Thursday, December 31, 2009

No more noughties

It’s been a tricky year and I’m glad it will soon be over. It’ll also be the end of a decade – the “noughties”. I wonder what they’ll call the next one. The teenies? The tweenies? And there’s still little consensus on whether next year will be “twenty-ten” or “two thousand and ten”. With the future still very much up in the air for me, it seems fitting that we’re about to enter a decade that nobody knows the name of and a year that nobody knows how to pronounce.

I can't believe it's been ten years since the millennium, and all that hype about why-two-kay and planes falling out of the sky. It's made me think about what I've achieved in that time, or rather what I haven't.

Mum took me out this morning for nine holes of golf. Some surprisingly good shots were interspersed with totally expected duffers. I had two par threes and a bogey five, but on other holes I struggled to stay in single figures.

Tonight I expect we’ll be seeing in the New Year at Caroline Bay. They put on a fireworks display at midnight. Historically New Year’s Eve has been one of the most painful days on the calendar for me so I’ll be hoping for an uneventful evening.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

iPredict Annual Report

As 2009 comes to an end, I thought I'd give a quick rundown of my profits and losses so far on iPredict, arranged by stock in descending order of profitability. Everything is rounded to the nearest dollar, only stocks with a swing of $10 or more (up or down) are included, and all related stocks (usually these would form a bundle) are lumped together. Here goes (please excuse the iffy formatting):


October 2009 petrol prices ......................... +$315
Gordon Brown not to resign ........................ +$121
Special votes at 2008 NZ election .............. +$99
11 June 2009 OCR ....................................... +$82
June 2009 petrol prices ............................... +$72
Spelling of W(h)anganui ............................... +$52
Swine flu cases .............................................. +$28
30 Apr 2009 OCR ........................................ +$24
29 Jan 2009 OCR ......................................... +$23
Anti-smacking referendum turnout .......... +$16
July 2009 petrol prices ............................... +$15
4 Dec 2008 OCR ........................................... −$10
CPI for year to 31 Dec 2008 ....................... −$13
10 Sept 2009 OCR ....................................... −$24
30 July 2009 OCR ....................................... −$58


A few notes:
  • The Gordon Brown resignation stock is still ongoing: it pays $1 if he resigns before the next UK election which he could still do (though personally I doubt it). However I haven't been exposed to that stock for some months.
  • I might not bother with the OCR stocks in future - I figure there are many iPredictors who know a lot more about the economy, and the goings-on at the Reserve Bank, than I ever will.
  • I'm sitting on a handful of temperature-related stocks. Specifically I'm long on the stocks that pay $1 if this year's average global temperature ends up being higher than in 2008. I should make a thirty-odd-dollar profit here, despite the recent snow storms in Europe.
  • For all the stocks on the list above, my investment decisions were based on facts rather than gut instinct, with one exception: the W(h)anganui stock. I didn't know, or particularly care, what would happen there. I wasn't even sure what the definitions meant. I just figured that a 20% probability of some kind of compromise seemed a bit on the low side.

All in all 2009 was a successful year for me on iPredict. Who knows what will happen in 2010, or even whether I'll be in the country long enough to meaningfully participate.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Friends and family

Yesterday I didn’t feel like I was on holiday at all. I just wanted to get back to Auckland, away from Mum’s friends and family. Unfortunately I have little in common with many of the people I’ve met over the last week, particularly the blokes. I don’t engage in conversation, mainly because there is no conversation, just jokes, banter and anecdotes about the time Wayne O’Shea left a dead sheep in the back of his ute for six months. Then out of the blue someone asks me about my future plans, and suddenly I’m the centre of attention. I get fifty ideas chucked in my direction, some serious, some not so serious, and I’m overwhelmed.

For most of yesterday I was depressed and didn’t want to know. We went to the Caroline Bay carnival. For some reason halfway through one of their concerts I suddenly felt more relaxed. We had a go on the chocolate wheel but our luck was well and truly out. Then I tried my hand at a darts game where you have to hit paper stars attached to a board. I was lucky enough to come away with twenty bucks for an outlay of four. I found the darts game interesting: among the vast array of games it was the only one where a skilful player could earn a long-term profit. Indeed a professional darts player would surely clean up there. In my case, however, skill played a minor role, if that.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Holiday

Today is the first real day of my holiday. Officially it started on Tuesday night, but the last four days have been taken up with Christmas and family, which aren’t conducive to holiday at all.

My last day at work was a successful one. I was able to keep a fairly low profile, just like I have in the rest of my time with the company. My colleagues very kindly bought me two books – Andre Agassi’s autobiography (I’m just past the crystal meth, or gack, phase) and Vroom with a View, an account of a journey from Milan to Rome on an old Vespa. We had morning tea and lunchtime drinks (I was happy to pay for them), after which I cleaned my desk, packed a box of memorabilia, said my final goodbyes, then I was off.

I took the 7:30 flight to Christchurch and stayed the night at Uncle Dan’s – he and his wife Anne live on Memorial Avenue, just yards from the Airport. Dan has lost even more weight. Though his surgery was a success, the weight loss is a real concern, and his illness seems to have affected him mentally. Sadly he appears to have given up on life. He showed me some pills he’s recently been prescribed, supposedly to help him put on weight. Citalopram. I was on that for nearly eight years. During the first year I did indeed gain weight, though I doubt the medication had anything to do with that. Whatever, his illness has now become mental just as much as physical. On Wednesday morning we drove down to Mum and Dad’s place in Geraldine.

We spent Christmas Day up the Rangitata, at a place called Stew Point. There were seven of us – Mum, Dad, Dan, Anne, another of Mum’s brothers, his third wife, and myself. It’s nice to get out of Auckland; it would be hard to find a place less like Auckland than our Christmas picnic location. I sometimes think of Geraldine as being in the wops, but this was the real wops. It was blowing a gale up there. It wasn’t easy trying to eat ham and turkey without being savaged by a bull or my paper plate disappearing.

Yesterday I met up with Phil in Timaru. His mother lives in Waimate. The carnival had just started up so we tackled the crazy golf course. Phil beat me by six shots. The hole that replicates the Port Loop Road was my undoing. Phil flies back to Auckland today, and will soon be meeting his Danish girlfriend. Last night Mum and Dad had a barbecue; it seemed everybody was there. I wasn’t in the mood for all that food and drink, and having to explain my, er, career change. Now everybody has gone and I can breathe a sigh of relief. I no longer have to explain anything.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Stimulation

Just a short one today because, as is usually the case at this time of year, there really isn't much news. Yesterday I went along to the Autism NZ meeting. The turnout was back to the October level of 25 or so. The room is rather echoic, and unsurprisingly all that noise became too much for some people. I felt bad because I hadn't brought any Christmassy food - were we told to at the last meeting? - and again I wished I could have been more helpful. The main facilitator - the boss if you like - now knows that I'd like to play a more active role there in the new year. I'm in the middle of reading Congratulations! It's Asperger Syndrome, a book written by one of the more eminent people at Autism NZ. It's a fascinating read.
On a similar theme, I'll soon be helping out (I hope) a twelve-year-old boy who suffers from dyspraxia. We'll go to the beach, to the movies, for walks, that kind of thing. Basically giving him some much-needed stimulation when his parents are unable to (I'm hoping it might be stimulating for me too).

My shirts are ironed in preparation for both my remaining days at work. I'll try to enjoy them. On Tuesday night, after my leaving drinks, I'll be catching a plane down to Christchurch. I'll stay at Uncle Dan's for the night and travel down to Geraldine the next day. We'll be having a quiet Christmas, and if previous years are anything to go by, probably a hot one. In fact extreme weather is almost to be expected in that part of the country. Just last week they were bombarded by inch-wide hailstones.

PokerStars bankroll update: I'm now sitting a few cents shy of $30.

Monday, December 14, 2009

The final countdown

My new laptop arrived last Thursday so I’m back in the world of the living. I never thought a computer would become an indispensable tool for me, but I now realise I’m lost without one. Despite this, I still don’t like computers that much and generally feel more comfortable with a pen in my hand than a mouse. I see a computer purely as a tool – I’m pretty much oblivious to all the noughts and ones and nuts and bolts that make everything happen.

Ten days ago I attended the mental health support centre’s Christmas party. It was a very well-run event with close on 200 in attendance, many of whom are isolated at this time of year and rarely get to go to something like that. It was great to meet up with some people I hadn’t seen for a while, and the food was a definite bonus.

On Friday I had another meeting with Mrs You’re Screwed, a.k.a. the careers advisor. Things didn’t seem so bleak this time, mainly because we didn’t get into the specifics of my future career options. Instead we concentrated on my CV – I showed her both versions. She took a real dislike to my choice of font in the old version. “It’s Times New Roman, that’s so old-fashioned.” I protested, saying it wasn’t Times New Roman (it was Garamond) but she insisted that fonts with those “little sticky-out bits” belong in a previous century. So serif fonts are dead then? Has she picked up a book lately? Or a newspaper? Once we’d done with the font debate (by the way, font design is something I’d like to get into) and focused on the content, she actually talked a lot of sense and was very helpful. We’ve got one final meeting, about interview tactics (hmmm) after Christmas.

I’m now in my last full week at work, and to be honest I’m relieved. I've worked with some good people (not least my current boss) but I’m ready to move on to the next chapter of my life. Four months shy of thirty, it’s time I jumped off this conveyor belt. For too long I’ve been drifting along, letting everything happen to me. School just happened to me. University for the most part just happened to me. And for the last 5¾ years, work has just happened to me. In fact working in the corporate world has been similar to school, all the more so since we moved to our expensive new offices in a soulless business park two years ago.

Competitive tennis is over for 2009. My record since the start of the season (seven wins, nine losses) is disappointing. I lost my last match, a mixed doubles, by the unusual score of 7-6 (7-0), 7-5. Unfortunately I’ve played very little singles which is my forte (if I have one). Yesterday we had great weather for tennis so I turned up to club day, which I enjoyed more than usual. Bazza was there, perhaps for the last time: he’s moving to Papakura at the weekend. Though house prices are considerably cheaper there, I seriously question his move because he won’t know anyone. If he joins a tennis club down there, people won’t accommodate him like they have done. He won’t get away with making dodgy line calls all afternoon, tell his partner she’s a bloody idiot whenever she misses, and swiping food from the fridge afterwards. I tried to convince him to stay in the area, but when he’s made his mind up there’s no stopping him.

