Tuesday, September 30, 2014

This is it

My difficulty with social situations might be my undoing in my job. My last job wasn't a lot of fun at times, especially when my boss changed last August, but obligatory social events were mercifully rare. With the move and Christmas on the horizon, I'm likely to find myself in many more uncomfortable spots before 2014 is out.

As I get older, being socially "abnormal" becomes more of a problem. I'm always having to bluff my way through situations, and it's exhausting. I'm actually better at bluffing than I realised - I suppose I've had a bit of practice by now, and because I'm shy and retiring, people don't expect me to be bluffing. But bluffing my way through an 80-minute interview is a completely different matter from several months or years of work.

I'm already looking forward to 2015 (but see below). My flatmate should be gone by Christmas. I got another letter in the mail today from the neighbours, complaining about the noise. I'm starting to getting used to Kevin's noisy habits. Less so his smelly habits; the whole downstairs reeked when I got home today. I won't miss the assault on three of my five senses. Next year might also be the year I get to go on holiday.

I was disappointed with 3 News tonight. They whipped up the Labour leadership battle into a political soap opera. Shock! Horror! The knives are out and it's carnage! Report the news guys, don't be the bloody news. Don't just make up a story. That's not what the news is for. In all fairness, things aren't great for Labour right now, and it's hard to see who can unite the party and challenge the immensely popular John Key. One supposed truism that I hear over and over is: "He/she's just been an academic and a politician and has no experience of the real world." I think that's overblown; the corporate world (which is many politicians' taste of "real life") can be just as far removed from reality.

When I came to New Zealand in 2003 I felt a real sense of optimism. I wasn't that optimistic about me, but the country seemed to be vibrant and exciting and forward-looking and progressive. And caring. Eleven years on, I don't feel optimistic about my future or that of the country. NZ's "care factor" has taken a dive. If you're struggling, there's no-one to blame but yourself and your stupid and how we play it. The choices you make in live have a huge bearing on where you end up, but having those four aces in your hand to begin with gives you one hell of a head-start. And it's very hard to make good decisions when everyone around you is making bad ones. People don't seem to see that anymore.

After 68 months of this blog, and on that pessimistic note, I've had enough. I've run out of things to say and ways to say them. If something earth-shattering happens (perhaps literally), I'll be sure to write about it, but otherwise it's game over. Here are some pictures from the tunnel at the weekend:


Monday, September 29, 2014

It doesn't get any easier...

Work-related social events are coming thick and fast as our move to Petone beckons. On Friday we visited our new premises again. We attended a two-hour talk and then filed off to a café/bar to take part in a quiz. We drew team numbers at random from one to ten, the idea being that the people originating from different organisations would get to know each other, although I was unlucky enough to pick the same number as my boss. We didn't do very well. With a few exceptions, like naming the fish that a song by Heart is named after, I didn't know a lot. Most importantly, the people on my table seemed nice enough.

On Saturday morning Rhiannon and her boyfriend came over for the official opening of the Arras Tunnel. Named after tunnels built by New Zealanders serving in World War One, it's more of an underpass than a tunnel. I live pretty much right next to it and I've watched it take shape since late 2012. The opening drew a big crowd, including a lot of dogs. There was even an impressive, if extremely noisy, brass band. I'm looking forward to the War Memorial park, above the underpass, being completed in time for the centennial Anzac Day commemoration. More green urban space is always welcome, and with all the media exposure the park is bound to get next April, it should look pretty good. I just hope they maintain it once the TV cameras have disappeared.

