Monthly Archives: June 2013

Baby, you got to slow down

Roger the Alien

If I chill out any more, I’ll have my feet in a foot spa

There was a time when I sat in my room all the time, playing video games or watching TV, because I couldn’t face the world outside and felt I had no place out there, and certainly no friends.  Day after day, I’d come home from school/work and do the same thing…

All that’s changing, however: after joining Meetup.com recently, I’m actually finding that I need to rationalise my socialising so that I can spend time at home doing more important things, like studying IT and exercising.  (Oh, and helping update the Barnet Alliance blog once in a while…)  I’ve actually had to RSVP “no” to a number of events this week, just so I can have three nights of solid IT studying, to say nothing of how I need to be online on Wednesday evening so I can discuss my progress with a “business support assistant”!

With all this hectic business going on, it’s nice to chill out and stay in of an evening; indeed, it’s lucky that my personal torturer has gone on honeymoon for three weeks, as I can come home to do some exercises instead of having to worry about travelling to and from the Castle (although I’ll also see about using a gym up the road on a PAYG basis, since I only have wimpy dumbbells).

I’ve been busy enough lately: I went with “newest friend” on Friday night to see World War Z (I think it brings something fresh to the zombie genre: an international setting!), and on Saturday I went climbing with him, which was a mini-adventure in itself as we drove to Wood Green and got public transport from there to Manor House and back again.  In the evening I passed up an opportunity to go to that sci-fi society again — not out of contempt (me?  Perish the thought!), but because the Northern Line was effectively closed all weekend, and I felt I’d earned a rest.  I even had pizza for dinner…

On Sunday I went to Hyde Park (luckily there’s a direct bus) for a picnic with a group of people who, like me, suffer from shyness.  And we actually had a good time, despite the dreary weather, but it was good to come home again; I was actually a little relieved that “newest friend” didn’t want to play tennis after all (though another time would be fine).  And although I didn’t study on Sunday evening, I still did some housework, and actually tidied my room for the first time in ages.

(That deafening roar is the sound of my mother cheering…)

I guess what it comes down to is this: (yes, Dave’s having another epiphany, which he’ll doubtless forget by the time he next thinks to write an entry in his increasingly-neglected blog!)… where was I?  Ah yes — although at times I get anxious and feel like I’m trapped in my Grand Canyon of a rut, at other times I feel like I’ve earned a nice night in, doing my own thing.  I need to strike a balance between the two, and so far I’ve been so over-eager in joining meetup groups that I’ve ended up with clashing events, which has meant I’ve had to decide what to attend and what not, and indeed what nights I need to do nothing social at all, and just unwind!

I said before that I recognised the gilded cage I’d created for myself, but it’s good to retreat in there once in a while, and not feel obligated to spread myself around every single day.  After all, something would have to give, and I doubt my employers would be too happy if I stopped coming to work just so I could spend more time socialising, studying and playing games — though if I could get paid to do that… no, that’s a stupid thought, it’d never happen.  And even if it did, I’d want a break every now and then, wouldn’t I?

Why, even if I got paid to do this job, I’d need an occasional break to do some paperwork… oh, wait a minute — uh huh huh huh, is that what they call it now, ooh Matron, that’s what she said, etc. etc.!

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And so it begins, pt. 94

skulhedface

This is not my mother following her operation (or the surgeon), it’s a gratuitous Gwar reference

Before I get on to the “career prospects” part of this post, I’d better summarise some recent events.  First of all, no, I didn’t see her again, and it’s her loss of course, because I’m awesome.  (Yeah, maybe she meant to get in touch with me but couldn’t, blah blah…)  Secondly, my mother has now undergone the operation she intended to have before Christmas, and is back in Worthing recuperating, for which my grandmother is proving invaluable.  She’s also advised me to continue making the most of my life up here in London, and not to worry about coming to visit her until later (since she won’t be able to go climbing, or even drive for a couple of weeks!), and rather than interpret this as reverse psychology, I’m going to do as she says (for a change) and keep going to interesting meetup groups.  Thirdly, my “newest friend” (I really need to find a better name for him, but somehow it’s stuck, hasn’t it?) wants to move in here, since two people are moving out, but the one in the cheaper room isn’t going yet and doesn’t have a date set, so he’s outta luck for now.