It’s a while since I mentioned online poker but I haven’t given up, although I no longer play those time-consuming freerolls. I deposited US$10, as a challenge to see how far I could get on just ten bucks. My bankroll (if you can call it that) now stands at $22, mainly from playing hold ’em at penny stakes. I think I’ve got the right skills and temperament for poker. I’d be lying if I said it didn’t frustrate me when that fourth diamond hits the river to give that muppet who played A 2 a higher flush, but crucially I don’t let it affect my play on subsequent hands. Obviously playing for inconsequential stakes helps in this regard, but when I was younger I’d have been far more susceptible to what they call “tilt”. I’ve played very little poker with real people and real hands, but at university I remember being dealt a king-high straight in a penny-ante draw game. The hand was dealt out of turn, we all had to muck our cards, and I went ape-shit.

I’ve just got home from my last Italian class of the year. Our teacher Matteo has done a good job of selling all things Italian. I’d love to go there some time next year so I’ve enrolled in a five-day intensive course at the end of January.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Death spiral

I won't be doing much blogging in the next ten days or so. I've been having problems with my computer for some months, but this week it finally gave up the ghost. It wouldn't even start up - instead it went into an infinite loop: a neverending death spiral. This morning I bought a new one - a Toshiba costing $1500 including all that anti-virus stuff, but I won't get it for another week or two. As I write from an internet café I realise how much I rely on the internet.

I haven't been at my best this week. On Wednesday I saw a careers advisor in the city; she said my prospects of finding work are bleak. According to her, I've got nothing that any recent graduate doesn't have, with the exception of almost an extra decade on the clock. She also gave me some handy hints on writing CVs. I agreed with her regarding the content of a CV but wasn't so sure when it came to the layout. "You must use Arial." Well I think Arial is a perfectly good screen font, but on print it screams "I don't give a toss" to me. All in all, that meeting put me in a foul mood.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

That's a very good question

The fact that everyone now knows I'm leaving has made for a strange week at work. Naturally people want to know what I'll be doing next; my usual response has been, "actually that's a very good question." Getting into the mental health industry is still on the list, but my latest idea is funds management. It's something I think I'd be good at. Last night I had a drink with a bloke from the tennis club; a few years ago he did the Everest Base Camp Trek and his account of that certainly gave me the travel bug. In short, I really have no idea what I'll be doing in 2010.

I saw Andy today; I didn't have a lot to say. After our meeting I almost had an accident in the car park.

I hadn't bought clothes for a year (I remember when I used to buy clothes most weekends) so last weekend Mum insisted she would buy my two pairs of jeans at the mall in Takapuna. Mum had almost given up finding jeans for me, but then she clapped eyes on the shop called Just Jeans. Oh boy. Every pair I tried on was too short or too wide or too something, and by the time I'd found some that fitted I was rapidly losing the will to live. I should be grateful I've got a mother willing to spend money on me (maybe the jeans will be my Christmas present) but I can't hack being in a mall any longer than is absolutely necessary.

The three of us played Scrabble at the weekend. Mum likes to make interesting words. As it happens the World Scrabble Championship is currently taking place in Malaysia. Last time a Kiwi won it. I really enjoy Scrabble but I could never be interested in playing it competitively because so much emphasis is put on learning lists of words, or to my mind, non-words. In fact I think competitive Scrabble could benefit from giving the official dictionary a severe cull. The addition of Q-without-U words such as QI and QAT removes an important strategic consideration - what to do with the Q - from the game. Do I just get rid of the damn thing or wait for a better opportunity? Serious players can just slap down QI for maybe forty-odd points, no problem.

We've had lovely weather the last couple of days. Let's hope the recent pattern is broken and the sunshine continues into the weekend.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Twenty-one days to go

I've just got back from my latest Italian lesson. The brass band next door are now playing Christmas Carols instead of the usual Simpsons.

It was good to have Mum and Dad up for a few days. The highlight was probably the very tasty meal we had last night at Gina's (an Italian restaurant on Symonds Street). I was lucky enough to win a $100 restaurant voucher in a raffle. Using up the $100 was no problem.

Last Monday, as promised, I informed my boss of my decision. I confirmed this in writing on Wednesday. Writing a letter of resignation wasn't an easy task - it's not something I've ever done before - but because I have nothing specifically against the company or any of the people I work with, it was at least manageable. I think I made a good job of it. On Tuesday I felt very flat - perhaps I was in shock. Did I really just quit my job? Now I'm feeling a lot better, probably because I was able to talk things over with Mum and Dad. My last day will be December 22nd and I'm happily counting down the days.

On Saturday I attended the Autism NZ meet-up for the second time. The turnout was down on last time - maybe fifteen or so - and at times I felt a bit silly and unhelpful. I wonder if I should try to convince Bazza to go.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

All White on the night

Last night Bazza and I watched New Zealand's World Cup qualifier with Bahrain. We saw it at Takapuna's Sin Bin; Bazza made sure we got there hours early to get the best seats. It was a good game between two evenly-matched teams. Obviously, with the exception of the Bahrainian (?) bloke who grabbed the third-best seat in the bar, we were pretty happy with the outcome. It wasn't until this week that Kiwis finally grasped the importance of the match. I'm hoping the national side can build on this. They should join the Asian confederation (surely next time FIFA won't let them get away with playing two matches each against New Caledonia, Fiji, Vanuatu and Bahrain) and play meaningful matches against quality opposition on a regular basis. With the popularity of rugby in New Zealand seemingly at a low ebb, suddenly football has some real potential.

Tomorrow I've got a meeting with my boss about some work I'm doing, but I plan to hijack the meeting by informing him of my imminent move. I've spoken to Mum and Dad about this (they were supportive of my decision and the shock factor wasn't exactly of seismic proportions). We all agree that I should make my exit as amicable as possible, and besides, I have no feelings specifically against my company, or any of the people in it, anyway.

Mum and Dad are flying up on Wednesday, the same day that I'll be meeting up with my psychologist to talk about my "identity crisis". It was in 1998, when I started university, that I realised I was a bit lacking in that department. All around me people were putting up posters of Che Guevara, Cartman, George Best or Denise van Outen while my walls remained bare. I remember being confused. Why are you so desperate to tell everybody what you're "in to", how did all those posters suddenly spring up out of nowhere, and where did you get them from in the first place? I've only just scratched the surface of my lack of identity here; our meeting is sure to be an interesting one.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Whacked again

Our night tennis competition is played in a large complex; at the start there would be fifty or so players on the courts. By 9pm we’re probably down to about twenty, and from there the numbers gradually dwindle until inevitably there are only two: him and me.

Such was the case on Monday. We began with the doubles which we lost 6-4 6-2. We didn’t play badly but were simply outclassed. I was a clear underdog for my singles; I knew I would need to be at the top of my game to stand a chance. To my surprise I won the first set 6-2 – in that set I was at the top of my game while my opponent made uncharacteristic errors. Winning that set was a bit scary; despite the decisive score I was at best only a slight favourite for the match. In the second set his mistakes dried up and I was soon behind, 2-4 15-40. I dug my way out of that hole and after an hour of play brought up a match point. I’ve had considerable trouble closing out matches, but this time I was determined to put him away. Only I never got the chance. I returned his booming first serve but he powered away the volley. From that point I got more and more frustrated. To their credit two of my team-mates stayed to watch the end of my match, but even they began to annoy me. If you’re going to stay, please get off your frigging cell phones and watch the match! I lost six games in a row to fall behind 6-2 5-7 0-3. At 1-4 in the third I knew I was toast. Yet another match where I’ve tried my absolute hardest but fallen just short because of, I don’t know, something I did in a past life maybe. I decided I would go down fighting and would run down every ball, and boy did I have to run down a lot of balls. The games got longer, the rallies got longer, and he had me seemingly on the end of a string. I surprised myself with my ability to dig in. An hour after my first match point, I conjured up another two as he served at 4-5. More impossible serves. Match point number four. I hardly got my racket onto this one. Number five. Another first serve, but unlike all the others it was half-way up the service box. If I’m ever going to win this, I thought, it’ll have to be now. In poker parlance I pushed all in. The longest exchange of the match ensued. When my opponent’s final shot of that 40-plus-stroke rally sailed long I lay on the court, totally spent.

After that match, which finished shortly after 10:30, I hardly slept a wink. At work yesterday (when I eventually got there) I needed several cups of coffee just to keep my eyes open, so when I got a phone call from someone asking me to play again last night, I was horrified. After some deliberation I gave in and agreed to play. We had a close win in the doubles, then everything kicked off again in the singles. I started appallingly – I couldn’t hit a barn door in the first set, nor could I keep away from his killer forehand – but I finished up a 1-6 6-3 7-6 winner, the final tie-break score being 7-4. I was fortunate – I was only two points from defeat in the 12th game of the deciding set and was handed a couple of crucial free points in the tie-break.

Just prior to last night’s tennis I met up with my counsellor – up till now I’ve been (incorrectly?) calling her a psychologist. We had an interesting discussion but she certainly struck a raw nerve as we moved on to the topic of my identity, or lack of it. It’s something I’ve struggled with all my life, and will discuss it in a later post, but for now I’m just going to lie on the sofa and do nothing. After all that tennis I’m utterly whacked.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Watch this space

Yesterday's mystery team building wasn't as bad as I'd feared. Predictably we started with a planning session. In the past I'd have found all that marketing claptrap incredibly depressing, but because I've decided I won't be there much longer, I was able to let it all wash over me. And there was an awful lot of claptrap. We even had a quote from Nelson Mandela. I struggled to see how this particular quote had a deeper meaning of, er, "we need to make more money". The word silo was mentioned several times, or should I say a significant quantum of times. I thought a silo was one of those great big cylindrical things used to store grain; I couldn't really see how it related to an insurance company. There's also been a recent trend to use the word space when talking about subjects totally unrelated to square footage, or indeed interstellar travel. "We need to enhance our competitive position in the income protection space." "We need to achieve better results in the profit space." What's wrong with "we need to make more profit"? I really wish some people could do less talking in the bullshit space.