Later on Saturday I went to another work "do", this time at my colleague's house in Johnsonville. Oh man. It never gets any easier, does it? My mind is good at blocking out really unpleasant experiences, of which this was most certainly one, and I'm already starting to forget the gory details. I remember feeling so tense that my arms and legs felt like they'd been stretched. My colleague's husband was the kind of extroverted joke-a-minute know-it-all Kiwi bloke that I really can't stand. He asked me far too many questions. Of course everybody else in the room was in a long-term relationship, and that only added to my discomfort. I gathered my boss wasn't in his wife's good books; Friday was his daughter's birthday but he was too busy with work stuff to spend time with her. She dragged him kicking and screaming from the party before he got too drunk. She's been into the office once or twice; she seems like a really nice person. Once he'd gone, my boss sent us a group text - he clearly wasn't happy. Everybody else at the party seemed to feel sorry for him. He's a good bloke - "good value" is the term, I think. Because he drinks a lot, he's so much fun to be around, and his habit of smoking when he's had a few gives him about 500 extra mana points. It's so unfair that his wife makes him spend time with the kids occasionally instead of with his workmates. He's 45. When I finally got out of there, into the rain and into my car, I breathed a huge sigh of relief. I'd been there over five hours. I'd much rather have spent that time at an airport.

Yesterday I was supposed to be going on a walk with the autism group but the weather was awful. Instead Isabel came over. She got changed in my bathroom, taking my flatmate by surprise. She took me to the Chocolate Fish café at Shelly Bay. In the evening I went tenpin bowling in Petone with two other blokes. They're really pleasant people to spend time with. I bowled a pleasing 153 and a disappointing 118. My record, by the way, is 191. I got that in Peterborough. It was the middle game of three; I scored 502 over the three games.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

A good day

It was a good day at work today. I was busy getting manhole depth and invert level data from old drainage plans. You could see how all the plans joined onto each other, like a jigsaw puzzle. I didn't send a single email, or even (I think) read one. There wasn't much talk about office politics. It was pretty much perfect. For one day, it was almost like handling those earthquake claims again. Although then I could just come home, have the place to myself, and being a Thursday I probably would have played poker for a couple of hours. Life was better then. Tomorrow we're visiting our new premises in Petone for some kind of meet-and-greet, and then on Saturday one of my workmates is doing a drinks and nibbles thing which I'm obliged to go to. Before long I'll be driving to work (we might even car-pool, which has its up and downsides). I'll miss the convenience of the current location, which was a factor when I applied for and took the job. Of course they knew it was likely to change.

Earlier this week someone at work asked me if I was autistic. I could tell whether he was serious, maybe because I'm autistic. People have started doing some of the quizzes and puzzles in the paper during their tea break. One of those puzzles is a nine-letter word scramble, very much like a Countdown conundrum, except you have to find lots of shorter words too. Sometimes (but not always by any means) I'll spot the word in a second or two. Last week "trimester" appeared - I was surprised how quickly some people got it; it just isn't a word I have reason to use. We also had "breakable" once. I got that pretty quickly. When I suggested "babe" for one of the shorter words, someone said I probably don't get to use that word much in "real life".

On Sunday I met up with the woman whose parents know my parents and who does a similar line of work to me. We haven't got a lot else in common. She told me about the new wayfinding app called Waze, which she said was spelt with a zee. She called pohutukawa trees "pooties". She said someone's house was gay. Then, to top it all off, she said she voted National (I know, I said I wouldn't mention the election again). I can hear a certain song about potatoes and tomatoes coming on. But then, when I told her I'd booked a flight down to Christchurch at Labour weekend, she said she wanted to fly down at the same time, so we could then drive down to Geraldine together. Normally when I fly into Christchurch (which I try to avoid now), Mum and Dad pick me up, and the chat in the car is a really nice part of the whole trip. Oh well.

John Key wants to change the New Zealand flag. It wouldn't feature on my top five things to change, but I'm open to it. Although I like the silver fern emblem, I'm adamant that the Southern Cross should stay and the background shouldn't be black. Something like the above would be great. If it comes to a referendum I could see myself voting tactically for the status quo to avoid getting the white fern on a black background.

This will be one of my last posts. I've got so much to do if I ever want to get my life sorted out, and this blog has become too time-consuming.

Monday, September 22, 2014

A degree in counting

The autism group tonight was interesting. I liked the topic of sensory stimuli. I used to have problems with sensory overload, and wrote about them on this blog. I talked about my (what I think were) out-of-body experiences. Rhiannon finds sensory overload a serious problem, and often refuses to go out because of it.

