Tag: OUP

Why I hate coriander

Hello! Remember me? It’s not that I haven’t had a weird thought for a while, I just haven’t had time to post. Life has been horrendously busy, for months and months. But today I realised that I need to make time for my weird thoughts or they will just get lost in my head forever. So, here is today’s weird thought.

This weird thought came about through a chance posting on Facebook about my dislike of coriander. I have known for a long time that I hate coriander. Back in the last 1990s and early 200s when I worked at Oxford University Press I had a daily struggle with coriander. What could she mean? I hear you cry. I will explain. The catering company in charge of feeding the creative minds that worked at OUP at that time thought they were very modern and funky. Their idea of modern and funky seemed to mostly consist of ‘let’s throw coriander on everything’. I hadn’t really come across this fragrant herb before. Suddenly it was being thrust upon me, in bucket loads, in the form of garnish on salads, garnish in stews, garnish in soup, garnish with paninis, garnish with coffee. You name it, they chucked coriander on it.


I hated the stuff. I’d pick it out when I could. But it wasn’t long before the end of my tether had been reached. Eventually, I switched to bringing my own sandwiches. At the time, I put this  violent distaste of this herb down to pregnancy.

However, nearly twenty years later in a random cafe in Aberystwyth (we are here for the weekend) my evil thoughts about coriander raise themselves up again. Picture this. We are in a pub. We order food. My burger comes with a side salad. The side salad looks amazing. I only wish it had tasted amazing. It didn’t. It tasted of… coriander.

So after posting my severe upset at this today on Facebook I am alerted to the fact by a friend that one in five of us have a natural aversion to coriander. To one in five people it tastes like soup. Apparently this is down to the fact that one in five of us is hyper-sensitive to chemicals called aldehydes which are present in soap. Perhaps I have an answer. Perhaps now I have an excuse. At least, I can use this as my excuse. I’m not sure if coriander tastes exactly like soup to me (and, forgive me for this, I actually like the taste of soup and have done ever since I craved it when pregnant with number three son). So I’m not sure I am in that one in five.

I need to find some coriander to check for sure. If only I had some to hand… Anyone got any coriander I can put on my fish and chip supper here on the beach?

I find comfort in strange names and it works

I’m currently sat writing this on a train, the 18.57 train from Banbury to Manchester Piccadilly. I’m getting off this train at Wolverhampton. I’m making the most of this opportunity (being sat on a train with a laptop and wifi) to do some work. I like working on the train. I find it easier to work on a train than at home (shame I just can’t travel on trains every day I’d be so productive). I ike the noise and commotion that a train provides: the people; the bags; the conversations; the tap, tap, tapping on nearby laptops and the smells of bacon butties and lager. If you’re interested in learning more about active travel in England, check out this helpful resources at https://active-travel.uk/blog/what-is-the-active-travel-act-in-england.

View from the Train

However, I was just sat here, working away, when something odd about my way of working occurred to me that I normally take for granted. There’s a chap sat next to me also tapping away on his own laptop and I tried to imagine what he would think if he were to glance at my screen. Imagining seeing my screen through another’s eyes gave me that uncanny feeling that things are strange when seen with fresh eyes.

The strange thing I am referring to is the fact that I give my documents, spreadsheets and folders odd names and I think that is normal. However, to the man sat next to me, this is surely not normal. Or, I assume that to be the case. I need to know now whether other people call their folders and documents odd names and organize them as haphazardly as I do. Here is an example of an oddly named spreadsheet.

My timekeeping spreadsheet is called: Copy of Time After Toes July 2017

It’s not called ‘Timesheet’ or even just ‘Time’. That would be sensible. The astute reader of this blog will notice that the word ‘time’ does appear in the name, giving some sense of normality, but the meaning of the rest of the spreadsheet’s name is rather ambiguous. The interested reader may want to know what, or who, is ‘Toes’ and why is it ‘time after Toes’ (what happened before Toes?)? There is a logic to it. After my youngest son was born (who I fondly call Toes) I started a new spreadsheet for my timekeeping for work and called it ‘Time After Toes’ as that is what it recorded: time spent working after the birth of the child called Toes. Subsequently, as I saved more versions of this spreadsheet I started to date them by month, hence the ‘July 2017’ part of the title (although I haven’t been consistent in renaming this every month given that it is now September). ‘Copy of’ I think just appears in the name of a spreadsheet when you save a spreadsheet after it crashes. Incidentally, Toes is now nearly 8 years old.

