that children learnt to read by a process of magic osmosis.
Nothing cheeses off a professionals more than being told how to do their jobs. Is a dubious increase in reading comprehension worth rubbing the nation's primary school teachers the wrong way? Do we actually want to take skills and methods off a teacher's pallette? Daniel, at school now, I want to be taught by engaged and committed teachers, not pissed-off teachers doing what they've been ordered to do. Harry, when he starts, I want to learn to enjoy reading as a fun, exciting, interesting thing to do, not a soulless mechanistic exercise in constructing sounds.
Jim Rose, author of the report prompting this decision, has said that "it is an act of faith" because has "absolutely no idea" exactly how much synthetic phonics would help to improve literacy. Education Secretary Ruth Kelly's big on faith too, but if they'll both forgive me I'm going to put my faith in my kids' teachers to do what they think is right.
The phonics thing appears to be a reaction to the whole-word flashcard approach that meant that children couldn't build up to reading words that they hadn't seen before on a flashcard. That was a reaction to the previous guise of phonics the Initial Training Alphabet (anyone remember that?) which actually used the phonetic alphabet to help us learn to read (to get over the tough/through problem).
The other wierd thing is that they seem to be teaching the method explicitly to the children too. Zoe (just 5) says to me "I need to do better blending" (And she's not talking about a cookery class). Why does she need to know the mechanics of who she is learning?
We have a Glaswegian friend living here in Manchester, who gets very hot and bothered about a reading scheme that says the following words should all be pronounced the same:
/aw/ shore, sure, shaw...which they are not in Scottish English.
I would get similarly hot and bothered if they tried to teach a strong local Mancunian pronuncation. Mind you all the kids seem to pronounce both vowels in ro-ad, sho-es...must ask about that. Perhaps there's a Bury Metropolitan Council version of phonics?
Unfortunately, my faith in teachers having the slightest clue about children, child development, and teaching is a lot lower than it was when I completed my education. Perhaps it's because they've just had too much contradictory input from educational psychologists. Or perhaps it's just a general deterioration of quality that we are seeing in education, health, etc etc.
Or perhaps I am turning into a miserable old git.
Just collected my shiny new pair of glasses. The whole world looks brighter - for the past few months, as the anti-scratch/anti-reflect coating on my old pair broke down, it's been increasingly like wandering around in fog through windows smeared in vaseline. Hurrah for high-refractive-index-optical-tech!
Working from home isn't like working in an office. It's entirely possible, in a normal office day, to do absolutely no work at all, but for no one to notice, least of all you. Working at home is different, because you're become quite aware of what you should be doing, and consequenly aware of when you're not doing.
Focus is important, focussing on the work - what the work is, what you need to do to get it done, when it needs to be done by. I'll come back to this another time. If I cba (boom, boom).
Maintaining focus can be hard, especially when the work is difficult or boring, but you have to grit your teeth. Sometime's it can be useful to take a ten-second oil break, so long as that doesn't turn into spending all afternoon watching wrestling videos on YouTube.
I know you're all dying to find out what the ASA made of my complaint about Domestos spray. Well, they didn't uphold it. The ASA accepted Unilever's assertion that their intention in this advert was to educate people about the role of hygienic cleaning of surfaces using bleach to kill all kinds of germs, including flu. Either Unilever has gigantic balls to try this, or the ASA has no balls at all by accepting it.
Advertisements, by definition, are not educative in any sense other than to alert people to your product's existance. Further, a picture of a bottle of bleach and the slogan "Kill Flu Germs, It's Self-Defence. Millions of Germs Will Die" hardly helps to inform people that a regular hygienic cleaning regime, with a suitable product, of frequent hand-contact surfaces such as taps, switches, handles and phones was an effective way of reducing the risk of flu nor will it make them aware that flu, and other germs, could be contracted from surfaces or killed by bleach.
If this was Unilever's intent, then why choose to highlight flu? Flu is primarily spread by aerosol droplets of saliva or by direct contact with an infected person. NHS Direct, for example, makes no mention of transmission of flu via kitchen surfaces. Why not the far more obvious example of food poisoning - campylobacter or salmonella, for instance? All the advice I've read on avoiding food poisoning (like this) mention keeping utensils, cutting boards and work surfaces clean. Perhaps they just picked a bad example. Perhaps they're backtracking and trying to make it fit retrospectively.
I wonder if I can appeal the ASA ruling?
I think there is a complaint to be made about this add but It think its more along the lines of: it could encourage people to use Domestos against people.
Do you remember the stories from a few years ago about people loading their SuperSoakers (tm) with bleach?
Kids are both sick with fluishness. We are preparing to get sick ourselves, but without the luxury of being able to sit on the sofa under a blanket all afternoon, have random temper tantrums or sleep in as long as we like.
Went down to the Nature Centre, home of the roving red panda, with Hal-baby at the weekend. They're currently preparing a new enclosure for some lemurs which arrive later in the year. No lemurs equals no fun, you might think. But not so! A digger and men wearing hard hats in a cage are just as, if not more, interesting than any animal. We also enjoyed the ten minutes entertainment provided by the guy washing out the water trough in the wallaby pen.
