Monday, August 30, 2010

It's all your fault

Last weekend wasn't an easy one for me. The Lifeline training took up two full days and when I got back home on Sunday I was so mentally drained that I headed straight for the wine and the badugi tables to relax. Yes I know, online gambling as relaxation. Over the weekend we had to share a lot of personal information amongst our group; this made me feel quite uncomfortable. I was perhaps a bit naive when I applied for the course. I think I'll take Richard's advice and attend this Friday's session before deciding whether or not to continue. It's not just that the course takes me well outside my comfort zone (which isn't necessarily a bad thing), it's also a big commitment. While there are so many aspects of my life that need sorting out, I'm not sure I'm ready to commit. If I did somehow see the course out to its conclusion, I think I'd do fine on the phones (I'm much, much better in a one-on-one situation than in a group).

I found out yesterday that I'm competing against an internal candidate for that job. He or she is being interviewed about now, and I'll know the outcome later in the week. The internal applicant would logically be the favourite here; it's even possible that by interviewing me they're simply going through the motions to make it look like the process was open and above board, when in fact this person had been earmarked for the job from the start. Assuming it's just a two-horse race, I'd put my chances at 25% (the other person at 60%, with a 15% chance that they don't take either of us).

Over the last two weeks I've been giving out maths tuition and have made some useful cash. I'm not sure how helpful I've really been. I'm rusty to say the least; I haven't had to solve a quadratic equation since some time last century. Both the girls I've "helped" so far are already at a reasonable standard. I'm not sure they need a maths tutor. But their parents can afford one (their Remuera properties must be worth a fortune) so they get one. There's a clear "overclass" here. Sometimes you hear talk of a classless or egalitarian society, but the inequalities are as great as they've ever been. In fact I think this pseudo-equality is largely to blame for the increased prevalence of depression. A century ago people knew their place; for most people their upbringing precluded the possibility of fortune and fame. Now, according to this myth of equality, anybody can achieve anything, and if you're not achieving, guess what? It's all your fault. It's no use blaming your upbringing because having the right parents or going to the right school doesn't matter any more. Yeah right. There's this constant pressure on us all to achieve, win, succeed, but by definition not all of us can; since underachievement is now officially all your fault, it's no wonder so many of us are depressed.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Time to move on

I don't normally write my blog at four in the morning but the people upstairs are having a rather noisy party and sleep is out of the question. This is a bugger for me because I've got my Lifeline training all weekend so I have to, you know, do stuff. Some new people moved in while I was on holiday, and it's like this pretty much every weekend and sometimes during the week too.

I need to move out of this flat. Richard and I have talked about sharing a flat; this week he sounded pretty keen. It might help matters if we can find work. Right now I'm closer to getting a steady job than I've been all year, which still isn't that close but hey. My interview on Thursday went well I thought. I was a lot more on the ball than the first time (it helps not being depressed). I prepared well and put a lot more thought into the answers I gave. I faced a panel of three; the bloke who I guess was the main interviewer had an eyebrow ring and two earrings; I found this strangely reassuring. There's a chance they'll want me back a third time, and that could well be my undoing. They might test me out on various computer systems such as SQL which I mentioned on my CV. I know practically nothing about SQL. I can barely spell it. Of course there's also a chance that they won't want to see me again.

The good news is that I'm feeling a lot better than I did a week ago, and if it wasn't for those inconsiderate bastards upstairs I'd be feeling better still.

Sunday, August 22, 2010


In the last few days I've felt partly strange, partly stupid, but mostly I've felt nothing at all. Yesterday, and so far today, I've just wanted to crawl into a hole.

On Thursday I saw a recruitment agency in town. I drove up and down Symonds Street several times looking for somewhere to park. When I did find a park, miles away, I was past caring. I arrived at the agency (located on the twelfth floor of a building that clearly didn't have twelve floors) half an hour late. It wouldn't have mattered if I'd been two hours late or even if I hadn't turned up at all; it was obvious they had no work for me. That evening Richard came round for dinner. I made some pasta dish - I guess you could call it a carbonara - and an apple crumble. We sat around talking for a while. It was good to see him.