In the afternoon we went go-karting. Again. This is the second time we've been go-karting in a matter of months. When I finally do leave my job I still won't have a clue how to use Microsoft Access, or any of the other complicated programs we use, but I sure will know how to go-kart. I was a bit apprehensive about the go-karting yesterday, mainly because we were put into teams and raced each other in a potentially embarrassing relay format. But it was actually quite a lot of fun and there was nothing to be even remotely embarrassed about. Afterwards we had drinks, though I didn't stay for long. I did however get to meet our new CEO who happens to be a pom, so we had something in common at least. He also does Iron Man (a.k.a. Bloody Stupid Man) triathlons, and that's where our similarities ended. But he did seem to be a really nice bloke.

Today I played tennis for the first time in a little while. Getting on the tennis court gives me a good indication of the state of my mental health. After today's marathon (but not quite Iron Man) effort it would seem I still have some way to go in my recovery. Fifty-eight games, six sets, 32 players competing, it was far more than my brain could handle. We lost the men's match 6-1 3-6 6-2, mainly because one of our opponents was very determined to win, far more so than me. It's funny how I'm a lot less bothered about the results of my matches than I used to be. In fact I'm less emotionally attached to most things than I used to be. Whether that's something to do with my medication I don't know.
It was in the mixed match that everything caved in on me. We'd both been playing well - we took a 7-5 3-1 lead - but I started missing a couple of easy shots and even though we still had our noses in front, suddenly I didn't want to be there. Our opposing bloke took an age between points; this frustrated me because I was desperate to get off the court. I resisted the temptation to bash myself over the head with my racket, instead taking my anger out on the fence, but a few games later I punched myself in the forehead. Not particularly hard, but I can still feel it now. Sitting here at my desk in front of the screen, I couldn't imagine wanting to injure myself. But there are certain situations (long interclub tennis matches being a prime example) where tension gradually builds up within me, until finally, crack!
My serve had been working well for me all day, and at 5-4 in the second set I served for the match. I threw in two double faults, dropped my serve, and in no time the set was gone, 7-5. The third set was all a bit of a blur. I talked to myself a lot ("this is too hard, life is too hard") and sometimes even relayed these sentiments to my partner, who had developed a real dislike to the bloke on the other side of the net. I'm not sure what happened, or how it happened, but from 2-4 down we won four games on the bounce to take out the match. After our miraculous win, I had a chat with my partner. This was the third time I'd played with her; I felt I ought to give her some idea of what was making me literally beat myself up.

I've got more puzzles to send off to the States, so I plan to spend a solid day on them tomorrow. It was good to meet up with my aunt and uncle on Thursday. We ate at Mint in Takapuna; I had a "meat lovers" pizza. They were encouraging me to come down to Christchurch and look for a job here, but I think I'll be staying in Auckland for the time being. In my current state I really think I need some stability.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

The beginning of the end

I've finally set a date by which I'll leave my job, for good, come what may. I won't mention the exact date here, but it's definitely on the horizon. Drawing this line in the sand is liberating if a little scary. What (and how) will I tell my parents? What will I write in that letter?

Monday and Tuesday were bad days. The effects of my medication - or perhaps my lack of medication - didn't help. I took yesterday off work; that lifted my mood slightly in the office today, but really I'm just going through the motions. And that's on a good day. On my bad days I sit at my desk, head in hands, just wishing I could crawl into a hole.

I enjoyed the pétanque on Sunday. The weather on Waiheke was great. We finished third out of eight teams, winning two and losing two, but with a good "goal difference". Phil made the final, playing in a different team from me, and was a tad unfortunate not to win the whole shebang. One of our games didn't end particularly sportingly. Every time I've been, we've had to play this French hippie who has dreadlocks, is always puffing on a cigarette of some kind, and has about seven teeth, all of them varying shades of brown and yellow. He's also very good at pétanque. The first time I met him I thought he'd be a pleasure to play with but no. He is desperate to win and, knowing that we're hardly pétanque experts, creates rules seemingly at will. This game was no different. But on the whole it was a good day. Having lived in dark caves for the last two and a half years, I realise how important it is to get some sunlight every now and then.

My uncle and aunt (who live in Woodbury, not far from Geraldine) are in Auckland on a rhododendron conference. I'll be meeting them shortly.

We've got a mystery team building day tomorrow. Oh man. It'll be funfunfun all the way and I simply can't wait.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Little white balls

This morning I could hardly feel my arms and legs. I dragged myself out of bed at 9:30; if I'd stayed there any longer I might simply have floated away. I took a nosedive early in the week and haven't felt right since then. Now I think I know why. My Efexor "extended release" pills don't contain powder; instead they contain dozens of tiny white balls which are presumably designed to "go off" at different times. But for me right now, these balls aren't going off at all. Instead they're going straight through me. I need to see my GP toot-sweet.

Today I haven't felt like doing anything, though I did play pétanque at Bayswater with Phil as last-minute preparation for tomorrow's competition on Waiheke Island. Phil is someone I find very unscary, so I was happy to do that rather than be stuck inside on a sunny afternoon. I won three of our four games. Phil likes to travel, and once or twice as we were playing he looked up flights on his iWhatsit - apparently you could fly to Vancouver or Honolulu for a dollar. This will be the fourth time I've been to Waiheke - each time to throw boules - and it's a pretty cool place. The last time I went was two years ago when the tournament quickly descended into farce. The organiser, if you can call him that, carried a hip flask. He was sozzled before we even started and after a couple of hours he was four sheets to the wind. The rain, which completely obliterated his draw sheet, didn't help either. We seemed to play more games than anyone else, advancing to the next round despite losing in style virtually every time. All in all it was an interesting day.

Yesterday I didn't go to work. Instead I went to Mt Eden to meet with Grant, who Andy kindly put me in touch with, to talk about jobs in mental health. We had a power cut (a fork lift truck hit a power line, blacking out half the city) so my alarm didn't go off. I overslept badly, missed my medication (as I found out today) and got there late. In the end though, we had a very productive meeting. Grant is a really nice bloke and he knows a lot of people in the field. Mental health work is certainly something I can consider. It must be very satisfying after a day's work to know you've helped somebody. Whether I'd be suitable is perhaps another matter - at this very moment I'm struggling to help myself, let alone anybody else.

In the afternoon I took out a few CDs from the library. One of them was Moon Safari by Air - a great album in my opinion. I love all that "spacey" music. The album came out in '98 and as such it reminds me - though not fondly - of my first year at university. I also took out Tracy Chapman's Our Bright Future which was a bit of a disappointment compared to some of her earlier stuff which I really like. I only grabbed one book which I couldn't resist simply because of its title: Bonjour Laziness - Jumping Off the Corporate Ladder. Of course I want to jump off the corporate ladder at my first opportunity. This book talks of the "incomprehensible no man's language" you get in the office: "AGIR has become IPN, which supervises the STI, divesting the SSII of control of the DM, but the latter will waste no time in subsuming RTI." Personally I call all of those acronyms TFIs: three f***ing initials. I've only read two chapters so far, but it's an absolute scream. Better than Who Moved My Blackberry? and that wasn't bad.

I had a good week on iPredict. They have stocks in petrol prices; Wednesday's five-cent increase at the pumps netted me $190, though that did little to lift my mood. My overall profit is $800 of which I've decided to withdraw half. In a later post, who knows maybe my next post, I'll give a run-down of my biggest winners and losers.

I'm pleased to see that the bastards who killed 32 birds at Temuka's aviary in August have been put away. I have fond memories of the aviary and the park as a kid. I happened to be there days after the attack; it was very sad to see all those flowers outside. Some people just make me sick.

From tomorrow, anyone caught using a mobile phone while driving faces an $80 fine. I think it should be more like $200. People have been dashing around buying hands-free kits, wondering how on earth they'll cope with this new law. It won't affect me - while eating a sandwich, reading a map and driving all at the same time remains legal, I'll be fine.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Depressed again

Since Monday I've been on a definite downward slide. I've achieved nothing at work in the last two days, not that that's anything new. I have to get out of there. Fast.

I nearly went home at lunchtime but didn't because I'm taking Friday off to see this bloke about possible work in mental health. I know that makes no logical sense. I'm looking forward to seeing Andy tomorrow.

Monday, October 26, 2009

I gotta get out of this place...

...if it's the last thing I ever do. That's what I felt about work on Friday. But after a busy long weekend of puzzles, poker, pétanque and parler français, I've got to go back there. Yuck.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Ten minutes to Wapner

On Saturday I attended the monthly Autism NZ adult social group. It was a fascinating experience for me and an intimidating one at first – there must have been 25 people inside that not-so-big room. Sometimes in crowded places my head gets scrambled, and I wondered how someone with autism would cope trying to process all that information. To begin with we sat in an elongated circle and talked in turn about this month’s subject, namely things we collect. I had to rack my brains because although I unintentionally accumulate all kinds of junk, I don’t really go out of my way to collect anything. I did eventually come up with my coin and banknote collection, all the diaries I used to write as a kid, and those meticulously completed Wimbledon draws going back to 1992. People’s collections ranged from plastic bags to star charts and from soft toys to band T-shirts, but sci-fi DVDs were the most popular choice. After that discussion we were free to talk amongst ourselves. My first meeting was straight out of Rain Man – this bloke had been coming to these sessions since the third Saturday of August 2007 which was definitely the 18th; I wasn’t about to argue with him. In the end I only spoke to a handful of people but they were all really good people. Whether I have autism, even at a low level, I really don’t know, but there were certainly people I clicked with. If an autism “Richter scale” exists I imagine most of the group would have registered only a three or four, so they still needed friends (as I do) but lived mostly on the margins of society (as I do). I made a few cups of tea and did the dishes but overall I wished I could have been more helpful. One woman I met, as well as having Asperger’s, had spent eight months of the last year in hospital with a brain tumour. She was coping remarkably well under the circumstances. Like many of the people I met she was highly intelligent; she even knew what an actuary actually did. She was not allowed to drive and had nobody to pick her up so I took her home.

