Living in a new world, living in the past

Microsoft are finally fully switching Hotmail over to Outlook.com. I still have a hotmail address but I haven’t been moved yet.

I do want to keep my hotmail address. I only use it as a spam repository these days, having moved all my professional functions over to Google. But I’m horribly attached to the name. I’ve had it since I was a teenager, obsessed with Queen and entirely unaware that whatever handle I chose would still be chasing me around the web 15 years later.

In those days of the internet I chose all my usernames and handles based on my inner identity rather than my external name. Fun and anonymity were encouraged and expected. It’s why in the Manics fan world I’m still known as Terminal Young Thing – a handle I picked because I was young, forgetting that one day I may be older, may be wiser. At one point I considered selected a new handle but I realised that the full lyric I’m gonna stay a terminal young thing from Methadone Pretty forbade such a change. So it stuck, and little TYT is still a large part of my online and inner identity.

But that came later. This email address predates even manicsfandom. I picked it because I wanted a Queen-based identity, but one that was female. There aren’t many. Lady Mercy would have been an obvious candidate but I didn’t like it, and anyway, I think it was taken. For a while I used brian_may39 until I realised that it was one thing to use a moniker for an ID, but another thing entirely to use someone else’s name.

In the end I picked a line from The Fairy-Feller’s Master Stroke. I didn’t like the song that much, I didn’t get any of the mythology references, or care for the art that inspired it. I just wanted a girl’s name. So I became The Nymph In Yellow. It formed the basis of my email address and several other online IDs. It was cumbersome to write and embarrassing to spell out but by the time it had outrun its cuteness, it was attached to too much of the internet to easily move.


The painting that inspired and song that inspired an online life

A couple of years ago, I gave it the slip and created an ‘grown up’ email address. Again I considered closing my antiquated hotmail name, but this I kept it for the past, and for the future. I little knew, aged 13, what a teenager and adult I would become or what my tastes would be in music, books, films and people. Which is why, when I hear the full lyric I can’t help but smile:

Fairy dandy tickling the fancy
Of his lady friend
The nymph in yellow

Fairy dandy. Bowie, Brett, Bernard, Wire, Wilde, Wodehouse, Waugh, all the other Ws on the www dot.

Seems I did know myself after all, half a life time ago.

Hanging on

A conversation in the work kitchen this morning:

Colleague: What did you do this weekend?
Me: I un-hung a door.
C: Why?
Me: It was in the way.
C: Isn’t that sort of the point of a door? To be in the way? Between you and the other room?

And well, yes. It is. But it’s also the point of a door to open more than 45 degrees without being hindered by a bed. Strictly I suppose the bed was in the way, but the bed is less movable. And I need a bed. I don’t need a door in front of a closet. Especially as the closet will soon be a micro library.

I was going to put the door under above obstructive bed but the handles are not the detachable sort, so it wouldn’t fit. Instead it’s behind my desk doubling as an impromptu notice board and a ‘unique bijou feature’. I think that’s the term. It was a bit of a struggle to move the unhinged door but I managed it without injury. Just. Doors, you will be shocked to hear, are heavy.

I have such DIY plans for my tiny tiny bedroom.

I assembled the desk last week, without any of the necessary equipment. It turns out that although an instruction manual claims you will need a screwdriver, a second person and a hammer, in fact all you need is a pair of scissors, a stack of books and sheer bloody will. Incidentally, this is not the first time I have used books as a substitute for a person, and I doubt it will be the last.

*assumes some kind of Keatsian pose, exits stage left*

I’m sorry, I’ll read that again.

So, nearly three months after I carelessly clicked ‘upgrade’ from my hosting console rather than WordPress itself, causing the CMS to go up in flames, I return!

It didn’t take long to fix in the end, once I’d located the problem.

Thing is, I’m a little bit sad it didn’t die. I didn’t want to leave a website hanging, but properly whacking in the HTML googlies would have been a relief.

I want, need and should start from scratch. I want to re-think, re-architect and reconsider what I put here. I’ve got all my content backed up so a dead website would have been just the trigger.

On the other hand, the last thing I need right now is yet another project.

I’m already building two websites for others, and desperately, desperately trying to write a book, and the workload is sucking all the love out of it.