This is just one example. I could provide more (on request). This naming oddity doesn’t just apply to documents. It also applies to folders.

The folder I currently use for everything I’ve worked on since 2013 is called: VSIs for Edingburgh

That name won’t make much sense without some some context. A few years ago I worked on a project for Oxford University Press which involved creating short abstracts for titles in their Very Short Introduction series which were due to be launched online that same year. I then went to Edinburgh on holiday. I needed a folder for the work for this project while I was away. Hence the name. However, after creating that folder, I carried on using it as a general dumping ground for ALL work I did when away from home (so work not saved on the home server). The occupancy of VSI abstracts in this folder is minor.

A Very Short Introduction

At some point, this folder got a bit messy. So I created a subfolder called: OSO Stuff (OSO being Oxford Scholarship Online, a project I spend most of my time working on).

I then  started using this folder as a dumping ground for all away-from-home work (not just OSO – anything and including VSIs). This folder also gradually outgrew its usefulness.

So I subsequently created another subfolder to put new work in with a new name: General OSO

I then went on holiday to Wales.

The next folder within this folder was logically named: Wales October 2015

The same happened again, ‘Wales October 2015’ became my dumping ground. Everything was saved in here.

Wales where I did some work in October 2015 – when I had wifi

A year later I went to Wale again and so along came a fresh, new subfolder: Wales Oct 2016

I am currently still dumping into this folder but I am now already finding this folder really messy, following in the footsteps of its predecessors. I think I need a new folder (perhaps ‘Haddenham September 2017’ might be a good name as that is where I have been today?).

This is file path of all my away-from-home work at the moment:

C:\_Moved\Desktop\VSIs for Edinburgh\OSO Stuff\General OSO\Wales October 2015\Wales Oct 2016

That’s not great, is it? Anyone who is quite tidy will be quaking right now. It is messy, it is disorganzied, but I know where everything is. It works for me.

Organized chaos is a real thing. Long life folders and spreadsheets with weird names. I think life would be boring if things were named to describe exactly what they are.

I want to be a gastrophysicist

Today, I came across this news item on the BBC News website. It’s about a growing field which blends food technology, psychology, neuroscience with physics: gastrophysics.

What a pretty Venn diagramme

What a pretty Venn diagram

If I wasn’t a publishing project managing artist blogger, I’d love to be a gastrophysicist.

My main employer

My main employer

I’ve looked into the physics of food-related things before with the physics of the teapot. I think it is a fascinating area. This particular news article, however, looks specifically at the science of the spoon. It includes an interview with a man, Andreas Fabian, who actually specialises in spoons. He has a PhD in spoons. He has made spoons his life. In his words ‘its probably the first thing we use when we are born, we are fed, and probably the last thing when we die.’ How wonderful to be so passionate about a single object.

A spoon

A spoon

The gastrophysicists don’t just look at spoons though: there’s a whole load of stuff they study: colour, what you should watch when eating, who you should eat with to name but a few.

Perhaps when I come back in another life I’ll pay more attention in physics lessons at school and get into gastrophysics. It seems such fun.

Weird thought: what do people think I really do for a living?

Recently, I read a book about an art project by Miranda July and Harrell Fletcher which ran from 2002 to 2009. The project, which was a crowdsourced collaborative art project, aimed to engage random people in arty activities. The two artists asked people via their website to complete assignments, which could involve a variety of media such as pens, paint, collage, video and audio, and post the results to the website. The book is fascinating and shows just how creative and open about their lives people can be. Assignments included: no. 6) Make a poster of shadows; no. 9) Draw a constellation from someone’s freckles; no. 14) Write your life story in less than a day; and 39) Take a photograph of your parents kissing.

