Congratulations: you are more alive than ever

“Hello Dave-ros; I want to play a game…”

Yesterday (the 12th) was the sixth anniversary (though Monday would be more precise in terms of weekday) of that day in 2011 when I felt so depressed, I actually planned to end it all on my 35th birthday, 300-odd days in the future, if I couldn’t turn my life around.  All these years later, suicide is something I’m no longer willing to contemplate (terminal illnesses aside) — and all I had to do was change just about everything in my life!

It’s worth considering just what the prospect was back in 2011 of me actually taking my own life… I’d say no chance whatsoever — if anything, that melodramatic outburst (which I concealed from everyone at the time) was necessary, and dare I say it, cathartic?  If I hadn’t gotten it out of my system, I might have been too satisfied with keeping my life just as it was (albeit in a different house, or possibly even back with my folks in Worthing) — but threating myself cajoled me into action.

How is my life in 2017 better than my life in 2011?  Let me count the ways:

(It’s been a while since I did this… hasn’t it?)

  1. I now live a long way from Caledonian Road, in a relatively peaceful area on a reliable Tube line, and while this isn’t exactly the best house in the world, at least I’ve got housemates I get on with (well, since July this year), a heating system that works properly (well, since last month), and a landlord that actually cares about our problems (well, compared to the last two) — and being in Finchley Central, I can get a seat on the Northern Line when I commute.  Speaking of which…
  2. I’ve finally got a job I actually enjoy, using my brain and IT skills to help people — professionals, not members of the public — with the computer side of their jobs, instead of tapping away at data entry all day.  Not only am I the only IT Helpdesk employee in the world who’s happy to be doing his job, I get a lovely pay rate as well — the UK average!
  3. I’m physically healthier than I was even in my twenties, thanks to taking up climbing, seeing a personal trainer, eating better diet (well, slightly more vegetables), and generally feeling less stressed (aside from the occasional dizzy spells that I’m getting the NHS to look at in January), perhaps due to escaping the annoying woman.  I’m even getting more sleep these days!
  4. I socialise a lot more — instead of just Japanese classes once a week (which had stopped by late 2011 anyway), and sitting at home by myself every other night, I go to Meetup events, meet people climbing, and act as the “face” of my IT team at work — if anything, I need to slow down and stay in more often, much as I did in 2013.  However, I’ve more chance of finding someone special — and on that topic…
  5. After going on more dates in the past few years than I’d gone on in the entire rest of my life, I might finally have a couple of potential girlfriends — don’t worry, I’ll be loyal to one woman (at a time), but considering how my love life in the first 11 years of the 21st century was a whole lotta nuthin’, I’ve definitely made progress here, and no longer feel so pessimistic that I wish I could just give up on ever finding love.
  6. Although I still enjoy a lot of “childish things”, I’m taking more responsibility for my life, collecting my household’s bills on my housemates’ behalf, behaving myself in my job and getting things done (allegedly more than at least one of my teammates), taking care of my health (as per no.3 above), and even buying expensive presents for my folks, to thank them for all the years they’ve taken care of me!

This blog entry was inspired by one of the “possibilities” in no.5 above: when I told her I’m not religious (she’s a lapsed Catholic), she asked me, outright, why I hadn’t killed myself.  She knew nothing of my former depression, and was genuinely intrigued (though she phrased it awkwardly, perhaps due to her Polish cultural heritage?); I told her that I’ve got too much good stuff in my life for me to even consider stopping living.  She seems to have accepted this, and so should you — I’m not checking out any time soon!

On that basis, why am I still posting in this blog?  If I’m over depression, and I’ve sorted my life out, what more do I have to say here?  Well, how about the fact that I still seem to have anxiety, which might even be the source of the weird “brain fuzz” dizzy spells I’ve been getting — like a burst pipe spraying into an unrelated room, instead of piping its contents to the correct destination — and this could be partly because I have a good life now, and worry about losing it all and reverting to how things were in the bad old days.  Going back into the dark after having seen the light is worse than never having left the dark, after all.

And yes, I fully intend to soapbox about the despicable behaviour of politicians on both sides of the Atlantic… stay tuned!

