At the Eden Project

Over the bank holiday weekend, I got to visit the Eden Project for the first time.

2015-08-31 17.40.00

I was lucky enough to see (and smell!) a Corpse Flower blooming, which was great since I missed one blooming back where I live due to being away on the weekend when that flowered. These things only bloom for 48 hours, so it’s not something you easily get to plan or see up close. They can take up to 6 *years* to bloom. All in all, pretty awesome stuff.

I could talk more about the awesomeness at the Eden Project, but there was some disappointment to be had, which is what I wanted to natter about in this post.

The problem with the Eden Project – people. Selfish, unthinking people who just don’t seem to *get* what the folks at the Eden Project are doing. I was so disappointed to see – especially in areas like the Rainforest Biome – that people had just dropped their litter on the paths, in among the rare rainforesty plants, and in the water features. Some people have even etched graffiti into the leaves of the cacti in the Mediterranean Biome. It made me so angry, because who does that?!?  Why pay money to go in and visit a place that is dedicated to showcasing rare and beautiful flora and fauna, a place that is attempting to preserve that which is endangered, just to mess it up with mindless vandalism and sheer laziness? Where is the flipping respect for the lessons there?

This is why I sometimes hate people. And this is probably why we don’t get to have nice things.

I would highly recommend checking out the Eden Project. Just don’t be an arse, and put your litter in one of the *many* bins that are dotted about the place. And no one should have to tell you that etching your name into a plant is not a cool thing to do. If you are the kind of person who needs to be told something so basic, then do the place a favour, and stay away until you have learnt the difference between right and wrong.

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I need a holiday.

I just spent a long bank holiday weekend in Cornwall with the bloke and his daughters. This is the second time I have seen his children, and there was still an element of ‘what if this is when they decide they hate me?’ going through my mind. Before heading out, I looked at my failed attempt to grow coriander indoors, and began to wonder if I was going to accidentally kill the blokes children in much the same way.

Newquay - Fistral Beach
Newquay – Fistral Beach

I need not have worried so much. Not only are children in general fairly resilient, it turns out I double up quite well as a mobile climbing frame, story teller, bridge troll, pack mule, defender from dinosaurs, sand splat builder, mobile computer game source and general silliness provider. So, no watering required.

I’m too old to grow up.

In addition, I can highly reccommend having a 6 year old attached to your hip/back/shoulders for extended periods as very good exercise. I feel like I’ve done an all-over workout.

I’m back home now. I think I need a holiday.

Things my big sister taught me

She’s sometimes been evil to me. On rarer occasions, she’s sometimes been *nice*. She’s always been there though. So, here are the things I learnt from my big sister, whether I liked it or not.

  • It’s easier for bigger people to pin you down and ‘typewriter’ you to tears. Thankfully, they stop once you reach the same height. The lesson? Bigger people aren’t bigger forever. Be patient.
  • ‘Look, there’s a spider!’ can and will work as a distraction technique when you have a cunning plan to steal steak off your big sisters plate. Regardless of height difference.
  • Sometimes, there are people in your life who you will stick up for, and who will stick up for you. Regardless of the right or wrong of the situation.
  • How not to win an argument with Dad. (pro-tip – don’t argue. Just ask forgiveness later).
  • She’s allowed to pick on me. Anyone else who tries will face her wrath. Which is scary.
  • Size matters. The bigger speakers blasting out Take That will still beat smaller speakers blasting out Metallica. 😦
  • It is possible to dish out a kick up the arse sympathetically.
  • Setting someones hair on fire proves nothing. Not even when you start slapping their head to put the fire out. 😡
  • Even the strongest people need help, and that’s ok.
  • I was made in a factory in China.
  • Standing in a circle of My Little Ponies will protect me from the ghosts.
  • The sneakier one wins. Or at least wipes all the Micromachines 2 records. Same difference!

There you have it. My big sister has been a huge influence in my life. She was often mean. Sometimes nice. But she’s still my big sister, so I guess I’d better suck it up.

LittleWicksy’s Rules of Life

Follow at your own risk. I take no responsibility for any trouble you get into as a result of you taking these as your own. I’m pretty sure I got most of these from my Dad. Or the internet. It all blurs together.

  1. If you don’t ask, you don’t get.
  2. Time enjoyed is not time wasted.
  3. The most precious thing you can give to anyone is your time.
  4. The common factor in all your problems is yourself.
  5. There is no knight in shining armour. Fix it yourself.
  6. Don’t trust drivers who wear hats. They’re unpredictable, and didn’t take the optional extra of ‘indicators’.
  7. It’s none of your business what people say about you behind your back.
  8. Don’t poke it!
  9. If you looked silly doing it, you *meant* to do that.
  10. Be more cat.
  11. Always go left.
  12. Don’t treat people how you wouldn’t want to be treated yourself.
  13. You can’t change people. You can only change how you react to people.
  14. Throwing books at stupid people is frowned upon.

