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Still Happy - Sally's Journal
December 19th, 2005
11:09 am

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Still Happy


Well, Thursday and Friday evenings were taken up with committee meetings, but Thursday's was hopefully productive, and Friday's had the most gorgeous gingerbread and lovely dogs. I am intrinsically against small dogs, preferring big floppy gun dogs to small yappy fake things, but Clive's dogs are singlehandedly converting me. He has a small foreign dog that combines all the best features of foxes and teddy bears, and is blind, gentle and sweet natured, and a brand new rescue dog called Chipper who will look (and act?) like a puppy for the rest of his life, and is incredably cute. When I am old I want to own a boat and live in a huge house by the Cam surrounded by dogs and watching the rowers.

I am getting to grips with my Christmas shopping. There are two moods I can end up in when Christmas shopping; the Good Mood, where I find what I want to buy people, I find things I didn't even realise I wanted to buy people that are perfect, and I generally enjoy abusing my debit card and have an optimistic air that the things I'm wasting money on might really make people smile. The Bad Mood is when panic sets in, when I've spent two hours wandering round not knowing what I'm looking for and not buying anything, and stand in the middle of the shop holding the last geomag unable to move because it's the last one, and if I put it down someone else will buy it, and it's Very Cheap, but I can't think of anyone who I haven't aready given vast quantities of geomag to who would like it, and I start to fear that all I am doing is burning money to move tat round the country and everyone would be much happier if they just bought what they wanted, instead of having their home cluttered up by other peoples taste in rubbish... This year I have managed to maintain the Good Mood for a remarkably high percentage of the time I've been shopping, and have almost enjoyed myself. I'm such a girl, getting so happy about spending money. And because I went to pick up a "parcel"* of M's, I've discovered shops I didn't know existed in Cambridge. I think you know you're old when a Homebase is an Exciting New Discovery. However, the Babies R Us wasn't selling any babies, despite the misleading name, so I didn't get M one for Christmas.

This weekend has been lovely. Saturday was a Queens' people reunion, so after I'd finished running round like a headless chicken I went off to the happy home of Dangradan for my first Christmas of the year. That is a gorgeous house, it's such a shame the landlord's taking it back off them this summer. I hope it's not just a cynical ploy to hike the rent up into line with the rest of Cambridge. It was so weird but so nice, to be back with the Queens' crowd, Rhian and Will and Kate and Cathy and Joe and Derek and Richard and Daniel and Graham and Danny and Mark... a blast from the past, just being surrounded by friendly faces that you've known for six years. And for once the wine made me relaxed and happy, instead of bitter and twisted that they had graduate jobs, and PhDs and other things. I even managed to confess to that dark secret that I have been hiding and only discussing with close friends at midnight, that I failed the Civil Service tests, and it was remarkably easy**. I have not been instantly dropped as a friend / fiancee / person to talk to about maths and Stuff now my stupidity is known. This makes me happier :-) There was lots of incredably good food, with special compliments to the brandy butter, the Double-stuffed Stuffing, and the womens' weekly cocktails. I miss them all. They have all changed for the better, and yet are all still the same people that I know and love.

Cathy stayed at HHM for the evening, so we sat and talked with M until I practically fell asleep. On Sunday I went off down to London, for Christmas Take Two with the light entertainers. You know you're getting old when even the people in ALES seem young. I stole Noga for an hour to go for hot chocolate and gossip, and t'was good, and the meal was great too, with Ben, and Penny and James (who are now finally living together in a Manor House which is how the world should be) and David Waller, who I hadn't seen for ages and is as wrapped up in wedding plans as I am now, and Rachel. Then I sloped off early to go iceskating with Sebby at Greenwitch. As I've wanted to go to Greenwitch since I was a 10 yr old reading the Deptford Mice it was quite a pilgrimage for me in its own sweet way - I saw the Cutty Sark! And I hadn't been iceskating for far too long, and it remains one of my favourite things in the world*** especially with the stars shining, the beautiful buildings of the maritime museum all around, and the cheesy christmas music playing happilly. And on top of all this was the most excellent company. There are few people who would let me leap off a train at Mudshoot to see what was there, and the ones that I know are precious and should be cherished. Even if they can't be trusted to order a sensibly sized Naan bread. In future I will put my foot down and insist that my carbohydrates should be smaller than the table on which they are placed :-)

It's been a wonderful weekend.

*£1.21 for a Christmas card for Matthew from some people I don't know in Surrey who can't be bothered to put a stamp on it! And I had to queue for half an hour! It's a good job I'm so happy I don't get upset about these things.