On Friday I had that job interview I mentioned briefly last time. It was for a data analyst role for a large non-profit organisation. I couldn't motivate myself for the interview at all. I'd got my suit dry-cleaned and I'd polished my shoes but I was totally unprepared for any questions that might be thrown my way. Keen not to repeat my error of the previous day, I arrived at the interview in Penrose with more than an hour to spare. I tried to read the extensive job-description bumph as last-minute preparation, but none of it was going in. I saw the word "parameters" and stared vacantly at it. It was a word I'd encountered several times in my last job. Sometimes it was used as a poncy word for "limits", as in "this is outside our business parameters", and sometimes it meant "variables". I didn't know which definition was being used in the job description and I didn't care. The interview started OK I guess but I fell apart in the middle; when I was asked what I knew about the role I was hopelessly tongue-tied and confused. I redeemed myself slightly towards the end, but surely not enough that they would want to see me again. I was kicking myself because it looked like the sort of place I wouldn't mind working in. It came as a surprise, therefore, when later that afternoon I was told I'd be having a second interview (of a possible three) on Thursday. I think I was lucky that my interviewer was an HR person - although she was a good interviewer she wasn't all that clued up about the ins and outs of the role.

Also on Friday I got confirmation that I'd been accepted on to the Lifeline course. I suppose this is good news. Right now there is no such thing as good or bad news.

Yesterday I attended the monthly autism group. Unlike in previous months, I didn't enjoy the session one bit and was glad to get out of there. Too many people, too much noise. People often spoke very passionately about a particular subject, as you might expect, whereas I didn't give a damn about anything. I had to turn the radio off in the car on the way home; any noise had become too much for me.

This afternoon I really had to force myself to play tennis. It was the last thing I wanted to do, but I'm glad I did it even if some of my play was atrocious. The exercise lifted my mood to an almost bearable level. After tennis I rang Julie who gave me a very useful piece of advice. I've tried to fill my calendar with stuff (Italian, French, looking for jobs, tennis, the autism group, poker, making puzzles, Lifeline, maths tuition, mental health groups and so on) but I've been all over the place, unable to give any one of these things its full attention. She said it's time I ditched a couple of them.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010


Nothing really matters any more. There are very few ups and downs; everything is flat. I've got a job interview on Friday and I should feel excited, determined, nervous, something, but I'm struggling to feel anything. It's like I've disappeared down an emotional black hole. I discussed this with my counsellor last week; she said it's probably a combination of my medication and a lack of stimulation from other people.

In other news, my brother arrived in Christchurch this morning and I spoke to him about an hour ago. I don't yet know whether I'll fly down there or vice versa.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Latest News II (still can't think of a proper title)

In other news I'll be doing some maths tuition, starting next week. I'll have to go to Remuera for this, so I increased my hourly rate from $30 (which I'd charge anyone who lived nearby) to $35 to compensate. I'll be helping (I hope) a 16-year-old girl with her algebra.

It's not a lot of money but it all helps. I'm still trying to get something more substantial but it isn't getting any easier. The headline in the Herald jobs section on Wednesday was "career paths in a state of flux". I'm in a state of flux. As in, for flux sake give me a job!

My brother is scheduled to arrive in the country on Wednesday. I've texted and emailed him but have had no reply. Mum and had haven't heard from him either. I still don't know whether I'll go down south to meet up with him or if he'll fly up here. Whatever, we have a horrible knack of missing each other and I'd hate that to happen again.

Only an hour and a half ago I got a text from Mandy, one of my old colleagues and my only real friend from my last job. She said she's quitting her job next week and hasn't yet told her boss. Maybe she wasn't serious (I tried calling her but got no answer) but it seems everybody I know has either exited via the revolving door for the last time or is making hasty progress in that direction. I feel sorry for Mandy. Like me, she was a pre-2006 recruit in the actuarial department, so she pre-dates the period when they started giving new students some clue about what they were actually doing. She's been struggling with the exams, but worst of all she's had a number of personal problems to contend with. I must catch up with her next week.

Finally I'm about to play tennis for the first time in months. Someone from the club rang me yesterday, asking for some contact details but also mentioning Sunday doubles, or as she called it, dubs. Hmmm.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Latest news I (can't think of a proper title)

Today would have been Emma's 29th birthday. Richard is spending the weekend with her family in Kaitaia. It will be a sad time for them all, obviously, but also an opportunity to remember an amazing person.

Richard and I had quite a long chat on the phone yesterday. We're now seriously considering the possibility of flatting together. Since we get on well, and he has too many people in his living arrangement while I have too few, it would make logical sense. We might have to wait until we get our work situations sorted, whenever that happens. Richard decided that the BNZ job wasn't for him; from what I know of him, and given how I would feel in that environment, I'm almost certain he made the right decision.

