June 30, 2006

Office Politics

The longer I work at my current place of employment, the more it amazes me. As it's the first time for me to work in a big organisation like this (about 1500 people at this establishment, with other offices in about 4 other countries) it's difficult to assess whether or not this is normal. Some examples:

- upper management drinks. A lot. The first bottles of wine are opened between 4 and 5pm. But it isn't social drinking, people just sit in their own offices behind their computers and their stacks of papers and have a glass of wine (or 2 or 3) just as anyone else would have coffee.

- The Clique: the Department is a tight group of people, many of whom have worked together for 10 years or more. Even though there are different projects within the department it feels like a good team. This also has its disadvantages though: no room for outsiders. Yesterday there were interviews for five managerial positions (to clarify, this department is quite powerful within its directorate; some colleagues have mentioned that this year is like continuous Christmas: lots of money for lots of new projects).
Although the decisions aren't formalized yet it is quite clear who will get which position. Two of the five are successor-posts and they are being filled by people out of the respective teams. The other three are completely new: they are all being filled by people from the project which is physically closest to the department head (and incidentally, that project manager is the right-hand-man of the department head). Yep, the way to have a successful career is to have your office in the same corridor as the department head....

Actually, after having seen now how this department works, it is clear that my 'career' is by and large due to the fact that I'm only a door away from my boss and her's: the department head. If I would have been stuck on any other project - meaning on a different floor/in a different corridor - my job wouldn't have been nearly so good (relatively speaking, that is; it's still boring and simple).

- men vs. women: my PoE is an extremely male-dominated organisation. It is very technical, and I guess that explains it, no matter how cliche that may be. But! It does have its advantages: every door is always held open for me (and, confirming the stereotype, if it isn't than 9 out of 10 times the guy in front of me is German or Dutch!); I am never allowed to buy a round of coffee at lunch; and it has happened a few times now that when we go out with a project team, the women are being paid for while the men have to pay their own way. Very, very old-fashioned and conservative, huh?

Hmm, I'm sure I'll think of more. Can anyone tell me if this is normal? I tend to think not... (except for the career development strategy maybe).

June 28, 2006

January Man

I've raved before about David Mitchell and the signed book I got of Black Swan Green. Have almost finished that, and I have to say it's quite different from his other books. Quite good, but can't quite make up my mind about it yet so am anxious to finish it.

In any case, the first chapter seems to be an expansion of a short story Mitchell published in Granta a few years (2003, I think?) ago. It's quite cool to read and see how the chapter in the book has expanded and improved from the story.

June update

I've been away for a while – too much stuff going on apparently. So, a few bullets on what's happening:

1) the two interviews that I mentioned went badly. It's back to the drawing table to figure out a new strategy to this job hunting thing as the current one is not yielding any results. *sigh*

2) current job is kind of okay though. It almost feels as if my boss(es) is (are) trying to 'buy' loyalty. I get the best tasks, the best trips (comparatively at least, considering my non-seniority at this place), the most flexible work times and the list continues. And I've been put 'in charge' of a new Japan-related project which will keep me occupied while nr. 1 is not succeeding yet.

3) I seem to be wearing some kind of magical perfume lately. Weirdly enough, men are all around.

4) Fun stuff coming up – cookie is taking me to the new exposition at the Van Gogh Museum (yay!), and am hopefully going to either a dance event or a festival on the weekend. It's time for some relaxing. It feels as if the last two weeks have been incredibly crowded and stressful.

Have to say I'm looking forward to July. Finally a proper start to summer?

June 17, 2006

Well, that was a waste of money

So, I picked up my pictures of my month away today.

Despite being on-line I still do not own a digital camera although today's discovery might change that: I had requested my photos to be put on cd-rom with the sole purpose of being able to put some pictures on here and send out via email.

Well, I can't.

The format of the cd-rom's is totally incomprehensible and I don't seem to be able to do anything with it except look at them in a stupid slide-show type of thing on my screen. Gah. It's time for that digi-cam, methinks.

To not disappoint you too much (?), I nicked a couple of pics of colleague's blogs (don't ya love the camel!)

Gagarin art at the Space museum

The main square in town

June 16, 2006

camels have priority on the road...

June 13, 2006

When it rains it poors (pours?)

That's the expression, right?

It seems that all good things are coming at once at the moment. Maybe I'm jinxing it by posting on here, but well....

In addition to the first interview I just found out that I have a second one scheduled immediately after. At the same organisation, but different department and totally different job. Anyone care to help me out on how I'm going to talk my way around that? Still, sooo happy that I got invited in for both jobs - both of which I thought were out of my league.

Additionally, I heard from my internship placement from last year who are urging me to contact their organization as there seem to be some interesting developments goin on there as well....