** It's very hard to talk about this without coming across as a mad paranoid freak who can't cope with failing things. However, it's very odd to be told that you we unsuccessful at a test, and have your only feedback be that you were "above average" at both tests. Especially when you were told you'd pass all the practise tests on their website, and got all the pratise questions from the careers service precisely right. Add to this the fact that I now have anecdotal evidence of at least 4 other people who I or their friends would regard as "very clever" failing the tests. Now add to that the fact that I have only heard of one person who passed said tests, and her feedback was that she was "average" at verbal reasoning and "above average" at numerical reasoning. It's all very strange. But my "Are you sure there hasn't been some mistake, your feedback makes no sense" mail to the Civil Service just got a "Get a grip, lots of people take these tests and it is _very_ hard, you know" response, so I suppose now is a good point to let it slide and not get worked up over it. I'm not bitter (well, not very) I'm just confused...

*** If the whole day hadn't been so magical I would complain about the incredable overpricing of the worlds smallest icerink for the worlds shortest session, but it was, so I won't.

(34 comments | Leave a comment)

Comments
 
[User Picture]
From:mhw
Date:December 19th, 2005 12:32 pm (UTC)
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This is good news, and I'm delighted that you're so happy.
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From:aldabra
Date:December 19th, 2005 12:35 pm (UTC)
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I had friends at Oxfrod who failed the Civil Service test (one in particular was *born* to be a civil servant, so their test is clearly testing the wrong thing...).
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From:feanelwa
Date:December 19th, 2005 12:53 pm (UTC)
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The Civil Service tests are administrated by a couple of old ladies in an office named Emily N. Tropy and Constance F. Usion whose greatest pleasure in life is causing people to encounter things that don't make sense. On their days off, they wander together through small towns placing traffic cones and 'men working' signs around places where there is no hole in the road, adding their special solution to the clutches in people's cars to make that screechy noise, placing invisible thorns in people's bicycle tyres, introducing random typos and omissions into people's Livejournal posts when they're not looking, and supplying DIY plumbers with free duck tape through the letterbox. When they are at work, they chuckle gleefully over a cup of fishfinger tea when they read people's tales of confusion and puzzlement, and occasionally lean over to the window, push aside the rice-paper curtains and sprinkle drops of water onto the heads of passers-by, who look up into a clear blue sky, shake their heads in mild bafflement and walk on.
From:ex_robhu
Date:December 19th, 2005 07:03 pm (UTC)
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I want whatever you drank / smoke / ate :-P
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From:feanelwa
Date:December 19th, 2005 08:58 pm (UTC)
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Fudge!
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From:catyak
Date:December 19th, 2005 01:08 pm (UTC)
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Has it occurred to you that the people the civil service are looking for are in-betweens? That is, not too thick and not too bright. If you're too bright then you'll show then all up and get promoted over their heads, so they don't want that.

D
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From:zebbiejohnson
Date:December 19th, 2005 01:14 pm (UTC)
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They may also factor in your ability/willingness to move round the contry at their whim for the rest of your working life, this was the main reason I didn't get as far as taking the tests, because I would fail it on that anyway.
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From:atreic
Date:December 19th, 2005 01:34 pm (UTC)
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Yes, but I hadn't got round to telling them that yet, so they can't have been factoring it in :-)
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From:king_of_wrong
Date:December 19th, 2005 01:27 pm (UTC)
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I assume this is the FastStream, which only has a 10% acceptance rate for Oxbridge (and far closer to 0% for the rest).
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From:king_of_wrong
Date:December 19th, 2005 01:28 pm (UTC)
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I failed the Civil Service tests

Me too. Getting below the automatic-rejection score is The Suck.
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From:atreic
Date:December 19th, 2005 01:34 pm (UTC)
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Oh, OK, that's 5 "very clever" people. How odd.
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From:king_of_wrong
Date:December 19th, 2005 01:55 pm (UTC)
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Nah, I'm stupid ;)

It's not really so odd if you consider that they get ~1500 Oxbridge grads for ~300 places. That's bloody tough competition even without the 4000 applicants from other unis...
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From:ilanin
Date:December 19th, 2005 02:25 pm (UTC)
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That sounds about right. The only person I know in the civil service took the civil service exams in his final year at Oxford just to prove to his friends that they actually were possible to pass...

(He's secretary of the Commons Home Affairs Select Committee now, so I guess he was probably rather competent).
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From:ilanin
Date:December 19th, 2005 02:26 pm (UTC)
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OK, before a pedant catches me on this one: yes, that does, strictly, mean he isn't a civil servant, because he works for the House of Commons, not the Government. Recruitment works the same way, though.
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From:megaleena
Date:December 19th, 2005 01:34 pm (UTC)
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However, the Babies R Us wasn't selling any babies, despite the misleading name, so I didn't get M one for Christmas.