I asked the facilitator to waive the "no politics" rule in the wake of the election. She happily did so. The salient point from our discussion was how the non-voting population is skewed so heavily towards poor and sick people, who are unlikely to vote National. What a difference just a tenth of the 700,000 non-voters could have made. Now John Key and National can ram through whatever policies they like. Which could be pretty much anything. I don't remember a whole heap of policy discussion emanating from them. (I'm hopeful that it won't actually be that bad.)

Labour are all over the place unfortunately. They remind me of the Tories in the UK between 1997 and 2003 - they went through leaders at about the same rate as Labour have in NZ, were deeply divided within the party, and seemed to lack any sense of direction.

I wonder who my parents voted for (I never ask them directly). Well, with Mum I don't have to wonder at all. Dad has always been much more of a floater and has voted Green and Labour before (and Lib Dem in the UK) but, you know, he now lives in a household with 2000 vehicles per 1000 inhabitants, owns four properties, and goes on cruises for heaven's sake. Why wouldn't he vote National?

There was a lot of discussion of the results at work today. People were looking at the interactive Herald page that shows the results from each polling place. Someone was trying to figure out a way of fiddling the Ohariu boundaries to gerrymander Peter Dunne (who got 0.22% of the party vote) out of parliament.


I took this picture in Berhampore in the weekend before the election. Pretty neat I thought. The division symbol is quite appropriate.

I was thinking that as I'm reasonably good at counting (as Rhiannon says, I've got a degree in it) I should probably get myself involved in the vote counting of future elections. I should look into it. I wouldn't mind even doing a council election - it would be interesting to see the complex STV system with all its quotas and preferences unfold.

That's all the election talk you're going to get from me. It's been a very choppy day (weather-wise) today.

Update (Tuesday morning): I was woken by a reasonable shake last night. It was a 5.5, a lot bigger than the one on Friday night.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

That's democracy I guess

Five of us turned up to that "election party", which was in Khandallah of all places. It was about as much fun as it can be when a party wins untrammelled power and has nought percent support among us. Which was quite fun actually.

The Great Election Night Shift of Oh-five didn't materialise this time; National kept up their massive two-to-one advantage over Labour pretty much all evening, and with the Greens barely scraping double figures, it was a bloodbath. It wasn't long before we were resigned to watching the close race for the party vote between United Future and the Ban 1080 Party (United Future won by 165 votes).

Winston went up in my estimation during the campaign, and he didn't get too far off the 10% he wanted. In his excellent election-night speech he used the word "internecine". He'll bring in ten other MPs (whom I know nothing about) but I don't know whether he'll get to wield any electoral power. The Greens will have 13 MPs, losing one, and I don't think the specials will help them (I'm sure they'll gain vote share from the specials, but they're currently closer to 12 seats than 14; it'll take a huge shift for them to gain a 14th seat).

As for Labour, the massive difference between their electorate and party votes really stood out. In Rongotai (right next to me), Annette King outpolled the National candidate two to one, but Labour still lost the party vote to National. That pattern was repeated up and down the country. If I were a Labour strategist I'd be analysing the bajeezus out of all 71 electorates, mapping each polling place, trying to figure out what the hell just happened. There seems to be a lot of disunity in the party. Should they change their leader - again? Maybe my local MP Grant Robertson will take over, but his sexuality might be a stumbling block. I know, it's 2014...
(Side note: Rongotai contains the Chatham Islands so is technically the vastest electorate.)

National are a well-oiled machine and Brand Key resonated with over a million people. He really does appeal to the mainstream. That includes many Cantabrians - the Nats' vote share in Christchurch went up, defying gravity and all logic. To my mind, they haven't handled the situation there at all well. They've let insurance companies get away with far too much. But maybe I've been watching way too much Campbell Live, and everything is tickety-boo for 98% of people whose properties were hit by the earthquakes. I also think that many people voted National simply because they were expected to win, and people love to be on the winning team. The "team" thing was pushed really hard with the #TeamKey hashtag and their simple but clever advert with that rowing eight. It's a team sport that New Zealand are pretty good at, hence it's an instant winner with the fans.