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Getting lucky (with apologies to Daft Punk)

Sometimes, public transport issues seem to work in my favour — or, I get lucky despite serious issues.  This weekend I’d planned to visit my folks in Worthing, to drop off an expensive present I’d got for my grandmother, so I wouldn’t have to bring it home in two weeks’ time, just before Christmas itself; however, I suddenly thought of a present for my mother, but too late to actually buy it before my journey.  It occurred to me that I could always travel down to Brighton, buy the item in one of the shops there, and get a bus back home; I’d done this before in 2014, and I had a return ticket left over from last time I travelled, that I could use to get back, instead of buying a whole new open-ended return…

(I’d used that return before, but hadn’t had it marked or taken off me!  Yes, I’m happy to rip off Southern — who isn’t, considering how much they rip US off?)

…so imagine my surprise when I discovered that there were no direct trains to Worthing on Saturday, and my plan thus made sense anyway!  Admittedly, it’s not as lucky as that time in November 2006, just after I’d moved to Caledonian Road, when the exact weekend I’d be bringing loads of my stuff up to London in a removals van started with a strike at Victoria station, and so I was able to travel down to Worthing for free instead of buying an overpriced single (which has always cost almost as much as a return), but it was still pretty sweet, and so conveniently timed that you’d almost think it was scripted.

Okay, PC World (named and shamed) didn’t sell the thing I was after, so I had to resort to a shop that my mother hates, and even then, they were out of the more expensive versions of the item I wanted to get; and fine, the train journey to Brighton, albeit cheaper, took as long as a normal train journey to Worthing anyway, and the subsequent bus journey took over an hour on top of that — no, never mind the bad luck, all that was just payment for my good luck!  Like the opposite of Christmas 2015, when my final journey down to Worthing could have been a nightmare, but somehow I was lucky to find the path of least resistance through it all…

I must have been lucky to choose this weekend for my flying visit to Worthing, as it meant I avoided some very low temperatures in London, and the first significant snow I’ve seen in the capital since early 2015!  There was actually a difference of about 9 degrees Celsius (about twice as much in Fahrenheit) between Worthing on the south coast, and the north of London, and no snow where my folks live (but some strong winds on Sunday morning) — which also means my mother’s lucky, as there shouldn’t be any ice for her to risk slipping on.

And considering the snow in London, I was lucky to get a train back up that wasn’t delayed (aside from a short pause outside Victoria) — and maybe the eight-minute wait on the Northern Line was my “bad luck” fee, but otherwise I’ve had no trouble getting back here.  Indeed, what seemed to be forgetfulness before turned out to be fortuitous: last time I was in Worthing, I left behind a pair of boots my mother had got me in a sale in October (non-leather, another sign of good luck), but if I’d brought them up to London before, I wouldn’t have thought to wear them down to Worthing this weekend (it being mild on Saturday), and so wouldn’t have been able to wear them back up, and crunch safely through the snow in the streets here!

One bit of bad luck, and possibly a failure to “get lucky” in a sense closer to the one Daft Punk were actually singing about, has been the serious problems the London Underground’s been suffering today — never mind the Northern Line, which was actually getting back to normal when I got on it: had the Metropolitan Line been running, I may just have been able to drop in on one of the four potential girlfriends I have in my life now — and since she’d used the phrase “Netflix and chill”, there was a chance…

No, I’m not making stuff up — amazingly, after decades of nothing followed by a few years of numerous first dates that seldom went anywhere, and absolutely no instances of “getting lucky” whatsoever (unless you consider “dodged bullets” to be lucky, of course), finally this seems to be the year my romantic life begins!  They’re all in potentia at the moment, as nothing concrete has happened with any of them yet (technically I’ve not even made it to “first base”), but in each case I’ve not managed to drive her away just by being myself, and feel an emotional bond — with a possibility for something meaningful and long-term.