And so on to the main point of the post: today I officially joined an IT agency that also trains you up so that you’re fit to be employed.  I’d visited them back in 2006, when I was still working as a temp for my current employer (but back when I was in HR) and hoping to get back into science.  I just wanted to find out if I could get a job in IT to tide me over until returning to university to do a PhD, but they insisted that I’d need to commit, in terms of both money and time, so I didn’t pursue that line of enquiry any further (it would have been hard to work and attend classes, but impossible to not work and afford both their fees and my rent!).

Recently, however, I decided to try them again, and in a preliminary interview they told me it’d cost less than I thought (still a few grand), and that I could study online in the evenings; they also reckoned I’d do well in their “Network Professional Programme” training course, having already become A+ qualified and studied MCSE and Exchange courses in 2010.  The guy invited me back for a proper interview, where it would be established whether I would be a worthwhile investment on their part (since they make their money not through training but from the finder’s fee for getting someone employed), and so I took this afternoon off in order to go to Liverpool Street, in a smart suit I bought at the weekend.  Nearly didn’t make it in time, but I was wise enough to call ahead when I realised I was going to be slightly late, and they didn’t mind…

I was nervous about this interview (due to it, er, being an interview), but it all went surprisingly well: the guy (a different one than before) reckons I’ve got potential as a computer tech, that I know the basics and that I’m eager to learn and work in IT, and so was quite willing to let me join the current crop of students!  It’s a lot of money, and I hope it’ll prove to have been worth it, but if they can’t find me a job right away once I complete the course and pass the necessary exams, they’ll start paying back my fees in monthly instalments until either I’ve got my money back or they’ve found me an IT job.

Undoubtedly I’ll have to start at the bottom (Tier 1 tech support: “Have you turned it off and on again?”), but I’m willing to do that — Confucius say, you can’t climb a ladder to the top unless first of all you step on the bottom rung… or something along those lines.  Besides, it’s not the money I’m fussed about (though earning enough to continue living in the manner to which I’m accustomed would be preferable), it’s having a job I enjoy and in which I use my brain and my skills, which, let’s face it, ain’t admin in the long run.  It’s also not beyond the realms of possibility that I can move closer to wherever the job is (and maybe move in with “newest friend” to boot, since he might be getting a permanent job soon), as I’m not tied to Barnet by anything other than hatred of the corrupt local council…

So here we go: finally, my IT career prospects begin in deadly earnest.  It’s a pity I can’t get into programming, but the guy at the agency (the first one, not the interview guy) said that companies hiring programmers are looking exclusively at new graduates, not career-changers like me.  Once again I regret not only my choice of university but also my choice of degree course, not to mention my own Luddite-esque desire to stick with my old Amstrad CPC 464 instead of embracing change in the 1990s.

290px-Amstrad_CPC464

Curse you for not being an Amiga!

Then again, computers were very different beasts back in 1995 (my school only had $DEITY-damned Win3.1 machines, which honestly made 95 and 98 seem wonderful by comparison!), and they just didn’t inspire me the way they do today.  The turning point in my IT-focused life may well have happened on the same night as… well, I’ll talk about that another day — and perhaps when I finally succeed in IT, I’ll also succeed in… the other thing!

———

What’s that?  You want to see the Gwar video I got the framegrab from?  You are never satisfied, are you?  (Moon on a Stick, etc.)  Oh, all right, here you go — it’s from the movie Skulhed Face (which certainly isn’t on YouTube as well, no sir), and features the eponymous villain, with a song from the album This Toilet Earth

The waiting game

Lois: Oh, hi, Chris, how was school?
Chris: It was great — I met a girl, Mom.
Lois: That’s wonderful, honey.
Chris: I’m gonna go upstairs and alternate between hopeful excitement and suicidal pessimism!
Family Guy (season 10 episode 13, “Tom Tucker: The Man and His Dream”)

ForeverAlone

One day I won’t need this icon any more, $DEITY willing…

The good news is that I met someone at the weekend.  The bad news is that I don’t know if I’ll ever see her again, or indeed whether she feels anything for me other than a bland sort of friendship.

