On making the wheels go round

(or: on letting go of what is not yet broken)

If it’s working and you know it, leave it alone!

If it’s working and you know it, leave it alone!

If it’s working and you know it, and you really want to keep it that way,

If it’s working and you know it, leave it alone!

***

I cycled to work again today.

It’s been really cold lately and it was still around freezing when I left the house, late.

The wheel was stiff when I tried wheeling it away from the bike stand and towards the road. It felt like the brakes were jammed on tight, but they weren’t. After a bit of gentle persuasion and a few angry words it unstuck itself and off I went.

I assumed (see, there’s that bad word again, almost as bad as “planning”) there must have been ice in the works somewhere – it did get thoroughly soaked last week and it was icy this morning (never thought I’d have to scratch ice off the saddle, but I did).

***

I left work while it was still light to cycle to my maths/English/German student. As it turned dusky and got darker and darker I realised I was riding without lights. Argh. As a car driver, I can’t stand cyclists without lights.. as a cyclist, I try to be car friendly, in the hopes that they won’t run me over. Also, as I found out on Wednesday, lights are useful.

***

After we’d talked about adjectival attributes (?!) for as long as we could concentrate, I borrowed a front bike light from my maths kid’s mum and headed home.

Except I couldn’t. The front wheel was stuck again. It took me several metres of pushing and kicking and cajoling before anything happened. When it finally did start rolling, the nut holding the front wheel onto the forks starting turning too..

I stopped and did it up as best I could with gloves on. Another couple of paces and it was loose again.

At some point I noticed that the cables from the dynamo were hanging in the breeze and the box they’re supposed to join into was riding round in circles, presumably enjoying unknown freedom.

I prodded it a bit, retightened the nut and rode home, very very carefully.

***

It would appear that my dynamo has died.

When I said I was thinking about getting new lights, I didn’t mean I no longer wanted the old ones.

Tomorrow, I will have to find a bike doctor before work. Even if I was willing to buy new lights and ignore the dynamo, I am not willing to hurl myself at the pavement when the wheel falls off.

I expect I will have to leave my bike there and then walk to work or at least walk to the train station.

Sometimes I really love my life.

***

I think it’s time for a new motto/mantra:

If it’s working and you know it, leave it alone! Do not touch it, use it or think about it. Do not criticise it. Do not think about changing it or replacing it.

Instead, be thankful for it..you never know when it’s going to stop working..

On complicated coffee

I went out for coffee with a guy from school and his wife today. I’d borrowed some books for him and he was returning them now that school’s over. It was too cold to stand outside the library for long so we decided to find a café. Most cafés don’t appreciate cards, so I went to find an atm while they went to find a suitable café. By the time I joined them, they’d already chosen a table and ordered.

Turns out you can’t go up to the till and add to an existing order, no, that would be too simple. Instead you have to go through a rigmarole involving going to the cake counter to choose a cake, getting a piece of paper with a number instead of a piece of actual cake, going back to the table, giving the paper to the waitress when she comes to take your drink-order, then waiting for her to bring whatever you ordered. You can’t go to the waitress, you can’t get your own drink, you can’t carry your own cake.

Life is complicated. I knew that. I also know that I don’t go out very much ans haven’t had much practice at placing orders in posh cafés. I didn’t know how complicated simple things like ordering cake could be. I also didn’t realise that it’s normal for a slice of cake and a cup of hot chocolate to set you back more than 10€.

In the end my friend from school paid for all of us to say thanks for the books. With the money I didn’t spend in the café, I bought approximately 3 months worth of fish food and 18 plants for my house and balcony, and still got change back. That seems to be a much better way to spend money, even though I really enjoyed meeting up with them and appreciated having a place to sit out of the cold.

On the moment of truth

I wrote here almost exactly a year and a half ago to say that I was starting school again.

I’m writing now to say that I’m [hopefully] about to finish school.

My last exam starts in less than half an hour (ARGH!).

It’s an oral defence of my thesis, followed by a whole lot of questions.

