Tuesday, August 22, 2017

The DVD recorder returns!

After an extremely long wait (it took me a week to take the DVD from my house to my son-in-law's, a 200 metre walk, it took him over a week to take the DVD to the repair shop, it took them nearly two weeks to make the repair and then another week for my son-in-law to collect the machine...), the DVD recorder has now been reinstalled at home. I made the wrong connections at first but afterwards sorted everything out, so now the television can display either directly from Yes Max (tivo) or from the DVD, which can record from Yes Max. I have yet to connect the old video recorder to the dvd as I am lacking a cable for this. There isn't much justification for this as there are very few videos which I want to transfer to dvd and haven't done so yet.

I have a large backlog of programmes to be recorded: the second season of 'Madam Secretary' (this will be 22-23 episodes!), the ninth series of 'New Tricks' (eight episodes), a four part series about children's literature, 'Sing Street', 'Bird on a wire' and probably a few other programmes. I can record a 40 minute programme early in the morning - between me getting up and leaving for work - but the films and longer programmes will have to wait for the weekend.

This machine is going to see some heavy work over the next few weeks.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Submitting an outline

A month ago, I wrote that my university has returned me to the initial stage of doctoral candidacy. During that month I have been twiddling my thumbs, waiting to hear that someone has been assigned to me as a supervisor so that I can submit my new research proposal. I have to admit that I have fast been losing any loyalty to my university and so investigated by means of shallow web searches whether it might be better to start afresh at a different university. None of the doctoral programmes which I checked seemed suitable, and all of them are more expensive than my current option, so I haven't gone any further with this. I ignored any sites which appeared to award degrees in return for money.

Finally last night I received an email from the doctoral programme administrator: "please submit a 3-4 page outline of your intended research, so that I can shop it around and find a suitable supervisor". So I took the 16 page research proposal (which I had already reduced from a 32 page intermediate submission) and edited it brutally, resulting in a four page document, including only a few references. I didn't change any of the wording, but simply left out a great deal. Maybe now things will get moving again.

At least I don't have to pay supervision fees for this stage: I wrote previously to the administrator that I had received very little supervision over the past year, requesting a significant discount. I am also hoping that the period between now and having the research proposal accepted will be short (which would make the fees expensive). Last time, it took from the beginning of March until the end of August (six months), which I was told is fast. I intend to shorten that time.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Road 38 is brought into the 21th century!

Until about six years ago, every morning I would drive out of the kibbutz gates at about 6:45 am, continue about 1 km to the junction between our side road and Road 38, and then take my chances with the heavy traffic for about 3.5 km until I got to the turn off which leads to the industrial region where my factory is situated. Even at this early hour, the road would be congested; there was one place where three lanes of traffic converge into one, which was always a bottleneck. Although I could alleviate this somewhat by driving on the road's shoulder (after all, I am riding a motorbike), the ride was seriously unpleasant. The turn off to the industrial region was to the left, meaning that I had to wait for a break in the opposing traffic before turning - another surge of adrenaline and probably cortisone. Coming back was slightly easier, as the two left turns had now become right turns, but frequently I got caught by a train entering the station at about 16:40 (I had to negotiate two level crossings).

On 18/10/11 (I remember this date well because it was the day that Gil'ad Shalit was released from captivity), a back road was opened which meandered through areas set aside for new industrial areas, before connecting to an entrance to the regional school, which is very close to my house. I immediately adopted this route as no one else seemed to know about it. It was very quiet, shorter and generally stress-free. It also avoided the train. At the end of 2013, I wrote about this route, although neglected to add that a few months later, I discovered that I had indeed fractured my thumb. The surface of the road has gotten worse over the years and is now full of potholes and other things to avoid, which made the journey uncomfortable. One section - albeit only a few hundred metres - required extreme concentration.

Over the years, the industrial areas have filled out and traffic on the back road has gotten heavier. At the same time, huge improvements have been planned and implemented on Road 38. The final stage - as far was we were concerned - was completed on Thursday. This followed a few days of almost complete chaos and very heavy traffic on what should be a country lane.

