Monthly Archives: July 2014

How I spent my summer holiday

Unless I screw up my mock interview entirely tomorrow, I should be back at work next week, albeit unpaid (at first); but since I finished at work last Friday, this means I’ve had six clear days of rest in between, including the weekend.  I’ve been habitually getting up late (some days I didn’t change out of my nightclothes until the afternoon), playing games (finally finished the Mass Effect trilogy), watching Frasier on TV and Game of Thrones on Blu-ray, eating what and when I like, listening to 2Pac and (I kid you not) William Shatner, and basically not going out during the day.  However, I’ve had “staycations” like this before, so what’s been different about this one?

Well, first of all, you’ll be pleased to know I’ve kept the habits I formed in 2012 and 2013: I went climbing on Monday evening, I went to yoga on Tuesday evening, and I was wrecked by my personal trainer on Wednesday afternoon, so it’s been a week of some small energy expenditure.  Previous occasions when I’ve stayed at home for long periods (and only interacted with shopkeepers) have led to cabin fever, so it’s good I’ve been relatively social this time around… especially since I have no idea where I’m about to work, and whether I’ll be able to travel to interesting places after work in time for interesting events.

Not to mention, on other occasions (especially October 2011, but nothing much good happened that year anyway) I made floundering, futile attempts to find a new job, including visiting IT agencies that turned out not to exist (this is why I never use the Yellow Pages website any more); on this occasion, thanks to this agency guiding me, there’ll be no need to get overwrought — I’m as close to an IT career as I can be, short of murdering a geek and stealing his identity.

(If the secret services are reading: no, obviously I’m not going to do that — get a f***ing life, you crypto-fascist jobsworths!)

I’m also continuing my decluttering drive — but apart from selling a PC/PS3 steering wheel for a derisory £15 (once again, something I paid over the odds for in 2011), this has mainly concerned files and bookmarks on my computer.  Blimey, there was some old stuff in there — no, nothing rude, but a lot of links to long-dead websites that I hadn’t used in many years, and ancient utilities I’d downloaded for previous versions of Windows, several hardware iterations ago.  It’s not that I’m short of hard drive space, it’s just an OCD-ish desire to tidy up… and yes, I managed to do the same in my room, which goes through cycles of this kind of thing thanks to all the companies that still insist on sending me physical letters.

Unfortunately, there’s a couple of things to spoil an otherwise happy holiday: firstly, I haven’t been able to spend my £50 gift card at Game, because (a) there’s hardly any left in London, and (b) the one in Wood Green had South Park: The Stick of Truth, non-special edition for the PC, at full price (£39.99), and I want to buy, like, several things instead of just one or two!  I’m thinking of going on a Meetup.com trip on Saturday to Bath, which has two branches… but why spend £55 purely in the hope of saving money on a gift card?  Even I’m starting to doubt my logic…

And secondly, it seems I’m becoming embroiled with the Student Loans company yet again, as the business which now owns my 1998 loan claims not to have been informed of my latest deferment in May.  They said they’ll get onto Stupid Loans to sort it out, but hey, if they need me to fill out another form, I can do that instantly — I’m unemployed, and thus definitely earning under the minimum gross pay rate that would warrant paying it back!  I assume it’s incompetence on their part rather than any failure on mine, but watch this space.  Good job I keep my old phone with my old SIM charged up, and also a good job I didn’t assume the “missed call” was from yet another scam company…

Anyway, my holiday in all probability ends tomorrow with a rude awakening.  I’d better get some sleep in preparation, because I’ve got to be there in a suit, with a pen and paper and a copy of my CV, to pretend I’m being interviewed for a job at a fictional company, and somehow it’ll take an hour and a half!  I tell you, I’m going to earn pizza for dinner tomorrow night…

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Losses and gains

The Parker-Morris building will go over, all one hundred and ninety-one floors.  It’s weird to think the place where we’re standing will only be a point in the sky.
—Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club (the book, not the film)

Yes, it was weird on Friday to look at my e-mails and personal files at work, and to think that all this information would soon disappear utterly.  I’d been at that place for nearly nine years, and had amassed a lot of e-mails, some of them personal (between myself, “good housemate”, “female best friend” and “other female best friend”); I wondered if I should go through them and send myself anything irreplaceable, that I couldn’t bear to live without… and then didn’t.  At least I was able to preserve the clever spreadsheet I’d set up to weave together raw reports and spit out good reports, though whether my former office will be able to make sufficient use of it remains to be… well, not seen by me, but it’ll affect the children, so strictly out of the goodness of my heart, I hope it all works out.