Ah, that’s got the readership’s attention, hasn’t it?  Has your hero Dave-ros finally found someone special?  Well, er… the best I can say is “TBC”.

As part of my drive to get out of the house and socialise more, I went on Saturday evening to a pub south of the river for a science fiction gathering, feeling rather like I was a student again (remember I said Meetup.com was a bit like Freshers’ Fayre?).  I have to say, I’m in two minds about going back: never have I felt so worryingly normal!  And I don’t mean I fitted in with the crowd, I mean they were… well, weirder and dorkier than me (yes, there exists phase space for this configuration point), loud to the point of “annoying woman at work”, and in some cases considerably overweight.

(I know fat people aren’t “evil”, but considering the work I’ve done to lose weight (to say nothing of the remarkable changes my mother has made in her own life), it seems somehow wrong to be that large and do nothing about it!  I’m not talking “curvy” here, which is no problem, but “flowing over the edge of the pub seat” — what about their health?)

But in the midst of this carnival of people who don’t seem to have heard words like “deodorant”, “indoor voice” and “Slimfast”, I encountered an attractive Oriental woman, who seemed quite happy to talk to me for ages, even after a stereotypical “trying to talk to a girl” nerd swaggered up and started going on about ships.  Indeed, she didn’t mention having a boyfriend at all (unless I misheard at one point!), and revealed that all her friends were marrying off and leaving London as well.  She’d even been to the Grand Canyon, like me…

She’s of English birth, but I won’t hold that against her (nor the fact that she’s from “oop North” originally), because even though I said I was done with English women, she’s of exotic heritage and so doesn’t count for the purposes of this self-denial!

And here, ladies and gentlemen, we see the depth and breadth of Dave’s self-delusion

I got her full name before I left, so I could “friend” her on Facebook (yes, I know I should have asked for her mobile number, but still).  Alas, she’s joined the legion of people who I’ve friended only for it to remain forever at “friend request sent”, not knowing whether that means she’s said “no” and Facebook doesn’t tell me, or just not clicked “yes” yet.  She did respond when I wrote to her through the Meetup.com website, but only really to say she would be busy next (this) week and so couldn’t meet me again (a not unfamiliar brush-off), though she did say it was “good” to meet me.  I wrote back and said it was okay, let her know my mobile number just in case, and wished her a good week…

So here I am in limbo, not knowing if I’ve got a chance or not.  If nothing else, I suppose I at least know the way forward now: keep going to these societies, and try to find a lonely thirtysomething Oriental woman who is also fluent in English (or American English).  Of course I want to meet this one again, because she’s a geek like me and enjoys science fiction (and maybe she’ll lend me her Battlestar Galactica (remake) DVDs?), and if not to date her then to add her to my worryingly-small circle of local friends… but right now, the ball’s in her court.

Patience is the thing I need — either to find someone special, or to find out if this particular person is as special as I hope.  It often takes ages for me to reconnect with friends I’ve made (“newest friend” finally arranged to meet me at the Castle about two weeks after I first gave him my number!), and some people are more disorganised than me (again, yes, that phase space actually exists).

After all, almost exactly a year ago I got myself overwrought wondering if an American thirtysomething I’d met at a dating site was interested in me, if she was going to write back, if I’d upset her by something I’d said… admittedly in her case it may only have been delaying the inevitable, since I wasn’t flirtatious enough on the phone to get to the next stage.  Some women are attractive enough that they have to set a series of tests for any potential boyfriend, just to screen out the losers; perhaps I should feel gratified that I got that far with her (mainly by the simple expedient of being a vegetarian), but it always sucks when you build your hopes up only to see them dashed.

So, for now, the search continues — at least now, in June 2013, it’s begun in earnest!  Maybe I shouldn’t be looking for a long-term relationship (or even to “get lucky” ) during this period of putting my life back together… but when have I ever done the right or sensible thing regarding affairs of the heart?

