A little bit about my new job…

Three ducks beside the Kinness Burn in St Andrews
Ducks by the Kinnessburn in St Andrews, which I pass each day on my walk to work.

Journey to work

I can hardly believe that it has now been three weeks since I started work at the University of St Andrews. I’ve deliberately not posted much about work on my blog as I’ve been settling in and getting my head around the job, … until now.

Each morning I leave the house here in Cellardyke sometime between 08:20 and 08:35 (depending on the usual variables: the time I got up, how long I spent in the shower, the number of places I have to look for my ID badge, etc.) and walk past the beautiful Cellardyke harbour (sans swan) to my car. It’s a view that I don’t think I’ll ever tire of, looking out towards the Isle of May in the Forth. My drive to St Andrews takes about 20 minutes, and so far has been accompanied by a soundtrack from Metallica, Iron Maiden, Anthrax and Megadeth. It’s a very metal road, it would appear.

I park on Kinnessburn Road, a creatively named road that runs parallel to the Kinness Burn, and then walk from there to North Street, to Butts Wynd, where Business Improvements (BI) is located. In fact, BI is located in the creatively named building called the “Butts Wynd Building”. Bright people who named these streets and buildings. And I certainly approve of that level of usability.

What I do

My job title is Assistant Information Architect/Web Manager, and at present comprises of two main tasks: helping to oversee the redesign of the University website, and assisting the Schools and Units with their websites.

So far I’ve written a report on the Press Office website, and made some updates on the Estates’ Environment and Sustainability Development website. Today was the first time in about six years that I’ve had to deal with nested <font> tags!

Despite having been in post for only three weeks, I must have attended nearly 25 meetings so far. I certainly hit the ground running, with hardly a minute to catch my breath and trying to think strategically about what I might need to prepare for the long-term in this post. That will come, no doubt. And now that the University Web Manager and I have moved into our own office that will certainly help.

My new office

The furniture arrived for the former seminar room on Wednesday, and I finished moving things in this afternoon, with some kind help from a couple of new friends in the Business Improvements office. On of the challenges in getting the room set up is that there is a PC Classroom at the end of the corridor, where there are examinations being held all week. For some reason (I’m sure there must be a good reason) the invigilator doesn’t close the door to the classroom, which means that every time I open the door at the end of the corridor he pops out of the exam room like some kind of meercat! This morning I took some WD40 in and oiled the hinges!

Anyway, here’s my new work environment:

Photograph of my new office.  A desk in the corner of the room, beneath a window.  A table in the foreground, and a bookcase to the left of the desk.

And here’s Steve’s desk — although he hasn’t seen it yet, and I know that he reads my blog, so I don’t want to spoil the surprise!

A pixelated photograph of Steve's desk.

Did I tell you how much I’m loving my job?

Metal thrashing madness!

The real Anthrax line-up: Charlie, Rob, Scott, Frank and John.
The real Anthrax line-up: Charlie, Rob, Scott, Frank and John.

The last couple of days I’ve been listening to Anthrax‘s excellent The Greater of Two Evils CDs in the car on my way to and from work.

I love that album. It collects together a kind of greatest hits of the band, prior to 1993, when ex-Armoured Saint frontman John Bush joined the band and they released the incredible Sound of White Noise album. It’s a greatest hits with a difference. First the set list was chosen by the fans; second it has John Bush singing them … and I have to say that I love John Bush’s voice. It has a power and prescence that neither Joey Belladonna nor Neil Turbin had. When Anthrax parted company with Joey Belladonna in 1992 I wasn’t overly upset. I never thought that his voice was terribly well suited to Anthrax’s music. In fact, I might go as far as saying that I thought it held them back.

I remember hearing Anthrax’s first single with John Bush, Only. I bought it on cassette single (those were the days!) and played it over and over and over again, to and from college, down the back path from David Russell Hall to Melville. It was incredible!

I’ve seen Anthrax a couple of times live now. Both times in Glasgow, once at the Barrowland, once at the Garage. And each time they rocked! Two of the best gigs I’ve ever been too. The Garage concert, in particular, was memorable because of Scott Ian’s winding up the rest of the band with his on-stage banter, and then John Bush stage diving off the speaker stack into the crowd. Now that’s REAL Metal™!

