Thursday, May 24, 2012

The news desk

My parents are now in the UK having spent two nights in Hong Kong. I got an email from Dad this morning - he'd sent it from the library in St Ives using a keyboard whose space bar didn't work properly so a lot of the words were merged together. Maybe it was a German keyboard. They'll be going to Wales soon for my grandmother's farewell, to coincide with what would have been her 90th birthday. Then they'll be spending two weeks in Turkey.

I forgot to mention that while my parents were here recently, an old oak writing desk (that used to reside in Gran's house) was delivered to my flat. I guess you'd call it a bureau. It originally belonged to my great-grandfather (my dad's dad's dad) - he was given it in 1929 as a leaving present from his work. Stuck to the inside is a list of names and addresses; there's even a three-digit phone number (287).

A sizeable earthquake hit northern Italy early this week, causing some loss of life and considerable loss of history.

I went to the depression group tonight at the noodle bar. It went reasonably well.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Holy Kaukau, I think we've got our wires crossed

Saturday morning. I'm going on a walk up Mt Kaukau with the depression group at 10am. However I stay in bed to listen to an interesting radio programme, then write something on an internet forum about a triple draw poker hand, so I'm running late. I didn't have the foresight to charge up my GPS. I set off at 9:45 and by ten I'm almost at our meeting place, but then I take a wrong turn and I'm suddenly lost. At 10:05 my phone rings. I don't answer it but it's obviously a "where are you?" call. I pull over, drag out my phone, don't recognise the number, return the call but get no reply. At 10:15 I get to where I'm supposed to be but nobody else is there. Presumably they've set off up Kaukau without me. I ring that number again; someone called Ray answers. I don't remember a Ray from the group, and come to think of it I don't remember giving anyone my number, but that doesn't mean a lot because my memory is shocking. "Where are you?" asks Ray. I tell him I'm in the car park. "Oh good. We've just set off. You can catch us up. Do you know which way to go?" "I think so. I'm just walking past the swimming pool." "Swimming pool?! W-w-where are you?" "I'm at the base of Mt Kaukau and there's a sign that says one hour to the top." "Er, you're in completely the wrong place," says Ray, "I think you've got your trips mixed up." Trips? Ahh. I remember now. Last month I'd signed up for a tramp but only as a reserve because all the places had been filled. I'd heard nothing since so I'd quietly forgotten about the tramp which (by sheer coincidence) must have started at the same time as the Kaukau walk, on the same day.

After all that confusion I walked up the mountain (or hill really), thinking I'd meet the group on the way up or maybe at the top. I lacked energy but made it to the summit for the second time in my life. It was a sunny Saturday morning, if a little blowy up there, but what do you expect? I still didn't see anyone I recognised, and when I got back down I had a quick coffee and went home.

When I got home I checked my email to find that our walk had been cancelled earlier that morning due to forecast bad weather that didn't eventuate. In a way I'm glad I didn't read that email and got some exercise. As for the tramping club, I'm still clueless as to how that reserve system works.

If anyone cares (I'm not sure if I do), this is my 300th post.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Mum and Dad: away for over four months

Yay! The un-updated Blogger is back!

Mum and Dad came up last Thursday and spent three nights here. We got on pretty well. They were very helpful even if they insisted on rearranging my flat when I was out. I’d like to see their reaction if I moved virtually every item of furniture in their house. They’re flying to London the day after tomorrow and won’t be coming back till late September.

On Friday I saw Blackadder III at the Repertory Theatre. I’m glad I did. I never found Blackadder hilarious and I wouldn’t say Friday’s performance was side-splittingly funny either, but it still got enough laughs out of me to make it worthwhile. Getting a Chinese bloke to play Baldrick worked surprisingly well.

On Saturday my cousin and her family came round to my flat for a pizza as I finally made use of the Hell vouchers that Tommy’s gave me in “celebration” of my big purchase. So for a couple of hours my flat’s population had swelled to eight. I only have three seats, or four if you count the one that’s supposed to be outside.

