Monthly Archives: May 2014

Revolting developments

When are people going to learn?  Democracy doesn’t work!
–Homer Simpson, The Simpsons (S7E23, “Much Apu About Nothing”)

lc_nf

Obvious joke alert: one’s got no soul… and the other was operated by Ray Alan

The people of my wretched country have spoken at the polls, and it’s not looking good.  Not only have crypto-fascists UKIP had far more success than they deserve, but the corrupt Conservative councils of Barnet and Bexley have retained power, and in all probability learned nothing from the people they ostensibly serve…

I voted in the local and Euro elections on Thursday, but as I voted Green, my vote may well have been wasted.  Unfortunately a lot of people in this country automatically vote for either the Tories or Labour, because “that’s what we’ve always done”, but amazingly UKIP have done well for themselves, both in local elections and in terms of MEPs — which of course is what they want, so they can take us out of Europe.

(The BNP?  They’re irrelevant now, as they should be, because they’re not even crypto-fascists, they’re brazen about it!)

Okay, what does Dave-ros think about UKIP, the new and exciting, controversial party in Britain that wants us out of the EU and for decisions affecting Britain to be made only in Britain?  Well, I think they’re a bunch of fruitcakes with no real direction beyond the above, and I would be very worried if they ever got real power in this country (for one thing, they supposedly want to end all paid leave) — but this should be regarded as a wake-up call to the politicians from the stuffy old mainstream parties: we need a proper discussion on immigration!  Especially since the current system, introduced by Labour and modified by the ConDems, clearly doesn’t work… what with a Japanese man facing deportation despite being married to a British woman who is pregnant with his child, because arcane bureacratic rules don’t take account of most of their income and regard them as being too poor to stay together.

Yes, in this country we deport decent people (e.g. asylum seekers who are told that Iraq is “safe now”), thanks to years of Labour and the ConDems, yet we welcome rich Russian oligarchs with open arms, and let them buy up our national assets (okay, a London paper and a football team, but they still count!).  Indeed, here in Barnet the Tories have the attitude that they’d much rather have rich foreign businessmen buying houses than mere plebs, and want all benefit-receivers out of the borough, even those who genuinely need them, such as the elderly and disabled.  One of the first parts of Barnet council to be privatised was social care, and not only did the private company (Your Choice) not improve service, it didn’t even make a profit and needed to be bailed out with a couple of million pounds of taxpayers’ money… after a YEAR!

bwian_coleman

Hey hey hey, goodbye!

Mind you, even though the Tories maintained control here in Barnet, there was one good piece of news: the political career of Brian Coleman, the thuggish ex-parking chief who attacked a harmless café owner when she photographed him parking illegally, is now officially over: he lost his seat in Totteridge (and didn’t hang around for the result).  Good riddance to a thoroughly unlikeable man, who will hopefully disappear into utter obscurity for all time.  I don’t wish him dead, I just wish him gone.

But what are we left with?  Well, as in Bexley (home of the Bexley is Bonkers blog of Malcolm Knight), the Tories maintain control in an area they’re ruining for the ordinary people, and really screwing up social services (in Bexley they’re “proud” to be paying as little as possible to social workers, thanks to zero-hour contracts).  Things may have been shaken up for MEPs, but locally, things just seem to be the same as ever… and when the choice is between the Tories (current idiots), Labour (previous idiots) and UKIP (just idiots), suddenly I find myself wanting to run off to California.  They may have the same political problems, but at least the weather would be nice…

Time grows short

Let me break down my day for you: I’m up at 7:00.  From 7:00 to 7:08, I brush, shave, shower, <parp>.  From 7:08 to 7:09, I frantically eat Grape-Nuts.  Then I have until 7:45 to take out the trash, mow the lawn, and feed Klaus his omelette.  Drive Steve to school and pick up Roger’s dry cleaning, park, coffee, desk.  9:11 to 9:12, think about 9/11.
–Stan Smith, American Dad! (S7E01, “Hot Water”)

ss_ff

Stan Smith from “American Dad!” has no trouble telling the time, thanks to his Flava Flav clock… (and no, I didn’t make this animated GIF)

I always seem to end up with several things happening at once, and not enough time for them all to happen in… and I don’t have time right now to rewrite that opening sentence so that it scans properly, so tough, that’s how it is!  At least events have conspired this week to ensure I’m not short of time after all: “best mate” wasn’t available to climb tonight, and the Japanese girl I met on Monday hasn’t texted back to say she’d like to meet after work tomorrow, just before I have to attend a salsa class, though Friday will still hopefully see me hanging out with my yoga buddies after my personal training session.