An emotional rollercoaster

CorpseBride

This is literally the only film ever made with the word “bride” or “wedding” in the title that I can bear to watch

On Saturday I pretty much crossed the entire bipolar spectrum as I attended the wedding of my “female best friend”.  Now, I didn’t have any problem when “other female best friend” got married in early 2012, partly because she only had family for the actual ceremony and partly because “female best friend” has always been somehow closer to me, more like a genuine little sister.  This occasion was more like the wedding of my old American roommate’s little sister back in 2007, and here’s why: the whole “how they met” story being recited at the reception, which served to remind me that I’ve never met anyone that way, even for a relationship that didn’t end in marriage.  Indeed, the closest I can get to this whole concept is my chance meeting with “newest friend” last year, and I’m hardly likely to marry him, even if the law changes in this country the way George Takei is hoping it will!

It’s worth noting, however, that my spirits were lifted (uh huh huh huh, again) by the end of the day, as I became acquainted — or perhaps that should be reacquainted — with “female best friend’s” other friends, young ladies I’d met before but never really gotten to know before.  Indeed one, “female best friend’s” oldest friend, kept hugging and comforting me, and even danced with me during the reception (I think we upstaged the newlyweds — sorry if you’re reading, “female best friend”!), almost as though she sensed I was down and needed cheering up.  But no, she’s not “the one” — for one thing, she’d be rather more likely to make use of the aforementioned change in the law!

Another friend, to my shame, I hadn’t recalled at all, but it turned out to be fortuitous for her that I was organising a taxi to take me back to the main city station later than every other Londoner had left to get a connecting train from the village’s pokey little station, because it meant I was able to bring her purse to her, and still arrive in time for the last train that got back to the Smoke before the Tube shut down!  She turned out to be as interested in local politics as me (albeit not from Barnet, so she was shocked to hear about the ways our corrupt Tory betters are trying to screw over the disabled for a profit), and we did puzzles on the train home, together with “good housemate” (more about him later).  No, she’s not my type, but she’s perfectly nice, and I certainly need all the friends I can get…

Because I think the reason that I felt so much more cheerful during the reception (once the speeches were over) than the ceremony is simply this: I need more friends and social interaction.  Perhaps this is why I enjoyed my holiday in America and felt such black despair when I came back to Blighty (though the jet lag and appalling weather may also have played their part): I spent two weeks in the company of 13 other people (including the guide), rising to 16 if you count another group travelling to the same places as us, and I come home to my usual mundane life of staying in most nights, and my only real social contact (aside from the occasions I get to see “newest friend”) is with the people at work.

There’s also the consideration that the worst place for a single person, especially one pessimistic about their chances of ever finding someone, is surrounded by a lot of happy couples, or people who have already paired off and so aren’t “on the market”, and talk about their mundane married lives, which still seem enticing and jealousy-inducing to someone who hasn’t even been in a long-term relationship before.  So what it comes down to is, I need to get out more.

(Yes, that earthquake you just felt was the biggest penny in the world finally dropping, thanks for your sarcasm!)

I’ve already begun this process: there’s a website called Meetup.com (I wonder if they’ll give me credit for this blatant plug) which lists all sorts of clubs and gatherings that have been organised, especially here in London; I’m going to a sci-fi society on Saturday, and I’ve joined a couple of others to see where they lead.  Honestly, it’s like Freshers’ Fayre all over again — except this time I won’t join a society and then let my interest peter out, as I did with (of all things) a climbing society at my alma mater!  Wow, sixteen years before I took it up as a hobby, I tried it once as a student and didn’t seem to enjoy it… my, but how we change.

There’s one other thing to mention about the weekend, and it was a bit of a revelation.  I’ve spoken here before about “good housemate”, but I may not have made it clear that he’s the same guy from this spiel, who used to insult me by claiming (variously) that I’m a heterosexual virgin, a practising homosexual, and “banging my Chinese girlfriend” (I was actually meeting my Japanese female friend for language exchange, so there were at least three things wrong with that one!).  Don’t hold it against him because he still let me stay at his flat in early 2012 when I was “between” homes, and he was right about me not cleaning the house enough (something I’ve rectified in this household).

