Monday, February 17, 2014

Space drum

I don't know if I can keep this blog up. I don't feel I have anything interesting to say anymore.

On Saturday I did the Butterfly Creek walk, as did Tom and Danielle, which meant that 37.5% of us walkers were also part of the Aspie group. The weather was perfect, and the cicadas were buzzing like crazy. We did almost 14 km so it was a decent trek. There was a bloke in his sixties who took me by surprise when he asked me "Ten forty-two?" Huh? It was after eleven. "Your scroggin." He had the numbers of all the scroggins and energy boosters and mixed nut selections memorised. I asked him what he did for a living - he was a financial analyst, probably for the government and at quite a high level, judging by how secretive he was being. He'd also done several marathons. We bussed to and from the track. After the walk, Tom and I went to Tracy's place to play that mice-kill-cockroaches-with-hammers board game.

On Thursday I had my lunch on Cuba Street and saw this young guy playing a flying-saucer-shaped
drum. I'd never seen anything like it, although the sound is somewhat similar what you get from a Caribbean steel pan. It's got a single note in the centre, surrounded by six or seven touch-pads. He was playing the drum so fast, it almost seemed to light up, as if he was playing level 58 of some souped-up version of Simon. It turns out that these space drums haven't been around very long, and if you're really lucky you might be able to snag one off Ebay for $1000. Ouch. So I won't be buying one in a hurry, but I'd like to do some kind of drumming course.

Some helpful hints from Christchurch
I'm watching a programme about the Christchurch rebuild on Prime. The estimated total cost is $40 billion. That's $100,000 for every man, woman and child in the city and its environs. Nearly a third of those people won't even be around when the rebuild is complete. And then there's the social cost. Three years on from the most devastating quake, mental health problems if anything will become more severe.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

What is this? (and some photos)

I've had enough of this, whatever this is. I suppose that's the problem - this feels like nothing.
Would it really matter if I didn't show up to work tomorrow? If anything, work has improved. I'm back in the same mode I started this role in, where I coped by pretending my job was only a temporary one.

I've been to the movies twice in the last three days, without paying a cent either time. A year ago, to celebrate the anniversary of my apartment purchase, my real estate agent gave me two free tickets at the Penthouse in Brooklyn. They didn't expire, and I only used them on Sunday when I took Kevin to see Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom. For me it was an education as much as anything. Last week another movie invite landed in my letterbox - a special showing of Saving Mr Banks, after work today, with my agent and dozens of other buyers present. Many of those buyers were talking to the agent, and each other, and it all seemed a bit weird to me. I'd seen Mary Poppins a couple of times, so it was worth seeing. So two movies at no expense, other than the $354,000 I spent on my apartment.

Today at work I realised how much the coffee machine sounded like one of my colleagues. I didn't realise a lot else. I went to a job agency at lunchtime and spoke to an intimidatingly tall woman and an intimidatingly short man and handed over my CV (which was described as "almost unique") and felt a bit embarrassed and intimidated. "What, ideally, are you looking for?" Probably nothing you're likely to have available.

After work, I had 45 minutes to kill before the movie. I sat in a park, if you can call it that. There were purple flowers I hadn't noticed before. Lots of them. Were they rhododendrons? I wasn't sure. A man with striped trousers and a similar bag stuck up a poster for a band, well several bands, one of which was called Zambel or Bamzel or something. Most of the names would have been really good for word games if they were actual words. At the bottom of Cuba Street a busker in a crazy oversized woolly cardigan was singing and playing his guitar. He had a sign asking for 15.6 quintillion dollars to rebuild the Death Star. I gave him a dollar in 20-cent pieces.

The Winter Olympics in Sochi are now under way. The cost, estimated to be US$50 billion, is utterly obscene. By comparison, the Lillehammer games in 1994, which I really enjoyed at the time (partly because Britain got two medals, woohoo) cost a little over a billion, which still seems like a shedload of money. When I watch the summer games I think, if I was competing I'd embarrass myself. With the winter games I think, if I was competing I would die.