No, my timing issue relates to the coming months: my American roommate’s brother has invited me over to visit the family in Michigan during the summer, but before August as that’s when they’re moving to Washington (state) to be near the daughter of the family, who’s about to give birth.  I’m hoping money won’t be a problem if I can get cheap tickets (certainly cheaper than the ridiculously expensive ones I got to Los Angeles last year, which almost doubled the cost of my holiday!), but how I time things will be critical.

As you’re probably aware from how often I’ve mentioned it here, my current job is coming to an end soon, which will leave me free to accept my IT agency’s first offer of a short-term unpaid placement, followed by a “proper” job in IT once I’m suitably experienced.  However, the issue is, will I have the time?  My workplace may be keeping me on past June and well into July (as the start of June is when they’ll start my notice period, which will be the same number of weeks as the number of years I’ve worked there, i.e. nearly eight), and if that’s the case, my problem may well be solved: I can take my last few days’ annual leave during this period, see my “second family” one more time, and be back for my career change without problem (and probably without having missed any work).  Alternately, however, my workplace might kick me to the kerb during June, meaning I’d have to tell my agency that I’m going away for a week before I can do their thing…

I’ve been to see my “second family” in Michigan several times since their eldest was my roommate during the 1998-9 academic year, always invited by roomie’s younger brother; apart from 2001, it always seems to be when time is tight.  In 2003 I went to visit for two weeks just before I first came to London for my postgrad course, at around the same time that my mother and grandmother went off on holiday.  In 2006 I went over for a week to attend younger brother’s wedding, which happened to have been arranged for the exact weekend that I was supposed to be moving to Caledonian Road with “good housemate” and “female best friend”, who had to move my boxes of stuff without me (though I helped move more things upon my return).  Oh, I remember enjoying that trip in particular, and almost crying on the flight home, as I couldn’t face what lay ahead… and then in 2007 I was invited over for another week, this time for the younger sister’s wedding, just as my job in HR (for the same employer I have now) was changing into a new form.

Oh, and on that note, earlier in 2006 I went to the Lake District with various friends, including “good housemate”, “female best friend”, “other female best friend”, “other female best friend’s then-boyfriend” (the guy with the Jack Russell) and two other friends of “other female best friend’s then-boyfriend”… got all that?  Good — this trip coincided with me being made permanent in HR, which occurred in late July, a date which forms the reset point for my annual leave year.  I wonder if I’ll still be working for my current employer when I reach the eighth anniversary of that day… I may have to be, if I want to make use of my remaining annual leave dates in order to visit Michigan one last time without having to make my potential new IT employer wait!

At least I’ve already passed the exams I need to, and can study Server 2008 at my leisure — though annoyingly the jolly Northern English bloke who does most of the videos is occasionally replaced by the annoying Canadian bloke from the Win7 module whenever they need to talk about the features introduced in Server 2008 R2… oh, sorry, you’ve lost interest?

Coming back stronger

mnm

This guy knows a thing or two about going through bad stuff and coming out of it stronger than before… or so I gather from his lyrics

You didn’t think a little thing like a stomach virus could stop me posting in my blog, did you?  (Why would it need to, when general laziness is perfectly capable!)  I’m all better, and held my own at personal training on Friday (and note that I’d missed the week before that as well).  Hey, I was even able to wield a hedge trimmer this morning, on the hottest day of the year thus far, and have enough left this evening to do some exercises, clean the lounge and change the kitchen bin bag… well, yes, nothing special for a real man, but pretty damned amazing for a complete wimp like me.

