Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Putting my own job into perspective

Some not-so-great news this morning. My brother is off to Afghanistan. Mum and Dad only found out when a pile of bumph from the British army arrived in the mail. He's already put his body on the line enough thank you very much, which is why he wanted out of the army. But they recently persuaded him to stay by giving him a new (supposedly front-line-free) role. Of course my brother (thirty next month) is experienced and a very useful man to have on the front line, so they'd love him to go. My own job feels pretty damn good all of a sudden.

Last night I attended the Asperger's group, which took place at their offices in Thorndon instead of at a pub. There were five of us, a massive improvement on the previous turnout. Unusually for Asperger's groups, women were in the majority. The other bloke wasn't your typical Aspie at all (there's no way I would have picked him) - I wondered if he had ADHD instead. The two women I hadn't met before were both in their twenties and very easy to get along with. The topic of conversation changed at lightning speed; not every topic would be printable in your local gazette.

My car failed its WOF in style; I was quoted a ridiculous amount to get it up to scratch. I took it in on the way to work and was wearing a suit so perhaps they saw me coming. I don't trust car mechanics any further than I can throw them so I'll get it tested somewhere else, hoping all the "failure notes" didn't get permanently stored in the system, and see what happens.

Being able to survive without a car is one of the (several) great things about Wellington. It's also just as well I've got off-street parking or else I'd face a $200 fine. I'm amazed the local council can issue fines for expired WOFs - it should be a police matter surely. Parking fines for expired WOFs and registrations are a regressive form of tax for two reasons: people with lower incomes are more likely to have to park on the street and get clobbered with the fine in the first place, and of course if you earn less the $200 is a bigger proportion of your income.

Wimbledon is in full swing but it's not the big deal to me it once was. I no longer meticulously write out a draw sheet with all the winners and losers and scores. I no longer bring my bedroom TV down to the living room so I can watch two matches on different channels at the same time. My move to New Zealand didn't help. But still I've been keeping vaguely up to date with the action. The top women's seeds have been dropping like flies. Sharapova must be the favourite now, but I'm rooting for Marion Bartoli. Her unusual playing style and bouncing around between points make her seem completely mad. We need more of that in tennis. She plays her quarter- final tonight. After her last three matches (saving three match points, then winning 9-7 in the third, then beating Serena) she probably thinks she can't lose.

Update: I put the mockers on Miss Bartoli. All that bouncing around caught up with her in the end. She saved three more match points in the second set against Sabine Lisicki, then levelled the match on a tie-break only to lose the third 6-1. Sharapova on the other hand stormed into the semis, beating Cibulkova 6-1 6-1.

Monday, June 20, 2011

The joys of work IV - and seeing the doc

I saw my GP today; our meeting was hardly a success. He devised a rather ingenious Plan B, which was to keep executing Plan A. In other words keep taking the tablets. "Surely you must have goals at work," he said. Goals? Wha-ha-huh? I guess not getting into trouble is a goal. He made too many assumptions about me. People love to pigeon-hole don't they? He did make one valid point, that I should get more exercise. He said I should be burning those calories first thing in the morning, but with my recent habit of leaving the flat at the same time as I mean to start work, that might be a struggle.

When you work for a multinational company there are a lot of rules, written and unwritten. Now I'm not anti rules necessarily, but I like rules to be there for a reason. For instance in poker a flush beats a straight. That's because you're less likely to make a flush than a straight (half as likely as it happens). In the corporate world a flush beats a straight because somebody says so; the following month a straight beats a flush because somebody else says so; a few months later the rules have changed again - straights and flushes no longer count at all - and you don't know whether you're Arthur or Martha any more.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Doing life

It's all a bit of a struggle at the moment. I'm having to force myself to "do life" but at least I am pushing myself. I've made an appointment to see the GP on Monday. I'm almost on the maximum dose of Efexor and it isn't doing the trick I'm afraid.

At work I've been trying to dodge the whole issue of exams. Even if I can stay in my job without doing them, there's a sense that by not doing them I'm "not really participating". Work this week has been tricky: my concentration span has shrunk almost to nil.

Wellington is a great city (more about that soon) but if you don't know anybody and you're depressed, it matters little whether you're in Wellington or Auckland or Timaru or Timbuktu. In fact if you're in the wops (to use a good Kiwi expression) it's in some ways easier because you don't see everybody having a good time with their friends.

Monday's earthquakes were upgraded to 5.6 and 6.3. GNS now say there's a 30% probability of a quake measuring 6.0 to 6.9 occurring in the next year. That raises two questions. First, when we're getting quakes on faults that aren't even on the map, how the hell do they calculate this? Second, what's the probability of a seven or above? Is that too scary a prospect to mention?