Oh, you want a list?  Well, in approximate order of meeting, we have:

  1. M, a statuesque African-American girl I’ve seen at my salsa classes since 2015, who likes my humour and happily hugs me every time, with kisses on the cheeks; she’s never mentioned a boyfriend, and has given me her phone number.  Yeah, this sister might be more of a “sister” in the relational sense of the word, but I still hope I’ve got a chance with her (and no, not for the ulterior motive of moving to America!).
  2. C, a cute English glasses girl with whom I’ve climbed a few times since 2016 (sometimes I’ve been lucky enough to go to the Castle when she’s been looking to top-rope), who really seems to enjoy my company, and is a great climber herself.  She’s never mentioned a boyfriend, and I’ve been too cowardly to ask her out, or even flirt (in case she mentioned having a boyfriend) — but next time I see her, I’ll try!
  3. S, a classy English brunette, with whom I connected via a dating app late last year, but still stayed in contact with this year, when I finally got to meet her for dates.  Things were a little stilted last time, and I’ve never had the courage to flirt, but she still seems to be interested in meeting me, and despite gaps between text messages, hasn’t starting “ghosting” me like so many other connections.
  4. M, a strawberry-blonde Polish vet, who messaged me via Meetup a couple of weeks ago (she was interested in coming to the “helping the homeless” event in Shy London), and who has met me a couple of times already; even though she’s the one I’ve known the least amount of time, she’s the one who I seem to have the best chance of (if you’ll forgive the bro-ish chauvinism) gettin’ some action with…

(And if the fourth one’s name started with “E”, I could list their initials as “MCSE”, singularly appropriate for an IT geek!  Ha ha, no?  Oh, please yourselves!)

I won’t lie, there are also women at work that I like — but even though one of my IT teammates met his wife in the company (which is why we always give her preferential treatment), I’d be too nervous about asking out any of them, as doubtless it’d be a failure and I’d be humiliated among my colleagues.  If a young lady asked me out, that’d be different — I’m always happy if a woman makes the first move, this being the 21st century and all (and I was asked out loads of times in 2013, which was nice) — but I won’t worry about it, because I’ve already got four possibilities, unlike all the women whose phone numbers I got only for them to either “ghost” me after one or two dates, or turn out to have boyfriends already.

In any case, this Friday I’ve been roped into coming to the Christmas do after work, when I’ll have to be careful in case someone I don’t like gets drunk and propositions me… but luckily, “best mate” wants to go to Winter Wonderland that evening, so, much like that day in summer 2013 when I was at a “singles event” whose female contingent were all much older than me, I’ve got a way out if things become uncomfortable…

Buyer’s remorse

Since a lot of people in this country are poor, and since we’re all likely to be poorer now we’ve “agreed” to pay €50bn to leave the EU (which feels like paying to leave your house when you’re evicted), I feel bad for spending so much money in November; I’m grateful I’ll still be more than breaking even for the month (partly thanks to not needing to pay my personal trainer until December), but still, I wonder…

Earlier this month, when I thought “boss lady” at work wasn’t going to buy me any more computer components (after the i7 CPU she got me in October), rather than worry about getting fired and needing to save my money, I weakened and bought myself a ludicrously expensive graphics card — for those who understand specs, it’s an 8GB nVidia GTX 1080, and on Amazon I got it “cheap”, meaning it only cost a month’s rent (there are better ones, like the Titan X, that would have cost me a month’s wages).

I’d intended to get it sooner, but I was delayed by a week when someone tried to steal from me, which seemed to have been fortuitous: rather than settle for a 1060, I figured “what the hell” and got the best type I could afford.  However, if I’d held on longer, I could have let “boss lady” buy it, or something similar, for me out of our budget (as I said last time, she’s likely trying to use it up so we get the same amount next year), and I’d have saved myself half a grand!

But take heart: it still cost less than the money I nearly lost to that criminal scumbag, and “boss lady” bought me something else highly useful: a 4TB SSD, to which I’ve copied all my game files (not my Windows install, as Win7 won’t boot from drivers bigger than 2TB).  Together with the graphics card, my computer’s even faster than it was with the new CPU in October, and now I can play games at the full 4K UHD resolution of the monitor I got in January!

(Blimey, it even takes less than a geological age to start up 2016 Doom!)