When I told my counsellor that I was thinking of working in mental health, she suggested that I become a volunteer counsellor for Lifeline. They recruit a new bunch of volunteers every six months, and the deadline to apply for the latest course happened to be only a couple of days away. I filled in their application form, giving various gory details of my experiences with depression and isolation, and had to physically hand the form in at their office in Greenlane to avoid missing the deadline. At 3pm yesterday I got a surprise phone call from one of the Lifeline managers; I would have my interview that evening. Although the interview would only last twenty minutes, for some reason I had to be there all evening, so thinking I might be hanging around for hours, I took a book with me.

My book remained well and truly unopened throughout what was an intense evening. I was rarely in my comfort zone, not that my comfort zone is particularly large. The gender imbalance was as I had expected; us men were outnumbered five to one. We were split into groups and did a variety of team activities. The first of these involved building a structure together using plastic straws without talking. I made a huge effort to participate fully in all the activities, knowing that if I didn't I'd have no chance of being accepted on the course. To my surprise there were considerably more applicants than places; I guessed about half of us would miss out. I was pretty sure the woman in my group who looked like she was at a PWC interview from the way she dressed would be fine. My interview came right at the end of the evening (this was purely by chance) and it wasn't easy. "You've got no job, no family and very few friends, and now you want to help other people? You must be joking! Sort your own mess out first." Well my two interviewers didn't actually say this but some of their comments almost implied it. "We admire your frankness on your application form, but you seem rather fragile." I actually think I coped with the interview, and the whole evening, as well as I possibly could, but I couldn't help feeling they wanted someone a bit more (let's face it) normal than myself. I'll have to wait and see.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Two internet-based questions

1. Why is my internet so damned slow? I've checked my Vodafone account and sure enough it says I've used however many megabytes of broadband this month. But Vodafone are wrong. I've used precisely zero megabytes of broadband. The internet access I'm getting isn't broadband or anything close to it.

2. How do I get rid of Chinese spam comments from my blog? To begin with I didn't mind too much; I even used to go into Babel Fish for a translation. Now they're just a pain in the butt.

By the way I applied for a temporary job on Seek yesterday and got a rejection email in a little over an hour. I replied to this email, thanking them for their quick response and congratulating them on setting a new record.

Sunday, August 8, 2010


It's been an interesting week I guess. On Tuesday I applied for a job online - a three-month temporary position at one of the finance companies that hasn't gone under yet - and the next morning I got a phone call from someone wanting to interview me that afternoon. They weren't hanging around. As it happened, this bloke knew some of the people at my last job, including my most recent boss. This is nothing out of the ordinary in New Zealand, where everybody knows everybody, but even so I figured my chances were boosted by this, to maybe 30% or so. Also helping my cause was that I really did want this job; that hasn't always been the case. At the interview itself he wanted rather a lot of information for just a temporary role. "So where do you see myself in five years' time?" He commented on my CV, saying I was underselling my achievements in my last job. I could see where he was coming from: I'd put down six bullet points - roughly one for every year I'd worked there - but in reality I'd had to scrape the barrel even to come up with those. On Friday I found out I didn't get the job - I think I'd have been perfectly fine but as always there was someone else who had more experience of this or that.

Yesterday I saw a movie at St Lukes mall with some of the Aspergers bunch. There must have been nine or ten of us - quite a turnout. Before the movie I ate downstairs in the food court with Adam, who would be one of the older regulars at the monthly Aspergers group. He's 49 (though he looks a few years older) and sports a bushy beard and a pony-tail. He's a font of knowledge on all kinds of subjects. One of his favourite topics is chess, which isn't something I know a whole lot about. I did play a chess tournament in Peterborough when I was eight. I didn't win a single game, but in my very last match I was thrashing the other kid, only for time to run out and our game to be scored a draw. I went home in tears and I haven't played since. Several years later my brother for some reason also attempted a chess competition. If memory serves, it was played at the Perse, a private school in Cambridge. My "little" brother was already a six-foot brute by then, and he'd never been an academic, or someone particularly interested in subtle strategies or subtle anything. By contrast his opponents were mostly bespectacled, bookish boys, and I'm pretty sure he never won a game either. Anyway I digress. As we ate our curries, Adam bemoaned the current trend for playing chess by the book; it appeared that style and flair were frowned upon. I suggested he take up poker, where all that really matters is your bottom line. If that's positive, any style will do. Our conversation then moved from chess to Adam's living arrangements. "I've had a bit of a pong in my fridge for a while," he said. "I kind of ignored it - I thought it was just rotting vegetables - but eventually I had a look and there were dead rats in there." He then explained that some of the rats had been eaten by other rats. Meanwhile I was trying to eat my chicken tikka masala, or was it rat rogan josh? With all this talk of cannibalistic rats, I was no longer sure.

