Monday, May 08, 2006

Heron there in south-west London

Following Thursday's marathon up the Thames, neither Bondi nor I have been in the mood for massive exertions.

Last week, I sent Google's European recruiters an email indicating that I wasn't interested in working back in Australia at the present time, and would in any case be delayed by Bondi's travel/quarantine requirements. While I was out hiking they called back to say that they were actually interviewing me for an engineering post in Zurich. This surprised me as they had pretty much convinced me that there were no suitable posts for me in Europe(*) and in the wrap-up email, sent me a link to a position in Sydney.

(* Possibly because like with many recruiters, they don't have a very clear idea of what the jobs are that they're hiring for. In recent months I've had the odd phone-call from agencies very excited to get me on board, but they keep trying to match me up with the wrong jobs. I think they latch onto one key word in the job req and in my resume, and forget everything else. )

So, after repeating that I was less interested in Zurich than in Sydney, they now want to talk about positions in London. We'll see what happens. I'm not in a hurry to take on the wrong job. The recruiter indicated that there are less opportunities for the "20% project" time in positions outside Google USA. This is in line with my experience at Microsoft, where it is clearly true that staff are valued more and paid more if they are sitting in a chair in the US than in any other place in the world irrespective of the work.

Some of this - and my own frustration - is echoed in an article I read this week in the Sydney Morning Herald:

a survey... of 660 graduates in London showed "they felt increasingly that none of the really challenging work for global companies happens in Australia".

Saturday was cool & wet and I decided to have a walk around nearby Barnes. Situated between Kew and Putney, we'd looped around it on the Thames walk and I was looking for an excuse to find a cafe recently opened by one of the guys who'd worked at Munson's.

In addition to the London Wetland Centre, Barnes has a pleasant village green and pond. We passed a rather inauspicious looking building near the river where (according to a plaque) Gustav Holst had lived for 5 years prior to the Great War, after he began teaching at St. Paul's Girls School in nearby Hammersmith. Henry (Tom Jones) Fielding also lived in the area.

I didn't find the cafe. I did finish off Beyond the Fringe ... and Beyond, a critical biography of the performing lives of Peter Cook, Dudley Moore, Alan Bennett and Jonathan Miller; and also Travels with Macy, about vet Bruce Fogle's travels around the US with his dog Macy, following in the footsteps of John Steinbeck, detailed in Travels with Charley.

The first book is filled with many droll anecdotes, but also gives me some pause for reflecting on the arc of my own life as I see the lives of these four men traced over 3 decades. Different times ( BtF was on stage when I was born) but chance & ambition deal the same cards today.

Today we returned to Richmond, end-point of two of my Thames walks. I hadn't actually seen much of the village beyond the waterfront. We dallied a while by the water so Bondi could have a swim, but not too long as a very territorial swan kept swimming up, making aggressive hacking noises as if it had a hairball from the last malamute it had swallowed. A heron [photo above] perched on the rowing-boat steps on the other side of the bridge was much more amenable... then the swan swooped in to drive off another challenger. After a while I took some lunch to the Richmond Green, and we snoozed on the grass.
Google aside, my preoccupations for the upcoming week are
* Bondi's visit to an orthopaedic veterinary surgeon in Surrey on Tuesday morning, possibly for arthroscopic surgery to solve the joint mouse problem.
* researching our upcoming visit to Ireland. I'm planning 3-4 weeks with lots of coastal walks, and possibly a long-distance trail like the Dingle Way. Anything like that is dependent on Bondi's recovery. My inclination is to find a few bases around the coast and then use those for multi-day exploration, starting at Cork, and working clockwise.
* Windows Vista beta-testing. I've just downloaded my 4th beta build, mainly concentrating on issues to do with non-English US scenarios, Tablet PC and media player library problems. I'm not too impressed by what I see so far: I think there's only one small feature (regarding volume controls across the system) that I would call out as a "nice to have", otherwise I see no reason to get excited about it. That opinion may change over the coming months, but it means that Microsoft has to pull a lot of rabbits out of the hat very late in the process. Since Vista is due to start shipping to corporate clients later this year, that means there is little bake-time on usability issues.

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