Professionalism

Merriam-Webster defines professionalism as ‘the skill, good judgment, and polite behavior that is expected from a person who is trained to do a job well’. It goes on with a further definition of ‘the conduct, aims, or qualities that characterize or mark a profession or a professional person’.

I guess that my own confusion in terms of being seen as a professional is that unfortunately (or maybe fortunately?), such expectations as defined in this context are not actually down to the person who wishes to be seen as professional.

I have been called unprofessional a few times in the past. Usually when I have disagreed with someone about something. Strange, that.

A comment once made to me did actually cause me to reflect slightly on *how* I disagree with people:

‘You always argue your point strongly, even when you’re wrong.’

Did the person who said this to me have a point? Possibly. I was raised to speak my mind, and engage in debate. While I acknowledge that I can be *very* stubborn, I can be argued around to a different way of thinking – because when all is said and done, I wouldn’t be arguing any point if I thought it was actually wrong. I have no patience to play devils advocate. That said, some people see any kind of headlong disagreement as an intimidating confrontation. I honestly still have no idea how to deal with that. Should I sugar coat my thoughts? Tip toe around an issue? I don’t know.

This does bring me to the point of this post, though. Which is more professional – giving (and occasionally arguing) an opinion in a professional capacity, or keeping your mouth shut for the sake of not disagreeing with someone higher up the food chain?

I guess the answer to that depends on who’s answering the question. I know where I stand on it.

So, for me, I guess showing professionalism comes down to the following:

  • Don’t be afraid to speak up. *
  • Share your knowledge.
  • Don’t bite off more than you can chew.
  • Always do what you say you will do, when you say you will do it.
  • Don’t play the blame game.
  • Get on with the job.

I freely acknowledge here that my list may seem incomplete to some. I’ll quite happily argue/debate the points and amend said list if I can be talked around. I’m not right about everything. On the flip side – I don’t think I’m often wrong, either.

* Though try and be tactful about it. My brain to mouth filter is malfunctional. Announcing to an entire room that something is stupid does not win you friends. Trust me on this.

The most aggravating compliment

Sorry folks. This is a dreaded women in STEM post. It’s sad that #ILookLikeAnEngineer is a thing. People still do not get it.

So, a true story.

A long time ago, in a job in my past, there was a week of BIG MEETINGS. It was a huge deal, with very important clients who we *had* to impress. The culture of the office was lax, and the usual code was ‘get in for some time, do all your work, and wear what you want’. For this week, we were asked to be in well on time for the BIG MEETINGS, come in suited and booted, and above all, behave.

So, I spent a week turning up to the office, wearing a nice skirt, blouse, and killer heels. Literally, killer. When the clients had gone for the day, I’d kick off said heels and start sticking plasters on all the bleeding bits, longing for my comfy trainers or boots. I kept my mouth shut, and smiled when spoken to. I didn’t really achieve much of my own programming work that week, in-spite of only having to attend a couple of the meetings, as the entire team was on tenterhooks with how said BIG MEETINGS were going. Things were going on that made it too difficult to concentrate.

I received three compliments that week. Take a guess which one infuriated me.

  1. Please don’t take this as harassment or anything, but you look stunning like that. I wish we could see it every day!
  2. I won’t sit next to you in meetings when you wear a skirt any more, as your legs are too distracting.
  3. I’ve been really impressed with your professionalism this week. Great work!

If you haven’t already guessed that the third compliment was the one that annoyed me, you still don’t get IT. So, I’ll explain further.

The week where I can honestly say that all I did was turn up, look pretty, and not share my professional opinion, is the one where I got complimented on being ‘professional’. This sent the message that I am only valued as a professional when I’m making an effort to look nice and keep my mouth shut. So for what reason had I been turning up and busting my arse all those years before?

I didn’t say anything, of course. I really do, even now, still get that the compliment was meant as just that – a compliment. It wouldn’t be right to give the complimenter a hard time over it. I do not believe that anything bad or insidious was meant by it. It was genuine, and not meant as a put down in any way. Normally, I’d be happy to hear it. But as a woman working in a male dominated field, where I have often felt that I’ve *needed* to shout out and dress down to be taken seriously, it really stung. It still does.

I subscribe to the saying ‘You don’t give offence, you *take* offence’. But before anyone shouts me down for this post, maybe try wearing those killer heels for a week in a similar situation, only to be hit with the reality of what counts higher up as ‘professional’, and tell me you wouldn’t be spitting fire about it to. This really does tie back to my earlier post. As much as I can look back on this incident, and know that logically, I took this in a way that was not intended, it just underscores that perception is an absolute bitch.