Here are some photos of my South Island trip:

A farmhouse at Stumps Corner, not too far from Temuka but it feels like you're a million miles from anywhere. There's a loose railway theme, and a sign on the right gives the latitude: 44 degrees and 11 minutes. In a long, thin country like New Zealand, perhaps longitude doesn't matter much. In Chile you could almost locate a place by latitude alone.

An old tram, with what's left of Christ Church Cathedral

The Catholic Basilica on Barbadoes Street

Some Christchurch street art -- from Wellington

A mess. And one of the many car parks.

Building frontage shored up by containers

Lyttelton - a ship being loaded with logs

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Time just gets away from us

I now take one beta-blocker tablet four times a day. Or at least that's what I'm supposed to do. On Friday morning I wasn't thinking, and I took all four pills at once. My instinct was that I'd be fine but I Googled "propranolol overdose 40 mg" just in case. I brought up one of those "answers" sites: the first poster told me I needn't worry; the next said I'd die a horrible all-caps death. I then called the 0800 number given on the fact sheet that came with the pills. "You'll need to go to hospital and be monitored for the next eight hours." Shit. I rang my work colleague to say I probably wouldn't be coming in - she was on a train and couldn't really hear me, although she was as clear as a bell to me. She rang me back when I was in the hospital car park. Then I rang her again, accidentally. God I hate my phone. I have some element of control over it when it's in my hand (and texting is easier than it was on my dumb phone) but when it's in my pocket, all bets are off. These accidental calls and texts chew through my credit. I can lock it but it unlocks itself somehow, and all the settings change themselves, including minor things like whether my phone actually rings when I receive a call. Anyway I arrived at the emergency desk and was presented with several forms. Because of my accent I was given an extra form to do with NZ residency. One of the questions asked when I'd be leaving the country. At this rate, pretty damn soon. They took my pulse and blood pressure, and I got the all-clear soon afterwards. Like I thought, 40 mg isn't that much. Some people take that four times a day. I then took my car in for a WOF, which I'd planned to do anyway, and arrived at work at 9:30. My boss's absence made my late arrival much easier. She'll be back at work tomorrow. In my (short) lunch break I saw Career Services to hopefully talk to someone, but they stopped doing face-to-face chats three years ago, when they would have been inundated with people looking for work. All this technology is supposed to make life easier, but instead everything is gradually made that little bit harder.

I've been feeling crappy again this weekend. Everything I do has this sense of complete futility about it. No goals. No plans. No way out in sight. I do something either because it's an obligation (like paying a bill) and something terrible will happen if I don't do it, or because I have this notion that it might help my anxiety and depression if I do it. The weather this weekend, which you'll have seen if you've watched any of the Wellington Sevens on TV, has been perfect for driving me around the bend.

I rang my brother this morning. We had a good chat. He's usually a good person to talk to - he makes things seem that little bit less bleak. I should call him more often.

Kevin has an extensive DVD collection. On Wednesday night when he was out, I put on True Grit, mainly because it was a western, based in Arkansas in the 1870s. Not that long ago I was thinking of visiting that part of the world, but that doesn't even seem vaguely possible anymore.

Soon I'll be taking Kevin to see Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom. My brother was telling me about someone who was arrested for putting a Mandela-based joke on Facebook: "My PC takes so long to shut down I've decided to call it Nelson Mandela." I don't find that particularly offensive, and I find it hard to believe that he was actually arrested for that.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Kevin and keeping calm

The environment in my flat has changed. The most noticeable change, other than the massive TV I'm looking at now, is the smell. Suddenly this place smells human.

My flatmate - let's call him Kevin - has had an even messier past than I guessed. He's got three kids to two different women. The two eldest are already teenagers; the youngest is four. Those aren't problems that simply go away. He used to chain-smoke and drink like a fish; I'd be surprised if his drug use wasn't/isn't restricted to legal substances. He's talked about his depression; I noticed he had a shoe box with "Kevin's Meds" written on it. Last night he had an anxiety attack and was unnecessarily embarrassed.
Kevin is trying to make positive changes. He's just started a web design course, at what to me is exorbitant cost.

