Monthly Archives: November 2017

Buyer’s remorse

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

— — —

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

Too reliable by half?

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

Well, it’s a better image than Sisyphus…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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