In the last three months I’ve also moved house three times, across three cities, so y’know, forgive me if I’m not full of whimsical anecdotes right now.

Baby steps. I will not be tested beyond my ability. That’s the promise. Don’t forget to look up.

Dear The Queen,

I wish to formally express my intention to apply for the post of Archbishop of Canterbury. I attach my application below. (I do hope that you are accepting outside applications; as I’m sure your Majesty is well aware our own Lord Jesus Christ was not himself one of the Pharisees or religious stalwarts of the day, and look what he achieved.)

Personal Statement*

About Kathryn
Kathryn is a loyal subject of your Majesty, so much so that she has moved to Latvia. (I am aware that should I be successful in my application, relocation will be mandatory. I trust the Palace has some kind of relocation loans scheme in operation.) She is currently self-employed and spends many days in her own company. Kathryn also volunteers regularly for a local charity which supports disadvantaged children. This quiet life of self-sacrifice ideally lends itself to the role of Archbishop, not least because it involves living in Canterbury, of all places.

Why I am suitable for the role of Archbishop of Canterbury
I feel I am uniquely placed to fulfil the role of the Archbishop of Canterbury for the following principle reasons:
– I hold moderate left wing views, which express themselves in a strong social conscience.
– I am a woman. Appointing me is a simple way to silence the debate about women in church leadership, as I can hold the debate privately, in my head.
– I know all the words to Jerusalem and Henry V’s ‘St. Crispin’s Day’ speech.
– I believe in full seperation of church and state. My appointment will neutralise me and render me harmless to the Anglian church. (Do you really want to leave me on the outside pissing in? Well do you? Don’t cross me, your majesty, I have a blog and I’m not afraid to use it.)
– I look stupid in any hat so that one won’t matter.

Transferable skills
I can read, write, speak, listen and create dodgy powerpoint presentations as much as the next person.

Education and qualifications
– I was christened into the Anglican church, and I went on to play Mary-Mother-of-Jesus in the 1994 nativity. Previously I gave my ‘Angel number three’ and ‘Surprised lamb’ to great applause. All this was years ago; I must be due for a promotion by now.
– I possess three bibles in two languages.
– I have a half-GSCE in Religous Studies (A grade). For my final paper I debated the ethics of George Orwell and Brian May. (You like Brian May, your Majesty, he’s been on your roof. Allow me to ingratiate myself to you further, your Highness, by stating that I like him too.)

Other notable achievements
– I once prayed over a broken CD player, which subsequently worked.
– While at University in Sheffield, I walked up a truly massive hill to get to church each week. If that doesn’t spell commitment to the faith, I don’t know what does.

Closing remarks
I should also add, although I hope it does not hinder my application, that I am a practising christian and I do believe in God, Jesus and the Holy spirit. And, of course, your majesty’s continued health. I don’t fancy that Charles as a boss, thank you very much.

Thank you for your time, your Highness. I trust in your prompt response.

*I have diverged from the standard ‘CV’, lest your Majesty find the Latin unhelpfully Roman in its tastes.

Moving.

Oh hai. I’m back properly after a Christmas break to bring you one of them reflective posts that every blogger is compelled by international law to write within the first two weeks of every new year.

You’ll find no resolutions or remonstrations though. Today I want to focus on something simple: movement. It is after all barely post-christmas. I’m suprised any of us can move.

No, really. Movement. I promise you I have made several big decisions in the last few weeks, all of which I could work into some kind of new year’s rhetoric but I can’t be bothered I won’t trouble you with those. This a light-hearted blog, not Livejournal. Instead, as I said, I’m going to talk about movement.

I think to do movement properly, one has to be mentally and physically prepared. With both of these I need assistance. To be prepared mentally requires energy. This was an issue in my first few weeks in Latvia when I struggled to order even the small of coffees.

That mountain humbled, I’m ready to face the next challenge. How might I use that potential energy to actually move? I’m not a fool. Riga is a city and cities are by their nature pretty big. And it’s raining. Clearly some sort of public transport is in order.

I know, I will get the bus. There are lots of buses here, as well as the trams. Minibuses, autobuses (the normal kind) and trolleybuses which, like the trams, are electric. I’m a left-liberal-save-the-planet type, ish, so of all those the trolleybus sounds like the best place to learn movement.

