Monday, October 29, 2012

Dessert island

Only four people went on yesterday's tramp in the rain - the sensible ones (Danielle included) stayed away. We didn't get too wet and it was surprisingly warm as we walked from Willis St up to the Brooklyn wind turbine. There were lots of facts of figures on a board near the turbine which I found interesting. Coming down was quick. After three hours it was nice to get home and dry off having benefited from the exercise.

Tonight I attended the autism group with sixteen others. It was good to see Tracy who has recovered from her latest bout of illness. In an email prior to the meeting we were given two topics for discussion. The first of those asked which three items we would take if we were stranded on a "dessert island". Cream, a spoon and some scales? A dessert island sounds like a lot of fun, but with my dairy ban I'd find it quite challenging at the moment. The other topic was our most memorable travelling experience. We split up into two groups and spent half the time on each subject. We struggled a bit with the desert island topic but were more at ease when talking about our travels. I could have talked for hours on that subject, having been lucky enough to have had many memorable trips as a kid, but only had time to talk about my trip to and from New Zealand with my family in 1986-87. Things got rather tense on a couple of occasions at the group. One trait of autism is a lack of empathy and there was a distinct lack of it on show tonight.

One of the two TV monitors we have at work (the one that I can actually see from my desk) was unusually tuned to Sky Sport today. This morning they showed extended highlights of Chelsea's match with Manchester United (Man U won 3-2 as it happened). I was thinking how the Premier League is really just a series of exhibition matches. You see some incredibly skilful football played by some of the best players in the world, but the games are meaningless as the teams may as well be hand-picked. In the afternoon they showed live coverage of what turned out to be the deciding game of the hilariously-named World Series. Is American baseball just like professional football, in that the clubs (or franchises) with the most money can afford the best players and therefore win? Is the physical location of these teams as meaningless as in Premier League football? I'm guessing so but I really have no idea.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Don't have a cow, man

I've taken Mum's advice and given up dairy products for a month, starting today. Mum, who can be dangerous when she gets on the internet (remember a certain Wellington-based job she found for me?), stumbled upon a web page similar to this one which gave a list of symptoms (Simpsons?) of lactose intolerance: depression (check), skin problems (check), frequent cold or flu (check), sinus pain (check) and a few others that I could tick off. Giving up milk products isn't that easy. I've always been a reasonably big cheese eater, I normally have one yoghurt a day (sometimes two at weekends), I put milk on my cereal every morning and in each of my six or seven daily hot drinks, and I have the occasional dollop of cream or ice cream. Last night at Pak 'n' Save I got a bit confused: are eggs dairy products? I rationalised that I couldn't remember the last time I'd seen a cow lay an egg, so in they went. It took me a while to find the soy milk, which I've already taken a liking to. It's very likely my experiment will make no difference, but there's a small chance that it could radically change my life for the better.

I took the crack-of-dawn (6:50) flight back from Timaru yesterday, in time for work (well actually I was a bit late). Apart from having to get up so damn early, it was a totally hassle-free experience. It was good to catch up with the family again. We all got on really well. I met my brother's fiancée for the first time; she's attractive, easy-going and highly intelligent (she appears to be blessed with a near-photographic memory). She's clued up when it comes to money and earns plenty of it. She's of mixed race: her mother's side of the family is a mystery to her but I'd guess it comes from India or thereabouts.

Mum and Dad worry about my brother, just like they do for me. At the moment he's jobless: he's still waiting for the army to get back to him. Unsurprisingly he's finding his driving ban to be a major pain in the butt. He's taken to cycling everywhere, and I mean everywhere. Being the super-fit bleep-test-winning guy he is, Geraldine to Ashburton is a nice easy jaunt.

Saturday afternoon and Sunday were very pleasant days but on Monday I woke up to an unseasonal flurry of snow. I didn't go very far while I was down there, but that was hardly the point. Hanging Rock, where I took this photo, was about the extent of my travels.

On Tuesday Mum and I went to Temuka and put some flowers on my grandparents' grave. While they lived to a combined 180, so many of the surrounding gravestones marked lives cut tragically short. There were several teenagers who died in road accidents, one of whom always sticks out. He died about five years ago; there are two pictures

inset into the stone, one of his face, the other showing an extremely tasteless two-fingered salute on the end of a tattooed arm. At least the empty beer cans are gone now. In late 2009 there was a spate of suicides. It's always interesting (if sobering) to visit the cemetery with Mum, who knows the stories behind the names.

In the last week or two, both Jimmy Savile and Lance Armstrong have featured prominently in the news. They have a surprising amount in common. I found this excellent post about Armstrong on the Guardian website. I particularly like the bit about the so-called American dream ("you have to be asleep to believe it").

Great news: Blogger now lets me add pictures again, and it no longer puts six blank lines after each paragraph, so it's actually better than it was before. Who would have thought it? I might not have to move to WordPress after all.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Catching up

It wasn't a bad week at work. We even had a 9km run (or walk as it was for me) on Tuesday afternoon as part of a fundraising event.

Wellington is bathed in sunshine right now. That's a bummer for me as I'm about a hop on a 19-seater plane to Timaru, although a quick glance at the weather map tells me it's much the same down there. Things are forecast to turn pear-shaped tomorrow.