Other losses to electronic oblivion include the funny images I clipped from the company’s intranet page (such as the guy who introduced himself as Mr. Butt, Head of Housing — uh huh huh huh huh huh!), and a text file containing some of the ludicrous things an Australian woman kept saying in her dictations (the only way I stayed sane during the bad old audio-typing days).  All these files will be lost, like tears in rai— no, that’s Blade Runner.

Anyway, I’ve now finished my job of over five years, and left my employer of over eight years.  I sure hope this crazy scheme to break into the IT industry works out (not least because I’m tired of having to explain it to everyone and anyone), as I don’t want to be unemployed for too long, appealing though time off work may be.  Thanks to my agency postponing my “mock interview”, I’m having this entire week off, with the prospect of my unpaid short-term experience-gaining placement beginning next week.

So, what have I gained to make up for my loss?  Well, aside from a week’s holiday (give or take), I’ve gained contact details for some of my old friends at work, as well as the right to “friend” some former office colleagues on Facebook (who wouldn’t let me do it before when we worked together, for obvious reasons).  They also gave me £50 to spend at Game… oh, wait, the nearest branch is on the high street where I used to work, DAMN!  But that’s still a better parting gift than the one given me by the nice but religous lady at the health centre: a Bible (which I already have, thanks to “female best friend”, and I will read it one day!) and a CD of Tim Hughes (who?  Exactly!) singing Christian songs.  What happened to the Ferrero Rocher she got me at Christmas, that was a practical present!

sp_fp1(Sorry, religious readers: the only Christian CD I would ever listen to is the one from South Park, where Cartman takes love songs and changes the lyrics to make them about Jesus…)

One of my gains is technically a loss: I’ve gained a final, eternal reprieve from having to listen to the annoying woman EVERY. DAMN. DAY, and no matter how much my next workplace sucks, I’m just relieved my sanity lasted long enough for me to escape.  Now I can listen to music (of a non-Christian variety) because I enjoy it, and not just to drown her out — and nor will I, while listening to said music, look up from my screen to see her towering above, talking to me as though she hasn’t noticed the big pair of noise-cancelling headphones covering my shell-likes!

Importantly, I’ve gained the chance to slag off my former employer by name… but I’d better not just yet, they’re paying my redundancy money on August payday (the 15th).  I’ll wait until then to name and shame the organisation that’s moving all its employees into a building no-one likes, and which doesn’t have enough desks for everyone because they want more people to work from home, hence replacing everyone’s computers with laptops that they have to lug around… and hey, they did nothing to encourage me to stay — quite the opposite, remember?  They don’t even trust employees enough to put buttons in the lifts!  And don’t get me started on the food situation at the new building, oh no sir…

Most of all, though, I’ve gained a future in IT, at least in potentia… well, we’ll see how long it takes for me to wish I’d stayed put.  Hope is a gift, and one which I lacked during 2012 (after supplies ran low in 2011), so it’s nice to have an abundance for a change, that I might spread my wealth and bring hope into the lives of others less fortunate than myself.

(There, was that maudlin enough… oh, sorry!)

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And finally, so you can leave now if you want, it’s time for a gratuitous Gwar reference: I just got a copy of Lust in Space, but it’s a little poignant, because there’s one more album left (Bloody Pit of Horror) before we lost Cory Smoot, and then another album after that (Battle Maximus) before we lost Dave Brockie.  I’ve thus got two left before it feels like Gwar somehow “runs out”… but what do I know, I’m just a simpering bohab, right?