We didn't all see the same film, but I went with the majority and saw Inception which starred Leonardo DiCaprio. I liked the concept and was looking forward to it, but I was tired and I found it all too weird, too loud and too long. That I sat next to Adam probably didn't enhance my enjoyment of the film. His fridge isn't the only thing that pongs: he has what you might call a Bravo Oscar problem. Towards the end Adam saw me looking at my watch, and he said (out loud), "yeah, I wanna know when's this bullshit gonna end."

It was good to catch up with so many people from the group. Hats off to Richard for organising it all. Hopefully we can do something similar in the near future. I dropped one of the guys off in the city and all I wanted to do was get home (I don't know why I was so tired), but instead I drove to Browns Bay where the French Society were running a quiz. The real reason I made the trek up there wasn't for the quiz (though that was interesting in itself) but for a prize draw where you could win a trip for two to New Caledonia. In other words quite a big prize and not bad odds. However, when the draw was made I was glad someone with a partner and a family won it. If I'd won who would I take with me?

Today I met up with Julie for a coffee. She recently came off Efexor and has been suffering withdrawal symptoms. We also bumped into a woman who bought a shop in Devonport a few months ago. She was clearly going through a very severe bout of depression. To see her in such a state was quite upsetting; there was little Julie or I could do to help her. I'm hoping I can be in a position to help one day.

Monday, August 2, 2010

No poker for four weeks

I had my Italian class this evening. At the beginning we all have to talk about what we did in the past week, in Italian of course. I always find this awkward. Tonight I tried to make a joke of it: "Nothing much. Next!" But I can't do that every week. I'll have to start making things up. The rest of the session was easy in comparison.

I'm happy to report that after tonight's short badugi session (which I played when I got back from Italian) my bankroll stands at $2000.40. I've promised not to play again until 1st September.

A good face for radio

Wednesday was a crappy day. It was the most depressed I'd been in ages; at one stage I let out a loud yell in my (thankfully empty) street. It was more of a roar than a yell actually. That afternoon I'd met up with some agency-type person at a café on Ponsonby Road. In a rather uncomfortable semi-interview, he told me two things I already knew. Firstly I'm unlikely to succeed in a large corporation because I don't have the right personality type. Secondly my lack of outward self-confidence puts a severe dent in my chances of getting through an interview unless it's over the phone: apparently I have good mannerisms and facial expressions for phone interviews, just like some people are said to have a good face for radio. This bloke had a fair few contacts in the corporate world and suggested I join the business networking site Linked In. He said he'd become a world kickboxing champion after being badly bullied at school (a quick Google search confirmed that he indeed was an ace kickboxer). I presume he told me this by way of encouragement but, the way I was feeling, it had the exact opposite effect. The men's group that evening, where we watched the end of the Australian film Crush, came at a very good time.

On Friday I had an appointment at a recruitment agency in the city. There was a queue of about a hundred people outside the Queen Street Vodafone store, presumably itching to get their hands on the latest iWhatsit. I was at the agency all afternoon and got tested up to the eyeballs. Which shape comes next? Which of the following words means the same as 'random'? Which of these numbers is the odd one out? Well you can make any of them the odd one out if you really want to, but I suppose figuring out what it expected of you is a skill in itself. Then came some typing tests and, finally, tests on Word and Excel. These were the most stressful of the lot; it's amazing how many functions in Word and Excel I've never used. A lot of the time I'd be thinking, is it under Format or Tools or View or what? Unlike in real life where you can work it out eventually, click on the wrong menu and a box would appear: "Incorrect Answer!" It might as well also have said "Ha ha ha!" I needn't have worried though. I had more than enough points in all the tests to be eligible for some temporary work, and if I hassle them enough times over the coming weeks, who knows? When I got back to Devonport I bumped into the younger brother of one of my old colleagues at work. He knew I no longer worked there and asked me where I was working now. When I told him he was incredulous. "What do you mean, you're not working?!" There was a certain irony to this. According to his big sister at least, he's never been particularly fond of work. In fact he used to go to Australia to play a bunch of poker tournaments. I didn't think to ask him whether he still does.

I spoke to Richard last night. The first six weeks of his job involve role-plays and various forms of team bonding. Not my idea of fun at all, and I don't think it's his particularly either. I might pop over and see him again some time this week.

I had a successful day on the badugi tables yesterday. Playing exclusively at the lowest level I made $63. My plan is to take a few weeks off when my bankroll hits $2000 (I've got more important things to do), and then play some bigger games on my return. After yesterday's effort I'm tantalisingly close to the magic milestone, just eight dollars short.