On Thursday afternoon, I returned home on the new road: even better than before, there is now a turn-off before the one to the kibbutz, which connects to part of my previous route. Obviously the new road, but also the part of the old road which leads to the regional school is in good condition, so the journey was a pleasure. This morning I repeated the experience: barely another car did I see, and of course I was able to travel reasonably fast as I didn't have to dodge holes and whatever on the road.

I think that the journey has shortened slightly: it appears to be slightly less than the previous 4.5 km. I'll measure it again today. Fuel efficiency may also be increased, but the main thing is that the ride has ceased to be stress inducing, and is now invigorating.

I imagine that all other users of Road 38 are also very happy.

Friday, August 11, 2017

One second of fame

A few weeks ago, two youngsters from the kibbutz came into our flat with a strange request: they wanted to film us separately singing a phrase from a popular Israeli song, acapella. It took a few minutes for this to sink in, but eventually my wife was filmed singing one phrase, and I was filmed singing another. Afterwards, they explained that they were going to make a montage of all the people singing, so that there would be a complete song. The things people do to make publicity for our local pub (hangout of the under-thirties).

Yesterday everyone on the kibbutz was sent a message, saying that the film had been uploaded to YouTube. I tried watching it on my phone, but it was very difficult to make anything out. Today I watched it on my computer, of course looking out for myself. I can be found at about 1:51, in the middle; if you watch and see a cow in the middle, then go back a second and you will see me there, wearing a pale green shirt.

Here is my one second of fame.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Friend leaving work

I have always felt ambivalent about someone leaving 'the framework' - if it was the youth movement, the kibbutz or the company. Obviously, there have been many cases of people leaving which have not had any effect on me, and some cases where I have been pleased that the person has left, but there have been those cases where someone close to me has left.

A colleague - and one of my few personal friends at work - is leaving today, after 11 years. We have worked together closely during most of those years and I would like to think that we advanced the company a great deal. We complemented each other's talents and that synergy is what fueled the advances.

Naturally, I am ambivalent about his leaving: on the one hand, I understand that he has to do what is the correct thing for him (i.e. he has to put himself first). On the other hand, I fear that those who will replace him lack the knowledge and foresight to truly replace him, and so I don't want him to go. Obviously I wish him luck.

I don't know how I will feel in a month's time (or more): I suspect that there will be a lack of technical advance, which will be a shame, but is not particularly my problem. I also suspect that there will be a weakening of my ties to the company.

The new package of Theanine arrived yesterday; as I expected, I had very vivid dreams during the night, and today I've been yawning all the time (although this may also be due to a lack of general activity). Coincidentally or not, I was dreaming about going to Fairport's Cropredy Festival, which happens to start today. I have to admit that that most of the dream was quite different from the reality, although the general theme of the dream was about the festival. A real coincidence is that the music accompanying my morning walk came from The Albion Band's "Battle of the field" album, on which play three Fairporters. Not a total coincidence, but close enough.

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

Dealing with angry people shouting at me on the telephone

Unfortunately, I sometimes have to deal with angry people shouting at me on the telephone. I understand that their anger probably is due to frustration with Priority, when they are apparently unable to perform some function. I get the feeling that my usual reaction - that there is no real problem - only increases their frustration. Whilst I am good at solving problems in Priority, I am not so good at calming people down, and I tend to begin shouting back at them ... which solves nothing.

I often tell these people to send me an email, telling me what the problem is, along with full details. Sometimes this is sufficient, but frequently those who shout at me tend not to be able to write very well - which is why they phoned me in the first place.

I lack the tools to deal with these people on the phone. Should I let them rant at length until they get tired, and then ask a pertinent question? It is my experience that these people don't answer the question that I ask, but continue ranting.

Obviously, I had a case like this today. Someone (a Russian) called me, full of frustration, saying that he couldn't update a warehouse transfer. As I was in the middle of something when he called, I asked him to send me the number of the transfer. About ten minutes later, I received his email and checked the transfer: it was at a status which allows updates, and I even changed a few values to be certain that there was no other problem (I changed them back to their original values). I wrote and told him this. 

A few minutes later, he calls me back, even more enraged. I try to ask him something - more rage. I try to explain (not being very successful in holding back my own rage) that it would be better if I ask questions and try and help on the basis of the answers to those questions. He reluctantly agrees, but after I ask my next question, he continues ranting. I don't bother answering; I hang up - which should be inexcusable, but seems to be the only thing that I can do.