Going through changes

The hours went on as he walked to and fro, and the clocks struck the numbers he would never hear again.  Nine gone for ever, ten gone for ever, eleven gone for ever, twelve coming on to pass away.  After a hard contest with that eccentric action of thought which had last perplexed him, he had got the better of it.  He walked up and down, softly repeating their names to himself.  The worst of the strife was over.  He could walk up and down, free from distracting fancies, praying for himself and for them.
—Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities

em_rec

This is obviously where the title comes from, not the quote

I’m one day away from finishing my eight-year employment at a certain London borough council (over five of those years in children’s social services), but the only panic I’m really feeling is relates to my ability to pass on my various, Excel-heavy tasks to the people who aren’t leaving.  No, I’m feeling less afraid than last month when I was about to go on holiday!

When it comes down to it, I don’t feel any great sadness at leaving the tasks I’ve had for such a long time; rather, I feel a tremendous exhaustion — I’m wishing it would hurry up and end, so I can get on with the next phase of my life (it’s bad enough I had to stay an extra month just to get a discretionary bonus added to my redundancy money).  But don’t worry, I like at least some of the people I work with, and I’m doing my best to ensure they can carry on in my absence.  After all, taking care of children is a worthy cause, and I don’t want to sabotage them by the simple act of leaving!

Trouble is, I’m such a damned genius (and apparently the only person on the planet who knows how to use Excel to do anything other than display a few manually-entered numbers) that passing on my jobs is no mean task.  The ways I’ve come up with to simplify the creation of my various reports (like splicing together various raw reports into one that social workers actually find useful, using VLOOKUP) are very hard to teach to others, since they involve pasting values into sheets in a workbook and then deleting the stuff in the rows underneath (caused by this week’s raw report being smaller than last week’s, owing to case closures), but not deleting the whole rows because that’d reduce the size of the name range that’s used to grab the data for another sheet… bored yet?  I do get annoyed when people who do their life’s work on computers do that “fwip!” over-the-head gesture to express their slack-jawed refusal to even begin to learn even the simplest concepts.

(But hey, that’s why I’m moving on to work in IT, right?)

I’ve only got one more day, eight hours (including lunch) to go, and I’m finally free… and joy of joys, the annoying woman is working from home tomorrow!  Yes, I know I should thank her for making me so motivated to get on with my IT career and not just slum it in an admin job, and since I don’t mind interacting with her via e-mail (because she doesn’t slurp or cough in the middle of typed sentences), rest assured tomorrow I’ll see about getting IT to sort out a laptop for her so she can continue to use some USB hardware made by a company that apparently doesn’t believe in 64-bit drivers for Windows.  Explaining this will be a bit of a job (especially considering someone from IT already explained it ages ago), but I think I have a solution, and it’s the least I can do to part on relatively good terms.

Once I have a “proper” IT job, I’m going to build a new PC — my current setup (aside from specific components like the graphics card) is the same as it was in 2011, that dreadful year, and it’s starting to get a bit restrictive.  However, I’ll put paying the rent first, and once I know where I’m working, I’ll reluctantly look into moving house again.  I’m not as eager to leave this place as I’ve been before — my drummer housemate is being a decent chap (perhaps the summer has improved his spirits), and with his support I even got our Internet connection fixed at last! — but if my first IT job is lower-paid than the job I’m in now (and consider that they bumped me back down to Scale 4 in July, so I’m around £400 down this month), I’ll have no alternative but to live somewhere cheaper.

“Best mate” wants us to live together, which is something of a no-brainer, but the question is where?  Bexley has the cheapest housing in London, but it’s also got the most corrupt local government and the worst transport links (according to this famous blog), so only a fool would move there.  Barnet may have an equally screwed-up Tory administration, but I feel like it’s my home now, in a way that Caledonian Road and Wood Green never did (or Worthing, come to that); plus, I’m used to travelling on the Northern Line, and don’t want to end up somewhere where it takes hours to get to anywhere interesting.