By midday, I’ll know if I passed….
See you on the other side! 🙂

On the magic of new books

Nothing like a brand new book or two to cheer one up, even if they are ‘only’ school books.

This pile of brand new school books arrived today. I received them in exchange for a small fortune.. 

They contain – I hope – the knowledge I need to pass the next lot of exams AND – at least theoretically – figure out how to advise companies to keep improving…. That’s pretty magical.

Now I just have to read them! 🙂

Advanced warning

Baby-Essay is finished and handed in. Presentation has been presented.

I now have excess writing capacity and two months of repressed ideas – you have been warned  🙂

On eyesight and hindsight

My brother says hindsight is a wonderful thing. I think eyesight is better. Which doesn’t at all negate the wonderfulness of hindsight..

I am currently in the joyous position of having both.

The hole in my eye has healed itself (with help from the drops and gel), and I have survived the exams. Both of which are Good Things, even if the waiting, both for the check up and the results was and is (respectively) a nuisance.

In future, I will aim (as I routinely promise myself after almost every exam) to start revising earlier, and to actually learn the parts I want to (and unfortunately usually do) flip past, dismissing as, “not exam-worthy”.

I will also orientate myself around the questions we work on in class. I don’t appreciate rote learning, but it seems thats what’s expected here. When in Rome and all that…
Here’s to 4 schoolfree weeks! 🙂

On going back to school – part 2

So….. that was harder than expected.

4 hours is a long time to sit still and listen (never mind learn), especially after a full day at work*.

After filling in a million forms and going through the details of what happens when and where, and introducing ourselves, and collecting our textbooks, and filling out yet more forms, we were taken on a whirlwind journey through the course content. It was intended as an overview, but the teacher/lecturer got carried away and gave examples and asked questions and made me (/more likely all of us) realise how rusty my knowledge is after not-quite-3 years on standby.

Also, that I am unable to explain the difference between terms** without giving examples.

* and it wasn’t even a strenuous day at work…. I hate to think about summer when it’s hot and the workshop’s full of people wanting things.

** in this case renting and leasing.

On going back to school (again)

In half an hour I go back to school.

You would have thought that 13 years of normal school, followed by 3 years of glassblowing-school, followed by several months of Meister-glassblowing-school would be enough for anyone.

You’d be wrong.

You’d be forgiven for thinking that, but you’d still be wrong.

Although it depends, I suppose, on what constitutes ‘enough’, really. Maybe it would be enough for most people. Probably.

Thing is, I’m not most people, and I don’t like not knowing things I ought to know. Which is why I’m going to add another 680+ hours (spread over 15 months) to the above list.

At some point in the distant future, there is a chance of my taking over a glassblowing company. Legally,  anyone with a “Meister” in glassblowing under their belt can own a glassblowing company. Theoretically anyone who feels brave enough can run a glassblowing company. Practically, I feel a lot out of my depth. Especially which it comes to things like planning…

Despite knowing that it’s not going to happen for a while, if ever. Learning-by-doing is fine, but I’d like to learn by learning first, so that I know what to start doing…

In a few minutes I start a course of practical economics and company management (or words to that effect, I think it translates as “business studies”).

I even have a pad of lined paper and brand new biros with me…. 🙂

On the wonders of chewing gum

I don’t remember coming across chewing gum as a little kid. By about year 4 I’d discovered bubble gum, but wasn’t ever very good at blowing bubbles (glass is much better than bubblegum in that respect, even if it doesn’t taste as good ;)). A bit later, maybe in year 8 or 9, someone told me you produce digestive juices when chewing, and if you aren’t eating, you can end up digesting your stomach walls. That didn’t appeal much, so I stopped. It was probably a good thing, because I was a little bit of an addict. Once I decide on something, though, I’m usually pretty consequent about keeping to it. I must have gone 6 years without a single piece.
Then I did my stint as an aupair. I was offered some by one of the kids, and that was that – my chewing-gum-fast was broken. I stuck to sugar free, and only after meals as a way to clean my teeth without actually cleaning them.

