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.