*G*
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From:deborah_c
Date:December 19th, 2005 02:34 pm (UTC)
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Of course, getting M one for next Christmas would be perfectly practicable... :-)
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From:megaleena
Date:December 19th, 2005 02:37 pm (UTC)
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Ah yes, there's quite a long delivery time isn't there, so next year would be more feasable!
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From:emperor
Date:December 19th, 2005 03:16 pm (UTC)
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Stop giving her ideas!
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From:emperor
Date:December 19th, 2005 01:48 pm (UTC)
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Yay :) (well, except for the "trying to buy random babies" bit ;-p )

Love you :)
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From:teleute
Date:December 19th, 2005 06:06 pm (UTC)
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I would have thought that buying a random baby is slightly less disturbing than trying to buy a specific baby. I mean walking into a store and saying "Oh, I think I'll have that one" is ok. Stalking someone with a cute baby and offering them money is slightly less acceptable. YMMV

That said, I know a cute baby I want. Luckily I'm visiting the same clinic where they got theirs, so maybe I'll be lucky ;-)
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From:pjc50
Date:December 19th, 2005 03:35 pm (UTC)
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Splendid :)
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From:angoel
Date:December 19th, 2005 04:08 pm (UTC)
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But a table-sized Nan bread is something that everyone should experience at least once. And it was only a small table.
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From:atreic
Date:December 19th, 2005 04:21 pm (UTC)
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I have your hat, and your gloves, and owe you money for the ice skating. Do you need any of this before New Year?
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From:the_lady_lily
Date:December 19th, 2005 04:54 pm (UTC)
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*puts hand in air*

I too failed the Civil Service Exams! Got as far as the first assessment center and got scuppered by the darn maths, despite feanelwa's best attempts to teach me maths first.
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From:the_marquis
Date:December 19th, 2005 05:05 pm (UTC)
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I'm intrigued by the Civil Service having a general requirement for maths when you think about the outrageous overspends on any sort of procurement or project.

But the idea of it being a seemingly easy test that actually rejects very good candidates does fit with the idea that the Civil Service is a job for those deemed to be "of the right sort".
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From:feanelwa
Date:December 19th, 2005 09:01 pm (UTC)
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They have a general requirement for being able to guess spurious patterns between numbers within thirty seconds. When I tried the_lady_lily's practice questions, I couldn't even remotely do them within the time limit, because I sat down and did a pile of algebra and looked in a book to make sure I'd remembered the theory right. People who can do the maths questions in the Civil Service tests right, are the sort of person who has a drastic inability to solve actual real problems.
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From:king_of_wrong
Date:December 20th, 2005 12:57 am (UTC)
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They have a general requirement for being able to guess spurious patterns between numbers within thirty seconds.

Not really... sure, IQ tests do that, but numerical aptitude tests are generally just about simple calculations (at speed).
The harder questions require more parts (e.g. increase X by 20%, increase Y by 10%, renormalise to calculate the new percentage split), but they're still just simple ratios or sums.
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From:feanelwa
Date:December 20th, 2005 11:39 am (UTC)
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I call that guessing a spurious pattern!
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From:king_of_wrong
Date:December 20th, 2005 12:09 pm (UTC)
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I call it reading the question! ;)

(Seriously, the sort of example I was thinking of is "If the sales of Widgets increases by 20% next year but sales of all other products only increase by 10%, what percentage of revenue will come from Widgets next year?")
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From:feanelwa
Date:December 20th, 2005 02:57 pm (UTC)
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Ohhh. I think you might have had different kinds of questions. When I was helping somebody with these a couple of years ago, there were some proper reasoning questions like the one you describe, and then a separate section also labelled as "numerical reasoning" where each question had four or five numbers that followed some sort of pattern, and then you had to choose from five possibilities what the fifth/sixth number in the pattern would be.
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From:king_of_wrong
Date:December 20th, 2005 03:54 pm (UTC)
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Oh, those next-number-in-the-sequence ones annoy me - you can put *any* number next (and your pattern is the (n+1)-point DFT of the resulting sequence, even if nothing else fits). Those were the "IQ test" ones I mentioned. They do tend to be solvable, though - there are only a handful of sequence types they tend to use and then it's just a matter of fitting values to the pattern and seeing which works.

All of the Civil Service (and Barclays Capital) ones I saw were the proper reasoning ones, though...
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From:feanelwa
Date:December 20th, 2005 07:08 pm (UTC)
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Yeah. I suspect the way to do it is to buy practice tests until you can make a list of the sequence types they use and then it's instinctive. This does of course require being rich, having a lot of time and having Connections who will help you get more data than the amount they give you with the normal practice papers.
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From:countess_rezia
Date:December 21st, 2005 12:35 am (UTC)
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Ooo, you were in Mudshute - that's where I live!
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From:serenasnape
Date:December 21st, 2005 11:43 am (UTC)
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My boyfriend failed too. He got told he was "unsuitable" and that his numerical skills were "average" - which I find VERY hard to believe, particularly as he was certain he got almost all of them right ...!

But then, my Dad's a low-grade Civil Servant, I wasn't sure I wanted to know another one anyway ;)
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