Anyway, I’ve always thought, despite his insults, that he was a hoopy frood — a really amazingly-together guy, who knew what he was doing and had a plan.  It seems I got this impression purely from the fact that he spent the five years we lived at Caledonian Road saving up for a deposit, because in fact he doesn’t really want to do anything other than the things he enjoys, and I suspect the only reason he gets more girls than me is that he’s more confident approaching them (and a couple of years younger, and has his own place, and is slightly better looking…), not because he’s looking for his future wife.  In fact, he even admitted to me and the other friend on the train home that he has trouble forming emotional bonds with people, and that he might be a borderline Asperger’s case.

Now, I know I shouldn’t feel schadenfreude… and I don’t in this case, I actually wish I could help him out (I have offered to go climbing with him, but he reckons he needs to lose a lot of weight first — the penalty for quitting smoking — though we may be on for badminton).  However, I do feel a bit better about my own life, because I’ve actually had plans to change my life over the past few years, even if they’ve so far come to nought.  Oh, there have been times I’ve felt happy in my rut, sitting at home playing video games and using the Internet to deal with my (ahem) frustration, and while that may be okay occasionally, I don’t want to end up that way again, because it’s a false happiness that occasionally makes me scream in horror when I see, fleetingly, the gilded cage I’ve built around myself.

(Ooh, wasn’t that poetic?  No?  Ugh, please yourselves…)

There have been other times I’ve tried to change my life, and too often I’ve given up in anguish — which is why I won’t be wasting time with speed-dating or sites like Match.com or Lovestruck (which seem to be about 90% male anyway, so any woman of even passing attractiveness gets swamped by messages from blokes, and shy guys like me disappear into the background noise), but instead trying to do things that actually interest me.  Maybe I won’t meet the girl of my dreams (though I’d be disappointed if I didn’t get any action!), but at least I can do something different, and maybe have more interesting stuff to talk about here.

A (perhaps worrying) postscript: I enjoyed alcohol at the reception rather more than I have in the rest of my life, and indeed got quite a pleasant buzz from two glasses of champagne, instead of screwing my face up like I usually do.  So, it seems I’m well and truly off the wagon at last, but is 35 the wrong time to be boozing, and will this undo any of the benefits I’ve gained through exercise?  Will loosening up and having fun be the death of my liver?  Are caffeinated sugar (or worse, aspartme) drinks any healthier?  Or is it just a case of “all things in moderation”?

Getting it together

rocky_steps

Well, I’m not quite there yet, but working on it

No, not like that (unfortunately), but I have been getting my head together this past week, and sorting things out in my life.  For example, on Wednesday I had a haircut… which doesn’t seem so remarkable until you consider the facts that (a) I usually insist on getting it cut by a bloke in Worthing, and tried to get home to visit my folks in time for an appointment on Saturday, only to discover he wasn’t even there that weekend, and (b) most barbers, along with many other types of shop, bizarrely close at around the time we 9-to-5ers get out of work.  Seriously, who gives barbers the bulk of their custom during the daytime?  Can unemployed people afford to get their hair cut regularly?

Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to put my hairstyle to use yet, as all week I’ve been busy either going climbing with “newest friend” or seeing my personal trainer.  And even though “newest friend” wasn’t able to go to the cinema tonight, due to a family commitment, I didn’t have the chance to go out on the town and work my mojo because my “smart” clothes need to be clean for tomorrow… when “female best friend” is getting married.

(Are you fed up with my weird names for everyone in my life yet?  Good, in that case I’ll continue!)

How do I feel about my quasi-little sister getting married?  Well, only “jealous” in the way that a father would be sad that his little girl was all grown up and flying the nest.  I do need some new friends, after all, because all my old friends are pairing off and having lives of their own, and “newest friend” is only one bloke, with problems of his own!  However, I’m glad that I’ve been able to get her married off to a guy that I hope will take good care of her.

