Gossip, gossip, gossip

Yes, there has been a major excitement at work, and every office is buzzing. Nick has shaved off his beard. It took a little while to percolate, but once people realised, there was a continual stream of people coming to check this, that and the other, and make sure to get a good look at the previously-concealed jawline. Needless to say, it was Jeanette who stepped right out there and asked why he’d done it. And lo and behold, our unremarkable coder has managed to bag himself a starring role in his local village production of The Wizard of Oz.

He explained that some years ago someone had heard him sing, and suggested that he would be an asset. So he had joined the chorus, and stood in the back row whenever possible. Being painfully shy, he had never admitted to anyone he was there, but apparently there is photographic evidence that he dressed as a cowboy in Oklahoma. This year, flu and children and university had struck at the available menfolk. He had boldly stepped into the breach and auditioned. (I would have paid good money – or money with no moral qualities whatsoever – to have seen that) and either due to his assets or the company’s liabilities, he had been given the role of the Tin Man. This is a part that demands a certain absence in the facial hair department, so he had ventured into the local Boots and bought one of those cut your own hair devices to remove all the long hair, and a razor with seventeen blades at different angles (I may be exaggerating slightly for effect here) to create the required metallic smoothness.

I think that it probably, all in all, lost the company half a day’s work as the news was passed from room to room and cubicle to cubicle. Dates were put in diaries for people to go and see the show.

Even better than that, of course, was what the company gained. Enthusiasm, interest, and a better understanding of developers. They were cheered by people coming in to see them. They were happy that people wanted to know what they did. Even better, the people who dropped by to see the amazing, never-before-displayed chin also dropped by to see what was going to be happening and signed up on the “I’m willing to test” sheet.

I think that the person who made a comment about whether Nick really was “a friend of Dorothy” was being a little unfair. After all, a liking for musicals is perfectly possible to combine with a liking of lego. It’s just a little unusual.

Anyway, I’m definitely going to be buying my ticket for the team night-out to watch him saunter down the yellow brick road, singing “If I only had a heart”. I’ll even offer to give other people lifts.

Sorry, I seem rather to have omitted any user interface information at all, but this is seriously exciting news. I’ll be back on the Doctors V Accountants front real soon now though.

The smell of brandy lingers

Coming down to the kitchen this morning, there was a definite odour of brandy. This may have been from the left-over Christmas pudding (flamed in brandy) or the sundry articles involved in flaming. The new Christmas experiment this year was playing Snapdragon. We didn’t research how to play, so merely put raisins on a plate, poured flaming brandy over them and then snatched raisins out of the flame. There was a certain excitement in watching raisins re-ignite. Apparently we should have put raisins in a bowl of brandy and then set light to that. Oh well, maybe next year. We still have some brandy left, and it’s not high on my list of liquids for easy drinking.

I am feeling slightly jaded this morning, and pondering the pleasures of doing things that are difficult and entertaining and challenging. Playing music and singing, well, all the arts in fact, are not improved by making them user-friendly. User-friendliness is about tools rather than skills.Many human pleasures involve setting oneself challenges and putting barricades in one’s way (otherwise called rules).

I went to the public library before Christmas to stock up on reading material for the festive period. I was very entertained when I realised that my heart had leapt in excitement – not from the new Barbara Kingsolver or Martin Amis, but when I saw a newly returned copy of John Seddon’s Systems Thinking in the Public Sector. Just what I needed. Admittedly I’ve read the new Barbara Kingsolver and am in the middle of Rupert Everett’s second volume of autobiography, but I’m sure that once the mince pies have been digested, I’ll be telling all my friends about how to set up systems in a better way – because usability applies to organisations as well as objects. Yes, my new year’s resolution – do a blog post on systems in my company and how to improve them.