Monthly Archives: October 2018

Covering up

It’s that time of year again, and I’m very grateful to my mother (especially if she’s reading this) for getting me a nice thick coat, as the temperature seems to be dropping rather faster than usual in late October: indeed, on this very day back in 2014, we had a mini-heatwave!

I’m also wearing the hat with earflaps I got back in early 2001 (still fits my head, despite its weight loss back in May), and have my scarf and gloves on standby, in case it’s so cold walking between home/work and Tube stations that I start getting numb…

But that’s not the real reason for this blog post’s title, just a brief alternate meaning — in fact, the meaning is both covering for someone at work, and covering up the explanation for the need to do so.  In fact, I find myself wondering if I should go this far, seeing as “boss lady” could well be reading this, if she found the link on my Facebook page (or heard that Googling “big breakfast gwar” brings up this post first) — but that’d count as spying on employees outside work!

(And since my mother won a court case against her scumbag employers after they fired her in mid-2011 for saying on Facebook that she hated her job — without actually naming them — having gathered evidence against her over time, like the Thought Police, instead of just telling her to stop her posts right away…)

Yeah, I might as well come straight out with it: one of my teammates is going to be away for a few months, and I’m effectively covering for him, becoming effectively the only 1st line IT helpdesk person.  The official line is that he’s on a “career break” due to circumstances in his own life, but oh, I can’t help wondering whether it’s more along the lines of “gardening leave” — after all, he’s allegedly made some big screw-ups, despite him having worked in IT much longer than me.  I’ve told a couple of friends at work about it (fortunately almost everyone counts in that respect), but otherwise am keeping the matter under wraps, in case it really is a big cover-up for him being disciplined, and I risk getting someone in trouble — especially me!

Don’t worry, it’s not my senpai who’s had to step away until early 2019: he’s most certainly still with us (working his mojo with tremendous skill), and has been supportive to me during my return to the organisation after my own “career break” from mid-May to the end of July — which was, of course, due to quite literally getting something off my mind (and even more literally getting my head together).  However, since they’re not hiring a temp to support me with my workload, I’ve got to seek advice and outright help from him and my other remaining teammates (tricky if they’re working from home, as has been the case during the half-term school holiday — good job I don’t have kids, eh?), which can make me feel like a burden.

Indeed, today — the terrifying Hallowe’en (or, as people on the Interthingy spell it, “Halloween”) — we all got stressed due to numerous problems, including a network port not working in our lecture theatre, a presentation not downloading from a web sharing resource, and external people even being cut off from the relevant “shared desktop” conference call!  Most of this is probably thanks to Microsoft, of course (who are also responsible for the abomination known as Edge, a web browser from which our users can’t print) — but don’t tell anyone at my workplace, or they’ll complain about us using second-rate technology…

My main hope in this role-covering situation is that I’ll finally prove myself indispensable by remaining calm, polite and helpful in crises, and that “boss lady” having words with me (yet again) a couple of weeks ago was because she wanted to ensure I’d get back to my old, well-adjusted self and not screw up — guiding me, instead of threatening me — so I don’t cause problems and, worst case, leave her without any 1st line helpdesk staff at all.  Perhaps she knew she was going to have to take action against this guy soon, having (allegedly) overly favoured him, and ignored his faults, for altogether too long?

The really sad thing is, I actually like the guy (even if the other members of my team seem not to) — some of my happiest days in this job have been those with just me and him (and perhaps “boss lady”) in the office, with the others working from home or outright on leave, as these days were nice and quiet!  Whereas the others frequently get rowdy and noisy when they’re in, and I have to cover my ears…

And just when you think things can’t get any more stressful, they want me to come in to help with work over the weekend (just when my folks have gone away on holiday) — which means I’ll be working seven days in a row, and that’s if I can book Monday off!  Dammit, when am I gonna have time to play StarCraft II?!