And that's only the job-related part of my life. Good day, despite being back at this office.

June 11, 2006

Packing (1); or, May reading list

[update at 11 june]
So, out of the below list, I read Irving's book which I really enjoyed. I was disappointed with The History of Love though. So that's two books down... Did start in Cosmopolitanism, and have started in the Finnish book which so far looks really interesting, a very cool story-'frame'.

But, I came home with a new book in German, which I will try to tackle sometime soon. And as mentioned I found the new Mitchell. I also bought a book on Russia after the fall of the Soviet Union which I started reading in the plane. So far it's very good.... But I don't think I've made much progress on eliminating the big stack of unread books, huh?


[original at 10 may]
This time next week I'll be sound asleep in Moscow.

At the moment, though, I still have a very packed few days ahead. I have also not giving thought to any packing yet (suitcase vs. backpack, office wear vs. casual wear, well, you get what I mean).
However, I have made a pretty cool selection out of my bookshelfs of unread books to bring! Here's what's coming along in any case:

Not before sundown by Johanna Sinisalo - the result of an international book exchange.
A History of Love by Nicole Krauss - a friend highly recommended this as I was telling her how I'm currently very impressed with Jonathan Safran Foer's Extremely Close.
The Hotel New Hampshire by John Irving

and out of professional habit, so to speak, Kimono by Liza Dalby.

and for when I have had enough of engineering talk, Cosmopolitanism by Kwame Anthony Appiah and Orientalism by Edward Said. Hmm, should actually be an interesting combination to read.

Oh, and maybe a new Terry Pratchett for some light entertainment in between?

What say you? Four weeks in the middle of nowhere, will this list suffice? ;-)

[@14/05]And additionally, a new book for my bookcase and my suitcase, The Quiet Violence of Dreams by K. Sello Duiker.


Even though four weeks is not that long, it still feels good to be home.

For a change, the first thing I did upon arrival was very Dutch: pancakes! Eaten at the airport even. And, even more surprisingly, this was upon suggestion of my American 'private driver' - the decadence continues ;)

Moscow was good - in one word: overwhelming. Or better yet, megalomanic. Highlight was the three hour guided tour with a colleague to the Kremlin. More later.

Surprise at home: an autographed copy of David Mitchell's (my current favourite writer) Black Swan Green. 'To [input machiruda's real name] of Kazakhstan'. How cool is that? Love it, and cannot wait to start reading.

June 08, 2006

counting down...

.... one last look at a blanketed satellite

.... 30 more minutes of office time

.... one more night in the desert

Yes, almost out of KZ and on to Moscow! Woohoo.

The weekend's arranged, a programme is being scheduled by my colleagues for tomorrow afternoon and I have a list of must-see's myself (New Tretyakov Gallery, Kremlin and Armoury Palace, the Moscow metro to mention just a few).

Expect pictures and stories after the weekend (*^-^*)

June 07, 2006

Hisashiburi ni: Japan politics

I have to admit that I haven't been keeping track of Japan-related news for quite some time - despite having studied the country quite intensively over the past 8 years or so (well, until last summer, that is).

But, I opened my inbox yesterday to find two very interesting essays/articles on Japanese politics - and realized that it still is a fascinating country.

The first is an article in the Far Eastern Economic Review by a former Japanese diplomat Kazuhiko Togo: Togo in FEER In the article he offers his ideas on how to work towards the resolution of the Yasukuni-issue.
I am proud to say that an organisation that I am involved with in the Netherlands is hosting a lecture by him tonight on exactly this issue so this comes as a very timely publication and event. I am increasingly disappointed that I will not be able to attend the evening myself but except detailed feedback from my fellow-organisers!

Secondly, a new report has been published by James Schoff for the Institute for Foreign Policy Analysis about Japanese policy towards North Korea (the topic of my thesis) and how this influences American policy: IFPA report I've only just started reading it but it looks good. It's also interesting to see someone else tackle exactly the same questions as I did a few years ago, although this is obviously at a much more professional level.

It does offer me a glimpse of what could be if I would ever decide to pursue an academic career. After all, for now I have decided that that is not the thing for me to do right now but this could easily change in a few years. Especially when I realize how interesting I find it to be reading about these issues and to make my brain work again!

June 01, 2006

When principles collide with the real world…

I won’t go into detail, just another occasion of realizing that doing the ‘right’ thing is not always the thing you want to be doing (okay, we all knew that already).

Then again, maybe this isn’t my problem. Maybe I should stop trying to be/feel responsible for everything. And start enjoying, without worrying about the consequences.

Or instead, maybe I should lock myself in my hotel room for the night and start preparing my job interview or (more fun) my weekend in Moscow next week.