Monthly Archives: June 2014

Last chance to see…

Hi guys — thought I’d better post a quick one before you all forget about me.  I got back from Michigan on Thursday; it was nice to see my old roommate’s family again, but it was almost certainly my last chance to see their Michigan home, as they’re moving to Washington to act as extended family to their daughter, who is making them into grandparents.  As a result, I actually paid attention to my surroundings, and thus located various places (such as the gym) on Google Earth, because I have this incessant, almost OCD-ish need to remember and catalogue these things, don’t I?

It was also, it has to be said, the last time to see two of the family pets I’d grown to love over the years.  One was the blonde half of “Shock and Awe” from this article, who they got just after 9/11 and is now, at nearly 13, limping around and finding it hard to sit down and get up; it was painful to see her so reduced, after having watched her run around frenetically in years past (though I last saw her exactly seven years previously).  It wasn’t quite as bad as seeing what was left of Kisses the dog in the American Dad! episode “Stan’s Best Friend”, but still quite sad, and knowing this would be the last chance I’d ever have to see her, I made sure to pet her a great deal (and she kept offering her paw to me, which was sweet).

The other pet I’ll doubtless never see again was even more amazing: the little tabby cat they had back when I was rooming with their eldest!  I would have first encountered him on (let me see) 19th September 1998, at which point I gather he would have been around one year old; during the ensuring year I was able to play with him (such as getting him to chase me by peering around corners, or teasing him with a ball of paper), and he’s been there every other time I’ve come back to visit, though in 2003 he was more or less exiled to the basement due to the black Labrador the family was training to be in P.A.W.S. at the time being rather over-affectionate towards him (much as he used to clamp his jaws around my neck).  This time, however… well, he was walking very slowly and awkwardly, and never made a sound; he’d apparently fallen down the basement stairs as well!  He spent all his time either curled up somewhere dozing, or staring at me (or the pantry door) in the expectation that I’d feed him one of his numerous daily meals.

(Perhaps he’d achieved a Garfield lifestyle at last: eat, sleep, eat, sleep…)

Hopefully this won’t be the last time I ever see the family — the parents are certainly getting on a bit, but they’re still alive and with-it, and the mother indeed works out (not unlike my own inspirational Mumsy), so I hope they’ve got many more years ahead of them.  The younger son and middle child of the family, who invited me over (I didn’t get to see roomie or little sister this time around), is also continuing to get amazingly buff, and is competing in bodybuilding competitions, but was kind enough to say that I’d made some excellent progress as well.  In addition, he said some very complimentary things about my mother, whose physical improvement (which he’d seen via Facebook) had impressed him… should I try my hand at matchmaking?

Speaking of which, as a test I tried using a certain smartphone dating app, and actually ended up in a textual conversation with (assuming it was real) a 20-year-old girl in a town an hour away.  Unfortunately this was on Tuesday night, when I was coming back on Wednesday evening, and so I didn’t get a chance to see her, since it wouldn’t have been fair on my hosts to drive me there (and presumably back) just on the off-chance of me getting some for once.  What a shame… so I shall have to settle for English women instead.  Bah!

Finally, since I won’t be going abroad any time soon thanks to my work situation (unless I’m on, say, £30,000pa by next year?), this was my last chance to use up the unspent dollars I’d obtained on previous trips, particularly last year.  I have US$29 and loose change, and what did I go and do, I left it in my room (I remembered as I was lugging my bag to the Tube station, but for reasons of time and effort didn’t go back to get it).  Again, in OCD terms this was very annoying, but perhaps I’ll just have to go and turn it back into pounds, and thus have a bit of extra cash… but I will return, America, don’t despair!

P.S. I’ve got plans for a post about thunderstorms, and how, much as with girls, I never seem to get any, even in America these days!

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Prelude to departure, part 2

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I don’t mind having nightmares, if it means I’ve been able to sleep!

I thought I’d better write this tonight, in the probably vain hope that I’ll actually sleep tonight and won’t give up at 7am and get up to write this dreck at that time instead, as happened in the blog post to which this is a sequel.  Once again I’m preparing for a trip to the United States, and I’m tense about the journey, even though this time it should be much easier than before: for example, I’m going somewhere I’ve been several times before, my old roommate’s family home in Fenton, MI, rather than some completely strange place like last year.  I’m also getting picked up at the airport, rather than having to wait ages for a connecting bus to a hotel (I’ll never forget that particular ordeal — I was dead on my feet!).