I especially want to stay within reach of the Castle, (a) so I can climb and (b) so I can continue being personally tortured, though obviously I’d rather not have to go back to relying on the Piccadilly Line, or to live anywhere on it, as all those places are ghastly (especially Finsbury Park).  This is one aspect of my life I don’t want to change, at least not yet, because it’s an aspect I actually enjoy!

beavis_christmas_carolThere’s one other aspect of my life that may need a change: yes, you guessed it, it’s my love life (or terminal lack thereof).  On Saturday I went on a date that didn’t go particularly well, with a Japanese woman that was more concerned with her previous relationships and berating me for wearing a T-shirt on a sweltering day than, um, y’know, ENJOYING my company.  (Whaddaya mean, you’d have been depressed too if you’d been on a date with me?)  I wasn’t overly concerned, because I knew I had a date lined up on Monday with a Taiwanese girl I met at yoga the previous week; I met her on Monday and, I thought, we had a good time — but her failure to respond to my texts since then made me realise that she may not have really needed to leave early to let her housemate in at home, and I felt despair on Tuesday evening, which ruined yoga for me…

On that basis, I’m wondering if what I really need to do is stop chasing tail for a bit, and focus on the rather more important changes in my life, i.e. my career path and possible resulting move.  It’s becoming clear that most women don’t want to start something with a bloke who’s about to become unemployed, no matter how brave and noble the reason (continuing a relationship through such a thing would obviously be another matter), and since I’m not rich enough to pretend to be a successful businessman with a yacht, I’m going to have to wait until I’ve got a stable job before I can go around seducing women again.  Not to mention, if I’m trying to conserve my money, I may not be able to go out in the evenings so much anyway (and certainly no more pre-yoga dinners in Ed’s Diner at Euston station, no matter how nice their Nutella milkshake is!).

Of course, if this jump to IT all goes horribly wrong, I may have to go back and live with my folks in Worthing, which would at least give me the opportunity to learn to drive.  But hopefully it won’t come to that; I’ve got next week “off”, as it were, with my mock interview (necessary before my agency can put me into a work placement) on Friday afternoon, and I intend to spend my time relaxing, perhaps studying a little, applying for IT jobs (in the hope that they won’t mind my current lack of actual experience), but mostly enjoying the weather if it’s still summer by then.  Since I won’t be going out much, I won’t have much opportunity to ogle young women in skimpy outfits, and so hopefully I won’t feel bad about doing so.

(Perhaps I should go to a strip club, just to be around attractive women who are happy for me to look at them, instead of considering me an evil chauvinist — or who don’t mind me being an evil chauvinist?  Hmm, then again, it’d hardly help me save money…)

One final note about my current job: I haven’t burned my bridges.  My friends and I are going to lunch tomorrow, and I did hint that I might come back to work for them again if they really, really need me to stop the place falling apart… but at a substantially higher salary, of course.  Hey, did you think I do this kind of work for fun?!  However, it’s unlikely they’d be able to do it, and I’ll go into the reasons next week, when I’m free from my obligation not to name and shame the organisation in question…

Actually, yes, some improvement

beavbuttIt occurred to me, on the bus to the Castle this afternoon, that actually not only are things better in my life than they once were, but they’re somehow better in London as well, almost as though my mind is psychically linked to the Smoke, and we’re both improving together…

Ooh, mystical, innit?  Well, first of all I’m over the funk I went through up to Tuesday — that group never told me what I did wrong, and so I’m done with them.  I’m not going to let them make me ashamed of my overt heterosexuality, either: I realised at that bar in Hermosa Beach (last May, at the end of my big American holiday) that I’d actually rather girls regarded me as a sleazy womaniser than completely ignored me, and my best bet really does seem to be to make a nuisance of myself, go too far, tread on some toes, and ultimately, through a lot of experience, find the comfortable middle ground in which I can get girls to notice me without offending them.

(Obviously I don’t want to go too too far and get myself arrested, or I’ll be fulfilling aim no.1 of 2014 in an entirely passive way, courtesy of my cellmate… hence why I got the hell out of Dodge in Hermosa Beach, and similarly the Japanese meetup group on Tuesday!)

And similarly, looking back at my (nearly) 11 years in London, it seems things are broadly better here too.  I think what did it for me was looking down a road in Camden that I seem to recall slipping and sliding down one freezing evening in December 2009, having given up trying to get a bus from outside the big Sainsbury’s back to Caledonian Road due to a massive traffic jam; I can’t recall the last time the weather was so bad in this city!  Yeah, it rains too damn much (especially when it ought to be sunny), but disastrous days like that are a distant memory.

