Oh no, not again. That was my immediate thought when I turned on the radio to catch the news yesterday morning. Yet another school shooting. Twenty-eight dead: twelve girls and eight boys, all aged six or seven; six female staff at the school; the shooter's mother and finally himself. But for the quick thinking of the school staff there would have been more fatalities. Unfortunately this will keep on happening again and again unless America does something about its gun laws. Fat chance of that. Americans are as horrified as the rest of us when children are killed in this way, but few of them want to do anything about it. I find that utterly baffling. (I just heard on the news that there are 89 firearms per 100 Americans.)
On a lighter note we had our office Christmas party on Friday. It took place on the waterfront and started at noon. It was OK for the first couple of hours while the food was out - I've come to realise that I max out at around the two-hour mark when it comes to socialising - but I became more uncomfortable as time wore on. A lot of the talking I did (which wasn't much) was with a woman of nearly seventy - for some reason the bigger the age gap the less social pressure I feel. At half-three I was itching to leave - I was just sitting around staring into space. I was thankful to be babysitting for my cousin in the evening - that gave me a good excuse not to drink much and to leave early. I managed to escape on the dot of four. I went over to my cousin's place just after six and stayed until she and her husband got home at 11:15.
Yesterday the anxiety and depression group had a meet-up at Mac's Brewery, again on the waterfront. Only four of us showed up including a bloke from Wales, of about my age, who had only been in the country two months. He seemed a really nice, easy-going bloke, but nowhere near anxious or depressed enough to be part of the group. He talked about a recent date he went on, and the various extreme sports (which NZ is famous for of course) that he'd already tried. I almost think any prospective member should have to fill in a questionnaire if they want to join, with eligibility restricted to people who score above a certain level based on how they answered the questions. Been on a date in the last month? Lose ten points. The last week? Lose fifty. In this guy's defence, I'm pretty sure he had suffered from mental health problems in the past, and as he's new to NZ I could hardly blame him for joining groups as a way of meeting people. We had some really interesting conversation to begin with, but at the two-hour point (again) I started to struggle. When we parted company after 3½ hours I was in a worse mental state that when I arrived. I think it was the realisation that while many people find social situations hard, for most of them it's a temporary problem and only certain situations. For me it's permanent and virtually all situations. And there's the relationship thing - no matter how depressed people are, they still somehow have meaningful relationships. But I don't.
On the radio this morning they talked about "Mad Pride", a relatively new movement of mental health patients, along the lines of Black Pride or Gay Pride. The use of the term "mad" here is interesting because it's a word with many meanings: "fanatical", "angry", "foolish" and "insane" to name just four. Then there are a few compounds like "madcap" which I think of as being a wonderfully British word like "barmy" or "bonkers". I guess it's the "insane" sense of "mad" that's being used by the Mad Pride movement, perhaps with a tinge of anger, and because "mad" in that sense is a pejorative term it's only people who are "mad" who can get away with using it, a bit like what we've seen with "queer". The radio programme continued by interviewing some members of Sendam, who are mainly a drumming band based in Wellington, made up of mental health patients. The name is almost "madness" backwards - if they'd kept the double S you'd have pretty much got a cross between a Korean car and a viral pop song from the same country. They band were accepting donations so I gave them $15.
Talking of relationships, I asked Tracy if she wanted to see The Intouchables at the Penthouse. She said yes - probably one evening this week although I don't yet know which. Do I treat this as a date? Although we have similar interests our personalities are maybe too far apart, but you never know I suppose.
A bloke who sat not too far from me got fired last Wednesday. There in the morning, gone by lunchtime. It was for serious misconduct, though I have no idea what. I don't keep up with all the office gossip. From what I could tell he was good at his job. My boss and his boss are are in the process of grading and "calibrating" us based on our performance. As we found out last week, the percentage of employees who gets each of the grades is fixed. This raised one or two eyebrows in our team: "So even if we've all done a really good job, some of us will still get the low grades?" Yes, my boss said, saying that he didn't make the rules. I then piped up, saying that at least there's a flip-side: even if we've all been rubbish, some of us will still get the top grades. One of my colleagues likened the system to a school exam; working for a large company feels a lot like school to me. When I arrived at the company to start my actuarial role, I was given an HR pamphlet outlining various grades; it mentioned a literal decimation policy of "managing out" the bottom 10% of employees. As soon as I read that I thought, oh shit, that'll be me. In my current role, despite all the talk of grades last week, I really couldn't give two hoots what grade I get.
This afternoon I went to play poker with Martin at the Realm in Hataitai. Only it wasn't on. Their regular Sunday tournaments ended last weekend. We played a few games of pool instead on their free but ramshackle pool table. They've still got a tournament on Tuesday night and we've agreed to play then, so I'll need to rearrange my other commitments (I normally see Julie on a Tuesday).
It's been quite a hot day today. A couple of times lately I've been caught out, forgetting that Wellington does get sun occasionally and that it does burn just like anywhere else. I've still done precisely zero Christmas shopping. I plan to squeeze it all into a couple of hours next Saturday. What on earth do I get my brother?
I recently discovered the Icelandic group Of Monsters and Men after hearing this song which a bank used for one of their adverts. I think they're great.