And yet, as is traditional for me on these occasions, I feel a certain uneasiness: that I’ll get to the airport only to be told I can’t travel for some reason.  It’s ridiculous, because I’ve checked and the visa waiver I got for last year’s trip is valid until next February and can be used for multiple entries into the USA, but just to make sure, I updated my details with them as recommended.  Oh, maybe the flight itself will suck (more than likely, since I wasn’t in time to choose a seat online and so will doubtless end up stuck in the middle of a row), and maybe I’ll have a rerun of my visit to Michigan in 2007, when TWO connecting flights from Detroit got cancelled due to mechanical issues (the third plane they laid on also had a problem, but they took us up in it anyway), but I think I can handle these things — for some reason, the thought of not even being able to get on the initial flight is the worst thing I can imagine right now, because it’d mean I couldn’t see my friends, and my money would be wasted!

A “nice” link to my previous holiday is that local politics in Barnet is once again going through changes just as I’m about to go away.  Last year it was Brian Coleman pleading guilty for attacking a nice café owner, after insisting he was innocent and being protected by the local Conservatives right to the very end; as I said, he’s completely gone after the local elections last month.  However, although we didn’t vote out the Conservatives, the political landscape of Barnet has changed; and yet the council has managed to screw up quite badly, not reorganising its committees to represent the newly-elected proportions of the various political parties, and so technically they aren’t allowed to make any decisions and we thus have no local government.  Brilliant, aren’t they?  Worth every penny…

Perhaps that’s what I’m so worried about: I’ll come back to find rioting, burned-out police cars, water cannons… or maybe everything will just carry on as before, seeing as Capita, who now run almost all our public services in Barnet, do no more than pay lip service to democracy anyway!

(On the flip side, I’m completely unconcerned about my job at another London borough council, because frankly I’ve had too little to do as it is — and the annoying woman will be moving to the new building on 4th July anyway, so I’ll be rid of her for my final few weeks!)

But there’s been problems even closer to home, which is to say, physically inside the building.  My drummer housemate, the guy effectively in charge (in that we pay him to pay our bills), has been relatively all right recently, apart from one particularly nasty incident: he’d moved some washing off a rack (allegedly because it had been there for several days) and left it in a pile on the kitchen table, and the passionate Turkish girl who lives at the back of the house, to whom it belonged, was very unhappy with him for showing this “lack of respect”.  The argument erupted into a screaming match, which touched on issues such as how he hogs the lounge in the evenings (hence we can’t dry washing in there because it gives him a headache), and keeps his drumkit in there, yet he only pays rent for the tiny room in which he sleeps, and whether she should thus have to take turns cleaning the lounge when it’s his sole preserve.  He replied in a similar manner that she should move out because there are plenty of people “better than her” waiting to move in; it’s the only time I’ve seen him truly angry (rather than incredibly smug, snide, or occasionally “sort of” serious), and it was not a pleasant experience.

The whole sorry incident reminded me of how my Irish housemate in 2005-6 used to have screaming rows with his live-in girlfriend, even though they were getting married and going to her native Australia (yes, they got divorced later, though he still lives over there).  I don’t remember my parents getting divorced (indeed, I have no memory of my father whatsoever — hence my desire to track him down later this year), but I imagine it would have felt similar to hear them arguing with each other and just wanting it to be over…

Oh, and Schrödinger’s Fridge has failed again — or rather, the fridge part of it has, not the freezer (so, much like the cat after which I’ve blithely named it, it really is dead and alive at the same time!).  The landlady’s finally ordering a replacement (I assume the aforementioned drummer housemate vetoed it the last time), but even though I hoped to be away for this, she’s insisted on getting it delivered when I’m back… I’ve been either eating out or buying ready-made stuff to eat for the past few days, though this is more because I’m going away and so don’t want to leave anything behind that will “go off”.  This at least happens to me even if I’m only going to Worthing to visit my folks, so it’s no big deal!

(And right on cue, our Virgin Media cable Internet connection has a hissy fit for absolutely no reason — enough of these unicast maintenance ranging errors, I’m going to have to take charge of the connection from my drummer housemate when I return, so I can call them out on their useless service!)