John Key was very shrewd in deciding not to do a deal with the Conservatives. He didn't want his party to move further to the right, potentially alienating a large part of its fan-base. I'm sure this decision increased the National party vote, and because of the large wasted vote tally, they were able to reach that mythical milestone of 61 MPs on 48% of the vote.

Kim Dotcom should have stayed out of politics. I don't think he did any of the parties on the left any favours.

Turnout was 77%. That's not too bad. Compare that to the 2000 US election, where only 51% turned out. That election was a perversion of democracy if you ask me.

One of the guys last night had almost encyclopedic knowledge of the MPs and candidates. I'd like to have more of a clue. If only Back Benches wasn't on so late.

The autism group might be interesting tomorrow night. I can't see this result helping anyone there.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Jobs and election picks

I've signed my new contract. I'm not too happy with my job if I'm honest. Today I was really wishing it was 2001 and I was sorting mail and heaving the sacks. Or even 2002, when my parents went to Australia for a few weeks, and I was at home by myself. We had a bumper crop of plums, far more than I could eat, so I bagged them up and sold them on the doorstep. On market day, when there was probably five times the normal level of foot traffic past our front door, I was a busy man.

It was great following Scotland's referendum today, seeing so many people united in a democratic process. There were some amazing photos - what a picturesque part of the world it is. The "no" side, with 55.3% of the vote, won a more decisive victory than I expected. Good luck to them now they've decided to stay with the UK. What really impressed me was the turnout - 84.6%. If only we could get that level of participation in our election tomorrow. (In 1984, NZ got a whopping 93.7% turnout when they ditched Rob Muldoon. In a FPP election, where many people's votes hardly matter, that figure is staggering. They must have really wanted him out.)

Last time I didn't do very well with my predictions. This time I can make one fairly confident prediction for election day: I won't be on TV. Otherwise, it's quite hard. It's been a crazy campaign, and some of the protagonists have been equally crazy. How will the huge rise in advance voting affect the result, if at all? How will the people of Christchurch vote? And so much hinges on whether the Conservatives make it. I've been wavering on this but I now think they'll fall just short. It could even be so close that they're over 5% on the night but drop under when the specials are counted (a scenario that's far more likely than the reverse).

Here are my picks:
National..............56 seats
Labour.................34
Green...................15
NZ First...............10
Internet Mana......2
Maori....................2
ACT.......................1
United Future.......1
Total..................121

I've been invited to an election party tomorrow night.

Update: It's 11:30pm and we've just had an earthquake - a 4-point-something.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

All these votes but do they really matter?

I've had to sign a new contract for my transferred role. It's just as well I read it properly before signing it. There were some significant errors and omissions that have now been rectified. I think a lot of people these days are happy to just have a job and will sign anything.

I had my last Mandarin lesson tonight. Numbers on the course dropped steadily from sixteen at the beginning to just seven. Some people seemed to have unrealistic expectations. I knew it would be hard and it was. Our teacher is a polyglot: she's mastered four of the seven most widely spoken languages in China; that's a pretty unusual feat.

I went tenpin bowling again last Sunday. I'm better at that game (I hesitate to call it a sport) than I should be. I bowled a 135 and was heading for about the same in the second game but we got timed out two-thirds of the way through.

It’s a big week for voting. The general election in Sweden saw a strong showing from their far-right anti-immigration party. I’m not surprised. Today Fiji went to the polls for the first time since Bainimarama seized power in 2006. Their open-list PR system means there are hundreds of candidates to choose from. In an unusual system which has (a bit unfairly) been compared to Sudoku, voters have to select their chosen candidate’s allocated number from a grid of numbers that for some reason goes from 135 to 382. Then they get their fingers dipped in indelible ink so they can’t vote twice. Let’s hope it works for them. Tomorrow night (our time) the Scots vote on independence. They dropped the voting age to 16 for the referendum. A similar reduction has been talked about in NZ, from parties who are likely to benefit from it, but I think 18 is just fine. I look back at the 1997 UK general election. I was 17 at the time. Had I been able to vote, my thought processes would have extended to “jeez, these Tory buggers have been in power my whole life, let’s boot them out.” Not exactly an informed decision. Perhaps surprisingly, lowering the age might favour the “no” side, who I think will win. Then on Saturday we’ve got our election, and the likelihood is that neither my vote nor Kevin's (I got him enrolled) will stop the National government from running to a third term. I’ll give some predictions on Friday.