Another thing I wanted was a new chair, since the comfortable, padded one I got back in 2013 (before my American holiday) was wearing out — and I never quite convinced myself it wasn’t made of leather.  On the weekend my card details were abused, I went with “best mate” to a car lot way out west, so he could buy his own new vehicle; never mind that they might be the ones who somehow got my card details wirelessly, let’s be thankful that we couldn’t park at IKEA on the way home, as that meant I didn’t have to cancel a legit transaction!  But two weekends later, when I was reeling from spending so much on that graphics card, he was able to take me there to look around, and I bought a chair with a high back, which, when I tried it in the shop, seemed just right for me.

Alas, it was only when I’d gotten it home, assembled it and sat in it to play games that I realised a significant flaw: very hard armrests, compared to the nice cushioned ones of my old chair (which I’ve given to a housemate).  Since I play a lot of mouse-and-keyboard games (and insist on using the cursor keys to move, despite mousing right-handed), that can really grate on my left elbow!  And in any case, it seems like a more expensive version of the type of computer chair I got from Argos in 2011, back when I lived on Caledonian Road… but the deed was done, it was too late to take it back (and I could hardly ask “best mate” to drive me again anyway), so I’ve got to live with it — though at least it gives the back of my head support, unlike the old one.

Ah, but speaking of the time I lived on Caledonian Road… back in 2011, I bought some really useless but expensive things: USB steering wheels (not one, but two, after I broke the first one), and a NAS — a box into which I could put two hard drives and use them as a single storage drive, only for the thing to have very, very slow data transfer times over Ethernet.  I wasn’t earning enough to waste money back then — this was before I got an “acting up” pay rise at work, one of the things that made me feel better about life in 2012 after moving to Finchley, so blowing even a hundred here and there at the time was… foolish.

However, as I’ve said before, 2011 was a bad year for me, a real descent into depression, and hence the reason I started this blog in 2012, when I was finally putting my life back together — so let’s call the steering wheels “retail therapy”, and the NAS, a noble experiment in my early days of trying to break into IT.  That was also the year I built the PC of Theseus, in which just about everything was new, and although it was replaced piecemeal over the years, it kept me going, and thus wasn’t a waste of money at all.

And don’t worry: despite my foolish spendthriftness, I still donate things to charity shops (including a digital camera tripod I bought back in 2002 and never used — an early example of buyer’s remorse!), and once a month, I join a group that goes around central London passing out supplies to homeless people, and also lending them a friendly ear.  I know it’s not much, but I’ve long thought that the best way I can help the homeless is to not increase their number by one — so I’ll be careful with my money for the rest of this year, and only buy Christmas presents I can afford!

What have I done to deserve this? (with apologies to the Pet Shop Boys)

If anything, I have gained nothing
Except just for staying alive
And I suppose that is something
When you’ve tried as hard as me to die!
—Gwar, “Back in Crack” (Beyond Hell, 2006)

Okay, now it’s THREE musical references, if you think Stan’s dressed like Flava Flav!

Right, that’s two musical reference already in this blog post, and two implications that I’m having problems… when in fact, I feel like I surely deserve something much, much worse than I’m actually getting.  No, I’m not complaining, just… wondering?

I’ve said before that improvements in some aspects of my life seem to balance out with increasing problems in other aspects; things are better in this house since “drummer-trucker” moved out, but recently I was worried that “boss lady” would feel the need to have a go at me all over again, and indeed wondered if Friday the 17th would be the day I got my final notice — much like three years ago, during a Monday evening shift… so imagine my surprise when she demanded I send her a link for an expensive computer component I’d want her to buy me!

Yes, it’s just like the i7 CPU she got me for my birthday this year, and the excellent work phone she got me in May — apparently out of the IT budget!  I’d been reluctant on previous occasions, but since in November I’d already spent the equivalent of a month’s rent getting a current-generation graphics card (which means I can play modern games in 4k resolution), I decided on a 4TB SSD — a yuge hard drive with no moving parts (like the one I have as my C-drive), that works much, much faster than the “spinning rust” variety, and will store all my games on it, meaning they start up more quickly.  I will truly have a l33t gaming machine at long last!

(Without the need to buy a console or “upgrade” to Windows 10!)