I saw my counsellor on Tuesday. She said I still haven't got over the slow-motion car crash of three years ago when I got the actuarial job here in Wellington. She also said that by coming off my antidepressants I'm regaining emotions that were suppressed, and I should stay off them for that reason. I saw my (newer) doctor yesterday. I asked her if I could stay off the antidepressants but go on beta-blockers instead to help with my anxiety, and she was fine with that. With the old doctor the outcome would have been totally different. 

It was Bob Marley Day so both Kevin and I had the day off. We were both trying to use the internet at the same time and an IP address conflict was giving us all kinds of problems. I think Kevin fixed it on his computer and we're OK now. I applied for another job, this time with the council, but I don't expect my application to get very far.

It hasn't been a bad week at work. My boss has taken the week off. It would be a neat arrangement, we each take alternate weeks off - if I could arrange that I wouldn't be looking for another job.

There was a lot of discussion about flags last week (and a little bit today as you'd expect). I'm up for changing it, but not to the silver fern on a black background. Yes it would be distinctive alright, and I like the silver fern as an emblem, but I think a national flag needs an injection of colour, and why does it need to be the same as what our sports teams wear? How much blue is in the Italian flag, or orange in the Dutch flag, or white in the German flag? Or, for that matter, green and yellow (I know they call it gold) in the Australian flag?

Here's a really good article about the guy who claims to have survived 13 months at sea. The author of the article says he wouldn't cope very well in that situation, and I know I wouldn't either. And I don't even feel like a particularly modern male. (The article reminds me that I should get Life of Pi out on DVD, now that I've got a near-cinematic screen to view it on.)

Sunday, February 2, 2014

I need hope

My new flatmate just called me to say he's running late, so that's given me the chance to write something here.

Yesterday I didn't want to get back to Wellington and this never-ending cycle of impossibility. I was hoping some massive storm would brew up and we'd circle for a while before being diverted somewhere, anywhere, I wouldn't have cared.

I felt pretty terrible a lot of the time I was away. Sometimes I was visibly upset, and that made Mum upset and both my parents very worried. I was still able to do things, but most of the time I felt sick to the stomach and like I was running through treacle. Mum took me out for tennis three times - we just hit the ball; no scoring. I was hopeless the first time, much better the second time, and dreadful again the third time. Mum was rusty to begin with but steadily improved - if she played competitive age-group tennis I'm sure she'd do really well. The last time we played, a bloke perhaps a shade older than me turned up with his two small daughters on bikes with stabilisers. He was cleaning up the area around the courts. His girls were clearly giving him a lot of pleasure and this made me upset because in all likelihood it's a pleasure I'll never experience.

Mum even took me to the golf course - we did nine holes but I didn't even finish some of them. I hit trees, mounds, boundary fence posts, even the trolley once. Sometimes I hit nothing at all, not even the ball. I would have racked up scores well into double figures on a few occasions if I'd been counting. And amongst all of that I managed a par three.

On Friday we saw Captain Phillips at the cinema in Geraldine. It was a gripping, if rather scary film about Somali pirates. It starred Tom Hanks and was based on a true story. My brother has been on armed patrol ships in the Gulf of Aden - most of the time he didn't have a lot to do.
Before going to the cinema we had fish and chips. I think I could have eaten my plateful all over again.

We talked about the few months I spent down in South Canterbury before moving to Auckland. I was very organised and motivated in my job search. One afternoon I drove into Timaru and knocked on doors of banks and finance companies (both South Canterbury Finance and Mascot Finance were in existence then). I had a chat with a very pleasant woman at BNZ. She eventually offered me a job, but by that stage I'd already taken the actuarial job in Auckland. Things could have turned out very differently. (Nearly all the jobs I applied for were in Christchurch or Canterbury. Maybe a couple were Wellington-based. Only one was in Auckland.)

We met my uncle; he's done much better with his lung cancer than anyone predicted. But his cough was back and he was extremely negative about, well, pretty much everything. Regarding the situation in Christchurch, he said they should take dynamite to the cathedral with Gerry Brownlee inside it.

I started this blog five years ago. Things are a lot, lot worse than they were then, and I've now got five fewer years to remedy the situation. The good news is that my counsellor is back on the scene and I'll be seeing her on Tuesday. And the flatmate is, on balance, good news too. Having someone to talk to should make a big difference.