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


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


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


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 p├ętanque 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.