It wasn’t until I cut myself in glassblowing school that I realised how awesome it is.
I’m not good at blood. I don’t watch violent films, I don’t watch documentaries about hospitals, I lie down when I have injections or when they have to take blood samples*.
When I cut myself, I’m usually fine until the cut is washed and bandaged (or at least wrapped in paper towels), and then I go all dizzy and fall over. This particular cut wasn’t even that severe. It wasn’t deep, but it did involve blood and a small flap of skin. The teacher noticed me go white and made me sit down at his desk. Everything sounded incredibly far away, and all the colours got mixed up. Then he gave me a piece of chewing gum. I concentrated on keeping it in my mouth, then on chewing. As I chewed, the world slowly came back into focus and regained it’s normal volume.
That was the first time.
I have used the chewing gum trick several times since then, mostly on myself, but occasionally on someone else. I try to carry a small packet with me at all times. If I don’t have chewing gum on hand, then gummi bears or boiled sweets will do, just not as well.

Even if I’m not hurt, and I’m not liable to black out, if I have to concentrate on something, I function better when chewing.

Maybe I was a goat in a former life – they chew cud while they think too.

* you can’t fall over if you’re already lying down.

On writing Revision Cards

I have decided to be super organised.

Not as organised as I said I would be in October, but still a good sight better than I sometimes am.

I have exams in the last week of July.

My last ‘block’ (46-50 hours of lessons) is the first week of July.

Usually I would finish the last block, realise I’m 2 weeks away from the exams and panic – locking myself away from the world and living on frozen (and baked) pizza.

This time I have decided to revise all the things I’ve learned in the last 3 blocks, so that I know ‘everything’ 😉 by the end of June. That way I only have to revise the new stuff in the 2 middle July-weeks (thus locking myself away from the world for 2 months instead of 2 weeks ;)).

Having done a lot of exams to get this far, I know I revise best when I get to talk lots ;).

I’m not such a fan of talking to myself so I need people to help me.

I need people to find their way into a subject they most likely have less than no idea about.

I need people to ask me relevant questions and be patient with me while I squirm about on my seat working out what they want to know.

I need people who are willing to try and work out what I mean when I finally have an answer, and to decide if it fits the question.

Because most of my questioning-victims aren’t so well versed in Glass-Theory, and because my school-notes are a huge mess of brightly coloured scribbles and arrows, I’m going through them and writing the most important things onto A7 cards. I’m even making it easier for them by writing a question on one side and the condensed answer on the back.

Now they just have to be able to convert my squiggles into writing and add the correct grammar.. 😛

That’s the plan anyway.

The practice looks a little different.

I can’t concentrate enough to actually write the stoopid things..

Even knowing I have to finish writing by Tuesday doesn’t help me much.

It’s Sunday. That gives me the rest of today and 2 more days.

2 more evenings really, because I work until 5pm.

I have such a short deadline because I don’t actually want to lock myself away for 2 months. I want to continue to do all the things I love doing and be able to read the cards in the gaps. There aren’t many gaps as it is, but I want to be able to use the ones life throws at me, even if they’re short ones. It’s amazing how many A7 cards you can read in 5 minutes.

It’s also amazing how few you can WRITE in the same timeframe.

It’s practically the end of May already. Here are [some of] the things I want to get done round my revision:

A work colleague (a nice one) and I are going to visit a super-glassblower for a couple of days and be shown how to do clever things with glass. I want to bring him and his family a cake to thank him for his time and for organising the whole thing.

I’m going to spend 8-9 days on a boat with another glassblower. I will hopefully not only learn to drive a motorboat, get through [canal]locks, and sleep while bobbing about on the water, but also find time to learn the stuff I’ve written on the cards. I do have the added bonus of a questioner-with-background-knowledge though :).

2 lovely ladies from school are coming to see me and my town. I really want to have loads of time for them and show them all my favourite places and introduce them to my favourite people so I don’t want to be revising then.