Anyway, that’s that; what else is there to say before I go away?  Hey, it’s only a week, I’ve failed to post in this blog for longer periods than that, even without the excuse of a holiday!  But don’t worry, this is (once again) not the end of “Dave-ros Lives!” — I still need to write about various things (I’m planning a “cool things” post about Duke Nukem), and keep you up to date with my self-improvement progress.  To put it another way:

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I’LL BE BACK!

Am I OCD-ish?

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“I’m not crazy; my mother had me tested!”

Yay, it’s time for a new category here at Dave-ros Towers: “Self-analysis” (uh huh huh huh, “anal”), because my melancholic navel-gazing didn’t end with last year’s “Exploring emotions” posts, oh no.  Even though I’m improving all the time, there are still aspects of my personality that bear critical inspection…

So anyway, let’s start with OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder, if y’all need that).  Now, admittedly, looking at my room would probably cause you to doubt I’d even heard of the term (don’t worry, I’m working on it… still…), but in fact I was rather obsessed with cleanliness when I was a nipper: I still remember the night I, as a six- or seven-year-old, had to get a cup of water from the bathroom and wipe the steps of my bunk bed ladder simply because I’d sat on them individually while climbing down!  And then there was washing my hands at school after playtime because I’d touched metal pipes outside, even though I wasn’t about to eat anything.  This has carried over into adult life to some extent, but only because I eat at my desk, and science has shown it’d be safer to eat from a toilet seat.

Plus, you all know how much I hate having weirdos sit next to me on the bus, or use the armrest between us on the Tube if I’m wearing a T-shirt (and thus my skin comes into contact with theirs).  Fortunately my dating coach is helping me with confidence, and eye contact, I can confirm, is a good way to freak out people as they walk up the aisle, and convince them to sit the hell away from me — and if that fails, I have the guts to get up and make them take the window seat, so I’m not crushed against the window any more by my utter revulsion!

And as that weren’t bad enough, there’s also the occasional obsession I get with making sure my body touches things equally with both the left and right sides… which I’ve only just thought of, and it’s your fault that I’ve got it again.  Thanks, readers!

However, my real OCD-ishness is intellectual in nature: I am very, very pedantic, as you’re probably no doubt aware if you’ve been reading this blog from the beginning (and I pity you if you have).  Doubtless I’ve made some mistakes, typos etc. in the course of producing this work, and thus I seldom re-read old entries in case I spot something that bugs me.  In fact, I have a couple of corrections to make to older entries, but don’t want to “ninja” them because, well, who reads old entries in my blog?

  • In this post about “female best friend’s” wedding (specifically the picture caption), I stated that The Corpse Bride is the only movie with “wedding” or “bride” in the title that I can actually stand to watch.  In fact, I also like The Princess Bride (hey, Peter Falk, Wallace Shawn and André the Giant, c’mon!), but didn’t think of it at the time because it’s not really a wedding film (except inasmuch as Beetlejuice is one as well).  On the other hand, 27 Dresses and Mama Mia! are films I never want to see, purely because they’re about weddings…
  • In this post about hatred, I stated that I had only hatred left to hate; I wish to clarify that I still really, really, really hate cockroaches.  Sorry, but there’s nothing remotely good or defensible about them, they utterly suck as living things (yes, more than mosquitoes), and they are the only animal I hate more than H. sapiens!
  • In this post about worrying unnecessarily, I’d intended to mention “that” Gwar song whose title consists of three letters (basically crossing the line, even for them) from This Toilet Earth, and how for a long time I’d always skip past it when listening to Gwar on rotation, much as I’d skip past an Eminem song from The Marshall Mathers LP which also had a three-letter title; I even ommitted both from my general “all music, no skits” playlist on my phone.  I have since learned to tolerate and even enjoy them both, without worrying that I’m somehow being “evil” for listening to, well, music!

It actually happens rather a lot, which leaves me annoyed at my own forgetfulness when I realise I’ve forgotten to say something really clever in a blog entry I’ve been planning for ages, but I’ve already published and so can’t amend it because I think some of you (including my maternal unit) get e-mail copies, which obviously won’t be updated as well!