In other news, I’ve managed to acquire a new domain name. I tried to get my hands on it a year ago but alas the name I wanted was already taken. However it was just sitting there, not doing anything, presumably owned by someone who makes a living out of buying and selling names. A few weeks ago I bit the bullet and contacted the owner. He replied last week, citing a ridiculous figure in the thousands which had been generated by an online valuation tool and asking me “how much are you offering?” in aggressive bold 30-odd-point font. I offered him around a tenth of his figure and to my surprise he immediately accepted. I had all kinds of fun and games with PayPal but eventually it all worked out. His instant acceptance makes me think I probably paid too much, but as I plan to use the domain rather than sell it I don’t think my deal was spectacularly bad.

Friday was a bad day at the office, and was bearable only because it was Friday. I’d been pulling my hair out over many hours, grappling with about a hundred Spaghetti Junction-style Access queries. I painstakingly extracted a set of figures, only for my old boss to tell me (in not so many words) that they were worse than useless. For forty hours a week I’m worse than useless. She’s now given the task to one of my colleagues who I imagine will write some nifty SQL code (whatever that is) and Bob will be his uncle.

I did finally win a match point last weekend. We had a really good men’s match, mainly because my partner and I got on well. I could imagine I’d enjoy partnering him even if we got totally thrashed. For a while it appeared that might happen but I gave my partner a couple of simple tips (he’s got the shots but just needs a bit more match experience) and we turned things around for a 4-6 6-4 6-2 win. In the mixed we were simply up against a better pair and lost 6-4 6-3.
Dad is back from his rather exhausting two-month stint in the UK. Today and tomorrow I’ve got Italian, the psychologist, the men’s group, oh, and in a few hours I’ll find out if I really am still getting paid.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Random ramblings

For some reason last week at work was a more tolerable one than usual. Maybe it's because my desk is now just 200 metres from the loo instead of 300, or perhaps it's because I now have a fellow pom in my team, even if he does use phrases like "unravelling a can of worms" and "light at the end of the rainbow" in meetings. However, one better-than-average week doesn't change the fact that I need to get out of there, and to that end I've applied for a contracting role, working in procurement. You needed to be good with Excel, in particular Pivot Tables and VLOOKUPs. While I wouldn't say I was an expert I think I'd be plenty good enough, and there would be real advantages for me if I wasn't attached to any one company.

On Thursday I went to a mental health awareness concert at the King's Arms in Newton with three other blokes from our group. A real eclectic mix, you might say. I loved the venue and it seems they have well known bands there on a regular basis, so I should keep my eyes open. One of the less well known bands I saw was called Bipolar Bass. Personally I think The Bipolar Bears would have made for a better name.

I had an interesting session with the psychologist on Tuesday. We discussed my self-inflicted injury during last weekend's tennis match. Occasionally I just lose it. Fortunately (so far at least) I've only ever lost it with myself, but I hope in future I can think my way out of reacting in that way. I'm confident I can make the change, but because everything happens in a split second it won't be easy. Later that evening I played pool with the men's group; this made a nice change from our usual meetings even if I am utterly crap at pool.

Many of my colleagues had their exams this week. Some others, those outside our team, asked me which exam I was doing. Finding an explanation for why I wasn't doing one (or more) this time wasn't easy, but a lot better than going through the motions of sitting an exam.

Last night I tried playing two freerolls simultaneously. Despite the odd misclick or panic-induced misjudgement the experience was largely successful. I finished 161st in the single draw, just inside the top 5%, while in the badugi I qualified in 48th place, surviving an all-in with a jack.

Rugby sevens and golf will both be included in the 2016 Olympics, which we learnt just this week will be held in Rio de Janeiro. Rugby sevens will be a great addition to the Games (and could well increase the Kiwi medal tally), but golf? What were they thinking? Golf already has its four majors every year, so at best an Olympic gold medal will become the fifth most cherished prize in the sport, some way down the pecking order from your Claret Jug and Green Jacket. Surely an Olympic gold medal should represent the pinnacle of a sport, the number one event in the calendar. Not the number five. For that reason alone, neither golf nor tennis should be there.

To continue the sporting "what the …?" theme, in less than seven hours from now New Zealand are playing their most important football match since 1982, but you wouldn't know it. The All Whites are about to take on Bahrain in the first leg of their World Cup qualifying play-off, but the sports headlines are dominated by rugby, cricket, league, motorsport, rugby, netball and rugby. I just don't get it.

Tomorrow I've got more interclub tennis. Who knows, we might even win a match point.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Seven and hell

My work days aren’t getting any more fulfilling; last Wednesday was a perfect example. My recollections of that day are already hazy – I’m really struggling with my short-term memory– so I’ll describe it now before it vanishes from my mind altogether. On my way to work I always listen to Radio Hauraki for some amusement ahead of another meaningless day in the office. This time I decide that if Rock the Casbah is playing when I start the engine, I’m staying at home. Dammit, it’s AC/DC. Hell’s Bells. Again. Now is it just me or has Hauraki suddenly become AC/DC FM? I get to work, sit down at my desk and realise how much I need to visit the dry cleaners. I’ve got this task which has a three-letter acronym and a 5pm deadline, but I’m clueless as to what I need to do. The previous week I produced some numbers but they were all wrong and I have to run those database queries again and I can’t even remember which database it was, let alone where on the system it was saved or what queries I ran, and I’m far too embarrassed to ask Brian again. It was bad enough the first time. A magnitude-eight earthquake has hit Samoa and a tsunami is rapidly heading our way. People are browsing Stuff or the Herald for the latest updates. The idea of being swept away by a gigantic wave suddenly seems quite appealing. Maybe I could pop out for an hour – nobody will notice – and watch proceedings from North Head. But I stay at my desk; from a New Zealand perspective the tsunami was quite an anticlimax. At around 3pm I get a sudden light bulb moment. It’s that database! Man, I’ve been racking my brains for six hours here. By the time I twig that the database output needs to go into the infamous reverse blackjack spreadsheet, it’s five o’clock. I stick around for another half-hour, because I’ll have some time to make up after seeing Andy tomorrow, but really I’m only there for show.

On Thursday Andy asked me how much, on a scale of nought to ten, I want to change jobs. I was getting pretty desperate by this stage so I scored it an eight. Friday was a better day, probably only because it was Friday. That night I had my best freeroll result yet, finishing 12th in a single draw tournament. In the end I was simply too tired to carry on, not that it mattered as the top 56 all got tickets to the next round. That’s the second time I’ve qualified in ten attempts at deuce-to-seven. My record in badugi is four out of ten.

Every time I step onto the tennis court I seem to find innovative ways to lose. Saturday was no different. In the men’s match we didn’t know what hit us. We lost the first nine games before salvaging some pride, eventually succumbing 6-0 6-3. But it was the mixed match where everything really kicked off. Down 4-6 2-4, I was playing abysmally and getting sensory overload from all the people and flying fuzzy yellow round objects. In contrast my partner was playing well and I was letting her down. Badly. I struck my head with the frame of my racket – just writing about that makes me wince. I didn’t want to hang around long on the court so I employed high-risk tactics, which to my surprise, paid off. Before long we’d reeled off four straight games to level the match, even breaking the opposing bloke’s seemingly impenetrable serve. We again found ourselves on the ropes in the third set, but again we fought back, and nudged in front for the first time at 6-5. At 30-all I retrieved a smash almost from the back fence. We won that point and surely that would be the killer blow. But no. Seven match points – seven! – came and went in that game. The ensuing tie-break, which we lost 7-3, had an air of inevitability about it. The only consolation is that, despite having so many match points, we were rarely ahead and never by much. Unlike Jana Novotna in this match at the French Open.

I spent a sizeable chunk of the weekend on my puzzles. There are so many things consider. Judging by the controversy that multiple-solution Sudoku puzzles generated in 2005, people like unique solutions. But how do I ensure my puzzles have a single solution? If I had the computer programming know-how it would be dead easy to do, but I don’t so I have to painstakingly go through all the logical steps by hand, and even then I can only be about 98% sure. Then there’s the presentation to think about. I had to change one of my font choices because the threes looked too much like eights. I’m sure that next time – if there is a next time – I’ll have all of this down to a fine art, and for all the hassle involved it sure beats being in the office.

Tomorrow night I’ll be seeing the psychologist and going to the men’s group shortly after. I think we’ve got some games of pool planned. Last time we watched the classic Kiwi film Goodbye Pork Pie from around the time I was born. Watching that movie gave me a sudden urge to buy a car from that era, probably a Datsun.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Bazza's Boycott Bombshell

I've lost emotional attachment to a lot of things lately, including tennis. During last night's doubles match I was really just going through the motions. I watched people on adjacent courts (and mine) throw their rackets, give their partners high-fives and make authoritative pointed-finger "OUT!" signals, while I really couldn't see what all the fuss was about. We lost our match 6-4 6-4, a score that flattered us slightly. My apathy continued into the singles, though that changed somewhat as the contest wore on. It turned out to be my longest-ever singles match, certainly by number of games and perhaps also in terms of time (I have however played longer doubles matches, most of them involving Bazza - for the latest news about him, stay tuned). Unfortunately I lost, 7-6 4-6 7-5, having been just two points from victory at 5-3 in the decider. Unusually we had a few spectators towards the end of the match, which came just shy of 10.30. My opponent employed topspin to good effect, had a surprisingly strong backhand and was generally a much better all-round player than me, so while on one hand I was disappointed that I couldn't finish the job, I was also pleased I could compete with him for so long.

Bazza has pulled out of playing tennis. I won't go into the reasons in detail - suffice to say that as he played in last season's winning team, he thinks he should be playing in a higher grade this season than the one he's been assigned to, so he's decided to boycott. The competition organisers have made some strange rule changes this season, and to be honest Bazza is probably in the right. The problem here is that in the absence of a job or a family or any of those things that keep people occupied, and as a general consequence of his condition, Bazza has become obsessed with tennis. Not just the game of tennis, but points, grades and league tables. For the last four seasons he's been ringing me up almost daily to ask about results of matches he hasn't even played in. He'll never bother with pleasantries like "how was work?" or "hasn't it been a lovely day?" - he'll always get straight to the point, or rather, the points. So for him, interclub tennis grading is Very Serious Business. On Sunday I phoned him and tried to reason with him. That's never an easy task and he hung up on me. Twice. I'll pop round and see him tomorrow and try to at least arrange a game of singles with him. My biggest fear, if he quits the game completely, is for his health. Instead of two obsessions he'll be down to just one: food.