I bought one of those chairs on Trade Me. Picking it up from Newtown last Wednesday was quite an effort involving unscrewing the legs in the pouring rain using the seller’s screwdriver so I could get it in the car. I then had major difficulties driving back: I could hardly change gear or see where I was going. Luckily I didn’t have to go far.

I now see Julie in Hataitai every Tuesday night. She needs someone to talk to. Last Tuesday I was able to make sense of some of my problems during our chat. I don’t need a diagnosis – I know what’s wrong with me, even if I’m unsure of the root causes. What I don’t know is how to fix my problems.

The middle of last week was a struggle for me, particularly at work. Wednesday afternoon was my low point; at least I resisted the temptation to bang my head against the toilet wall. Sometimes my anxiety and depression almost totally dominate my thought processes, to the point where nothing else matters. That’s what Tuesday, Wednesday and most of Thursday were like in the office.

Ten years ago I was in the middle of my final exams (all nine of them) at university. I studied a lot for those - up to twelve hours a day. Looking back I wonder where all that motivation came from. It had nothing to do with graduate jobs (which I thought were mostly crap), I know that much. Really it was the feeling that I hadn’t achieved as much in my academic life as I should have, and here was my one big chance.

We didn’t have our usual facilitator at Monday’s autism group. Because of this, the session turned into an even bigger free-for-all than it usually is. Adam, the rotund chap who likes all things Texan, seemed to think he ran the show. Towards the end of the evening the subject of pi came up. Tracy could remember the first however many digits of pi thanks to a cleverly-crafted poem in which each digit is represented by the number of letters in the corresponding word. But how does it deal with zeros, I asked. Tracy then said that there are no zeros in pi. I was willing to bet her a virtually infinite sum of money that the decimal expansion of pi does in fact contain zeros. It would be quite remarkable if it didn't; there would be huge implications for all kinds of stuff, though exactly what I’m not sure. Plus I would have been on a pretty good wicket with my bet: it’s easy to prove that there are zeros (look, there’s a zero!) but mighty difficult to prove that there aren’t (even if none of the first million digits is a zero, the million-and-first might be). Tracy then used her pi app on her phone (maybe it was just the internet) to find that pi does indeed contain zeros, which are represented in that poem by ten-letter words.

The Premier League football season ended in dramatic fashion last weekend, with Man City scoring twice in injury time to steal the title from United’s grasp. Some of the pictures on TV of supporters of both sides seem almost laughable: how can this be so important?
Birmingham City, in spite of an action-packed 62-game season, missed out in the race to make it into the top flight. The top two teams in the Championship go up automatically with the next four fighting it out for the third promotion place. Birmingham finished the regular season in fourth place and faced Blackpool (who finished fifth) in a two-legged play-off. It sounded like Blues had a bit of a shocker, both in the away fixture (where they were lucky only to lose 1-0) and for most of the home leg. In the second game Blues conceded either side of half-time to go three behind overall. They replied with two goals but couldn’t find the elusive third which would have forced extra time.

Greece might be about to leave the euro and it’s an absolute calamity. How will anybody, in Greece or the rest of the euro zone, possibly cope with this? I lived in France in 2000-01 during the last days of the franc. Posters were put up to tell people which countries would join the single currency, what the new notes and coins would look like, how many francs equal one euro and so on. Some time in 2001 an extra country – Greece – appeared on these posters without anybody batting an eyelid. Since then five more countries have been admitted. If even the idea of leaving the euro is causing such mayhem, perhaps it shouldn’t have been quite so easy to join in the first place.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Pork bellies in store for breakfast

A few weeks ago on my walk to work I saw a billboard ad: "Pop into any BNZ store." Hmmm, something's not right with this sentence. But what? Ah yes, it's the word "store". I tend to visit branches of banks myself, not "stores". A store is where I buy things. I don't buy things from my bank, or at least I try not to. Anyway I forgot about this ugly use of the word "store" until today. I work for a company that sells insurance "products" (there we go again) on behalf of banks including BNZ; some of our call centre staff had received a ticking off from BNZ for using the word "branch" on the phone instead of "store". Seriously? It's time big business stopped bastardising the English language.