I watched a bit of the so-called Moment of Truth on Monday. Dotcom really brought out the big guns, didn’t he? Not that it did him much good. I must admit I found Glenn Greenwald’s comments on John Key hilariously accurate. After that, a lot of it went over my head, but unlike the “nothing to hide, nothing to fear” brigade, this stuff does matter to me. I’ve gone out of my way, more than most, to be anonymous and invisible. Isn’t it funny that the word “invisibility” has five i’s?

Part of me wonders whether our election, in this backwater in the South Pacific, really matters at all when you have the Islamic State beheading two US journalists and now a British aid worker. How can you be so evil? It's beyond words.

I saw this picture today of an Atlas moth. Isn't it beautiful? They have a wingspan of up to ten inches. Such amazing creatures are a reminder that we live in a wonderful world. Why are some people hell-bent on wrecking it?

Saturday, September 13, 2014

The market for votes

As I often do on a Saturday, I went to Newtown market today. Four parties were after my vote: the Greens, Internet Mana, NZ First and Labour. It was good to see Annette King, the Labour MP for Rongotai, trying to drum up support. She's not my MP - I live just over the border in Grant Robertson's electorate, and he'll get my vote. It's easy to neglect your electorate vote if you don't live in one of the areas where it can affect the make-up of parliament, but I've come round to the idea that local representation is actually pretty important.

As well as the usual fruit and vege, I grabbed the parties' various leaflets, and the one that stood out for me came from Internet Mana, who I haven't even considered voting for. You know what, they have some damn good policies. Whether I could trust them to implement the policies is another matter, but I have a hard time disagreeing with anything in the pamphlet. It was also very well put together, which it should be when you think of all the money spent on the campaign. And that's my biggest problem with the party - that it's been bankrolled by a German mega-millionaire.

That's also just one of the problems I have with the Conservatives. Whether they get over 5% and snag six or seven seats, or dip under and get zero, is too close to call. This might be the deciding factor in the election. I couldn't see the Conservatives at the market, and a certain other party who have the support of nearly half the nation (if the polls are to be believed) weren't there either. Funny that.

In some ways National have a harder time campaigning than the Greens, say, because their support isn't concentrated nicely in urban areas. Still, they have very strong support among Pakeha blokes in Auckland, people who epitomise normal. In places like Milford (on the Shore) where I used to live, they do really well.

Going back to Internet Mana, much has been made in the media of the rift in the party on the issue of cannabis. The way I see it, it's great that there's a party that's serious about changing the status quo. It's only a matter of time before cannabis is legalised or at least decriminalised in New Zealand. When it happens is hard to predict, but in NZ things can (sometimes) change quickly. It's amazing how much bollocks is spouted about a drug that causes far less social harm than alcohol. "Teenagers who smoke cannabis are x% more likely to drop out of school." That's the latest one. Well yeah. But that doesn't mean they're dropping out of school because they smoke weed. I'm sure people with tattoos are more likely to drop out too. And hoodies. But no-one would seriously advocate banning tattoos or hoodies, would they? Actually I'd be OK with banning hoodies, especially given that Kevin is in one almost permanently, but that's my own silly prejudice talking.

Talking of elections and fruit and vege markets, there's a good blog out there called Fruits and Votes.

I bought four books online today. With Amazon the shipping would have cost more than the books, so I went with Fishpond instead.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Line in the sand

On Sunday I took advantage of the sunshine by going for a longish walk - up Mount Vic, down to Haitatai, on to Evans Bay and along the waterfront to town. I then met Isabel from the autism group. We had an ice cream from Kaffee Eis and a good chat. We then walked along Oriental Bay, from where I'd just come, and at about half-five I said I'd probably need to turn back because Kevin would be expecting me to make tea. At this point we had a long discussion about Kevin. Isabel said my level of tolerance for him rated a "fifty out of ten" and I'd need to officially get shot of him. I handed him the letter tonight with a 21st December termination date. Legally I have to give him 90 days (I thought it was less, so it's just as well I had the conversation with Isabel) - this gives him 101.

