Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Auckland: taking the plunge

I had a good long weekend in Auckland. It wasn't exciting but that was hardly the point. Actually, when I think about it, there was some excitement on Friday night. I arrived at the All Seasons Hotel in the city at about 10:30 that night. My room was on the 15th floor of 18. On the stroke of midnight, just as I was drifting off to sleep, I got a knock on the door. It was the police. Someone had jumped (or fallen) from the floor above; I hadn't seen or heard anything so I wasn't much help to the cops. Remarkably, as I later found out, the man survived after landing on the corrugated iron roof of a four-storey building.

The next morning I woke up to read about the shooting in Denver - the so-called Batman massacre. Yet another mass shooting in America. Sadly, unless they amend the Second Amendment, there will be many more.

I caught up with Richard on Saturday; we attended the autism group along with about thirty others. It was good to see some of the old faces again as well as a few new ones. The specialist subject for July was "memorabilia". I talked very briefly about my great-grandfather's writing desk which I recently inherited. Of course for some people at the group "briefly" is an alien concept. One guy always had a habit of talking at serious length no matter what the topic; he didn't disappoint this time.

My hotel wasn't far from Skycity; that evening I wandered into the casino. The bloke from the depression group had planned to fly up and play poker so I thought I might meet him there. In the end he gave it a miss but I hung around there anyway, not putting a brass razoo on any table or in any slot machine but just watching. There's something eerily fascinating about the place. From a balcony I watched a popular game involving three dice that I hadn't seen before. The dice are placed in a kind of bell and shaken up by some Shake-o-Mat machine while people bet on an array of combinations and totals. Shake-o-Mat stops, the dice man announces "two double-five" say, he presses some buttons and the winning sections of the table (in this case "even", "big", "12" and a few others) light up. I tried to calculate the casino's edge on the various bets and saw a pattern: the bets that offer the prospect of a big win tend to give the house the biggest edge. This makes sense from the punter's perspective - he turns up with $100 for a night out and some excitement, and who knows, maybe he'll get lucky and leave with $500 or $1000; he's happy to pay a bit extra for that possibility. Taken a step further, people play Lotto because they might win life-changing amounts even though they face an "edge" of maybe 40-50%.

Sunday was a horribly wet day. I met up with the Wellington autism group's previous facilitator (she moved to Auckland six months ago); we had lunch and an interesting chat at one of the bars around Britomart. Her time in Wellington was quite a stressful one; she seems more relaxed now. I haven't got as much out of the Wellington group since she left.

That evening I had dinner at Richard's flat, a ten-minute walk from Mt Eden village. He made a tasty soup and mostly we just chatted. I'd really like him to come down this way - I offered to pay for his flight.

My hotel was just opposite the place where I worked on the earthquake claims, and I half-wished I was still working there. Sure enough as I checked out on Monday I bumped into my old boss who was on a fag break. We didn't have much of a chat - he didn't seem in the mood for it.
Later that day I caught up with Mandy, my former work colleague. She bought a property a couple of months ago. She's in a relationship with a manager at work; they must have a lot of disposable income between them. When we worked together we found solidarity in our dissatisfaction with work, but while mine was with that whole working environment, hers was specific to the company. She's since found her niche I think.

I met Richard once more before catching the 7pm plane. I took yesterday off work. In the morning I took my car into VTNZ. Some of the faults they picked up at the other place have been replaced by new ones. I might simply have to bite the bullet and pay for the repairs: not having wheels is a bigger inconvenience than I imagined.

On Friday I've got an appointment with Massey - an initial consultation before possibly getting CBT. In an attempt to make up the time I stayed late at work today (smashing my PB for the number of letters sent out on one day) and will do the same tomorrow (apart from the PB bit).

Talking of PBs, the London Olympics is almost upon us. I'll tune in for the opening ceremony - I hope that, and the rest of the games, are a resounding success. My favourite Olympics so far would be Barcelona. Perhaps that's because I was only twelve so I followed it all enthusiastically. Even now I remember who won Britain's five gold medals. (I also remember who won Britain's only gold in the following games in Atlanta. I find it laughable that the Aussies fear they might only win a dozen golds this time around.)

Here's another great song by Amadou & Mariam. Knowing a bit of French helps I guess, but it's far from mandatory.

In other news, my five-month-plus cold (which never really went away) is back :(

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