So, when I heard that Anthrax were getting back together to celebrate their twentieth anniversary with the “classic” line-up of Joey Belladonna (vocals), Danny Spitz (guitar), Frank Bello (bass), Charlie Benante (drums) and Scott Ian (guitars) I was more than a little disappointed.

Seemingly the original idea was to split the concerts: one half with Joey and Danny; the other half with John Bush and Rob Caggiano, but John — quite understandably — wasn’t up for it. So, Anthrax (read Scott Ian and Charlie Benante) decided to go ahead and book the concerts with Joey and Danny, anyway.

But what the fans want to know is … what has happened to Rob and John? Scott said in an interview ages ago that they are not out of the band.

ANTHRAX guitarist Scott Ian has rejected Internet rumors that vocalist John Bush has been kicked out of the group in favor of returning frontman Joey Belladonna.
(Source: Blabbermouth. Mar. 24, 2005)

But the almighty Wikipedia says this about the sorry affair:

In early 2005, Anthrax issued a press release stating that classic Among the Living lineup was reuniting. Anthrax has stated that John has not been fired, but with Joey Belladonna’s return and talk of a new album in the works, it is unclear if Bush will record with them again in the future.
(Source: Wikipedia)

Joey Belladonna was in Anthrax between 1985 and 1992. Seven years. John Bush was in Anthrax between 1993 and 2005. Twelve years! It just seems to me (and other Anthrax fans) so wrong! It would be like me wanting to celebrate my twentieth wedding anniversary by going off on a world cruise with Maggie-Jane, the girl I went out with between 1988 and 1989 rather than Jane!

I’m hoping that this is just some kind of metal mid-life crisis. They certainly have the lesser of two evils right now. Would the real Anthrax line-up please come to the information desk?

Glad that’s off my chest now…!

a thank-you prarer

Praying hands, in front of a bright, cloudy sky.

This evening I began re-organising my filing cabinet. I began by mind mapping the current contents of my four-drawer stack of organised chaos. And when I couldn’t take the excitement of that any longer I started clearing out my liturgy drawer. It’s amazing the stuff I kept thinking “that might come in handy some day…”. Things like old orders of service, or pew leaflets with hymns printed on them, and the numerous duplicate orders of service for Holy Week and Advent that have mounted up during the years.

In amongst the contents of a hanging file labelled “Prayer” I found six little pieces of paper (67 x 113 mm) held together with a paper-clip. I know for a fact these sheets were from a small pad bought at Thompson’s printers on the High Street in Selkirk many years ago, probably for about 10p. I wish I’d dated them, because the prayers on them, written with a pencil, are great. I’m guessing that I must have been eight or nine years old when I wrote them.

Here they are, in all their glory:

prayer #1

a thank you prarer

lord god
for all the
gifts you
give us.
bread, food, chairs,
and parents.
O thank you Lord

What an unusual collection of things to give thanks for. Is bread not food? Why are chairs so special? Why are parents mentioned only after bread, food and chairs?!

prayer #2

lord god
for all the
doctors and
nurses for
helping us and
you who helps
us. O

I’m hoping that thanking God “who helps us” wasn’t an after-thought!

prayer #3

lord god
for keeping
us safe and
helthy by giving
us food and
drink. for giving
us mum, Dads and
teachers. O

How many Dads did I think I had back then?! But then my (many) dads were given a capital letter, unlike my one ‘mum’.

prayer #4

lord god
for us our brothers
and sisters and
pets. witch our
god made with
his two hands
and he made
the earth the
sun and other
planets too. O

At last: a full-stop! After all that thanking it was nice to see that I made room for a bit of creationist theology. Even if it did involve a witch!

prayer #5

lord god
for toys and
sweets and
teddy too
for clothes
and coats
and shoes

It couldn’t last, the punctuation thing, could it. That was not so much a prayer as a tribute to e.e.cummings!

prayer #6

lord god
for beds and
books and
nice homes to
live in with
windows and
doors cupboards
and chairs

the End

I think the last bit was some kind of auditing system. All good prayer collections have them, you know! Nice to see chairs being mentioned again. It makes it sound as though my childhood home had less furniture than a swimming pool, or something from a Four Yorkshire Men sketch: “We were so poor when I were a lad, all we had in our house was a window, a door, a cupboard, and a chair! … I say ‘our house’, it was only a house that we read about in a book, while in bed. I say ‘bed’ it were no more than a hole in t’ road… etc.”