At the autism group on Monday we talked politics. It's a subject that, along with religion, is normally taboo, but they made a special dispensation this time. Hopefully the discussion might encourage people to vote. Democracy is a wonderful thing to see in action, and we should all participate in it. I was in the same group as the guy with the braces who I've mentioned before, and it was largely because of him that religion and politics were put on the no-go list. In fact we also discussed the rules. There was a general consensus that Cards Against Humanity, an extremely Aspie-unfriendly game, should be off the menu at games sessions. It's hard to disagree with that, although as those games sessions sit outside the group, it would be somewhat controversial.

On Tuesday we went to Petone for a look around our new premises. There will be 170 people there altogether. We'll move again - just 100 metres or so - in the new year. The buildings and their surroundings look good actually, although the brilliant weather meant I saw them at their best.

The election isn't far away now, and many people have already voted. The sharp increase in advance voting makes a bit of a mockery of the law prohibiting election day campaigning. We don't have an election "day" anymore. I expect advance votes to be more heavily in favour of National than on-the-day votes (let alone special votes).

Scotland hold their referendum on independence two days before our election. The polls are saying it's too close to call. There is a lot of emotion in the "yes" camp. I can perfectly understand why many Scots wish to escape the grasp of a southern England-centric Westminster government, but I don't think the ramifications have been well thought out. For instance, what currency will they use? I think the Scots will be better off if they vote "no". And who's to say they can't revisit this at a later date when they're better prepared. (I learnt a new word today - "neverendum" - describing exactly this.)

Another grand slam has slipped by where I've taken only a passing interest. This US Open produced two surprise men's finalists and a very unsurprising women's winner. I don't think I would have enjoyed either of the finals, particularly Cilic's big serving that helped him beat a better all-round player in Nishikori (if I'm to believe Mum's assessment of the match). Every set of both finals finished 6-3 - I wonder if that sort of thing has happened before. While I didn't really follow the tournament, it has given me a goal, to see next year's US Open in person.

Air New Zealand's last 747 flight took off from San Francisco this afternoon. It arrives in Auckland in the morning. "Iconic" is a badly overused word, but it's entirely appropriate for a plane that changed the world. Not only that but it's an instantly recognisable aircraft. Apart from the A380, I don't think I could instantly identify any other current passenger plane.

Tomorrow I'll be doing some field work with the Czech woman. She called our trip a "date".

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Which line is the longest?


It's clearly the blue line. Can't you see it? Look harder. And listen to Bob. He's saying it's the blue line. So is Fred. And Bill, and George. They're all saying it's the blue line. Look at John over there! He's shouting that it's the blue line! You'd be a fool not to trust John.

Still not seeing it? Neither am I. But this is what the election feels like. If enough people are telling you something, even if the evidence clearly contradicts it, you start to believe it.

The last three polls all put National at or above 50%. In the - what? - nine-party system we have in New Zealand, it's quite remarkable that half the voting population want to plump for one party. Or, more accurately, one man. What do they see in him?

Don't get me wrong. I don't think John Key or the National Party are bad. And I don't think National will really get 50% (there are a bunch of issues with polls that I won't go into now). But for a party to be so popular after six years in power is puzzling, especially in light of recent economic data and the Dirty Politics fiasco.

I've been thinking about the ad that comes on TV encouraging us to vote. "Your vote is worth exactly the same as mine." They couldn't run that ad in the UK, because that statement would be blatantly untrue there. Under first-past-the-post, some votes are considerably more important than others. I don't know about you, but I reckon that a system in which some votes count more than others has serious problems. MMP has its flaws, but it's actually a pretty good system. As Grant Smithies put it in this article, under MMP your vote can cancel out someone else's, even if you live at opposite ends of the country. I happen to agree with just about all his reasons not to vote National, even if I think I'm closer to the centre of the political spectrum than he is (I'm actually fairly right-wing when it comes to immigration and law and order). Also, I make no apologies for thinking about me. My depression has been less of a problem since I came off the antidepressants (!) but I'm not naive enough to think it won't come back. And when it does, I believe I'll be better served by a government that doesn't include National.