After months of no doubt feverish investigation and adjudication, the Advertising Standards Authority have ruled on my complaint against Domestos. The report will be published next Wednesday, and released under embargo to the press on Monday. Rather sweetly, and perhaps a touch naively, they ask that I too treat it as confidential until then. Bless.
I don't know if this is a new policy for the ASA but I think it does show that self-publishing is a force to be noticed.
... hard up against the ceiling. They don't seem even the slightest bit deflated. I might start taking bets ...
My chum Ken took me out for lunch on Tuesday, which was jolly decent of him. He's recently given up his swanky (expensive) offices to work from home, so wanted to pick up a bit of working-from-home-fu. Not sure I really helped a great deal, especially as I gave him all last years 2000ADs. He gave me some copies of BEM from 1979 to 1981.
BEM is a gone, but not quite forgotton, comics fanzine put together by a guy called Martin Lock. He later went on to set up Harrier Comics, and as such has played a pretty significant role in the development of comics in this country. I'd never actually seen a copy of BEM before, and they really are quite wonderful. First of all, of course, they are from a time before desktop publishing so they look very different from today's zines. Next, you notice the sheer quantity of words. The articles are longer, far longer than you see today particularly on the web. They're qualitively different too.
Comics companies are extrememly media-savvy these days (which is what you'd expect really, what with them being media companies) and seem to keep quite a tight rein on news, creator interviews and so on. Many creators now are on exclusive contracts, for example, so can't actually talk about what they do without permission. There appears to be all this comics news, but most of it is basically press releases because comics news websites have the same relationship with comics publishers as, for example, E! has with Hollywood film studios. Thirty years ago that wasn't the case. Issue 29 of BEM, from 1980, has a massive, I mean really enormous, interview with Steve McManus and Alan Grant, then editor and sub-editor of 2000AD. It rambles all over the place, is interesting (even now), and doesn't pull any punches -
McManus: ... I took Nick Landau's job in fact.Interviews like that don't seem to exist anymore, anywhere.
Interviewer: He left?
McManus: He didn't leave actually, there was a bit of skull-duggery which was nothing to do with me. He was double-crossed. I think you ought to ask him about that, not me.
Interviewer: How did you become editor?
McManus: I became editor when Kelvin resigned as editor.
Interviewer: It all sounds a bit underhand.
McManus: He'd had enough of 2000AD, he wasn't being able to do what he wanted, he wasn't getting on with the people above him, and he decided to resign.
Amusingly, BEM drops its already slightly too-small typeface another point or two for the letter columns. Years later Pete, unknowingly I'm sure, did the same for Vicious, and I'm sure Andy Brewer had to do the same for Battleground. Letters were so important to the health of zine, and yet you didn't want it to look that way. So you dropped a point, to try and keep the number of pages down. BEM also breaks up the letters pages with random spot illustrations, something again repeated a decade and more later by Battleground and Vicious.
No idea if the sample I have is indicative, but BEM had terrific cover illustrations -
I got a couple of issues of BEM in a job-lot of zines and SP comics and, to be honest, wasn't all that impressed. Methinks you've got something of a good crop here.
BTW sorry for the birod on bra and pants in the Moon Man strip - I was scared my mum would find me in possession of nude lady drawings!
To be honest I'm surprised at your comments that zines don't carry "honest" interviews anymore, or the like. Very surprised. I kinda expected the game would've notched up a gear or two in this respect.
The long interviews are good aren't they? I may have another one or two kicking around here somewhere - certainly one with a huge Pat Mills piece (Nemesis the Warlock cover), and a great little zine called Fantasy Express interviewing Joe Colquhoun (sp?) of Charley's War (Battle). I'll dig around...
Google fodder this really ...
Daniel turned six last Tuesday. When I tell me childless chums this they says things like "Doesn't seem like that long ago when he was born. Blimey I'm getting old ...". They're getting old. Humph. Anyway, birthday time is party time. We offered him a vast array of choices at a number of local party venues, largely targetted at not having the house trashed by a crowd of hopped-up kids. He declined them all, insisting he wanted a party at home. So we kind of compromised and hired an entertainer - Rags. I've seen a number of kiddies' entertainers of the last few years, and she leaves them all in the dust. She was terrific. There something really quite scary and magical watching someone completely command a roomful of kids, even factoring in "stranger-authority". And she can make balloon-animals. What a woman!
Been so busy ...
FACT: Kids love helium balloons
FACT: Helium balloons last about a day before the helium leaches out, leaving to balloon looking like something even Eeyore wouldn't put in his jar
Astonishing new FACT: The previous sentence need NOT be TRUE!
I'd assumed helium balloons deflated quickly because the helium leaked out through the knot. Helium's a tiny molecule, I reasoned, it's just dribbling slowly out. Not so - apparently helium is so tiny it outgasses through the balloon itself. If you ask your party-shop proprietor to "high float" the balloon, they'll put a little bit of sealant in first which the helium can't cross. It's top! We bought a couple of balloons last Monday, and they're still banging up against the ceiling today. Best extra 10p we ever spent.
M.Lawrenson (A Level Chemistry class, Newcastle Under Lyme College 1992-94)
|<< February 2006||April 2006 >>|