And yes, that’s another thing: I write “e-mail” hyphenated (except in text messages, where it’s too much trouble, even on a smartphone), much as I generally write “Hallowe’en” instead of “Halloween”.  These are my particular quirks, but I’m also prey to the more general annoyance of intellectual people on the Internet against people who can’t (or worse, won’t) distinguish between “its” and “it’s” (people who otherwise seem know when to use “their”, “there” and “they’re”, for example).  Missing out dashes in words that should be hyphenated also bugs me, as well as writing “transatlantic” instead of “trans-Atlantic”, or the recent trend in advertising for including a whole first-person sentence in the middle of a phrase (of the variety “The I’ve Made It To Work Really Early On Friday Feeling”) without even using a different font colour (it must really confuse non-English speakers).

Then there’s people who pronounce “Hiroshima” as “Hero-SHE-ma” (apparently thinking they’re somehow getting it right), people who repeat as fact the urban legend that “golf” stands for “gentlemen only, ladies forbidden”, the perennial favourite “would of”, calling the monster “Frankenstein” (and then trying to justify it), using “companies” in the singular possessive context (so I guess my worst sentence would be “its my companies policy”), referring to the supermarket Tesco as “Tesco’s” (it’s not a person’s name, buttmunch), or worse, “Tescos” (like it’s a really cheap Greek island), that whole American “I could care less” thing (argh!!!), combining “any” and “more” into a single Poe-esque word (even Microsoft Word wants me to do that)… oh, and people who can’t spell my surname right even when they can read it in the e-mail to which they’re replying, which gets my back up to a worrying degree!

And speaking of Tesco’s Tesco, I had some unpleasantness there the other day: I saw an eco-friendly variety of washing capsule on their shelf, and tried to buy a tub, only to be told that it wasn’t in their system and thus they couldn’t sell it to me (naturally I went back today and saw it still on their shelf, after they’d said they were going to remove it).  Much as I refuse to eat food if I can’t confirm its vegetarian credentials, I also try to get eco-friendly pharmaceutical products, but on this occasion was left with nothing because I refused to buy anything else they had to sell (for example, I will never buy a P&G product, such as Fairy, due to their unrepentant insistence on animal testing in the 1990s).  I had to go all the way up to the big Sainsbury’s (yes, that’s a person’s name and so has a possessive form) in North Finchley to find an equivalent product; if I weren’t so obsessed with my vegetarianism, I’d have been able to pluck any old washing product off the shelf, rather than gallivant around…

(I’d have happily bought the Co-op’s own brand, except the one near my workplace closed down and is now a trendy wine bar Waitrose, and the only other one that’s big enough to sell them is a long way away in Old Street!)

It’s because I’m a vegetarian that I bought my own cookware, cutlery and crockery back when I lived on Caledonian Road.  This was partly because I didn’t want anything I cooked with to have come into contact with meat, but also because “bad housemate” would otherwise have used my stuff and then not washed it up — or worse, washed it up with Fairy and a sponge that had been used to clean meat juices off of other people’s things!  This latter aspect meant I used to obsess over him coming home when I’d left my washing-up out in the kitchen, and even though he never touched it, eventually this led to me washing up my stuff immediately after cooking, a practice I have continued to this day (except, sadly, the stuff I actually eat off of — sometimes my tray is still in my room two days later, especially at the weekend).  It’s also led to me getting my own clothes drying rack, which I won’t let anyone else use so I know it’s always available for me to use (there’s been an argument about drying clothes lately, involving our favourite drumming housemate, but I’ll speak of that another time).

Still, my OCD isn’t necessarily a bad thing: at work, I’ve ended up “data cleansing” our client database, sorting out improperly-entered names, or the “parental responsibility” tag being applied to the child’s side of a relationship instead of the adult’s side, and I always do my best to ensure everything’s entered correctly.  I may be a natural proofreader… well, except when it comes to this dreck, I suppose!  It ought to come in handy when I move into IT, as precision is even more necessary when you’re dealing with people’s records in Active Directory, or permissions for a Group Policy object… yes, I’m still studying Server 2008.