Mind you, I was physically weak on Thursday, when my folks came to London to stay for a couple of days; although I had no trouble helping them get from Victoria to their hotel in Marble Arch, walking along Oxford Street visiting the shops really took its toll, and I ended up needing to sit down.  Yeah, for once I needed to sit down because my mother and grandmother were dragging ME around, what a turnaround from childhood!  I suspect it’s because I was walking around the Science Museum with a friend on the Saturday I got sick, and thus couldn’t replenish my tired muscles on that occasion (in addition to being almost bedridden for a day or so), though it could also have been the usual male response to accompanying females on a shopping excursion…

In household terms, I’ve recovered from two malaises (or whatever the plural of that word is… are?): firstly, I’ve stopped not talking to my drummer housemate, something that stupidly began two weekends ago, ironically just after I’d been to a seminar on confidence; and secondly, for the first time since moving out of Caledonian Road in January 2012, I’ve put posters on my walls.  This includes my old Blues Brothers poster, which I’ve had since 1997, and which I’ve put up at some point in just about every room I’ve had since then, so naturally it’s rather battered and I could do with a new one (possibly framed).

Of course, the best reason for feelin’ good today has been the weather — a near-cloudless sky, and temperatures well over 20 degrees (Celsius, obviously).  To think, a month or so ago I was thoroughly sick of it being cold all the time… I’ve been remembering the summers of my youth, especially the late 1980s and early 1990s, and indeed reliving them by replaying old Amstrad games by an open window.  Yeah, I can play better games now (admittedly I’m replaying a game from 2009, Prototype, which seems a bit primitive by today’s standards), but hey, whatever.

There’s always time for a bit of nostalgia… or at least there used to be, back in my day…

On the mend

His palms are sweaty, knees weak, arms are heavy
There’s vomit on his sweater already, mom’s spaghetti
–Eminem, “Lose Yourself” (8 Mile soundtrack)

em_rec

Yes, I know this is a different Eminem album, please don’t point it out

Well, I’ve made it through a nasty feverish period, feeling alternately hot and cold, sweating and shivering, and above all weak, unsteady, nauseous and frankly p***ed off that I’ve managed to get sick yet again this year.  But I’m over the worst now, and forcing bland food down my gullet… and, most importantly, I’ve lost some weight but (hopefully) not any muscular definition!

(Suffice to say, Wii Fit Plus was worried that I’d lost weight too fast… but I’ll doubtless be rebouding over the next few days, and there’s no “I’ve been ill and I’m better now” option when it demands to know why your weight loss has gone into reverse!)

Despite my general improvement, I’ve had to take the day off work (well, yesterday, because I’m still writing this after midnight) to recover, simply because I can barely eat anything at the moment: on Sunday night I couldn’t even manage a whole bowl of soup, and only a couple of bites of two halves of a bread roll with non-dairy spread on them.  Today I’ve been a bit better, having a cup of tea and a Marmite roll without puking (not like when I was a child and used to barf after licking Marmite off the knife… and then go right back to the crackers I’d made and eat them anyway, possibly while listening to a He-Man story tape), as well as crisps and — amazingly — chocolate.  The Lucozade probably wasn’t wise, however, as what I gained in electrolytic fluid (and it wasn’t the isotonic variety anyway), I may have lost in general stomach upsetness.  Still, white rice for dinner, followed by fruit juice and dark chocolate, and I’m still alive…

Hell, I’ve even been able to clean the downstairs bathroom (which I would have done at the weekend if not for, y’know, chundering), and also give the upstairs one a scrub as well (since I probably messed it up at the weekend due to, y’know, ralphing), even though I should be taking things easy and not over-exerting myself!

Tomorrow (today?) I intend to return to work, though I’m in two minds about going to any events afterwards, such as a Japanese meetup or yoga; indeed, I wonder how much of the day I’ll be able to get through before being sent home due to still being green about the gills.  We’ll just have to see how I cope with (a) work, (b) food, and (c) the annoying woman… oh, did I mention the time in June 2010 she made me sit in a cold aircon draught when I’d come to work in a T-shirt (due to it being an extremely hot day), in spite of the cold I had at the time (and dwindling supply of snotrags), and I didn’t get to have lunch until around two hours after my usual time, because I was sooo indispensible to her presentation for a bunch of teenage oiks?

