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Tiananmen Square – 22 years on

June 4th, 2011 No comments

A day in the life of…

November 26th, 2009 1 comment

The following story is completely factual. Any deviation from reality is either completely coincidental or due to hallucinations induced by sustained sleep deprivation

00:00 Midnight, the floor is still half full and pretty lively. Joker #1 and Joker #2, who are *always* here despite having no work to do, are still here and joking around, not going home. Plenty of work to do, more arriving every 10 minutes. The air con turns off with a whine at exactly midnight – a strange silence fills the office. Can not handle – must send email to building security to keep air con on till 4am.
01:30 Face time is up – mass clearing out of juniors with no real work. Just the seriously working left now. Receive SMS asking whether I was asleep. Reply “not even close”.
02:15 The lights switch off – for a moment the office is as dark as the night outside, broken only by the few mmonitors which are still lit, accompanied with the click-clack of keyboards. Then somebody stirs, and the sensor switch sends the lights flickering back on. About a third of the floor remains dark – they must have all dropped dead at their desks.
02:30 Receive the final batch of tasks – can finally work in peace. The office is empty except for the desktop publishing lady who is on duty for another few hours. Click clack. It’s kind of fun to be in the office alone. When the lights die again, I don’t bother going to the switch and try to avoid moving – the dark is more soothing for tired eyes.
03:00 File sent to the world – time to go home. Cab ride takes 10 minutes – so tired I’m ready to just plonk into bed and…
08:15 …and it’s 8:15! I’m not going to make it in by 9. No time for breakfast – pack lunch, answer a couple of emails on blackberry, and run. No bus in sight – off we go a-walking to the city, hi ho.
09:20 Unread emails: 19; number of shed hair on desk: 6; number of paper cups from last night: 4
11:00 Flurry of morning work has died down a little. Open a link I received by email. “Bottling up work stress leads to heart attacks and death”. Good to know. The scientists conducting the study recommend talking openly about your frustrations, perhaps shouting at the other person. I wonder how that would work with an associate director who is particularly frustrating to work with. I suppose the rest of the floor would soon get an email informing them “Tommy has decided to go travelling. Good luck with his future endeavours.”
12:15 New Zealand on the phone. They are 3 hours ahead of us, so want the stuff 3 hours earlier. Seriously. Australia should just take it over and make them follow Sydney time.
15:00 “Boss, I heard the grads are working terrible hours and on the brink of suicide.” “Really? Let’s give them a break – tell them to give us a funny joke presentation before the whole firm on Friday. Yes, that’s just 24 hours away, but they should be used to deadlines like this.” Pointless midnight meetings, anyone?
17:00 Take a walk to the convenience stall to buy some juice – sidewalks full of people going home. Wishing I had a job where sunset meant going home, not the start of the second shift. Shake head, grab my juice, and head back to my desk – work has been piling up in the five minutes that I was gone for.
20:00 Dinner has not arrived. Hungry…
20:30 Dinner has arrived. No longer hungry.
23:00 Work is winding down, but there’s an urgent meeting to discuss defamatory material for the joke presentation tomorrow. Joy.
24:00 Midnight, the floor is still half full and pretty lively…

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London #3: Palace of Westminster

October 23rd, 2007 2 comments

From Tommy’s notebook. Photo link: London – Westminster

dsc04924.JPGdsc04924.JPGdsc04924.JPGdsc04924.JPGWhere: Palace of Westminster, London SW1A

When: Saturday 29 September 2007, 11am-12:30pm

Blurb: The Palace of Westminster, also known as the Houses of Parliament, is the site of the two houses of the United Kingdom parliament.

My thoughts: The Houses of Parliament are open for guided tours during the summer recess, and for public observation during sittings. The former gives you wider access and more information, but the latter is free, and lets you see politicians in action.

While the intricate (fiddly) carvings and Gothic towers give the building the image of a relic of a bygone era, it is very much a living organism still full of vitality. At the entrance to the House of Commons, for example, the hall is ringed with busts and statues of great prime ministers, and not just Winston Churchill or Benjamin Disraeli – Margaret Thatcher launches forth, fingers pointing, from her pedestal. Several pedestals and alcoves remain bare, a reminder of the future.

Ceremony and symbolism is everywhere, and much more palpable than at, say, Buckingham Palace. At the same time, there is a marked contrast between the Lords’ section, and that of the Commons. The tour enters from the sovereign’s entrance. At the end of a long corridor is an ante room filled with busts of Prime Ministers who have come from the House of Lords – unlike the equivalent colleciton at Commons, there doesn’t seem to be provision for any future additions. This part of the Palace is decorated in red from head to toe. The architectural design aims to facilitate the monarch’s procession. The art focuses on the glories of the British nation – Waterloo and Trafalgar, King Arthur, other great kings of the past.

As one moves towards Commons, the theme changes. A series of paintings around Saint Stephen’s Tower, the central tower that separates Lords from the Commons, reminds the visitor of the violence and turmoil that lead to the uneasy truce between Parliament and Sovereign. The House of Commons chamber is significantly smaller than the Lords – apparently as a result of Churchill’s

The division between the Commons on the one hand and the Lords and Sovereign on the other extends outside. The courtyard outside the Lords’ section features an equestrian statue of King Richard I, while the much smaller space outside the Commons’ section features a standing statue of Oliver Cromwell. On the other side, Westminster Bridge, which crosses the Thames at the Commons’ end of the building, is painted in a green theme, while Lambeth Bridge, at the Lords’ end, has a red theme.


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