On Saturday I spent ten hours making puzzles. For once, because someone was paying me, this no longer seemed a frivolous activity. Instead it was a very enjoyable one. I'm excited by the prospect that this could lead to something bigger.

I had a very productive session with my psychologist today. That's despite making my job-search frustrations very obvious. Realistically I now have ten weeks to move, but still no idea how I'll do that.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Whacked

I felt completely whacked at work today. I needed coffee before coffee, as well as after coffee, just to keep my eyes open. The forty-plus hours I spend in the office each week feel more and more like “dead time”; all the really important stuff has to be squeezed into my remaining waking hours, of which there are never enough. My weariness could also be due to yesterday’s corporate jolly. For our second team building in just three months, we visited a number of wineries to the north and west, sampling their produce of course. When we voted on an activity, I chose wine tasting because it would be the least stressful option; it seems several of my colleagues felt the same way. Later we went to the pub – this was stressful for me because it involved my workmates recounting tales of drunken escapades while I sat in silence, so I didn’t stay long.

Last weekend, out of the blue, I received a rather exciting email from America. A publishing company in Illinois somehow stumbled upon my puzzle website and wants to buy forty of my puzzles for US$20 each. I started constructing puzzles in 2005, when the whole world was going Sudoku crazy, and have created a variety of word and number puzzles since then. A few of them made a guest appearance in an Aussie magazine in 2006, but that's about it, so when I got an email for someone willing to pay me eleven hundred bucks (in our money) for my puzzles, I was over the moon. I'm a little nervous dealing with unknown people over the net, but they seem legit, so I'm willing to take the risk. Who knows, this could lead to something big.

The tennis interclub season began in earnest last Saturday. Thanks mainly to my partner, we comfortably took out the men's doubles 6-1 6-1, but the mixed match was a totally different ball game (it was still tennis, but you know what I mean). We were lucky to get one game in a 20-minute first set, and though we weren't playing that badly, I couldn't see a way back. The opposing woman was a demon at the net. I was heading down one of my infamous spirals of negativity, talking incessantly to both myself and my partner about how screwed we were, when my partner told me to stop talking and to act more positively. From that moment the match turned. I became more confident in my shots, and my intensity levels rose a notch or two. My partner's play also improved as she was no longer feeding off my negativity. Our opponents couldn't quite hit the heights they reached in the first set, and we wound up 1-6 6-3 6-3 winners, wrapping it up on our fifth match point. After the match we ate and chatted; our opponents were such nice people that I felt a bit guilty that we beat them. One of the highlights of interclub tennis is that you meet new people every time you play.

The current spell of dodgy weather is predicted to continue into Saturday. A good day for making puzzles I think.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Acceptance

I’ve been feeling much better this week. There’s no obvious reason why – for all practical purposes I’m in exactly the same position as I was last week, only I’m a week older – but my newfound acceptance of my work situation seems to have helped. At work we’re all supposed to be full steam ahead on a lifelong career path, but since I want to jump off the conveyor belt at the first opportunity I’m constantly forced to act out a role. This perpetual play-acting is tiring and ridiculous but crucially it no longer gets me down.

Statistics New Zealand rang me up on Wednesday about that job. For a moment I got very excited about driving down to Wellington for a possible interview, but that was only because it would make a pretty cool road trip. When I realised I didn’t particularly want the job and wouldn’t survive their rigorous interview process anyway, common sense prevailed. Predictably our conversation focused mainly on the last 5½ years; at best I added some serious embellishment to my work history, at worst I outright lied and felt quite uncomfortable doing so.

On Thursday we had a fire drill; this was reminiscent of the scene from Office Space where Milton sets fire to the building. I’m getting more like Milton every day. The other highlight of Thursday was spending hours on the phone to the IT help desk trying to install a system whose name was pronounced identically to my own name but spelt differently, and without which I’d be completely screwed. Of course when I finally did get the program installed I was just as screwed as ever.

I’m sure all you avid Fixed and Floating readers will be thrilled to learn that the new tennis season is almost upon us. Thursday night’s practice match gave me a real boost: I cared about my performance, I could think about what I was doing, and I’d even go as far as to say I enjoyed it. We were the underdogs, so a 4-6 7-5 3-3 tie (from our point of view) was clearly a positive result for us. One of our opponents was Superman, who’s taken over from me as captain of the interclub team.

As I write this, Mum will be halfway through the first round of her 36-hole final of the club championships. Hopefully she’ll be burning up the course. Dad will be in the UK for another month; I don’t know if he’ll get to see my brother, who spends his weekends taking people up for tandem parachute jumps. Sometimes he’ll clear £400 in a weekend. I’ll be honest here and say I’m quite envious of my little brother. Making that kind of money doing something you love is a pipe dream to me.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

No camels? C'mon!

The Big Desk Move was beneficial to me after all: I get more sunlight, plus I'm now not the furthest from the loo in the whole company. Today at work I realised an important thing: I don't like my job and I can't wait to move, but that doesn't mean there's something hopelessly wrong with me. I don't want to be there and I'm happy with that.

Janet very kindly got in touch with the Dyspraxia Support Group; there's a real prospect that I'll get some voluntary work in that area. It's a bit scary, the thought of working with real people, but it's exciting at the same time. I'll have to work out how many hours I can do - in this line of work you're not plugging numbers aimlessly into a spreadsheet any more; people's lives are at stake. It's imperative that I'll be functioning at full capacity.

On Saturday I celebrated the lifting of my self-imposed online poker ban by playing three freeroll tournaments. In the first - a badugi freeroll on Carbon Poker - I broke my all-time record by busting out on only the second hand. I then fired up a deuce-to-seven tournament on PokerStars and soon found myself with a draw to the nuts. I drew one card to 7542, made an eight and went all in - and all out - against a pat 87432. Finally I entered a PokerStars badugi freeroll and came through a 5¾-hour marathon to snatch the 63rd (and last-but-one) ticket to the money round. I've now amassed five such tickets, so I should probably play the money tournament at some stage, but they start on Sundays at 2am which isn't exactly when I'm most on the ball.

On Sunday I had a wander through our local nature reserve and stumbled upon this sign. I've seen a few amusing signs around here; I might post one or two of them if I get the chance. In the afternoon I played tennis with some people from work, not that I was really in the mood for it.

I've started reading How Language Works by David Crystal; I get the impression that when it comes to all matters linguistic, he's the man. Language is a subject that interests me greatly - I just wish I had more time to study it. My Italian classes are going great though. Next week's session will be the last of the term; celebratory drinks will be in order.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

That sinking feeling

Monday kicked off with our weekly team meeting, the new supersized team of ten in attendance. The meeting lasted an hour and a half. Sometimes my head would be in eleven different places at once, all of them outside the meeting room, while at other times my mind was nowhere. I survived the scary bit of the meeting - the "what are you currently working on" bit - by dredging up something from the recesses of my mind. As the session extended deeper into overtime I became more and more desperate to get out of there.

That evening I had my Italian class. A brass band practises in an adjacent room at the same time as our class; they play theme tunes to American hit TV shows, usually The Simpsons. Andy suggested I invite one or two people out for a coffee after our next class; I've always been too scared to do that sort of thing even though I can't rationalise in my mind what it is I'm scared of.

On Tuesday I had my fortnightly mental health bonanza. During my appointment with the psychologist I made a concerted effort to remain positive, or at the very least to halt the never-ending spiral of negativity which dogged some of my previous meetings. This made for a much more productive session. I barely had time to grab a kebab after seeing the psychologist, then it was off to the men's group. We chatted about a variety of subjects, though it was Brendan who did most of the chatting. I get on well with Brendan - we have quite a lot in common - but he does tend to dominate conversations and can become almost obsessive about certain topics. I'm not sure he realises this and I doubt I'd have the balls to tell him. On the other hand I am sure I have dozens of annoying traits that nobody tells me about.

We sat through the corporate equivalent of a school assembly on Wednesday; because of this (I don't quite get the logic here) it was a casual day. I'd completely forgotten of course, though it was just as well because Friday was also a casual day and having two of them in one week tests my wardrobe to breaking point. After work I applied for a job with Statistics New Zealand down in Wellington. Although Wellington would probably suit me in the long term, I think I'd be better off where I am for now, so even if I do miraculously get the job I might not take it.

I had my first one-on-one meeting with my new boss on Thursday. He wanted to discuss my targets for 30th June 2010, making sure they align with the company's strategy, vision and values. This was a pointless exercise because if I'm still there in nine months, I will shoot myself.

Last week I had a sinking feeling in my stomach all day, every day I was in the office. But Friday was the day of the Desk Migration Procedure, which for me made that feeling even more acute. There had been lot of talk about the move; I'd ignored all of it, waiting till the day itself to find out where I was going. I moved all my stuff as fast as I could and then met up with Mandy who works two floors above and who, like me, is trying to work out an exit strategy. When the Big Move was complete, the Big Boss gave a congratulatory speech while drinks were poured. I had no idea what the move was about, nor did I care. All I cared about was getting home.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Encouraging

It's been an encouraging last few days, even if I've been pretty subdued most of the time. Mum has just flown back after spending the last five days up here; we got on really well.

Undoubtedly the best thing to happen to me in the last week was my meeting with Janet where we discussed jobs. Voluntarily helping people with autism could be a serious possibility. Whether I'd be any good at that, who knows, but it's something I'd certainly be passionate about. I also feel I have a reasonable understanding of the condition, having known Bazza for a few years and possibly even experiencing a mild form of it myself.

I now officially have a new boss. I think that's a plus for me, but on the flip side I'm now in a team of ten. A couple of years ago when there were only six of us, I had at least some idea of where I fitted in. On Friday we went out to lunch to celebrate the birthday of one of my colleagues. Why his birthday was such a big deal - his desk was decked out with banners and balloons - I don't know. I enjoyed my meal but felt uneasy being with my workmates. I just sat there, ate, and hardly said a word.