It actually feels somehow like things in London got better when I moved away from Caledonian Road, as well as my life; okay, there were still bad days for the Tube (like the morning I had to sit at Finchley Central for 30 minutes), just as there were bad days where I broke down, but the broad sweep of events was improvement.  By contrast, in 2011, I was almost at my wits’ end (yes, and with me being a half-wit, ha ha, very droll), and the London Riots erupted and caused chaos.

Things aren’t perfect today, as evinced by my gloom at the start of the week, but my occasional lapses, none of which have been as bad as I experienced even as recently as 2013, are getting farther and farther apart, just as London gradually emerges from the bad old days of endless snow days and Tube chaos.  Why, I can’t even remember the last time I had trouble getting to work that wasn’t my own stupid fault!

But oh, how I wish for a big thunderstorm, and a hot girlfriend — both things which seem to elude me lately…

No improvement?

I see the girls go by dressed in their summer clothes
I have to turn my head until my darkness goes
–Rolling Stones, “Paint It Black”

You may recall that around this time last year I had a massive crisis… yes, I’ll just leave you to re-read that old post for a while, so you can recall how down I was back then.  Part of what set me off back then was, ironically, the summer: even though I loathe the dark, cold winter months, in the summer it’s attractive women wearing less that makes me feel a little sad, as I become pessimistic about my chances of getting dates with them.  For many years I believed I had no right to even try (partly thanks to that damn prank in 1997 where my “friends” tricked me into chatting up a girl and then condemned me for doing it), and I’ve been working hard to get out of that mindset; unfortunately, yesterday I had a setback…

Suffice it to say, I went to a meetup group based around Far Eastern languages, and I went with the primary aim of chatting up girls and hopefully getting dates.  Perhaps I’m wrong to do so, and some kind of evil chauvinist, or a desperate loser, but them’s the breaks.  Unfortunately, even though I thought things went well, when I got home I discovered I’d been “removed” from the group, due to “negative feedback”.  They haven’t been forthcoming with specifics, but unless it was purely down to the guy I tried to get rid of because I hadn’t realised he was in our area of the pub for the event, it must have been me coming on too strong to various female members of the group.  Much like that day last year, when I realised a girl I liked had left the sci-fi group and knew it was because of me, seeing the e-mail made me very, very low.

On the positive side, as I realised before, things always look better in the morning; and in addition, I don’t seem to have been “removed” from a Japanese-specific meetup group that I went to this evening, and where I tried to chat up a 19-year-old student (or at least, not yet).  However, I got out of there when I recognised someone from Monday’s meetup, because I dread to think what she may have told me… and I didn’t drink any alcohol, and wonder if I’ll ever do so again in a meetup group, since it apparently causes me to behave like a jerk.

In other areas, my romantic life is at a standstill.  Tinder hasn’t helped at all (beyond spending ages when I was in Michigan chatting to a girl who lived too far away for me to meet her, especially since it was my last night there), and a Japanese-focused dating site seems to have been a waste of money, due to no-one from London actually going there on any kind of regular basis… oh, and as I write that, someone without a picture expresses “interest” in me — which makes a nice change from women in Japan, China etc. that I’ll never meet!  But I did get texting someone via that site recently, only for that to go south, very likely because I asked to meet her — or rather, as my dating coach advised, said “let’s meet” (perhaps that doesn’t work on Asians?).  I’m also not getting asked out any more via that other site, or successfully asking anyone else out, even when they have free gold membership for a day…

Once again, I’m left with the feeling that I’m only likely to get any girly action if I go to America, and that the progress I think I’ve been making has all been an illusion.  I was low on Friday as well, but my personal trainer managed to make me feel better about myself, so maybe I just need to immerse myself in positive people.  That won’t be happening at work, where almost all the good people have left or moved to the new building — and guess who hasn’t?  (I’ll write about my hideous work situation another time, or possibly never, bearing in mind my usual dedication to this blog!)

However, I have had the strange notion in the back of my head for ages now that things will change once I start my new job, and thus my new life…