No, Dave, let it go… save your strength for Friday and another meeting with your personal trainer!

It’s all happening again!

Oh dear, another aspect of 2010 is repeating itself for me: there’s studying Windows 7, going on dates, playing Mass Effect 2… and puking up.  Back then it happened in early February, and involved me spending around 24 hours from Sunday dinner time (I hadn’t even had any dinner, which was perhaps fortunate) vomiting and… well, otherwise making use of the toilet, to the point where I stopped bothering to go to bed in between bouts, and “good housemate” asked me if I could keep the noise down.  I couldn’t even keep water down, and as a result dehydrated quite badly before I got on top of things.

I remained ill for much of the ensuing week, needing isotonic drinks to keep up my fluid levels, missing four days’ work and having to wait until Wednesday before I could eat anything significant.  That baked potato on Thursday was very welcome, however, and by Friday I felt able to return to work, though I still took the morning off to check with the quack, as recommended by “other female best friend”, who had been through a similar experience.  I was feeling weak as I went in, but I made it through an entire half-day’s work before coming back home again for the weekend to recover.

Fortunately today, almost exactly four years and three months later, it’s not been quite as bad: it’s after midnight and I feel like the worst is over.  Of course, whether I’ll be able to keep any water down tonight is another matter entirely, and I’m wondering if it’s even worth brushing my teeth a second time… but I wonder what caused it: I met an old friend to wander around the Science Museum, and he’d had a stomach bug, but then I also ate pizza, fizzy pop and chocolate for dinner this evening, after having perhaps not eaten particularly well beforehand, so perhaps this is a reaction to malnutrition rather than a virus or bacteria.

This year I’ve passed Windows 7, I’m going on dates and chatting up women, and I’m… well, probably doing just as well in Mass Effect 2 as I was back in 2010; my life now is much, much better than it was back then, and I’m hoping that my strength now will enable me to get through this far better than I did when I was weak and out-of-shape.  I lost a stone at that time, whereas I’m losing weight in a more healthy manner at the moment (though perhaps this will also help a bit, as long as I don’t lose any musculature).

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to curl up shivering in bed (losing internal fluids really does make you cold!) and hope I don’t need to get up again during the night… yeah, that’d be nice…

Get confident, stupid!

I wanted to buy a book on assertiveness, but the shopkeeper wouldn’t sell it to me.
–Me, a few years ago*

drill_sergeant

Maybe I need R. Lee Ermey to shout abuse at me until I feel more confident… which would be like hitting a paraplegic until they regain the ability to walk

As you’re no doubt aware from the amount I go on about it, I have a problem with confidence, being assertive and standing up to jerks.  Well, it’s high time I overcame my shyness, because let’s be honest: I’m not “too polite” to ask fat people not to sit next to me on the bus, or noisy people on the Tube to shut up, I’m too cowardly!

To this end, I attended two events on Saturday.  First, I saw my dating coach once again (the one whose professional name was inspired by the Joker’s female sidekick), and rather than just listening to my tales of woe regarding my recent failed romances, she taught me some useful skills for asserting myself.  For example, standing with legs shoulder-width apart (my personal trainer would be proud), with big toes pointing down, shoulders back (I do tend to hunch, possibly thanks to sitting over computers 24/7) and chin up.  Plus, I mustn’t keep nodding or bowing my head humbly all the time, and must instead maintain eye contact (which will apparently help freak out the bus people), as well as speaking in a more serious tone than my usual goofy, nerdy voice, and making expansive hand gestures.