On Saturday Mum and I took the ferry into town and looked at one or two art galleries in Parnell. Later we had a very tasty meal at Manna, a Thai restaurant in Devonport. Yesterday I played pétanque with the French group at Browns Bay. We had glorious weather.

The only other news is that I applied for a job via Seek. It's an Economist role. There's a 70% chance I won't hear anything and a 29% chance I'll hear something negative, but it's a start.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Short-term pain for long-term gain

I saw the psychologist today. I've gone downhill again since the weekend, and seeing her only made things worse. On the way home from my appointment I drove faster that normal, honking the horn in frustration, not particularly caring if I hit something. My laptop has been playing up so when I got home I took it to Wharf IT who stay open till seven or sometimes later. My chat with the very enterprising owner of Wharf IT (and three other shops on the wharf) was probably the highlight of my day. It's always interesting to see how others earn a living; she did so by keeping her fingers in as many pies as possible. It turned out I had 33 viruses, which have now been eradicated, but more seriously I might have a dodgy motherboard - if that's the case I can kiss goodbye to this four-year-old laptop.

Every day at work I plumb new depths of disengagement that I didn't know existed. But I still can't motivate myself to look for a new job. I talked at length about this with the psychologist. To my mind there are three reasons why I can't get my A into G:
1. Planning anything or thinking about the future only makes me feel worse.
2. Because I don't know anybody, my job prospects are reduced by 70%. The only channels available to me are newspapers and websites like Seek - any jobs that I could possibly apply for on that site will get about 582 applicants so I'd be wasting my time applying, and even if I did get the job it would likely be just as depressing as my current one.
3. I feel I should be grateful to have any sort of job right now, even a depressing one.

Much of my reasoning is irrational. For the sake of my long-term mental health, I really must look for a new job. The process might be painful, but it's a case of short-term pain for long-term gain.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Survivor

It's been a funny sort of week. On Wednesday I was seriously considering flying to the UK for my grandmother's funeral; this morning when I spoke to her on the phone it was almost as if nothing had happened. She's been plagued with intestinal difficulties for at least half a century, and has undergone several operations. Last Sunday her bowels were blocked again and she was whisked off to hospital in a lot of pain. Three days later they were still blocked; the doctors refused to operate due to her age despite Dad begging them to please do something. At that point Dad jumped on the first plane to Heathrow. By the time he arrived, her bowels had miraculously freed themselves, and she was let out of hospital not long after. Normally when I talk to Gran the line is bad and I only catch about every third word (it doesn't help that she jabbers at a hundred miles an hour in a Welsh accent) but this morning she was as clear as a bell.

You could say Gran is a survivor. In her thirties severe depression made her life a living hell. In those days she couldn't just "bump up her Efexor" like I can - she had to resort to such treatments as ECT. After Grandad died from Alzheimer's in 1999, Gran started blacking out for no apparent reason. On one occasion she flew out to see me in France and passed out on the plane. It was found that her heart stopped beating in these episodes, so she got a pacemaker fitted, in an operation that took five hours and nearly killed her. Last year when I saw her she was in a bad way after suffering a small stroke, but somehow she keeps bouncing back.

On Saturday I felt better than I have for at least two months. My grandma wasn’t dying after all, spring was in the air, and I didn’t have to study for any stupid exams. In the morning I played tennis with Bazza. I wasn’t expecting much. When I faced two set points on Bazza’s serve at 5-2 and 40-15 in the first set, I was expecting even less. But I clawed my way back from the brink, eventually winning 7-6 (7-4), 6-2. Afterwards I realised how much my mood affects everything I do, tennis included. In the first seven games I was spraying unforced errors all over the place; had it been the previous Saturday I’d have bashed my head with the frame of my racket, lost all capacity to think straight, and undoubtedly been on the wrong end of a 6-2 6-1 thrashing, not that I would have cared.

After tennis I did my Italian homework, spent some time on my puzzles, then went out for dinner with Julie – it was a complete rip-off (that’s one reason why I rarely eat out) but it was good to catch up with her. Yesterday I had the French club – I spoke more French than I normally do, largely because I was in a better-than-average mood.

Tonight was my weekly Italian class. I’m doing reasonably well with my Italian – it’s satisfying to feel that I’m good at something. It’s a shame I only get that feeling for two hours a week; for the entire forty I spend in the office I feel the exact opposite. The trick is not to let that affect all other aspects of my life.

Mum is flying up to see me on Wednesday. I’ve seen more of my parents this year than I have for at least five years. That’s partly because air fares have come down but mainly because they’re worried sick about me.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Triple birthday celebrations

Yesterday I didn't feel good at all. The morning's strategy meeting went by in a complete haze; at some stage I was probably informed of what work I might have been expected to do in the next few months and in what order, but everything in that meeting just bounced off me. While my colleagues discussed high-level business plans or made in-jokes that I pretended to understand, all I wanted to do was get the hell out of there. However my ears did prick up at the mention of suicide exclusions. Currently we pay out on suicides as long as the policy has been in force for a certain length of time, but because suicides make up a significant percentage of our death claims it was suggested we exclude them completely. This matter was discussed for all of thirty seconds, and I don't think we'll actually go through with the proposal, but it's only an issue at all because so many New Zealanders are killing themselves. Our suicide rate is above the OECD average and almost twice that of the UK. Why should it be so high in such a beautiful country as New Zealand? The best explanation I can come up with is that a relatively high proportion of Kiwis live in rural areas and are therefore isolated; many of these people also have access to guns. But maybe it's also because kiwi blokes don't feel they can talk about their problems. I really don't know.

After the meeting I raced off to see Andy - I was half an hour late. He could tell I wasn't at my best and that my work was probably having an impact, so he brought in a woman to assist me with my work situation. She was very helpful. I told her exactly what was going on - Andy said if it was a job interview I'd have given a good demonstration of what not to say - but there was no point in dodging the issue. So far I've managed to control myself, but I'm concerned that if I stay in my current job much longer, I might suddenly blow up and injure myself or someone else.

Yesterday was Andy's birthday. It was also Uncle Dan's 69th birthday so I emailed him, wishing him all the best at what must be a very difficult time. I don't know what it is about August 21st, but Bazza's speedo also clicked over (mentioning Bazza and speedo in the same sentence just gave me a really bad mental image). I was the only person to call him yesterday - evidently nobody else knew or cared that it was his birthday. Apparently he's dropped a few kilos since I last saw him. We'll hopefully get a game of tennis in next weekend. While he's got a new racket and should be fitter and meaner than ever, I've been almost completely absent from the court of late, so I imagine I'll be in for a tough time despite my good record against him.

The woman from the flat down the road never got back to me. I called her yesterday but she had forgotten who I was. She then remembered, so we talked for a couple of minutes until her phone cut out. I tried ringing her back but couldn't get through. I very much doubt I'll ever hear from her again. I never got my hopes up too much - I've learnt not to - but even I expected things to go a bit further than this.

I wasn't in the greatest of moods last night so I broke my "no poker till September" promise, thinking that might make me feel better, which I guess it did. I entered the next available freeroll tournament on PokerStars which happened to be razz, a game that shares some similarities to badugi and deuce-to-seven in that high cards are bad and pairs are bad. I made the top 5%, but eventually bombed out in 133rd place after 2¾ hours.

Dad came up with a clever idea for deriving an income from my puzzles, so I've spent some time today on that. I sent off my CV to a couple of agencies and did a long session on Bazza's exercise machine. It's been a gorgeous day outside, but as has so often been the case lately, it was wasted on me.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Impetus

On Tuesday I saw my psychologist for the first time in four weeks. She seemed to do plenty of catastrophising, if that's a real word, about my work situation. My work is making my depression worse; my depression is adversely affecting my performance at work. I hope to have moved from my current job by the end of November but have so far made little progress towards that goal, mostly because I don't know where to start, and because I find the whole idea of having to send off CVs and do interviews quite daunting. But there is a real sense of urgency now. If I stay where I am I'll still be depressed, and if I'm still there in the new year I'll have to sit exams again; that doesn't bear thinking about.

Back in the UK, even though the market was much healthier than the one we face today, it took me ages to find my first "real" job. And when I take into account that I only got the job thanks to a fluke meeting with a friend of one of Dad's sort-of-friends, my current situation appears hopeless. If I get another job in a corporate environment like the one I'm now in, I can't see what that will achieve. So where do I go? In yesterday's paper I couldn't find any jobs I'd be able to do, let alone jobs I'd be able to do and would want to do.

The good news is that this week at work has been sufficiently crap to give me the impetus to look for a new job. Today was easily the worst day. At one point I scrawled "I GIVE UP" in three-inch-high letters in my notepad; later I had another of my sessions in the toilet; then at 5pm I found out that my whole day spent arsing around with spreadsheets and computer programs had been a complete waste of time because I'd got it all wrong. My next step is to email a few of those job agencies - I'm not sure how I can word my emails to avoid sounding desperate.

The woman from that flat didn't get back to me, so I don't know when, or if, this drink (I don't like to use the word date here) will happen.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Something to look forward to

I flew back to Auckland yesterday morning. By end of the trip, the side effects - if that's what they were - had worn off and I was able to relax a bit. At the beginning of the week I really just didn't want to know.

Hanmer Springs was good. The town itself was way too touristy for my liking, but they'd done an impressive job of the pools. I could imagine as a treat spending half a day bathing in the hot pools and ordering drinks. I particularly enjoyed the sulphur pools, though ten minutes in that heat was about my limit.

From Hanmer we made our way over to the West Coast, staying one night at Westport and another at Greymouth. With Dad driving, we never get from A to B directly; we usually dawdle along, making sure we stop at X, Y and Z. Dad paints pictures for a living so he's always on the lookout for views that might make a nice painting. I don't mind this - I've got used to it over the years and it's his job after all - but all those extra hours stuck in the car give us many more opportunities to fall out with each other. That doesn't happen often, but I did fly off the handle somewhere between Reefton and Westport when Mum said I was boring. I'm always very conscious of how boring I am, so when my own mother says I'm boring I feel there's no hope for me.