Another way my OCD affects my computer-related life is, of course, gaming: I seem to spend ages in roaming sandbox games trying to find every last side mission or collectible object, and can get quite annoyed at being denied these due to the game cheating (let’s just say the original Prototype broke my joypad and leave it at that — don’t worry, the sequel’s being much nicer to me).  Playing games obsessively is, of course, unhealthy, as I know only too well — here’s how some famous games have messed with my head:

  • Pipe Mania!: lying awake at night imagining ever-more-complex networks of pipes;
  • Gears of War: seeing concrete roadblocks in London streets (thanks, terrorists) and wanting to run up and take cover behind them;
  • Just Cause 2: looking up at buildings and wondering if I could fire my grappling hook at them (not surprising when you consider Steam says I played it for 99 hours);
  • Batman: Arkham Asylum and Arkham City: seeing a line of grates in the floor and wanting to open one and duck down into the shaft they cover (I actually experienced this at “female best friend’s” wedding in church!);
  • Prototype: seeing the “Web of Intrigue” symbol in front of my eyes — gotta consume them all!

I’ve also been playing an ancient game called Marsport recently, trying to map it out and work out what to do logically without having to resort to seeking help… and consequently feel really stupid for having to look up a partial solution.  Well, how was I to know that you’d have to combine a lute and a dais to make a lead suit?  They’re just letters, neither object has any relevance to… urgh!

(I won’t go into the weird obsession I have with trying to find scans of old computer magazines and books online, but if anyone has a PDF of “Games for your VIC-20” and wants to let me relive my pre-Amstrad days…)

Finally — and you know how obsessive I am about mentioning Gwar in this blog — there’s music and other entertainment, which I try to enjoy “in order” like a true purist.  Doctor Who, as you know, I’ve been watching from Hartnell onwards since the start of 2011, as well as reading all Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novels, and I’ve been buying all Gwar’s albums strictly in order (Hell-O doesn’t count), which I’m also intending to do with other artists such as Prince, 2Pac and Del the Funky Homosapien (no, that’s not a made-up name, he’s the guy who rapped with Gorillaz in 2001… well, okay, it is a made-up name, but he made it up for himself!).

However, with Eminem I’ve hit a snag: not only did I get The Marshall Mathers LP before The Slim Shady LP (hence I went from mortally offended to completely unoffended) back in the day, but in my recent attempt to listen to all his works (including the D12 albums) in order, I discovered that he’d released an album with Royce da 5’9″ (Hell: The Sequel) in 2011, which I somehow missed.  I ordered it and listened to it this week (yes, it’s dope and all that), but realised too late that I should have waited until I’d listened to Relapse and Recovery first!

Right, that’s yer lot — I now have to obsess over what I’ve forgotten to include in this post, and what other mistakes I may have made… well, it’ll distract me from worrying about (a) the fridge breaking down again, (b) my impending holiday to Michigan, and (c) the necessity of tidying my room…

The countdown begins

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I’m so happy, I might go out and buy balloon pants… well, no, of course not

Hooray, I’ve finally been told what my final day will be at my workplace: 28th July.  That’s if I want to be made redundant and receive a discretionary payment on top (not to mention getting paid to, like, actually work in June and July).

Yes, I have 37 working days left, of which eight are going to be annual leave, as staying until after the 24th means my annual leave year resets and thus I don’t have to worry about using up every last day of it.

This leaves me plenty of leeway to work out when I’m going to visit my “second family” in Michigan, as I can easily go in July if it’s cheaper (and that’s a big “if”!).  It also means I can make, um, my last day itself a day off, since it’s a f***ing MONDAY!!!

So, what’s the plan?  Well, for those of you who have just joined us, here’s the steps:

  1. Stay with my workplace until 28th July, and get over £4,000 to not work for them any more;
  2. Get put into a 6-week unpaid placement somewhere, anywhere in London (within reason) by my agency, who will cover my travelling costs;
  3. If the placement company likes me enough and has space, get a proper job with them;
  4. If not, complete the placement and then get found a proper job by my agency, or else get paid £500 per month (out of the £3,000 I paid them initially) if they can’t find me something.

And so there you have it: finally I’m getting the hell out of Dodge, after working for this organisation for eight years, five of those in my current role.  I still remember my 30th birthday in 2007, back when I still worked in HR for this organisation, and got so fed up and miserable that I created a folder in Outlook called “Escape”, in which I stored e-mails relating to other job prospects, or IT courses I attended.  At that stage, I’d only worked for them for a year and a few months, and had no idea of how much time lay ahead of me — but there was no way back then I could have afforded to take any significant IT courses; it took a few more years of saving up before I could even contemplate such a thing.