My mum, my gran, my [parents’] house and my [parents’] garden are celebrating assorted birthdays and anniversaries so I’m going home to celebrate them. None of them speak German so the cards would be useless even if I found willing victims.

And then it’s the beginning of July and I’m back in school.

I’d better get back to the books/cards I guess…

OH YEAH!!

On turning down, turning off and turning up

Okay, so I’m [most probably] going to sound either incredibly stuck up or incredibly naiive for the next paragraph or two.. please bear with me.

***

I got a phonecall from my skiing teacher a couple of weeks ago.

He said he’d just got in from a day of skiing and asked if I wanted to go for a couple of days the weekend after next (= this one ;)). He figured I was the only one crazy enough to want to go skiing enough to put up with MORE snow/winter.

I thought that was a fantastic idea and said we should invite D (my ski-partner) because he was bound to be interested (and crazy) too. I was being given a lift into town by a friend I don’t see often and who I wanted to talk to, so we agreed to plan the skiing later.

In the meantime I sent D an email. He was as enthusiastic as I’d imagined.

Last weekend we talked about skiing.

Turns out my SkiTeacher wasn’t just thinking about skiing when he invited me. A happy threesome wasn’t what he’d pictured either (thankfully, I suppose…).

He was jealous of D, unhappy with me automatically inviting other people to what he’d hoped would be a chance to “get to know me better” (his words). He suggested (stroppily) that we (D and I) go together because he didn’t just want to be our chauffeur. That I really just wanted to ski and thought D might too wasn’t a possibility in his mind.

He’s a great teacher, and also one of those people I really like spending time with off the piste, but I couldn’t imagine having a relationship with him. Especially since he’s one of my ex’s best friends, and has just about (more-or-less) finished breaking up with his girlfriend of 4 years (very messy, been going on since about July).

A couple of strained conversations later, we decided to abandon the whole skiing idea, freeing him up to go to a birthday party he would otherwise have passed on. I didn’t exactly turn down the skiing, so much as him as a person.

When D asked what the plan was, I bent the truth a little and told him the SkiTeacher was busy. He suggested we go by ourselves instead….

Oh man.

Because that obviously wouldn’t cause further complications.

Besides, I figured I don’t have the time or the money to go skiing anyway..

***

It’s May.

It’s supposed to be well into spring and fast approaching summer.

Instead it’s cold, wet, cloudy and making me want to hibernate or at least turn the heating back on.

I turned it off back in March when we had a strangely warm fortnight or so. 24 degrees is nice enough to convince me I really don’t need to continue to finance the electricity company’s boss’s next holiday.

On Friday it didn’t get above 10 degrees.

Yesterday it reached the dizzy heights of 15 degrees.

Today it’s back down to 8.

It’s May.

This time next week it’s already several hours into June.

The radio told me that it’s supposed to be warm on Tuesday. The presenter told him to stop there and not say anything about the rest of the week.

Starting on Thursday I’m going to be away a lot for the next couple of months. Given that my heating takes about a week to start to have an effect, it seems a bit pointless turning it on.

I guess I’d better pull out a jumper and my blanket and get through the next few days.

***

I finished school in June 2005. That means I’ve been out of school for almost exactly 8 years (also, that I did my GCSEs 10 years ago, but since the rest of my year are having a reunion party without even inviting me, I don’t think it really warrants much attention…). I moved to Germany the following autumn and apart from a few months here and there have been living here ever since.

After a 5 year ‘struggle’ to make, and more importantly keep, friends during year 7 to GCSEs, it came as a major surprise to be so wholely and immediately welcomed into a group of the loveliest people in the 6th Form (I changed schools). There were enough of us to fill the ‘Small Common Room’ but the core group was practically inseperable, eating, walking, revising, partying, just generally spending time together. I especially spent time with two lovely ladies.

