Signed off

Statement of fitness for work: You are not fit for work

Statement of fitness for work

A few months back I promised that I would write more honest blog posts this year. Last month I blogged elsewhere about mental health in web development. How about a blog post today that combines the two, in a spirit of transparency?

This morning I made a same-day appointment to see my GP as I’d had a sore mouth for a couple of weeks and it didn’t seem to be getting any better. I expected him to take a quick look, make a diagnosis, and send me packing with either a prescription or a handful of advice. Instead he signed me off for a week. (And gave me a prescription.)

I’ve only just read what he wrote: “stress related illness”. That about sums it up.

It turns out that your oral health offers clues about your overall health. And my mouth told my doctor that my general health was terrible and that I needed to be signed off. And when I say “my mouth told my doctor” I don’t mean the speaky bit of my mouth.

What has brought me here is a combination of

  • being hugely understaffed at work (two vacancies, two off on long-term sick, one secondment; leaving our potential team of seven as a team of two);
  • not having had a proper break (being off sick with a bad cold or a chest infection doesn’t constitute a proper break, does it?) since mid-October 2013;
  • the usual night-time interruptions related to having small children;
  • general (and specific!) family stresses and strains;
  • other (probably)

It all came to a focus this morning in that doctor’s surgery. And I cried.

I resisted his suggestion of time off, of course. I tried to negotiate a week’s grace to see if I needed to be signed off next week instead, as I didn’t want to let the team down. And when I say ‘team’ I am now, of course, referring to one person (!?)

I do feel bad about it. I have colleagues who have said during the last few months, “I don’t know how you keep going?” Today I acknowledged that I can’t just keep going. It also highlights very much, I hope, that our current way of working within the University web team just isn’t sustainable.

Something had to give and thankfully it was my physical health first rather than my mental health. But as the GP said it would only be a matter of time if I didn’t stop now. Without exactly saying “a stitch in time saves nine”, my GP responded by saying something along the lines of “a week off in time saves nine”.

In the end, after a thorough examination, bloods eventually coaxed from my veins, and the promise of some ‘tasty’ liquorice-flavoured medicine, I relented and agreed to a week.

Believe me, the irony is not lost on me: weeks of trying to unsuccessfully negotiate time off at work and when the GP offers it immediately and for (please choose) one or two weeks, I hesitate.

So… doctors orders are to rest. I took him at his word, returned home, made a couple of calls, had a spot of lunch and then slept until 3:00pm.

Here’s to a few days of healing.

Comparison of my work PC, home PC and laptop

For a while I’ve thought that my PC at work (which I acquired in February 2008) was flagging a little. An upgrade from Windows XP to Windows 7 certainly helped but subjectively I felt that compared with my home PC and my laptop it wasn’t running particularly quickly, as I was waiting quite a while for files to open or applications to start.

So I used the AusLogics BenchTown benchmarking application to put all three computers to the test:

  1. Work (Dell Precision 690, Xeon 5120 @ 1.86 GHz, 4GB RAM, 64-bit OS)
  2. Home (Cube 247, Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600 @ 2.40GHz, 4GB RAM, 32-bit OS)
  3. Laptop (Acer Aspire 5630, Intel Core 2 T5500 @ 1.67 GHz, 2GB RAM, 32-bit OS)

Now, I’m not particularly familiar with the various benchmarking applications available, or which one is better than the next but I felt it important simply to use the same application on all three computers so that it gave me a fair comparison.

These were the results, and compared with fastest results submitted to the BenchTown website, from some seriously overclocked, high-spec machines:

Work Home Laptop Fastest
CPU 840 2179 786 10073
Memory 346 494 551 2130
HDD 365 625 311 5161
Graphics 2D 168 272 131 804
Graphics 3D 202 1253 98 4504
Overall 325 645 255 2619

2011-10-01-benchtown

As you can see my suspicions were justified: my work PC isn’t that much faster than my laptop.

I got a phone call on Thursday to say that I’m getting a new PC ordered for me at work.

University of St Andrews 600th anniversary website

20110621-600th

After last month’s almost-a-post-a-day, I’ve hardly blogged at all this month. And there’s been a pretty good reason for it: I’ve been working most of the last three weeks on coding up the designs for the University of St Andrews’ 600th anniversary website, which went live yesterday.

Eat, breathe, sleep code

And I really do mean “most of the last three weeks”. I’d get home in the evening, help put the boys to bed, and then crack on with more code until sometime after midnight each night. I’d crash into bed for about 4 hours’ sleep before booting up the PC again and working for a couple of hours until the boys woke. Then it was breakfast and back to the office for… oh, more coding.

Design

The design was by Edinburgh graphic design company Project and was the first web project that we’d worked on where an external company had mocked-up the design and passed it on to us as Photoshop ‘comps’. We were essentially coding up a design from photographs of a web page, which is a bit like handing a builder a photo of your dream home and saying, with a wave of the hand, “Make it so!”

It’s not our preferred way of working, if I’m honest. But they were brilliant at getting updated proofs to us. Anything involving image work takes hours so it was great having professional Photoshop-meisters on the other end of an email.

I’m going to blog about our experience of the project very soon on the St Andrews Web Team blog.

Development/Alumni

…and if that wasn’t exciting enough, I also had the Alumni pages to code up too.

20110621-alumni

Tonight was my first night off in weeks from working on the code. So I chose to blog about it instead!

Two days at home

Reuben, Gareth and Joshua in the snow

Reuben, Gareth and Joshua in the snow

Thanks to #uksnow I’ve spent the last couple of days largely indoors.

Yesterday

Yesterday morning, I was due to preside at the 08:00 Eucharist at All Saints’, St Andrews. I got a phone call around 06:50 from Fr Jonathan while I was out clearing the snow off the car… using a mop.  Needs must.  He told me not to come in to St Andrews, as the roads were too dangerous.

A JCB did a circuit of our street yesterday lunchtime. For about an hour afterwards you could see that the road wasn’t white.

Then a car crashed into our neighbour’s parked car.

Then we built a snowman in the back garden.

Gareth's desk

Gareth's desk at home

Today

This morning the roads weren’t any better. In fact, if anything they were worse.  While I was fairly confident that I could probably make it safely to St Andrews I really didn’t want to add one more car to what were obviously dangerous roads.

In this kind of weather the less traffic there is on the roads the better.  It reduces the chances of accidents, doesn’t block the roads for vehicles that really do need to get through, and doesn’t potentially endanger the lives of others who might otherwise need to come out to rescue you if you do get involved in an accident.

No thanks!  I’ll stay and work from home.

Besides, thanks to the wonders of a Virtual Private Network (VPN) connection and a job that requires me to be connected to the World Wide Web, I can do pretty much anything that I needed to from the comfort of my own PC at home.

Before I got stuck into work though I installed Input Director on my laptop and PC. Input Director enables me to control both computers using only my PC’s keyboard and mouse. It also shares the clipboard, so I can copy something on my laptop, for example, and paste it into a document on my PC.  Fabulous!

What a productivity boost that was, I effectively had 3 monitors.

Of course, as soon as I connect to the VPN… I lose connection because I’ve switched to a different network.  Something to remember next time.

I wonder if I’ll get into work tomorrow…