As well as the branch/store thing, the subject of sugar came up at work today. It appears sugar is slowly killing us all. Someone at work wanted to stop giving her kids Up & Go for breakfast because of its sugar content, but she couldn't think of anything to replace it with. I suggested Weet-Bix with milk and maybe a teaspoon of sugar, but that was a non-starter because it takes too long to make and eat. My boss (a bloke) agreed - "we're too busy to have a proper breakfast". It seems a lot of people nowadays lead such hectic lives that breakfast no longer figures. For me it's always been the most important meal of the day.

Talking of food, at the last autism group one of the guys (who has, shall we say, an elevated BMI) salivated when I mentioned the pork belly with crackling that I'd eaten at my cousin's place the night before. To be honest I don't blame him: it was utterly delicious.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Gutter balls

This morning’s quake was a short, sharp jolt. It wouldn’t have lasted more than a second or two. Some people seem to think it resulted from the current supermoon.

On Tuesday – the first of the month – I lowered my Efexor by another notch. I’m now on 225. I’m hoping that by when I finally reach zero I might be able to *feel* again. I experienced some minor panic attacks on Wednesday between about 4 and . Whether they were withdrawal symptoms ( I don’t know. I’ve also had a cold (again) this week.

I spoke to Richard on Thursday – he’s been going through a rough patch lately with depression. Thankfully he has a fairly extensive network of support in Auckland, so I’m confident he’ll come through this difficult spell. He takes one of the tricyclic types of antidepressant. My Efexor is an SNRI. Citalopram, the stuff I took from 2001 to 2009, is an SSRI. Then there’s the MAOI type, which sounds like it was discovered on Easter Island (Tracy takes one of those).

We had a record turnout of sixteen at Monday’s autism group. Surprisingly, given that 80% of people on the spectrum are male, nine of us (including the facilitator) were women. I can’t say enjoyed the group that much, mainly because of the high turnout. Of course in Auckland there would often be twice that many in attendance but you could move around more easily and didn’t feel quite as “locked-in”. This coming Friday there’s a showing of Blackadder III at the Repertory Theatre. Tracy is a huge Blackadder fan and suggested that we see Friday’s performance. I’ll be going, along with four or five others (women only as far as I know). At Monday’s group, people recited lines verbatim from Blackadder and a bunch of other shows. Now Blackadder is very funny I agree, but I never obsessed about it (or any other programme for that matter) to the point of word-for-word recall. I’ve always struggled to fit in, and on Monday it seemed I didn’t even fit in amongst the misfits.

Last weekend’s lead story in the Dom Post was of a 33-year-old autistic man who has been denied a basic human right by being allowed outside for less than two days in the last year. It’s shocking to read of such cruelty in such a progressive part of the world as this. It would be amazing to help somebody like him. Going down that path is one of my four ideas of what my next job should be.

On Thursday I went to the depression group at the noodle bar on Cuba St. I’m not sure what to make of that group. A lot of the talk revolves around online dating. Relationships have been off the map for me for such a long time that I have very little to add to the conversation. There are two NZ-based dating sites: Find Someone and NZ Dating. If you just want sex, apparently you join the latter – I think it has a “shag now” facility, a bit like the “buy now” button on Trade Me.

The depression group also arrange “events” at the weekend every now and again. Today nine of us went bowling at the Lanes in town. For some reason socialising has become even harder for me of late. I found it very hard to relax. We only played one game: I opened my account with four rather embarrassing gutter balls and had just 20 at the half-way point but finished on 85. We then sat in the sun, then I had a coffee with the six-foot-five bloke; like most people there's more to him than meets the eye.

My parents are coming up on Thursday for three days, so I spent most of yesterday cleaning my flat.


We've just had an earthquake here. Decent-sized shake. I'm guessing mid to high fours.
Update: It was a 4.2 at a depth of 30 km, so I'm more shake-sensitive than I thought.