In fact, I need more often to channel how I behaved towards an IT guy at work — who, having taken away my desktop computer a week before Christmas, has more recently threatened to take away our remaining monitors and thus force us all to use our pathetic laptop screens.  I was almost incandescent with rage at someone who was just doing his job!  And that’s how I should have dealt with my jerkoff housemate when he held the kitchen door closed, instead of rushing past him and trying to ignore his taunts…

The other event, coincidentally hosted by a friend of my dating coach (who has a far more prosaic name), was in a similar vein: body confidence.  We all waved our arms and shouted incoherently, and then paired off to smile and shake hands, or sell each other our chairs, and I think I took away some useful hints from the seminar.  Apart from learning to speak more clearly (not necessarily slowly, but “fast-controlled”), it seems I really need a mirror, so I can spot my bad habits (such as the aforementioned head-bowing) and do something about them, possibly involving some kind of The Prisoner-esque shock therapy.

(No, I don’t have a full-length mirror in my room, and I already spend enough time before my showers flexing my muscles in front of the bathroom mirror… wait, did I just write that?  Well, good, it’s better than being ashamed of my body!)

So, with all that and a friendly interaction with a girl as well (alas, she turned out to have a boyfriend already, but she hasn’t done the Internet equivalent of slapping me in the face and still wants to be friends), I felt pretty good as I headed home… so why is it I immediately clammed up when I got back here and encountered the aforementioned housemate?  He wasn’t even being a jerk (though admittedly it’s hard to tell with him, he’s one of those people who always sound like they’re making fun of you), and I can only compare the situation to souping up a car engine: you think you’ve put it together better than it was before, but when you try to start it up it immediately stalls!

cornholio

Sorry, just trying to lighten the mood with a reference to someone else who needs T.P. for his bunghole

It may have been due to my thinking that our fridge-freezer had died yet again (it hadn’t, or possibly I fixed it shortly afterwards, because it’s now colder than ever), or due to having spoken about him to someone else, or even due to his stupid proscription on spending house kitty money on toilet paper (yes, really, we have to buy our own T.P. and bring it to the crapper!), but I haven’t spoken to him since.  Despite wanting to snap and have it out with him at the time, I feel now like I should apologise for freezing him out: this was an incident not unlike what I once almost did to “good housemate” when I happened to encounter him on Oxford Street in Spring 2011, not long after he’d drunkenly said some obnoxious words to me about (he thought) losing my virginity before I met someone I cared about, and when I was already in a low mood.

However, somehow I doubt my current housemate is shedding any tears over my treatment of him — after all, the only emotions he ever seems to display are smug amusement, sneering condescension (when something goes wrong for me) and, occasionally, annoyance (when something goes wrong for him) — and hey, he never apologised for the kitchen door incident, did he… if anything, he seemed to think I ought to apologise for being such a sourpuss!  Maybe I’m inflicting a new and unfamiliar emotional state upon him, and thus restoring his humanity to some extent… in which case, I’m being as altruistic as the school bullies who tried so very, very hard to help me grow a thicker skin.  Aren’t I a nice person?

Seriously, though, this is a situation I’m going to have to resolve — sometimes he seems nice and reasonable, but mostly I just feel edgy around him, as though he’s secretly laughing at me and all I’ve done to sort myself out since I moved in here.  This is the kind of poisonous atmosphere I had in the final year at Caledonian Road with “bad housemate” (who almost certainly didn’t realise what a see-you-next-Tuesday he was, and would have been baffled if I’d told him), and before that, in Wood Green with the Irish guy (the one with the same birthday as me) who could get very, very angry over really minor things (and who I unfriended on Facebook after he laughed at my depression… yes, I know, first world problems and all that).  I even had a similar issue sharing a room with an American in 1998-9, but he at least had taken me into the bosom of his family, and helped me out considerably, so I tolerated his occasional jerk phases (and I was hardly the best roommate in the world!).

It’s going to be very difficult building up my confidence if I don’t feel safe in my own home, and where better to assert myself?  Then again, in a few months I should be in a nice low-paid IT job, and I’ll probably want to save money by moving somewhere cheaper, possibly with “best mate”… or, hah, I might even meet the girl of my dreams and live in sin — but not until I sort out my confidence, of course.  Thus I have no alternative but to draw the battle line outside my bedroom door…

(* This joke made “female best friend” laugh, and “other female best friend” groan as though it was the worst joke she’d ever heard)