The best day of the trip was Friday, a gloriously sunny day. We stopped at Punakaiki and tried to figure out how on earth those Pancake Rocks came about. Just around the corner we scavenged for fossils, finding perfectly preserved leaves. When I see millions of years of history like this, our own appearance on this planet seems like the blink of an eye, and all that complicated stuff we spend so much time worrying about hardly seems to matter at all.

When I got back yesterday I played pétanque again with Phil. Just like last time it was teeming with rain, but this time I came out on top, winning 13-5. We were tied at 5-all but from there I wrapped up the game in just four ends. I realise now the importance of scoring multiple points on the ends you win and limiting the damage on the ends you lose, much like in poker I suppose.

In my week off I hadn't given work a moment's thought. Well that's not quite true - I'd certainly thought about where the hell my job might be going - but the actual mechanics of what I do on a day-to-day basis hadn't figured at all. So in this morning's two-hour meeting it was back down to earth with a bump.

Tonight I had my Italian class which, as always, I thoroughly enjoyed. In my last post I mentioned that something strange happened to me. Strange because it happened to me. Two weeks ago a very nice English woman showed me her flat. The next day I sent her a text saying that although I liked the flat I wouldn't be interested in the room because it was too small; I thought it was a shame I'd never see her again. The following morning, to my surprise, she replied, inviting me for a drink. I figure she might not have many friends either - she's got an 11-digit phone number like mine (people with lots of friends tend to have shorter numbers) and she wasn't quite sure where the space bar was, which makes me think she doesn't send a lot of texts. Hopefully we'll go out later this week, and who knows, something might happen.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The Burner

I'm writing this post from Mum and Dad's house in Geraldine. It's great to get out of Auckland for a week. I flew down on Saturday; Air New Zealand have just implemented comedy safety announcements: "When an oxygen mask appears above your head, don't ask why, and don't ask if you can have it in a different colour." Mum and Dad picked me up from Christchurch airport and we stopped briefly at Uncle Dan's. It was the first time I'd seen Dan since his diagnosis with throat cancer 18 months ago; he seemed in remarkably good spirits, albeit a couple of stone lighter than I remember him.

On Sunday I went to Pleasant Point to watch Dad fly his plane at the Model Aero Club. For a while he had me fooled with what I thought were some rather nifty aerobatics, but in fact all those impressive-looking vertical loops weren't in the script at all. The electrics were dead, and the plane - which Dad had spent many evenings making - came down in a local farmer's back garden. Dad wasn't a happy bunny; he went home with his tail between his legs while the plane's tail was no longer attached. He still thinks he can salvage the situation. I realise now he just enjoys gluing bits of balsa together; actually flying the finished product is secondary.
The engine room of Mum's life, on the other hand, would seem to be the golf course. I had a hit with her yesterday - quite a lot of hits in my case. It was the first time Mum had used her new club - the Burner. By spending a few hundred dollars on this club, whose head is the size and shape of a large spud cut in half, she's become one of the "haves", rather than the "have nots", of the golfing community. We played nine holes; I consistently scored double par. Mum is out playing a tournament right now, with the Burner of course, which is why I'm able to write this post.

I still don't feel quite right. I'm not sure if it's the depression, the drugs, or something else. Tomorrow we're planning on going to Hanmer Springs which is uncharted territory for me. I wanted to talk about the strange thing that happened to me last week - it was strange precisely because it happened to me - but I'm fast running out of computer time.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Side Efexor

To counteract those side effects I'm taking on board a lot of water and caffeine. This means regular trips to the loo, so at work I get to talk to Pam the cleaning lady more than perhaps I'd like. There's one more side effect I neglected to mention yesterday: I can't keep my feet still.

That eco-friendly price-neutral bonus letter arrived today. My bonus was well down on last year, but if it wasn't for some wangling on the part of my boss, I'd have received nothing at all. I was very happy with that outcome; thankfully my mitigating factors were taken into account.

I had a look at another flat tonight; this one was basically a non-starter. The more I think about it, the more I realise last night's flat could have been a good move for me. If only the room had been 50% bigger.

I still dabble with iPredict. So far I'm up around $400 though things can change rather quickly. I did particularly well betting, sorry predicting, that Gordon Brown wouldn't resign before the next election. Of course he might still do so, but iPredict allows you to lock in profits (or cut your losses, something I've done numerous times) before the closing date of the stock. By the way, this is what BK Drinkwater, one of the more eminent figures on iPredict, has to say about New Zealand's obsession with property investment. I might have gone a bit easier on the expletives myself, but I totally agree with him.

I'll be meeting up with Andy again tomorrow. Oh, and I've just started reading The Great Gatsby.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Forgettory

That mini-boost of Efexor is now starting to kick in. My depression has abated somewhat, but at a price. I get very tired even when I've been sitting on my bum all day, my short-term memory is now a forgettory, and I'm constantly thirsty. A quick Google search suggests that these side effects aren't unusual, and they're a price I'm willing to pay for the time being.

All I remember of Friday is the presentation my colleague gave at a meeting. His talk impressed me because he's only been at the company a matter of months, and he used some sophisticated modelling techniques to arrive at his conclusions. In other words there's no way I could have done any of that stuff.

On Saturday I worked on my puzzles and then played pétanque with Phil from the French club. The bowling club down my street has a pétanque piste attached. I'm sure we were supposed to pay, but being the middle of winter and sluicing down with rain, nobody else was there. The game was a lot of fun even though I ended up soaked to the skin. I came from 10-3 and 12-8 down only to be edged out 13-12. I'm sure we'll have many more battles over the coming months.

I'm struggling to remember what happened at work yesterday, but I don't think any of it was particularly good. After work though I had Italian which was much better. An elderly couple who were about to spend a week in Italy had brought two bottles of wine along for us all to share. The Italian wasn't easy, but it isn't supposed to be, and the wine pretty much made my evening.

Today at work was a complete dead loss. The highlight was an email telling us we'd soon be getting our bonus letters. Actually the highlight wasn't that part of the email - of course I'm thrilled to be getting a bonus of zero dollars - but the next bit. These bonus notifications will have a new, more colourful letterhead which is more closely aligned with our company's brand image, but will also be printed on thinner paper to offset the cost of all that extra ink and make the whole process cost neutral. I'm so relieved it's cost neutral. We were told to give feedback about the new letterhead. I was about to reply that I really couldn't give a rat's arse, then thought better of it.
I couldn't focus on anything for more than ten seconds all day. My soon-to-be-boss spent half an hour explaining a new one-off task to me, and explained it pretty well I thought, but everything simply washed over me. By the way the tsunami alert was a false alarm; I'll be getting a new boss, my fourth since I've been there.
Tonight I had a look at a possible new flat. It had a lot going for it but I'll be saying no unfortunately, because the room isn't really big enough.

I'll be taking next week off to stay with Mum and Dad down south, and hopefully get over to the West Coast, where I haven't been since 1993. I'm very much looking forward to that.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Out of alignment

I've already totally forgotten what happened at work on Monday and Tuesday, mostly because not much happened, but partly because I was depressed. Spells of depression are often wiped from my memory.

I really enjoyed Monday night's Italian class. Matteo is a great teacher; he makes learning Italian fun while still making sure we get it right. My knowledge of French has been useful for learning Italian grammar, especially irregular verbs, though no amount of French would have helped with the verb scegliere. You've got G's and L's swapping places, and it's hard to pronounce the various forms of the verb without your tongue ending up in knots.

Yesterday I rang up two of those job agencies. I had no luck with the first one - he told me not to move under any circumstances in the current job market; when I got off the phone I wanted to scream because I worry I might have a mental breakdown if I stay in my job much longer. My prospects weren't so bleak with the other agency, but even if I did miraculously find a job through them, it would probably be with a company not dissimilar to where I am now, so I don't know what that would solve.
Last night we had a record turnout at the men's group. Nine of us were there including two blokes I hadn't met before. There was one other chap who I hadn't seen for a while; I'd been wondering what had happened to him so it was particularly pleasing to see him there.
Today I spent pretty much all morning in a meeting. I found myself drowning in a sea of corporate buzzwords and acronyms. "Just as an FYI, alignment with our core business objectives will be key in determining your KPIs for FY10". Personal freedom is important to me, so I can't say I enjoyed hearing that word "alignment" repeated over and over.
Tomorrow I've got my meeting with Andy to look forward to, and I'll be going down south to see Mum and Dad in just ten days. I should mention that I opted for the half-measure after all, and am now on 187.5 of Efexor, or a browny and a grey-and-pinky if you prefer.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Positive chi, man

I didn't get a lot of sleep after writing my last blog post. The next morning I felt terrible, so after some deliberation I decided to stay at home. For some reason we can carry over sick days from one year to the next, so I've still got 46½ of them up my sleeve.

Mum thinks I should move out of my hermit pad. She's right. Spending so much time alone isn't good for me so I'm now seriously thinking of flatting. A lot of our shop windows here are covered in ads, some of them were for flatmates so I jotted down some details, but I was distracted by the number of ads for tarot card readings. Personally I think all that stuff is a load of baloney, but so many people here are into tarot (isn't the hermit one of the cards?), astrology, numerology, palmistry, feng shui, you name it. And what's more, go into any bookstore now and you'll find a whole aisle devoted to "mind, body, spirit" with titles along the lines of "Seven Steps to Eternal Happiness". Do people really think it's that simple? And why is seven always the magic number?

I got quite a bit done on Friday, far more than I would have at work. But that didn't stop me from being depressed. Yesterday was also fairly productive (I found ten recruitment agencies that I hope to contact over the next week), but again I was on my own all day. Today on the other hand was one of the most sociable days I've had for some time. I spoke to my gran first thing, then went to the French club. At lunchtime I saw Brendan who's certainly an interesting character. He even offered me a room at his place to rent. I won't take him up on that offer for a variety of reasons. He's a bit older than me for a start - I need to find people of my own age. Secondly, though I really like his house, living in that area with all its cul de sacs and funny little roundabouts and streets all named after birds would do my head in after a while. Thirdly, Brendan is big on his communications equipment and he likes putting up signs all over his house. I'd feel I was being watched.