My group of A-Level-ites kind of broke up when everyone went off to uni (and I went to Germany) but we continued to meet up when we were all home for the holidays.These group meetings were drastically reduced when we all broke up with our respective partners and getting together became awkward. Since then we’ve all moved on, changed jobs, houses and boyfriends a couple of times..

However.

I still keep in touch with my lovely ladies. Not especially regularly, but still enough for it to not be forced when we DO make it into the same place at the same time.

And now it’s finally time for them to come and see me in Germany.

Finally.

They plan to turn up at the end of June 🙂

Looking forward to it so much I’ve even started making plans a month in advance!!

🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

🙂

On great expectations and disapointment

I am a glassblower.

More accurately a scientific glassblower.

I have just been on a course to learn what it takes to pass the exams which entitle me to become a master-glassblower. Or glassblowing master. Or glassblowing mistress I suppose.

Whatever. The point is that I was there. And now I’m back.

And I’m not verily impressed.

I like learning.

That’s probably not a cool thing to say, but since very little of what I do or wear or am is particularly cool in the popular sense, I shall say it anyway.

I actually really do like learning things. New things, interesting things, exciting things. I’m not that big on learning what it feels like to have your bed collapse under you, or how to break up with people, or just how much it hurts to have people cut you up without properly anethetising you first (yup, all things I learnt at one time or another (or am learning ;))) but those are things you learn because you have to and not because you want to..

I like learning the things I WANT to learn.

And some of the things life wants me to learn and which I wouldn’t’ve thought about learning by myself.

Whatever.

I CHOSE to sit on a train across Germany for 8 hours*, in order to drag the ankle-biting-suitcase across town and up a hill, in order to sleep in a semi-beaten-up-room in semi-beaten-up-halls, in order to be within walking distance of the glass-school, in order to sit in a classroom, in order to be taught things that with be useful to me, and therefore also useful to the people I make Glass Things for.

I CHOSE to willingly pay someone (some oneS) to share their knowledge with me.

What I didn’t choose, is for the teachers to be useless, unprepared or absent. I didn’t choose to learn about irrelevant things that will very likely never benefit me. Ever. I didn’t choose to have to transcribe hours and hours of dull teacher-talk to save him having to type it up and print it out for me. I didn’t choose to be taught/told the same things I learned while becoming a glassblower the first time round.

[Side Note: I am even more incredibly grateful to the-teachers-that-taught-me-the-first-time-round, than I was the first time round ;). It made translating the complicated jumble of chaos I was fed least week marginally easier…]

I didn’t choose to pay for people-more-chaotic-than-I-am to tell me they didn’t have time to go though the-maths-problems-they-wanted-us-to-solve BEFORE writing them on the board. I didn’t choose for metal workers to teach me about gear changes or about how fast cogs turn. I didn’t choose to learn how the 57 varieties of glass-melting ovens are built or exchanged. I think I am beyond needing to learn how to calculate the area of squares and rectangles and even circles for that matter. Despite, or maybe because of, already being capable of working out the hypotenuse of a triangle given the length of both the other sides, I don’t see why it should be skipped because of being ‘far too complicated’. If anything it should be skipped because there’s no need to dwell on things people can already do. Having decided not to skip it after all, I would have been more forgiving if they’d explained it CORRECTLY to the few people who needed the explanation. If they’d also labelled the sides and corners properly I would have been tempted to give them a bonus gold star. I would have also appreciated it if they’d had any understanding of what brackets mean when written in mathematical equations. It is probably better to be momentarily confused by a textbook which uses a different letter for the same thing, than to try and work out why you need both terms in one equation [for anyone wondering what I mean, try this for size:  “a x b x c(h)”   where c is the side that make a square into a cube and is referred to as height in some literature..].

ARGH.

I am a scientific glassblower.

I work with ready-made tubing and a super-snazzy bunsen burner. Or I would if mine was less than 40 years old. Let’s stick with snazzy. (I’m pretty sure I haven’t heard that used by anyone under about 50 and not at all in the last 15 years. Told you I wasn’t all that cool ;))

Anyway. What I mean is I don’t have anything to do with melting-ovens. Or gears. Or cogs.