But why?  Why, when the day before, she told me off again?  Admittedly on that occasion it was for offering too much help to one of our users (one they’d warned me about but who turned out to be perfectly nice), rather than my usual faults of being unhelpful, rude, impatient etc. — but still, I was worried I’d done something wrong during the preceding weeks.  After all, I got a severe talking-to back in August, in which I was warned I could face suspension — and that 19 months after the original talking-to in January 2016, when I was even closer to being fired, because I was still on probation at the time!

I was worried that this time, I’d be in trouble for sure, but take heart — senpai reckons I’m doing fine, my work improving all the time, and that I’d really have to screw up to be at risk of getting fired.  However, he’d witnessed me having one of my dizzy, confused spells while talking to him earlier that day (they happen less frequently since I cut espresso out of my intake, but they do still happen, especially at work) — so perhaps he spoke to “boss lady” to warn her of my potential mental health situation.  She’s already aware (and approved my leave to see a neurologist at the end of the month), so maybe she’s decided to be patient with me at long last… or trying not to seem like she’s discriminating against the disabled.

It’s not impossible she is, if anything, trying to bribe me into staying — I know I’ve screwed up in the past, but most users like and respect me, and are thankful when I come to help them; I’m happy to do so, and work hard at my job.  However, even though I’ve no desire to leave of my own accord, she might think I’m worried about failing, and that I’m planning to jump before I’m pushed — so it could be that she wants to calm me down and convince me to stay.  She surely wouldn’t be buying me expensive gear as some kind of leaving present (unless she was trying to atone in advance!), so I should take this as a sign that I’m not in serious jeopardy, and damn well relax at last.

(She could just be trying to seduce me… nooooooo, that’s ruined my relaxation!!!)

Of course, the most likely explanation is that she’s just trying to spend all of our IT budget by the end of the year, so we get the same amount next year; it’s not unusual behaviour in my team, and one of my colleagues reckons we should just willingly let her buy us stuff, and then sell it on down the line, when she’s forgotten about it.

I know local councils make busy-work purely to spend their budgets in the same way (as per this scene from the classic Falling Down), but since we get our money from rich health professionals’ membership fees rather than public taxes, I find I can live with myself in ethical terms.  Well, wouldn’t you?

— — —

I should add as a postscript that overall my life’s better now — we have heating that works, and a replacement vacuum cleaner that sucks (in the positive sense!); also, I’m earning enough that even though I spent loads on a graphics card and a new chair this month, I should be able to break even (albeit partly because I don’t need to pay my personal trainer until December).  I wonder why karma is being so kind to me: is it to knock me down again later, Job-style, or is it because I’ve been doing good deeds, like handling my household’s billing, and joining a group that helps the homeless once a month…?

Too reliable by half?

I’m so sick and tired
Of being admired
That I wish that I would just die or get fired.
—Eminem, “The Way I Am” (The Marshall Mathers LP, 2000)

Well, it’s a better image than Sisyphus…

Don’t worry: despite the Shady quote above, I’m not looking to end my life — or my beloved career as an IT helpdesk nerd.  However, I am certainly feeling a lot of pressure these days, and wishing I could have more free time to myself, instead of helping others so much…

I’m fortunately not over-burdened at work — which is just as well, as it may have been the weekend work I did last December that started off my “brain fuzz” dizzy spells.  Although sometimes it feels like too much at once, I get nice periods of quiet — and in some cases, I can pass tasks on to my more esteemed colleagues to resolve after doing my initial troubleshooting… like today, when I was able to unburden myself of a serious problem with the big cheese’s laptop, leaving me free to help senpai with an easier but no less important task for another senior member of staff.

However, last Wednesday I became worried I was going to snap at someone, as numerous troubleshooting tasks were punctuated by my Japanese friend repeatedly texting me, and constantly changing her claims about where and when she could meet up with me.  No, she’s not my kanojo or anything, but my reward for trying to help her with English has been for her to keep nagging for more and more help (I still remember trying to troubleshoot her writing while riding a bus to the Castle!), and seeing as I’d already spent the previous evening trying to teach her English idioms, and felt at risk of losing the one evening off I’d have all week!