This afternoon I played tennis, or tried to. It was a lovely day for it, but for me it wasn't much fun at all. They had seven games of doubles going on at once; all that sunlight and noise and all those flying fuzzy yellow objects were more than I could cope with. We played sudden death deuce - I lost nine of those deciding points in a row, but really I didn't care. I just wanted to get off the court and go home. It wasn't that long ago that I used to enjoy tennis; now it's as enjoyable as going to the dentist.

I've got tomorrow night's Italian class to look forward to, but Tuesday is a potentially scary day at work. I'll find out who's being restructured, streamlined and downsized, so I'll be on full tsunami alert.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

What's a proper job anyway?

This morning I was managing OK, but at lunchtime I saw Andy and I declined sharply from there. Almost vertically in fact. Somehow, after seeing Andy the outlook seemed even more bleak than it did before. By mid-afternoon I'd totally given up trying to make head or tail of one of our many Alice-in-Wonderland data systems, while by 5pm I had a headache from digging my fingers into my skull all afternoon. I was supposed to go to a French Society meeting tonight. I couldn't work out whether going to the meeting would be good for me or not, so I used the random number function in Excel to decide. It came out a "yes" so off I went. The meeting was relatively painless and I think I benefited from getting some human contact. When I got back though my parents rang and I was too far gone to disguise my depression. We ended up on the subject of jobs, which simply made me even more depressed. I should know by now never to talk about work with Mum and Dad; they have completely different priorities to me. Apparently if I do leave my current job I have to get a proper job, whatever that means. I guess that means a career. But I really don't care about career paths any more than I care about garden paths. I just want to get rid of this depression.

I saw the doctor yesterday. Tomorrow I'll be getting a supply of 37.5 mg Efexor tablets, which will allow me to go from my current 150 mg to either 187.5 or 225. I usually like to change my dose by small increments if I can, but after today I don't think I'll be messing around.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Il bloggo

Forty years ago today, man first set foot on the moon. I’m slightly envious of people like my dad who stayed up all night to watch it on a fuzzy black-and-white TV. He thought we’d be on Mars within a few years and have conquered pretty much the whole solar system by the end of the century. The Apollo 11 moon landing came at the end of a revolutionary decade, when there were no limits. Boris Johnson, who was five at the time, doesn’t think he’ll live to see a man walk on Mars, and despite being sixteen years younger than the Mayor of London, neither do I. By the way I think Boris is absolutely priceless – just watch this wonderful Youtube video of him talking about the Olympics.

I’ll never ever put other people’s stuff on TradeMe ever again. Ever. At the weekend things went horribly wrong. Fortunately the mess seems to have cleared itself up, and Julie now has a useful pile of cash, but working as a middle man is fraught with all kinds of difficulties I’d never even considered.

I felt down on Saturday, and with all those TradeMe shenanigans I couldn’t face going to the Bastille Day thing. Besides I was supposed to make something edible to take along, which I hadn’t done. I baked a quiche anyway, just for myself, but while the insides turned out fine the pastry was completely leatherised, and certainly not edible by anyone except me.

I broke my promise of no poker till September but I think I have an excuse. I got an email from PokerStars telling me I’d just received $2 but that I had to play at least one hand of real money poker in the next week or else I’d lose it. So I played five hands of ultra-low-stakes hold ’em and logged out. I still spent a fair chunk of the past week thinking about poker, even dreaming up new games that I know I’ll never play because who will I play them with?

Tonight I had my first Italian class. I got lost on the way there, and when I did arrive at the class I just wanted to go home. Everybody knew everybody and they all had worksheets that were full of complex Italian. It was all very intimidating. Eventually the teacher arrived - she was clearly not the Matteo I was expecting. It turns out they run three classes at the same time and I'd got the wrong one. When I found the right class, the real Matteo was great and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I was very rusty but hopefully it'll start coming back.

I’ve got no idea what I’m doing at work any more, and even less idea why I’m still there. My colleagues are writing board papers and designing sophisticated computer models while I’m sitting at my desk trying not to go insane.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Tsunami

Earlier this week I mentioned seismology. Well on Wednesday night a powerful earthquake shook the South Island but luckily its epicentre was in such a remote location that nobody was injured. Continuing the theme, I said a while ago that the tide was going out on my job. This week it's receded even further. I'm now concerned that a tsunami could be on its way and I won't be able to run fast enough.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Back to square one

Things went downhill quite quickly after I wrote my last post. This afternoon at work I ended up writhing around in the toilet, bashing into one wall and lunging into another. When I got out, the lights seemed very bright and my movements had slowed down a lot. I was back to where I was before I started the Efexor. When I got back to my desk, the bloody phone rang and it was someone asking me to take part in tonight's boot camp tennis session. I couldn't think of anything worse so I said no, but as I was about to hang up I changed my mind, knowing it would probably be good for me. Which it was. I still wonder how I'll cope with work tomorrow. At least I'll be seeing Andy at lunchtime. Human contact and exercise might be the answer.

Reading the signs

I spent much of Sunday running around like a headless chicken, not achieving a whole lot. I spoke to my grandmother (she was going to have her pacemaker replaced), checked the stuff I was selling on TradeMe for Julie, went to the market, emailed my brother, had a bite to eat, then helped Julie move some stuff into her new flat. I did my ironing and sat down in front of the computer to play a badugi tournament. At 11pm, after six hours, I was eliminated in 18th place out of nearly 4000. In that time I spoke to Mum and Dad on the phone – “yes it sounds like you’ve had gorgeous weather down there; [I’ll dump the jack] it’s been sunny here too but a bit cold; [ooh this one’s marginal, I think I’ll just fold] I’ve been really needing that fan heater.” I even managed to cook and eat a meal while playing. Half an hour into the tournament I was dealt a nine badugi and bet it aggressively, but no matter how much I bet people would call me, even with two-card draws. All my chips ended up in the middle, and in a four-way pot there was a good chance that someone would beat me. In hindsight I wish somebody did.

I took Monday off from work – the plan was to sort out various aspects of my life, but if anything the opposite happened. At 9am I met up with Andy at a café in Devonport. I really appreciated him spending that time with me. We joked about my flat and how it’s a hermit’s cave that only I ever enter. I’m too embarrassed to invite anyone into my flat, and of course I have very few friends anyway. My flat is entirely functional, and lacks any nice homely things. I haven’t tried to change that because I feel I’ve had more important things to do, and I’d be better off waiting till I had my own place.
Later I went to see to a career counsellor on the fifth floor of a building on Queen Street. There were several doors on that floor, only one of which had a sign I could read – all the other signs were in either Chinese or Korean. I found it strange that here I am, in New Zealand, faced with a whole bunch of signs that I can’t even begin to read. I could make a reasonable stab at reading the signs in somewhere as far flung as Peru, but in my own country I simply haven’t a clue. On a similar note, roughly 90% of the names on the pass list for that Australian-based exam, the one I failed, were Asian. Now I’m not racist at all (at least I don’t think I am) but I don’t think that having a profession dominated by one group of people is a good thing.

Anyway, the career counselling was a bit of a dead loss. I had to fill in a questionnaire which categorised interests and professions in totally nonsensical ways. One category was elevated above all others even though it scored the highest by just one point. Other categories were ignored because I’d given a low score for a completely irrelevant question that just happened to be in that category. So I could forget any job which involves writing because I don’t like dancing, and anything financial was out of the question because I don’t like being on committees. So I was left with seismology, cartography, and feeling very confused. When I got home I felt overwhelmed by how many things I had on my plate. I’ve got to find a new job whilst holding down my current job. I’ve got to find somewhere to live. I’ve got to make some friends. I’ve got to sell all this stuff on TradeMe. I’ll be starting Italian classes next week. I’ve got the Bastille Day party with the French club this weekend and I was probably expected to organise something for it but I’ve ignored all emails about it because there’s no way I’d find the time. I need to exercise. My level of tennis deteriorated last season and I’d like to get better again. I need to watch what I eat because my cholesterol level is so high. I need to make sure I have a supply of pills. I’m learning how to play poker. I create word and number puzzles and have a website dedicated to them, which I’ve totally neglected over the past six months – in fact when I mentioned this the career counsellor, she gave me a lot of encouragement to get back into my puzzles again, so seeing her wasn’t a complete waste of time and money after all. A puzzle shop has just opened up in Devonport and even though it deals in mechanical puzzles rather than paper-based ones, I feel I should make contact with the owners.

I realised two things on Monday. First, I need to forget about the house thing for a while. When I looked at that place on Saturday I was going through the motions, and you can’t go half-arsed into the most important purchase of your life. Buying a house isn’t priority A. Or B, or C. So I should flag it, and maybe get some nice homely things for my flat after all. Secondly, I must stop playing online poker. I’ve promised myself not to touch it for two months. On the face of it, what I’ve been doing is harmless because it hasn’t cost me a cent, and could potentially make me money, but it takes up so much time which I simply haven’t got. Last week for instance I spent eleven hours on two tournaments alone. The tournament format just isn’t conducive to living a normal life. When the phone rings you have three options: (1) answer it and fold every hand until you finish the conversation; (2) answer it and carry on playing; or (3) ignore it. I’ve been doing a mixture of (2) and (3). Some people play insane amounts of online poker, saying they “12-table 14 hours a day” and so on. How do they do that without going completely loopy? How do they eat, sleep, exercise, buy food, talk to their loved ones, have anything resembling a life? The same goes for any online activity. Some people are constantly on TradeMe, Youtube, Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, Twatter, and all kinds of other forums and social networking sites that I don’t even know about. How do they manage? I’m beginning to realise that internet addiction can be a real problem.

Yesterday was a bad day. I was depressed and able to think of just one thing – my depression. Seeing the psychologist after work helped, and going to the men’s group last night was a huge help. I think lack of human contact is the root of my problems. At the men’s group we watched the second half of Eagle Eye. Andy made the very good point that even though that kind of film could be disturbing to some people, we should treat those with mental health problems just like anyone else. Today I’m feeling marginally better than yesterday, but I’m still struggling. It’s only a matter of time before I’ll need to up my Efexor to 225. Just when I thought I was getting better, suddenly it’s all gone Pete Tong again.