It got me thinking, though: I never got together with her, and it’s probably because I made a vow, when I first moved into my student flat for my post-graduate course in 2003, that I wouldn’t “try” for any of the girls I was living with (or for “other female best friend”, who was on the same course as me and “female best friend” and lived in a nearby building), because if it went wrong we’d still have to live together, and I felt better being their “big brother”.  This is something I wish I’d thought of for my trip to America, because I would have saved myself a lot of misery (and probably putting one young lady off being my Facebook friend… yeah, serious business, first world problems, thank you for that) if I’d done the same there, at least with the females I was on tour with.  After all, I should have known we’d have time to go out in the cities and meet American women (who have always been my objective anyway), and that the people on my tour wouldn’t be my whole world forever!

On that note, I’ve also finally begun putting up my holiday pictures on Facebook (yeah, serious first world business problems, whatever), and, perhaps more importantly, processing all the receipts I saved from the trip and (thanks to online banking) putting the amounts into the budgeting spreadsheet I’ve been keeping since I moved out of Caledonian Road.  Needless to say, what with the helicopter ride at the Grand Canyon, the shooting range at Las Vegas, and buying drinks for already-drunk girls at Hermosa Beach (which represented the closest I came to “getting lucky” so far in my entire life), together with the usual rent and food bills, I’ve ended May 2013 slightly in the red, but I still have plenty in the bank…

Which I might need soon, because I’ve asked for a consultation at a London-based IT training agency — I spurned them back in 2006 when I found out they’d want me to commit to getting into IT, and not just do it as a sideline, because back then I still held out hope of getting back into science; now, however, I’m so sick of working in admin for all these years that I’ll jump at the chance to escape!  Hopefully the courses I’ve done in MCSE, C++ etc. will stand me in good stead, and I won’t need to break the bank getting retrained for something I already partially understand.

Y’know, at work I have to start up and log into a whole host of laptops every 60 days, to stop them “dropping off the domain” (i.e. the domain server deciding they’ve been gone for too long and disabling their computer accounts, so they can’t connect to the network any more… you’d know this kind of thing if you were me!); the other day I encountered a particularly annoying and slow one, and wondered (or more precisely, fervently hoped) that this would be the last time I ever logged into it… wouldn’t that be a wonderful thought, that I could be months or even weeks away from the escape I have so long sought?  Yeah, fat chance, I know, but one day I will hopefully be in such a position.

One final thought, and it’s about girls: yes, I know, but bear with me, I may have had an epiphany.  (Uh huh huh huh… that joke sounds ruder in British English, trust me…)  All these years I’ve had this mental block, thinking I somehow don’t have the “right” to even chat up girls, and that I should only ever be friends with them and let any kind of relationship magically appear out of nowhere, and it’s only every other bloke in the entire world who’s allowed to chat women up, fail over and over again, and finally succeed.  Well, it’s all due to an incident in February 1997 when my (ahem) friends at university, having gotten me quite drunk, told me that a female friend of theirs fancied me… and then told me I was being “desperate” when I tried to chat her up, telling me I shouldn’t be trying to get with someone I didn’t even know.  And my old school friend also told me I shouldn’t hope to “go out” with someone I had just met, apparently disregarding the American idea that you can “ask out” someone you want to get to know, not just someone you already know well!

So, it occurred to me, when I was feeling down on Wednesday evening and getting my hair cut, that I shouldn’t let such stupidity get in my way and rob me of my confidence.  Yeah, maybe I’ll just make a nuisance of myself, but so what?  I’d rather be a nuisance than a complete non-entity, and it’s high time I learned how to chat up women, instead of sitting at home feeling like I don’t even deserve to try.  This mental block has trapped me for many years, and it’s high time it got a good dose of Exploding Gel… sorry, I’ve been playing Batman: Arkham City lately.

And that’s my current situation: I don’t know what’ll happen next, but at least I’ve escaped the utter misery I felt last week.  Unfortunately my jet lag is still causing me problems, as I keep nodding off at work (though admittedly it is a very dull job, and shifting boxes ironically helps me stay awake), but then at night I can’t sleep for more than two hours at a time without waking up!  I certainly hope it’s jet lag and not some other condition, like stress…

Don’t worry, I’ll find something else to write about soon, and not writing it after midnight will hopefully ensure it’s a bit more coherent than the drivel you’ve just read.  What’s that?  A description of my holiday?!  Oh, honestly, you want the Moon on a stick!

Moon on a Stick

Yes, this again, stop complaining!