The black line is the longest in the diagram purely by chance. I won't be voting for Winston, even if I think he's a lot less awful than in previous election campaigns. My flatmate might well vote for him however.

I see iPredict are giving National roughly a 75% chance of forming the next government. I think it's a bit higher than that, somewhere in the low eighties.

Monday's shooting at the Ashburton WINZ branch was horrific and the last thing anyone could have expected to happen there. Two good people, just doing their jobs. My parents don't live too far from Ashburton; on Tuesday they met a man who used to work with the alleged murderer. The shooting seemed to set off a spate of incidents up and down the country, and for a while all the WINZ offices in Canterbury were closed. It only takes one unhinged person to completely wreck whole families and communities, and that person can turn up anywhere.

It's been a horrible wet Saturday. Wet weekends have gone from being mildly frustrating to utterly maddening.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

I don't function at functions



I’m in Petone – I’ll be going bowling here in about three hours (I couldn’t face being stuck at home with Kevin). I’m parked on the Esplanade on a sunny Sunday afternoon – it’s quite peaceful here. I expect that will change in mid-October when I start spending half my waking hours here.

Last Friday we had our morning coffee at Gotham on Chews Lane. This is a weekly event. There seems to be an unwritten rule that you get something edible (which I never do) with your hot beverage. Then you’re supposed to nonchalantly waft your plastic when the barista says “eleven eighty”. I hadn’t been to Gotham before. Instead of getting a number on a stand when you order, you get an animal on a stand (except me – I got a Batman figure. It is Gotham after all). So when they come to deliver your drink, they get to say funny things like “hot chocolate on goat” or “trim mocha on giraffe”. I’ve seen playing cards used before, but this was a new one on me.

We had our so-called mid-year function after work on Friday. Oh god. Not fun at all. We started off playing pool. I’m very bad at pool, but at least you’re doing something and that makes it just about tolerable. Even if everyone else is talking among themselves in twos and threes and I’m not. That’s a situation I’ve learnt to accept – I’m extremely used to it. We then had pizza. I’m better at eating pizza than I am at playing pool. Then we went to some bar on Courtenay Place where they had the Beat Girls, who sang songs from groups like the Supremes and the Seekers. They were pretty good, but instead of concentrating on them, I had to listen to my boss talk about saving the world. When he’s sober he only wants to revolutionise it. He tried to flatter me by telling me how many applicants there were for my position. The figure had gone up by eleven since last time. Things got a whole lot worse when people in my group – well basically everyone except me – decided to dance. I didn’t drink too much – it’s never worth it for me. I survived the evening but it was hard work – at least as hard as an entire week in the office – but I don’t think I made a good impression and I’m not looking forward to work tomorrow.

After the night before, the last thing I wanted to do yesterday was see real people. But because I have no choice but to see a real person, I didn’t particularly mind spending most of the day helping Rhiannon and her boyfriend look for a new flat. I used my Navman for the first time in ages and it worked really well. We looked at seven places including one on my street. I don’t have a lot of friends, and most of the ones I do have are carless. That means I’m now spending more time driving with other people. Getting used to that can only be a good thing.

I’ve got three Mandarin lessons left, and I plan to attend them, but it’s a bit of a waste of time because I find it extremely hard to practise between lessons. If I carry on my classes it won’t be until I get my place to myself again.

I heard an interesting radio programme about Chinese mental health. It sounds like it's almost a taboo subject over there. I expect mental health problems in China to balloon in the coming decades, with the pressure on children and young adults to succeed in an increasingly Westernised society.

Last night I went to the Lux light festival on the waterfront. I think it was better for kids than for adults; there were a couple of interactive displays where you could make a lot of noise and things would happen. That meant there were a lot of screaming kids.


Julie only recently went to Napier. Things aren't working out and she wants to come back. Apparently she has to move out of her serviced apartment by Thursday, and this morning she said she wanted me to drive the 400-mile round trip to Napier to pick up her stuff, by Thursday, while she flies back to Wellington. Seriously.