Monday, June 13, 2011

Swinging madly

I get back from lunch today and there's talk of another sizeable shake in Christchurch. Five point five. I send Mum (who's 130-odd K's from the epicentre) a did-you-feel-it text, but got no reply. An hour later though and she replies: "I felt this one - the lights were swinging madly and the whole house was rocking." That was a six. Even Dad, who has a knack for either sleeping through big quakes or being out of the country, felt that one. This is a big setback, and I think the last straw for many Christchurch residents.

On 31st May GNS Science estimated a 23% probability of a quake measuring 6.0 to 6.9 in the next year, and over 90% likelihood of a 5.0 to 5.9. In two weeks they've already had a six and two 5.5s! One of their seismologists said that "on a world scale this is reasonably unusual in so far as we're getting quite large aftershocks." In other words, this is not normal. Finally!

Sushi is ridiculously popular here in Wellington. I've had it from time to time but it's never really grabbed me. Until tonight, when totally by accident I found a sushi bar on Woodward Street. You see them make it and you can pick and choose what you want. I expected my selection to come to eight or nine bucks but it was only $5.70. Very tasty too. I could easily have had more.

After the sushi I went to the Asperger's group for the first time, except it wasn't much of a group. Just the facilitator and me! It was good getting to know her; I'm amazed we had so much to talk about. I hope this can be the first step towards making contacts in my new city. The group is aimed (I think) at those at the very mild end of the spectrum. We met in a pub for a start.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

The joys of work III (and some music)

My boss resigned on Friday. "Could I have a quick word?" he said to me. My heart started to race as I feared my boss and I would soon part company, which indeed we will, although I was worried the circumstances might have been different.

I haven't been in my job long enough to have built up much of a bond with him - unlike in the earthquake job where my boss and I did have a rapport of sorts. It's funny to compare the two jobs actually. Three months ago people were amazed that I could make the same word appear in fifty cells in Excel without having to type it in fifty times. Now it's a case of "What are you doing man? Don't use the mouse, you muppet! Just run this macro, hit Ctrl-Shift-Enter, then press F9 in that pivot table, and Bob's your uncle."

Last week was a frustrating one. I didn't do much at all, and what I did do was of little significance. I don't know what my future holds there. I do find some of the concepts interesting, but I'll be honest and say that between 5:30pm and 8:30am I hardly give my job a moment's thought. Well I think about my job all right, but not what I actually do in it. It simply isn't important enough to me. I can get away with that for now - I'm still the new boy - but eventually I'll be found out.

Lately I've been getting into the Canadian band Arcade Fire. I'm ashamed to say that two months ago I hadn't even heard of them, but I think they're brilliant. I really like two of their songs from their latest album, Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains) and The Suburbs.
And if you've got a spare twelve minutes handy, check out this. Putting as much energy into my job as these guys do would be quite something.

Monday, June 6, 2011

The joys of work II - and some cause for alarm

As I said in my last post, I get on OK with my immediate colleagues. I guess we're all relatively experienced (in terms of age at least) - there are no Kids of '88 in our team, no tricky Gen-Y upstarts to deal with. I'm not so sure about some of the other people on my floor however. The bloke who sits opposite me and works in Finance is six foot five and twenty stone. Now he's fine, but his boss (a she) most definitely isn't. I really feel for the big man, as well as the woman he sits next to. "Now the figures in the 87002 account don't reconcile with the 70501 account, and did you forget about the 54101? How long have you been here now? How could you possibly not remember? This really isn't good enough." And so on, and so forth. It isn't pretty to watch and can be quite distracting. It's interesting though how having a boss from hell can create solidarity within a team. In a similar vein, we had a variety of full-day workshops in my last corporate job, ostensibly to instil in us the company's values: unity, integrity, fraternity and whatever else. But the real reason (perhaps) that they ran the workshops was that most of the staff hated them and would want to rebel, together, against them - thus creating unity and fraternity via the back door.

Last Thursday at 8pm I heard an alarm go off. It sounded a bit like a car alarm, maybe 50 or 100 metres away. Oh wait, maybe it's a fire alarm. It doesn't sound like it's in this building though, so unless I get a knock on the door I'm staying right here. Then someone knocked on my door. "It's a real fire! Get your tag!" What tag?! "OK don't worry, just get out!" And I got down those stairs pretty quickly, thankful that I lived on the fourth floor and not the ninth. Of course it wasn't a real fire at all but a six-monthly drill. The alarm could do with being a bit louder if you ask me. And that tag, well I've since found it attached to the fire extinguisher, which was last checked in June 1989. It was good to meet some of the other residents out in the car park. The subject of earthquakes came up, and supposedly this concrete building (constructed in 1970) would hold up OK, though I'm not convinced. Christchurch had another big aftershock yesterday - a magnitude 5.5 - followed by a string of smaller tremors.