I admit that it’s interesting to know all these things. I could be thankful for knowing them if I wasn’t so aware that knowing them means I spend time not learning about the things I actually wanted to know. The course is a total of 4 weeks spread over 9 months. Last week was the second week. So far we have learned

  • how to get iron out of rocks and how to recycle it when you don’t need it anymore
  • how to calculate the area of very simple shapes (triangles are way too hard) and the volume of only slightly less simple ones
  • how not to work out the speed of cogs going round and making other cogs turn
  • how not to work out the volume of glass in a wineglass (“the answersheet is 100% right!” “um.. the question said 4 mm on each side… the answers assume 4mm total” “oh..”)
  • the history of glass from 7000 BC to now, including a lot of names of people who did incredible things which unfortunately have nothing to do with scientific apparatus
  • how glass is melted (from scratch), what the ovens look like, how they are replaced, what the advantages of oven X over oven Y are (except if you have to cope with problem A or B in which case oven Z would be better)
  • how not to translate Pascals into deciPascals
  • and gone over some of what we learned at baby-glasblower-school about what glass is made of and what it’s good at

None of which was particularly well taught.

On a positive note, and to stay on the fair side of the truth, we did learn what to do after getting hydrofluoric acid on your skin (No panic, none of us did 🙂 It was just the only really useful thing we learned).

I would have liked to have learned about vacuum. Not vacuum cleaners, but the sort of vacuum chemistry students need in order to carry out experiments with things that explode if they make contact with air. I would have liked to learn about ventiles and taps and the methods of making them vacuum tight. I would have liked to learn about how pressure works, and how to work out how to make Glass Things that withstand 9 Bar pressure without breaking. I would like to know who’s responsible for things if/when they break, and how to protect oneself if They place the blame on one. I would have liked to learn about what the apparatus are used for and how to better advise my customers what’s possible and what’s just fantastical. I would like to know about how to place orders and calculate how much my finished Glass Things should cost. I would like to know about air-conditioning units and how to work out how strong they need to be in order not to gas oneself while working. I would have liked to learn how to handle the reflective silver coating used on/in evacuated Glass Things and the brown coating used to protect the contents of the Glass Things from UV rays. I would have liked to learn about joining metal to glass. I would have liked to have watched a video about how glass-tubing is made (okay so I know a little bit of theory, but we’ve seen so many videos of ovens it would be nice to see one about something relevant ;)). I would like to know about electrodes and glass-glue and making glass frit and Glass-welding and grinding and polishing and …

There are so many things I want to know I won’t continue with this list, because I want to get some sleep tonight.. Also, not having been taught all the things a master glassblower is supposed to know, I don’t know what else there is out there.

More than all the separate things on that list though, I think I would have liked to have teachers who cared about what they taught and about their students. I would have liked them to be prepared for their lessons and to have correct workings and answers to their questions. I would have liked them to know what they were talking about and be able to explain it to the people who don’t. Knowing that the teachers write the exams and that they are likely to be easy since we haven’t done anything hard yet isn’t really adequate compensation. I wasn’t there [just] for the title, I was there for the knowledge.

I had great expectations.

I was disappointed.

I still am disappointed.

I wasn’t sure where to go with my disappointment, and to be honest, I’m still not sure where to go with my disappointment.

I’m working on it.

Slowly.

In the meantime I went skiing. But that will have to wait for a new post.

* actually, I chose to sit on one for 6 hours, the powers-that-be chose to make it longer.

On going away

I’m going to be away for a week.

I’m going back to school to become incredibly clever (I hope), and to catch up on sleep, and to get out of the workshop :).

If anyone had told me 10 years ago, that I would one day rate going to school equal to something like freedom, I would have thought them crazy and wondered if I should worry about them… These days I can hardly wait to get back behind a desk 😛

Anyway. I won’t be writing for a week.

Have fun dear people 🙂