Don’t worry, she’s offered to pay me at last — though I commuted that sentence to buying me some “pub grub” this evening, while I waited for a salsa class, and helped her some more.  And at least she only wanted help with her English tonight, and not advice on taking legal action against a dodgy educational institution (she’s studying to become a teacher of Japanese) that’s been treating her badly, and doesn’t even seem to be accredited.  On previous evenings, via Facebook Messenger, she went on for hours about this topic — but what can I do?

By coincidence, “best mate” rung up while I was waiting for my “pub grub” to arrive: he’s also having a dreadful time at work (still being sent to far-flung places by his brother), and even though he’s finally bought a new car (from a dodgy dealer — I saw the place), he was worried he hadn’t set up his parking permit right, and asked me to check.  He’s got no tickets, so that’s fine — but I can’t help with his work situation, much as I wish I could.  As usual, all I can do is lend a sympathetic ear — it’s something he needs to resolve on his own terms, because it’s his life and he needs to take care of himself.

I certainly can’t help others with their lives when I have so much on my plate already — I’m starting to feel like I’ve become a father to this shared household!  In addition to taking on the role of gathering everyone’s share of the rent and other household bills (and cleaning the kitchen), I also had to be the one to call — guess who? — British Gas, to sort out our heating for the second winter running.  I then had to text all four of my housemates, to see if anyone could be in on Friday afternoon, as “boss-lady” said I couldn’t take the time off to be here, as she needed me in to help cover the helpdesk while two of my colleagues were on leave, and the other two working on a yuge project!

None of my housemates were available… but fortunately British Gas now offer appointments at the weekend (amazing!), and the engineer sorted everything out (astounding!).  Unfortunately, they still found a way to screw up: they’d recorded our address wrong!  Imagine I live at 7 Yorkshire Road, and that a new set of flats called Yorkshire Works have recently opened nearby, on the same street and with the exact same postcode — and that there’s a flat 7… this is why we kept getting electricity bills for someone who doesn’t live here (and we get ours from another company anyway), and now it’s why our landlady needs to call BG to straighten this address mismatch out, as otherwise they may refuse to fix future issues entirely.

And as though helping others with their problems and sorting out household issues isn’t enough, it’s possible I’ll need to speak to the police soon: there was attempted fraud on my bank account on Sunday, apparently using my debit card details — and while they caught it in time to reverse the theft, I can’t help but worry that they’ll somehow start thinking I really did try to buy something on Facebook (ads?) for hundreds of pounds, and I’ll have to convince the boys in blue that I never sanctioned those payments or knowingly gave my card details away.  I actually spent Sunday afternoon virus-checking my PC and going through my receipts for September and October (yes, I keep them, ever since 2012!) to make sure every transaction in my bank account history was legit, instead of playing games or doing anything enjoyable…

(Okay, fair enough, I had Columbo on in the background!)

Is all of this finally making a man of me?  Am I maturing and taking responsibility, over matters that affect others as well as myself, instead of flinching, begging for help or procrastinating?  It’s weird, but today I haven’t even had any major bouts of “brain fuzz” — almost as though facing down stressful issues is somehow keeping me sane… and perhaps it’s only when I recover from stress that I get those weird floods of quasi-memories at strange times, in which case I need to keep myself busy helping people and getting things done, instead of lazing about.

Still, I wish I didn’t have to do all this stuff alone — is there a woman out there, a potential wife (or at least long-term significant other), who would stand by me and share my burden, instead of just relying on me for everything?  I feel that two of us working together and sharing responsibility could achieve so much more than two separate individuals…

Winter welcome?

As long as no White Walkers turn up…

Until yesterday, I was — for very weird reasons — looking forward to winter, and the temperature going down.  Obviously January and February are always uncomfortably cold, but I recall last year’s November and December being refreshingly mild (especially compared to 2014), and I’ll be glad, for once, to see the end of hot weather.

No, I’m not an imposter, I’m still your friendly neighbourhood Dave-ros — it’s just that, for one thing, I’ve been finding it harder to sleep in hot weather, waking up itchy (apparently due to overheating) and unable to get back to sleep for ages.  Since it began cooling, however, I’ve been a lot more able to sleep, with only adrenaline waking me up during the night (after a few hours), and seldom keeping me awake.