Interestingly, the only reason they need me to stay until 28th July is that they expect me to work one week’s notice for every year I’ve been there; but it’s only by staying another eight weeks that I’ll still be there on my eighth anniversary — if I stayed for seven weeks’ notice, I’d technically have been there for only seven years and 362 days, and they’d be rid of me sooner and probably only be paying me seven years’ worth of redundancy money… oh, er, never mind, forget I said anything!

Now I just have to sort out plane tickets to Michigan, and let my agency know we’ve got a firm date at last… and that’ll distract me from worrying whether I’m doing the right thing, whether a job in IT will actually annoy me even more than the annoying woman (I still have to put Gwar on to drown her out), whether I might have been better off staying put…

Hey, life’s a journey, and mine’s been suspended for engineering work for far too long!

Something old, something new

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No, no-one’s getting married, stop getting your hopes up that I might have finally met someone!

A relatively quick note tonight, to let you goons know I’m keeping on, both reliving old experiences and trying new things.  Unfortunately one recurring experience is that I’ve got an upset stomach again, and while I’m not involuntarily evacuating my digestive system (by barfing or… other means), I feel a bit off-colour.  Maybe the vomiting bug is doing the rounds again and I’m more resistant this time, or maybe I stirred up something nasty through either tidying my room (an unpleasant prospect at the best of times) or cutting the plant life growing over our back garden wall and into the alleyway.

(Rather worryingly, there was a jacket and dufflebag tangled up in the creepers… almost as though it had eaten someone in the past!)

Anyway, hopefully I’ll be better tomorrow, when I intend to go climbing again — not at the Castle, where I usually go, but at the Westway!  I’ve only been there once before with a Meetup.com group, and they’re going again.  This also means missing my usual Tuesday night yoga (and preceding expensive dinner at Nando’s or Ed’s at Euston station), but hey, I’m allowed to change things up occasionally, aren’t I?

Actually, in entertainment terms, I’ve been mixing it up recently, especially regarding the books I read — or e-books, since I’ve archived most of my paperbacks now (I may not get rid of them after all, thanks to Friern Barnet library not taking new books any more).  Whereas previously I’ve been reading my old Discworld paperbacks at night, and my old Asimov (or Dune) paperbacks on the Tube, recently I’ve started reading previously-unread Discworld novels on my Kindle at night, and The Mote in God’s Eye on my smartphone on the Tube.  I’ve also been taking a break from watching every Doctor Who story (which I’ve seen previously at least once, albeit back in 1996 in some cases) in order to enjoy season 1 of Game of Thrones on Blu-ray.

(I’ve already had season 2 of Game of Thrones spoiled for me: apparently there’s less gratuitous T&A…)

And speaking of new entertainment… yes, it’s the inevitable Gwar reference.  I’ve got three more of their albums to get hold of (making a grand total of 13, my lucky number), but in the meantime I’m getting hold of other albums as well — either albums for which I already had a couple of tracks (such as The Fat of the Land by The Prodigy), or earlier albums for artists I’m already familiar with (such as I Wish My Brother George Was Here by Del the Funky Homosapien).  Indeed, I have plans to go back to the beginning of two of my other favourite artists, 2Pac and Prince, and buy their earlier works (though in the latter case I’ll only go up to 1992).

Buying CDs may cost a lot of money (mitigated by the fact that I’ve hardly any more Doctor Who DVDs to get), but that’s nothing compared to the cost of going to Michigan, which I really want to do so I can see my old roommate’s family in their Fenton homestead one last time.  Air travel seems to have become a lot more expensive than it was in the 2000s, and it seems to be no cheaper than £800 at the moment.  It would suck if I couldn’t go, but maybe I’ll have to rely on some kind of last-minute deal.  It’d help if my stupid workplace would tell me when my final day is (which they should have done last week), but no…

Anything else?  Only that I’m studying Windows Server 2008 in my lunchbreaks, which means some of it’s familiar (since I took classes in Server 2003 back in 2010) while other stuff is brand new.  And now, I’m going to try something really radical: going to bed before midnight… yeah, fat chance!