The National Party have become decidedly less awful now that Judith Collins has resigned. I still won’t vote for them though. John Key has been very astute in the way he’s positioned himself and his party as the Normal Party. If you perceive yourself as a normal guy (or girl) with a normal job, a normal wife (or husband) and 2.4 normal kids, voting Normal, I mean National, is what you’re supposed to do. I’m sure they’ll get many thousands of votes from people who like to think of themselves as normal, even if they don’t agree with the party’s policies.

Update: Bowling was pretty good actually. Playing, rather than talking, took precedence. I bowled 132 (I think I finished with four consecutive spares) and 111. The other guys were all easy-going chaps and it looks like they'll make a regular thing of it.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Languaging

One other subject we talked about on Saturday was language, or the demise of it. It certainly seems that the level of people's language has been in decline. Pick up one of my great uncle's war letters and it's on a totally different plane from anything you see in your inbox (because who writes letters?) today. It's not as if he had much of an education, but he clearly made an effort. Back then, writing mattered beyond just getting your point across. I made the language-is-dying argument to Tom, and he replied that there are more words in the English language than ever before. That may be true, but a good many of them are along the lines of "selfie" and "chillax", and how many of the vast inventory of words do people actually use? How often do you hear a word like "diaphanous" these days? Or "cacophonous"? I'd bet good money that the "top" 1000 words in the English language make up a greater percentage of writing than they did even twenty years ago. It would be easy enough to work that out - perhaps I should ask the geeks at Language Log to do it. As for me, I haven't used enough big words in the 5½ years this blog has been running, and it's time I did something about that.

This isn't an easy week for me. We've already had several meetings about the upcoming move and other stuff. There has been much talk about organisational structures and I've found it hard to even remotely care. Today we met the CEO of the new company. He lost me at "we're gonna rock it out on October five." There has been a lot of braggadocio on show, especially from my boss and his boss, and I find all a bit nauseating. There is one boss I have a lot of respect for - the guy who manages all the field workers. He knows the drainage networks like the back of his hand, and does a great job of training the field workers, judging by the quality of the survey data. I hope that the move allows them to keep that up, as I said in the brief submission I made yesterday. I also made the obvious point about the inconvenience and potential cost of transport and possibly parking. It'll take some adjustment. I'll miss the propinquity of work to home, and the plethora of gastronomic establishments I currently have at my disposal when borborygmus arises. On Friday we've got our mid-winter party after work. I wonder how that will pan out. It has the potential to be quite stressful. At least when I get home it'll be the weekend and I'll be able to relax. Oh wait...

I saw my counsellor last week for the first time in ages. In our previous session she used "language" as a verb, as she'd done many times before. "Do you like the way I'm languaging this?" I'd let her off all those other times - she's a very helpful counsellor - but I was finally languaged out and I pulled her up on it. Last week there was no languaging, and we agreed upon a goal for me, to be working for myself by 1st January 2016. It's a good goal, because I fear I'll be somnambulating through life as long as I work for someone else. We talked about coming off the Efexor last December - that was actually a pretty big deal, and even though the withdrawal symptoms were awful, it was worth it.

National unveiled their housing policy at the weekend. It might increase the supply of homes in Auckland, where things have gone completely nuts, but it'll definitely increase demand, and any policy that does that is crazy. If it was up to me I'd bring in a capital gains tax, as Labour plan to do, and I wouldn't make the family home exempt. Why should it matter whether you own a single property worth $2 million, or if that sum includes your Pauanui bach and a couple of rentals? Under my system, your tax rate would reduce the longer you own the property, reaching zero after ten or fifteen years.

I've got my Chinese class tomorrow. In last week's lesson we learnt how to say where things (like the bank or the cinema) are, and where you come from. We learnt a few words for countries, such as France which is "Fă guó". Someone asked if that's because it sounds like "foie gras"!

Kevin was in some pain yesterday, as a result of the operation rather than the fistula itself. I really do hope he's sorted out now. Not being sorted can mean not being able to go the toilet, which doesn't bear thinking about.