For another thing, my new supercomputer.  Yes, that sentence didn’t need a verb — it’s going great (aside from having to re-register Windows 7 by phone, as it wasn’t working online!), and I have a good feeling it’ll pump a nice amount of heat into my room when I play intense 3D games (even if my new casing isn’t big and black like my previous ones, which my mother mistook for space heaters!).

Finally — and most spuriously — cooler weather means I can wear my new coat to and from work without sweating like a porcine mammal (especially on the crowded Underground), and this in turn means I can keep my phone in my hip pocket instead of my backpack, and thus look at it easily to see the title and artist of the track I’m listening to — necessary with unfamiliar songs, which often come up as I keep finding CDs in charity shops of bands I either want to hear more of (Jamiroquai, R.E.M.) or try getting into (Franz Ferdinand, Travis).

On the other hand, the meetup event I attended last night makes me worry about winter for the sake of others: I joined Shy London for their monthly linkup with Pavement People, who walk the streets of London looking for homeless people, in order to (a) offer simple supplies like food and toiletries, and (b) listen to their stories.  We avoided anyone who seemed to be high (or was asking for money instead of food, since they’re more likely to be on drugs), but anyone we met who was sane, we made a point of treating like human beings instead of street furniture, talking instead of ignoring.

I’m glad I took part (at least partially because I vowed I would back in June, if my mother found my dropped USB thumbdrive on the train platform), but it’s reminded me of how precarious our situation is on a daily basis — how everyone below the millionnaire class is, as they say, one paycheque away from poverty, and that you can end up homeless no matter how careful and honest you are.  I’m lucky that — for now at least — I can return to Worthing to live with my folks if London goes wrong for me, but what if they lose their home, through no fault of their own?

It wouldn’t be quite so bad if this country had a hotter climate, but it feels like we’re overdue for a genuinely cold winter (it’s been a long time since I last saw snow), and if that came to pass, those unlucky enough to have no place to stay would find it almost impossible to survive — and the way things are now, the only way to secure a hostel place in some areas (especially Westminster) is to have been there for three months or similar, without moving (even though those out-of-work are nagged to go search for jobs around the country)!  And the NHS also appears to be unable to treat people of “no fixed abode”.

It feels like our government du jour would welcome a nice cold winter, as a way to mitigate the increasing homeless problem without having to shake the magic money tree, or — heaven forfend — change policies to stop penalising people severely for honest mistakes (like missing a single Job Centre appointment, or even  clicking the wrong tickbox in an online form when applying for dental treatment).  It’s almost as though they want to be able to punish ordinary people at any time…

Sorry, I know, no sense going into an angry rant on this occasion (I’ll soapbox about that subject another time) — the important thing is that I got involved and met real people less fortunate than me, the sort of people who aren’t worried about trivial things like computers and gadgets, and while I can’t resolve all their problems (any more than I could for people closer to me), at least I can help them a little, keep them going longer — and look them in the eye.

It’s certainly better than simply claiming that the best way I can help the homeless is to not increase their number by one…

Out with the old…

I know Shady’s in his forties now, but I’m nowhere near as mature as him, am I?

It’s my birthday today, but never mind the number… let’s just say 30 and be done with it, what with my actual 30th in 2007 being a very unhappy day, and occurring during one of the ten years I wasn’t really “living” as such (2000-3 hibernating in Worthing with my folks, between my undergrad and postgrad days, and 2005-11 for reasons I won’t go into here — maybe another night?).

No, the main thrust of my blog tonight is that, around the time of my birthday this year, I’ve been making plans to get rid of some old stuff, and replacing it with new stuff — in many cases with the assistance of people in my life.  However, unlike Eminem in 2002, I’m cleanin’ out my closet without insulting my mother, since she’s a large part of the reason I made it this far in my life!

And my mother and grandmother helped me this weekend: finally I’m rid of the coat I got in 2014, just at the start of my decline into serious anxiety.  I know objects supposedly don’t exude positive or negative karma, but still, the left zip pocket broke earlier this year, and the new one’s not only got red lining inside (red being “my colour” at the moment), but a spider motif!

(No, nothing to do with Spider-Man — I’m not quite that geeky when it comes to my day-to-day clothes!)