Now, it’s not an easy thing to do, this movement, so I’ve created a handy step-by-step guide.

1. Look up the timetable
It’s important to know when your bus will be leaving Point A for Point B. It’s also important to know where Point A and Point B are, and the approximate route it will take. Count the number of stops it will make on the way so you know when you’re nearing your destination.

Be careful not to select a journey that’s marked RED in the timetable. Those ones have a mind/route of their own and are BAD BAD BAD.

Don’t take this step for granted. You may regret it later.

2. Get on the bus
Find a seat. Relax. Read a book.

3. Relax too much
Forget to count the number of stops. Realise you don’t have a bloody clue where you are.

4. Don’t panic
Listen very carefully to the muffled annoucements. Your stop will come soon unless you’ve missed it, in which case I can’t help you.

Easy, no?

I thought so, till I got on a bus the other day. I followed these steps to the letter but the stupid bus ended up driving me to Lithuania. Possibly. Wherever it was, it wasn’t to my friends’ flat.

I’ll admit that the destination on the front of the bus wasn’t quite was I was expecting, but it was on time and not one of the services marked BAD RED BAD. Instead of the end of the route, the front of the bus said “along Kristiana Valdemara iela to the park.”

There is a park my by friends’ flat. That is a park by my flat for that matter. In fact, I’d said there are so many parks in central Riga you’d struggle to find a flat that didn’t have at least one substantial piece of green space avec ducks no more than five minutes walk away.

Furthermore, the bus always goes down K. Valdemara iela whether it’s going to Lithuania or not. So all in all not a terribly helpful display: hello, this bus goes exactly where you’d expect it too.

After ten minutes of convincing myself the bus would turn right any second now, I got off the rogue machine only to find, according to the stand at the bus stop, that it wasn’t even meant to stop here! Such gall. I eventually caught another bus back to town, promptly got stuck in a traffic jam and was an hour late arriving.

This incident follows another attempt at movement. Last week I went slightly off course on a tram. However, the trams are confined to their tracks, and the tracks don’t go as far as Lithuania, so that’s OK.

But I can learn from this. Clearly transport is the new coffee. One day I will master it and then, truly, I will be free to move.

Then work came.

I’m at work.

Not at work in my kitchen or at work in a cybercafe*, but at work in an office with other people, overseen by someone who will eventually pay me for my efforts. It’s happened so fast and so smoothly that I can barely believe it, instead believing that God knows what he’s doing and I should just go with it. I mean, this is the second time (out of two) I’ve been plonked in a position which such speed and such defiance for the normal rules I can only call it God’s work and be thankful.

I’m doing a few weeks UX temp work. That’s exactly what I did in London, only in Latvian. Yeah, I don’t know either, but it seems to be OK. I’ve subcontracted the proper translation to Inese and the rest I can read or use Google for. If only the user journey was about ordering coffee, then I’d be fine.

I’m told the UX industry in Latvia is where London was maybe 5-10 years ago. That doesn’t make it easy though because technology has moved on so fast that classic problems have new solutions now. Can I still say that a dodgy navigation system can be fixed by showing a breadcrumb trail when so much content is dynamic? Or that one should always put related links in the right-hand column when the whole Left-Middle-Right structure is no longer so rigid? And can it really be true that “Don’t use sharepoint.” is still my top UX recommendation? (Yes it can.)

*I can only assume that the youth of UX here has dragged up this old prefix from the depths of the internet glossary. I like it though. Maybe it’s time for a revival. Cyberfone. Cyberplayer. Cyberbook. Down the information super highway I go. If you’d like to cyberjourney through cyberspace with me, sign the guestbook below.

Kicking around

Last weekend I went to Sigulda, a small town about an hour’s drive from Riga. So did everyone else in Latvia: it’s renound for beautiful autumn scenes that even my shoddy photography can’t disguise.

Afterwards we played cards in a bar where they served green beer.

Also in the news this week:
– I’ve reached the 15,000 word mark of Lo! The flat hill of my homeland.
– We met as a church in my flat. I brought extra crockery specially.
– I successfully ordered a coffee, in Latvian. YES.