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It’s generally accepted that maternity leave is a bad thing for careers – there’s up to a year’s gap in your work history, you’ll have forgotten lots of stuff and failed to keep up with changes. Add in that you’ll have lost touch with all your important contacts, and at the end of it you’ve got a demand on your time and energy that means work will never be able to take first place in your priorities. It looks pretty bad, doesn’t it? But it doesn’t have to be that way.

I found that for the first half of my 9 months away from work, I was pretty much incapable of anything even vaguely like work. “Baby brain” was in full swing – I was so forgetful that leaving the oven on became a regular occurrence – and the birth itself was messy enough that I needed counseling for a minor form of PTSD. In the second half, however, I was craving the kind of mental challenges that work provides.

I was involved in a family-oriented charity project that needed a website, and I saw a possibility: I could write it. I’d have to learn HTML and CSS, but that sounded like just the challenge I was looking for. It was something I could do as and when I had time and felt like it, and I could drop it at a moment’s notice if my baby needed me. So I took to spending nap times immersed in W3Schools tutorials and hacking at code. In a few weeks, I had a working website and a working knowledge of (very) basic web design. At the time, it scratched the itch and it did a good thing. I figured that was it.

Then I went back to work. Over the following year, work changed a lot – my department was shrinking, but another was growing, and I moved across and up. Our online database product was being re-developed, but nobody was updating the help files. Everybody that could do something about it was far too busy doing the developing, or doing their day job, to take on an extra mammoth task. Then I saw a possibility: I could write it. I already knew basic HTML and CSS, and if one of the techies could provide a file with the corporate headers and such already in place, basic is all I’d need. The first revision is now available to individuals across nearly two hundred customers.

Instead of coming back to work out of touch, distracted and unfocused, I came back with new skills and enthusiasm that I would never have had if I’d not gone on maternity leave. My company are benefiting enormously from this, in many ways beyond the up-to-date help files. So it seems maternity leave hasn’t killed my career – it’s advanced it.

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Time to start again

I last posted here almost exactly three years ago. I stopped not by conscious decision but by not knowing what to write about. The last post was made around the time I found out I was pregnant, and that took up pretty much all my spare head space. It has taken a very long time for me to be able to properly address other matters and give them the time they need.

I’ve been thinking for some time I should re-start this blog, and have recently been given several ideas for what to write about. So if this still comes up in anyone’s feed anywhere, watch this space!

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I knew we were going on holiday, I knew when we were going and I knew where we were flying from. I didn’t know where we were going until I saw the luggage tags being put on at check-in. So what did we get up to on holiday? Why looking at computers in museums, of course!

The National Museum is so huge we got lost several times and had to go back a second day. It’s got an enormous permanent exhibition charting the history of Denmark from about 1000 to 2000, and featuring a lovely old IBM with nasty green-on-black burn in towards the end. It also had a temporary exhibition entitled The World Of Tycho Brahe. The man was the ubergeek of his day – he designed and constructed many of his measuring and calculating devices, proved that the planets orbit the sun, and took the observations that enabled his assistant, Johann Kepler, to prove that Earth was just another one of those planets.

Another Danish ubergeek of his time was Jens Olsen, designer of the World Clock that is house in Copenhagen’s City Hall. It is a truely beautiful piece of precision engineering, with delicately engraved facings and such fine gearing that it is reckoned to loose 0.4 seconds in 300 years. It goes far beyond “clock” and well into the realms of analogue computing.

Another day, we took the train to Sweden (a concept I still find a bit odd), and spent our time playing with scientific toys and crawling through the U3 submarine at the Science and Maritime museum. We also spotted some graffiti that made us smile:

Malmo Graffiti

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Browsing through various stuff, trying to come up to speed with things after a week of limited access followed by a week in a foreign country, I noticed that Jono had tagged me to do a meme. I don’t think I’ve done a meme on here before, but this looks like an interesting snapshot of who someone is, so here goes:

I keep two blogs. Until about August last year, I didn’t keep a blog at all. Then at LRL, the whole Women In Open Source thing caused far more of a storm than I was expecting, and Jono convinced me to start a blog to be put on Planet Advocacy, so that’s where this came from. However, I have a large number of friends across the country (and beyond) who keep in touch via LiveJournal. I eventually relented and got myself an account so I could lurk on their blog, but ended up being sucked into it myself. If anyone is interested in finding this other blog, which is mostly memes and rubbish and not very much serious content, then I’m sure they already have enough information to go find it.