I then send another letter, explaining again that the transfer is editable, and that he should cite the part number which is giving him problems. I have yet to receive an answer (this was several hours ago). I would like to think that he tried to update the transfer and discover that he was able to, and so felt no need to communicate with me further. I should point out that this is someone with whom I have very little contact and is geographically remote from me.

It often happens that people say to me (calmly!) that they have a problem; when I talk them through whatever they are doing, the problem magically goes away. I call this the 'white coat syndrome', after the strange effect that a doctor's white coat has on patients' blood pressure. Practically, it comes down to paying more attention when doing something. But the frustration often causes less attention, which leads to more problems....

Again, my problem is how to calm these people down sufficiently in order to talk them through what needs to be done. I inflame their anger instead of dousing it. Maybe I would be better at this if I had more practice! I should ask someone to make angry phone calls to me every day ... but then of course, if the anger is faked, then my attempts to defuse the situation will be ignored.

Wednesday, August 02, 2017

Theanine again

I have written a few times about the food supplement theanine. What I apparently have not mentioned is that I have been buying it from the online shop iHerb, along with stinging nettle tea, mint chocolate and peanut butter. Normally this shop supplies orders very quickly, but my last order - from the end of May - went missing. After waiting and waiting and waiting, I eventually got in contact with the shop and told them about the non-delivery; they credited me with the cost. Of course, a week later, the small parcel turned up! In the interim, I have bought stinging nettle tea from the local health shop (who didn't stock it for several months) and so don't feel any burning need to order anything from iHerb.

I have run out of theanine and have yet to re-order; I have been wondering for some time whether I would feel any effects of not taking this supplement. Based on my experiences of the past few days, theanine definitely makes a difference. I wrote ten months ago I've noticed that during my morning walk with the dog, I have lost the feeling of despondency which used to accompany me - this is the anti-anxiety aspect of theanine working. I wouldn't describe my current feeling as despondent, but I have definitely been feeling stressed out in the past few days and under a great deal of pressure. Little things - like the wording of some people's emails - are enough to annoy me, with that feeling persisting for several hours.

So it would seem that I definitely need theanine! 

I wonder whether I should increase the daily intake from 150mg to 200mg. The picture above shows what I have been buying until now; this has a good balance between price per capsule and number of capsules (the fewer the capsules, the more frequently I have to order thus paying more shipping costs). All of the other options show only 60 capsules per bottle, which means ordering once every two months.  I think I will 'splash out' and buy a bottle with 120 capsules, each containing 200mg - then I won't have to order for four months. This would definitely be cheaper than buying two bottles of 60 capsules of 200mg. I may be concerned about my health but I'm also concerned about my pocket.

Tuesday, August 01, 2017

Donating blood (3)

I went to give blood yesterday evening. The last time I tried, I was disqualified as my haemoglobin level was slightly too low. This time I didn't even get as far as having my haemoglobin measured: I was disqualified on a technicality. I don't know what the procedure is like in other countries, but here first one fills out a questionnaire, then a medic (?) goes over the questionnaire and checks answers, then one's blood pressure and haemoglobin level is measured. One is  permitted to give blood only if the two checking stations give their permission.

The questionnaire contains all manner of personal details, including visits abroad, previous illnesses, sexual practices (I used to comment that homosexuality is banned whereas bestiality is fine - because there's no question about sex with animals), medication, etc. Some of these questions are designed to save the donor from problems and some are designed to obtain 'good' blood. It often seems that despite the desire to obtain as many blood donations as possible, there is a counter-intention to block as many 'inferior' donations as possible (my term). One question asks about invasive procedures in the past six months: as I had an endoscopy two months ago with biopsy, I am disqualified.

It doesn't matter that the endoscopy and the biopsy showed that everything is ok; the biopsy is performed with a utensil which is used many times (although obviously being sterilised between patients) and so is a no-no for the ultra strict requirements of blood donation.

I decided several years ago that I would stop even trying to donate blood after two successive rejections. Well, those two rejections have now occurred and so I recuse myself from ever giving blood again.

In this case, something trumps altruism.