It'll be good to catch up with my family again, in particular my brother who I last saw in May 2011, and to meet his fiancée for the first time. I'll be down there until Wednesday when I'll be catching a very early flight.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Puzzles, poker, parachutes and paintings

Nothing of note has happened since I last posted, so you might as well click the back button now.

After work today I finished off Puzzled, a book on cryptic crosswords by the Australian cruciverbalist David Astle that Tracy had lent me. I've dabbled in cryptic crosswords a bit myself (both solving and making them) and it was a very interesting read. He can't avoid seeing anagrams in everyday life, and to a lesser extent I suffer from the same affliction. I can't go past the Medusa bar (the one I didn't dare entre last week) without feeling "strangely amused". This isn't too far from the Tetris effect I suffer from when I see poker hands in car number plates. Putting the two together, if I got stuck behind a Honda Integra (granite, tearing, ingrate, Tangier, any others I've missed?) with 7432 on its number plate (that's the best draw in deuce-to-seven) then I'd really hope my insurance hadn't lapsed.

As for online poker, the less said about that the better. Over the last month my bankroll has been going in the same direction as the bloke who jumped from the edge of space this morning, and at about the same speed.

I was hoping to give the book back to Tracy at the autism group tonight but she didn't turn up - she wasn't well last week and presumably she still isn't now. The group wasn't too bad - better than last time because the two new guys weren't quite so disruptive, but I still miss last year's sessions with the smaller group and different facilitator.

On Friday I went to a watercolour exhibition with my cousin. It was a big event - several hundred attended including various dignitaries; you could hardly move. The quality of people's work varied enormously. A lot the time I'd be thinking, that's a bit like what my dad would have done, only he'd have done a much better job of the cows.

Saturday was a bit of a write-off weather wise for most of the country (my parents got over two inches of rain) but Sunday was sunny and I went for a short drive along the coast.

Next Saturday I'm heading down south for what will be a family reunion of sorts.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

The height of class

Last Wednesday I attended the fortnightly depression meet-up. Only three of us showed up - the usual suspects: Martin, Giuseppe and me. With almost a foot separating the other two in height (Martin is 6' 5", Giuseppe 5' 6") and me being slap-bang in the middle, we could have re-enacted the "class" sketch by the Two Ronnies and John Cleese. Giuseppe had started taking weed as a stress-reliever. I only tried it a handful of times in 2001 when I lived in France. I must admit that I quite liked it. Some of the people I lived with were heavily into it though, not to mention stronger stuff that I wouldn't have touched with a barge pole.

The weather at the weekend was almost balmy, but blowing US$300 in two hours of online poker put a damper on things for me. On Sunday afternoon we had another depression meet-up, this time at the Southern Cross.

On Tuesday I'd planned to play a freeroll poker tournament at the Big Kumara in town. I turned up there, as did two older blokes, only to find it had closed its doors for good at the weekend. I then remembered Medusa had a tournament starting at the same time, but that place looked so dark and dingy that I didn't dare go in.

After work tomorrow I'm going to an art exhibition with my cousin.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Looking back...

October 1987. What a month. Although I was only 7½ at the time I remember it well. The Great Storm of '87 (famously unforecast by Michael Fish) ripped through Southern England, giving us a day off school. Our garden flooded; we had a canoe which my brother and I used to get about. My grandmother had flown from New Zealand to stay with us - she got sick and had to delay her flight home. She flew back to NZ on what must have been 19th November, the day after the King's Cross fire that killed 31 people; using the underground that day must have been a nightmare. October also saw a worldwide stock market crash that badly affected New Zealand where people had borrowed to invest in companies that had borrowed heavily themselves.

Twenty-five years on, nothing remotely as dramatic is happening. Work is still much the same. I still get pulled up for this, that or the other, and it doesn't make me feel any better about myself. Two weeks ago they started piping music through the loudspeakers; it's just a "classic hits" radio station that plays pop music from the eighties onwards. I wonder what happened in the mid-to-late nineties that caused virtually all mainstream pop music after that time to be complete and utter crap. They ran a bizarre raffle at work today. Tickets were $10 each (a bit steep for my liking) and there was just one monster prize up for grabs, which included a paid day of leave. I didn't quite see the logic of offering a prize with a salary-dependent cash value.

Last night I attended the autism group (along with 17 others) at its new location on Willis Street. I'm a fan of the move; the new place is close to both work and home. It's almost right beside where they have the Sunday market so it's very much on my beaten track, if not everyone else's. It's more spacious too so it'll give the ever-expanding group a chance to breathe. The session itself didn't go brilliantly last night though. A couple of new blokes (friends) have an axe to grind, a bee in their bonnet, and the facilitators do little to stop them.

On Saturday I went on a tramp - Cannon Point walkway in Upper Hutt. We had good weather and it wasn't too arduous. Only six of us did the trip including just one woman: an Austrian in her twenties who had piercing eyes that I found a little intimidating as she asked me difficult questions about my job.

My brother now wants to join the NZ Army. He had various tests and an interview last week. He did the infamous bleep test; apparently he outlasted everybody else by some distance (he would have thrashed me too). The maths test was a different matter - he's inherited his numberblindness from Dad - but after 13 years in the British army he should waltz in.

Yesterday they changed the code for getting into my apartment block. As the previous code was "press all the worn-off buttons in ascending order" that's no bad thing.