I’m a pagan. At least, in the broadest sense of the term, and following my own path. I’ve always been convinced that there’s something beyond what science can understand, but it took me a long time to put a name to him/her/it/them. I eventually decided that no name could possibly sum it all up, and that every religion probably had some of it right – especially as most of them seem to teach the same basic ideals of being a good person and looking after each other. Thanks to a long, and continuing, consideration of such things, I came to the conclusion that whatever it is, it’s far to big for me, a mere human being, to fully understand, and that even if there’s only one of it, it’s almost certainly quite capable of taking on any number of different faces. So I call it/him/her/them whatever name seems appropriate at the time, although I’m generally more comfortable with some of the pagan gods and goddesses than the Christian type. It hasn’t complained yet, and indeed everything that seems to go badly wrong has always turned out right, so I guess whatever it is is quite happy with my take on things.

I’m overweight. This may seem like an odd thing to put up here, but many people, even those who know me quite well, seem to have missed it, and I get surprised looks and denial if I mention it. Maybe it’s because of the shape I am, maybe it’s to do with how I dress, maybe it’s because I carry myself with an air of confidence, maybe people are just too polite to say anything. I’m a UK size 18 and my BMI is about 31. I’m not hugely bothered by it, beyond some vague sadness about clothes I can’t get away with, but there it is.

My maiden name is Tuer. It’s just occurred to me that most of the people likely to read this won’t know that because I’ve been married for approximately six months longer than LUGRadio has existed. Despite its similarity to a certain French verb (“tuer”, which means “to kill”), my Dad, with his quite extensive genealogical research, has discovered that it’s originally from Yorkshire, in forms like Tewar and Tewer, and meant someone who worked with white leather, in the same kind of way a tanner would work with brown leather. For all I occasionally joke about getting rid of the four letter word because people have so much trouble spelling or pronouncing it, I’m still proud to call myself part of the Tuer Clan of Carlisle.

I have a degree in Ecology. I went to Durham University to study biology (with a subsidiary in Latin – I’m apparently the second person ever to take that combination, the first being my mate Ali), but then discovered the horror that was biochemistry, and moved sideways onto the ecology course. I did dissections, conducted experiments with live animals, almost didn’t write a dissertation about mosquitoes and finally, after three years of hell and winning every “who’s got the worst housemate?” competition, got to shake Peter Ustinov’s hand at graduation.

I gather I’m supposed to tag people that I want to see do this, but a) I’m still shattered after getting home yesterday from an utterly fantastic holiday, which I will have to blog about sometime, b) I’ve got no idea who actually reads this and has a blog, so I haven’t a clue who to tag and c) there’s a good chance they won’t want to do it so they’ll either ignore it or hate me for it anyway.

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I’m blogging this…

…because a Christmas cracker told me to. “This” being the WolvesLUG Christmas Bash, which was seriously good fun. There was curry, there was beer, there were bad jokes and there was generally a lot of smiling and laughing. I wore a rediculously green t-shirt and a matching rediculously green hat (other people may have photos, assuming their cameras didn’t break) for which I was insulted lots. I ate scicilian jelfrezi, thus proving that cheese really does go with everything. We sang happy birthday to… somebody. We ate cake, and it was decided that the correct answer to “chocolate or lemon” is “yes please.” Then I drove home in fog. Which was nice.

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EDM179

Early Day Motion 179, “Software In Schools”, now has 64 signatures, and counting. That’s approximately 10% of those eligible to sign it. I’m very pleased to note that my local MP, Joan Walley, has put her name on the list. And here’s a nice little quote from her:

“I believe that this software is highly beneficial and one of the most valuable developments of recent years.”

Even allowing for a certain degree of telling us what we want to hear, that statement’s pretty black and white and I am pretty chuffed.

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My husband’s computer, Caladan, was getting a bit old and flaky, so he bought himself a new one, Arrakis. This in and of itself is not a particularly noteworthy or surprising event. However, it was the first major purchase from a supplier specialising in hardware suitable for use with Linux that I’ve had anything to do with, and I am very pleased to announce that I was impressed with every stage of the process.

Firstly, getting in touch with the supplier for a quote was a doddle – they have easy-to-find contact details on their website. Russ got a quote back pretty quickly for a machine to be built to his requirements. He was very happy to note that not only was it less than he expected, it was less than any the other quotes he’d found (Dabs, Ebuyer, etc) for similar spec machines. Add in the fact that OFE “offer hardware guaranteed to operate under the GNU/Linux system” and it didn’t take a genius to figure out that they’d made a sale. Around a week later, a box arrives, and we discover it’s pre-installed with Ubuntu and all ready to go.

So anyone who still thinks that you can’t go and buy a computer with Linux pre-installed for a decent price is wrong, and OpenForEveryone.co.uk proves it. And now I get to cannibalise Caladan for parts…

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