Still, lovely prayers none-the-less. I’ve submitted them for inclusion in the next revision of the Revised Common Lectionary collects for the Christian year. Here’s hoping…

Lego Star Wars II

C-3PO waves to a Jawa transport, in the Lego Star Wars II game.
“Wait, what’s that? A transport! I’m saved!”

I realised that I’ve not written many geeky posts recently, what with all the excitement of moving and starting a new job. Well, quite honestly, that’s all going to have to wait.

Look! Look what my friend James pointed out to me recently: the new Lego Star Wars II game is in development, scheduled for a release date in September 2006.

For those of you too lazy to visit the official site — and you really should, because there are screenshots and a trailer and EVERYTHING! — here is the official blurb:

LEGO Star Wars II: The Original Trilogy is the sequel to the award-winning, best-selling LEGO Star Wars: The Video Game published in 2005.

LEGO Star Wars II takes the fun and endless customization ability of the LEGO play pattern and combines it with the epic story, characters and action from the revolutionary Star Wars: Episodes IV, V and VI. With a unique tongue-in-cheek take on the Original Trilogy, LEGO Star Wars II lets you build and battle your way through your favorite film moments. From Darth Vader’s pursuit of Princess Leia aboard her Blockade Runner to Luke’s final confrontation with Emperor Palpatine, the game includes even more of the family-friendly LEGO action, puzzles and humor that earned the original LEGO Star Wars its ranking as the 10th best-selling video game in 2005.

For the first time ever, characters can get in and out of vehicles, as well as ride creatures. Because it’s LEGO style, you can also mix and match the body parts of more than 50 playable characters to create one of millions of possible LEGO Star Wars heroes.

And on PlayStation®2, Xbox® and Windows platforms, a game save from the first LEGO Star Wars can unlock another 50-plus additional characters for Free Play mode — that’s more than 100 total characters!

Other exciting additions include free-roaming vehicle levels, the ability to switch ships at will in Free Play mode, cool new character-specific attacks and maneuvers, playable mini-kit vehicles, an adaptive difficulty option and more.

How exciting is that? It’s like all my dreams come true all at once.

It’s not. But it is like it.

Do you need my friend Gaz’s services?

Close-up photograph of coffee beans.

As some of you will already know, I have some friends. One of them, also called Gareth (although he usually goes by the name of Gaz) also appeared in a book that I’m in. What are the chances of that?!

Anyway, Gaz sent me an email today, that I thought would be better sharing with all you lovely people out there in Internet Land.

As some of you will already know, last month I got a new job. Hooray! But as some of you also know, it turned out to be absolutely nothing like I thought it would be. Boo!

As a result, I chose to call it a day there and then rather than struggle on indefinitely doing something I neither liked nor wanted to learn in a situation I was extremely uncomfortable with.

But, enough moaning! That’s not why I’m emailing you!

I’ve decided that as I couldn’t find the right job for me, I’d make the right job instead. Therefore I have now set myself up as a freelance copyeditor / writer / proofreader / web designer, and am just doing what all freelancers probably do to start off with – tap their mates for work!

I’ve been in touch with some of you already, but I now have my official details sorted out, so thought I’d pass them on in the hope that in turn if you hear of anything, you can pass them on. My work email address is:

[email protected]

And my website can be found here:


On there are details of my experience, more contact details, and services I can offer. I’m happy to tackle pretty much anything from basic document and content editing to writing commisioned articles, so if you do hear of anything or have any leads then I’d be really grateful if you could let me know.

So there you have it, from Gaz himself. Via my blog. Who knows, maybe someone out there is thinking right now, “If only I knew of a freelance writer in Edinburgh…”

Stranger things have happened. Like the time that I sent out an email in May 2003 to my friend Geoff saying hello and we’ve moved to Edinburgh … just at the same time that Geoff was sitting at his PC thinking “I wish I knew just one more contact in Edinburgh, then I could accommodate the Russian choir that I’m touring round the UK”.