Miranda July - a quirky artist

Miranda July – a quirky artist and writer

One of the assignments that I felt like trying myself was this one (no. 35): Ask your family to describe what you do. This assignment asked for descriptions of people’s day-long activities by three family members. However, I wanted to focus it on work as nobody seems to get what I do for a living. So I asked a few friends and family to describe what they think I do (age range from 5 to 75). This is what they came up with:

‘You do things on a laptop.’

‘You write book blurbs.’

‘You seem to spend a lot of time on your laptop, I think that you read through new books and correct mistakes, grammar and spelling. I also think that you write the blurb at the beginning of the book, though not totally sure about this. You seem to spend a lot of time doing conference calls, I am sure these are work related. I am sure there is more to your job than I have described, but I guess I have never asked you.’

‘I think you edit writing for a living. I imagine you sitting, having to read lots of boring technical or factual drafts of books or papers.’

‘I think you’re a proof reader  (not even sure that’s actually the proper name) you check things for spelling mistakes and grammar issues but I’m not sure what you check , I know its not novels like 50 shades of grey haha and you have meetings on the phone. You also paint but not nearly as much as you’d like. Am I at all close?’

‘I think you edit text books for Oxford press .You have to write the resume I presume and what goes on the cover and all sort of other technical things. All this on your computer and telephone meetings.’

‘I used to know what you did – proof reading non fiction books for OUP.  Now you do something to do with project managing them being published but I admit I always get a bit lost!’

‘I think you make VSIs on lots of different subjects.’

One family member thinks I write these

One family member thinks I write these

Some elements are correct, clearly taken from snippets of conversation I’ve had with people. But nobody has quite got the full job description. I hope that more people respond and if they do I’ll post here as it amuses me that my job is hard to describe.

The Big Book of…

There are two books that I wished existed in real life.

The first is, The Big Book of What People Say and What People Mean.

I get quite confused by the things people say when they actually mean something different. Why do people do this? Do they do it just to challenge me? What I mean by this is that I need a book which lists those coded messages that the Japanese are so good at and the English are just as good at, along with their actual meanings. My favourite Japanese phrase that belongs in this book is Tabun chotto muri da to omoimasu which means ‘I think that might be a little bit impossible’. Actual meaning = no. Often I wish people would just say what they mean and not say it in code. I think that many other people automatically ‘get’ the code but I don’t. I’m always telling my husband off for speaking to me in this ‘code’ that I don’t get.

This book would be my constant companion if it existed

This book would be my constant companion if it existed

The second is, The Big Book of What We Should Never Do. This relates to the weird thought I had the other night as I went to bed before nightfall. It was only 10pm but it was still light. So I said to my husband ‘I’m sure it says in The Big Book of What We Should Never Do that we should never go to bed before nightfall, at least not after the age of 10 years’. He laughed at me and informed me that such a book doesn’t exist.

I wish I has this book on my book shelf

I wish I has this book on my book shelf

Other entries in this invaluable reference work would be:

  • Get up before 7am on a Sunday No Matter What.
  • Say no thanks to More Wine when offered.
  • Drink wine out of a mug, that is never, ever acceptable.
  • Wear yellow. I don’t care if you think it suits you, it doesn’t.
  • Anger a cat.
  • Go clothes shopping after a lunchtime tipple (never, ever do this).
  • Gatecrash a funeral (although a wedding reception is perfectly acceptable, I’ve only done this once).
  • Say ‘that’s ok, I can make you cheese on toast instead’ to your child who won’t eat vegetables.
  • Go to the toilet before leaving the house in a hurry on a day when you are wearing a skirt or dress (yep, done this a few times).

As, sadly, such books do not yet exist, perhaps I should write to my good friends at Oxford University Press and suggest they commission these titles. I, for one, would definitely purchase.