I also have a new pair of boots bought for me by my folks, to replace the pair I was given by my “second family” in Michigan many years ago, but which I haven’t used since early 2014, due to them being caked in mud while I was watching my mother take part in a mud-run challenge.  It’s a pity, but I feel no real attachment to them any more — and being American boots, somehow I wonder if they were as leather-free as claimed?  The new ones certainly are, judging from the symbols, and I have a feeling I’ll be needing them now that winter is coming… I just have to hope the three-year cycle doesn’t happen again, and that this winter is better for me than those in 2014 and 2011 — which as you know (in the former case because I was writing this then, and the latter case because I keep going on about it) were depressing times of my life.

Speaking of 2011, the most important changes concern my computer — the PC of Theseus is undergoing further replacement, and soon, aside from the Windows 7 installation itself (but not the physical drvie it’s on), nothing will be left of that year.  My “boss-lady” has very kindly (and surprisingly, in light of what happened before) bought me a new sixth-generation i7 processor, in lieu of buying me a laptop so I could work from home.  I was already planning to get one, but she’s saved me quite a bit of money on this operation!  I’ve bought a new motherboard to plug it into, along with DDR4 memory (since I can’t reuse my own DDR3 in it), and a cooling fan for the processor (since one didn’t come with the processor itself, oddly).

I also bought a new computer casing a couple of weekends ago — smaller, sleeker and whiter than the yuge black Cooler Master casing I got in 2011, which fortunately I was able to give to charity (rather than needing someone to drive me to the dump).  Installing my old setup in the new box has paved the way for the new setup: all I have to do is put the new components on the new motherboard, swap that out wholesale with the old motherboard, and plug everything back in!  Positioning the drives (including the Win7 SSD) and running cables through the casing was the hard part, so this bit will be, relatively speaking, nice and easy…

(Says Dave-ros, hoping he’s not jinxing it by being over-confident!)

Once that’s done, I can take my old third-generation i7 (snugly in its motherboard, but with memory and fan removed for the journey) down to Worthing, to replace the creaking old Core 2 Quad (with DDR2 memory) system I have in the Frankencomputer.  I originally bought that ten years ago for use here in London, only upgrading from it in 2011 — which brings us around to that year again!

Since I got rid of the big casing I brought down from London in 2011 (the one with the big green “not handles” on the front), and put the components into a smaller white casing that my mother had originally planned to have me build her new PC in at Christmas, the Frankencomputer is also becoming a PC of Theseus, though still with plenty of “original” components left in it (since it’s not something I worry too much about upgrading, due to only using it when I visit my folks in Worthing).  I know I set it up with Win7 in 2014, but since I upgraded that to Win10 last year, perhaps I’ve driven the 2014 out of it too?

Okay, I know that’s not an acoustic guitar, but I’m workin’ on it!

And finally, there’s the guitar I bought cheaply in 2014… no, don’t worry, I’m not getting rid of it along with other stuff from that year!  Quite the opposite — I’ve started taking guitar classes, coincidentally starting on my birthday today.  One thing I’ve learned repeatedly in life (Japanese, computing etc.) is that I learn a lot better from actual people, with structured classes, than I do trying to study off my own back whenever I can be bothered.  It happened to be a one-to-one session in this first wek, as the other guy who signed up through Meetup.com was off sick!

My teacher’s certainly helped me with holding a guitar properly, and he was impressed that I already knew the basic D-A-E chords thanks to my previous studies, not unlike my personal trainer in 2013 and my Japanese teacher in 2008!  Unfortunately, five years of climbing (which he said many of his other students are also into) still haven’t left the fingertips of my left hand sufficiently calloused to endure the pain of holding down the strings, so good job the class was only an hour long.  And good job he has spare guitars, so I don’t have to lug mine all the way to the end of the Victoria Line!

However, maybe now in 2017, with this guy’s help, I can achieve what I failed to do three years ago: learn to play my guitar skilfully, and one day rock out with the Antarctic rock gods themselves, Gwar…

(What, did you think I’d grown up and given away all my old Scumdog merchandise?  I’m not a boring old fuddy-duddy yet, and hopefully never will be, you… bohab!)