Cool things: Stephen King

I do not aim with my hand; he who aims with his hand has forgotten the face of his father.  I aim with my eye.
I do not shoot with my hand; he who shoots with his hand has forgotten the face of his father.  I shoot with my mind.
I do not kill with my gun; he who kills with his gun has forgotten the face of his father.  I kill with my heart.
— The Dark Tower series

“You say true, I say thankya”

The 19th day of the month seems a singularly appropriate time to speak about this famous wordslinger, who doesn’t write novels out of his own imagination, but simply reports the events of other worlds that revolve around the Dark Tower, in the great Kingiverse…

It certainly took me a little time to get into the works of Stephen King: although my mother had me reading his rival, Dean Koontz, when I was 16, and saw the TV version of It during the summer of 1994 (when I was 16 going on 17), it was only a few months before university (when I was 18 going on… 19!) that she started lending me King novels.  Not The Shining, which I’d just seen on TV (due to the book differing from the film quite significantly!), but The Dead Zone, with It (which I’d seen on her bedside table years before) and The Stand (in its original shortened form) following soon after.

(You may remember me talking about my first semester at university, when I was dying from Freshers Flu — or, as it’s known in another world, Captain Trips…)

As with other things in life, my beloved mother was my main source of King novels for many years (Hearts in Atlantis, Bag of Bones, The Green Mile, Dreamcatcher and others being lent to me at university and during my three years living at home), but I began buying my own when I came back to London in 2003 (I remember leaving The Tommyknockers at work one evening in late 2004, as though I wasn’t doing bad enough in those days already!), either new or when I saw them in second-hand shops.  Insomnia spoke of other worlds, and a Dark Tower being approached by a gunslinger, the evil Crimson King within…

Shortly after I got and read From a Buick 8 in 2008, I decided to make a significant move: being close to finishing Frank Herbert’s Dune series (including his son’s prequels and sequels), I decided it was time to prepare another epic, the Dark Tower series.  Naturally I began at the beginning, The Gunslinger, swiftly following this with the others (I even managed to get all seven in the same edition!).  Indeed, I hurried to finish The Waste Lands before work one morning, so I could start Wizard and Glass on the holiday plane to Turkey that evening — knowing nothing of the long (six-year, nine-novel) cliffhanger break between the two!

As I said to you guys before, Roland Deschain (Gunslinger of Gilead that was, son of Stephen of the line of Arthur Eld) is something of a hero (or rather, antihero) to me: stern, determined, and capable of killing without compunction, but still human and capable of friendship and cooperation, forming a fellowship (or rather, ka-tet) on his journey along the path of the Beam to the centre of all worlds… and as I also said to you guys before, I’m as entitled to derive religious faith from modern books (like the words of King and Peter F. Hamilton) as others are from ancient texts, aren’t I?

And I can’t deny that fate (or ka) exists, considering a real coincidence in these circumstances: I bought that first Dark Tower novel on 19th April of that year, and not only is 19 a number of great significance in the series, but it was around this time that Eminem, my other American hero, was recovering from a near-death experience (something I’d failed to realise fully when I wrote about him back in 2013) — considering that King himself was almost killed by an incompetent van driver in the summer of 1999!  Both men recovered over time, and willingly returned to using their greatest talents, for which I’m grateful (and not just because I enjoy their work, but because it encourages me to live on and keep striving for greatness).

In 2015, much as I’d done in 2011 with Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novels (as well as watching classic Doctor Who, which you’ll remember I finished in 2015), I decided to read all of King’s work in chronological order, filling the gaps in my collection as I went along.  Not obsessively in the order he wrote stories, but certainly in release order (though admittedly I read the four Bachman Books separately, having found a rare copy that still included Rage), as this wasn’t straightforward OCD-ish behaviour: it’s more like watching a TV show in episode order, experiencing the story as it unfolds — and many stories have links: one of the supporting cast in Rose Madder went on to become a main character in Desperation, for example.

(Even before I started reading them in order, I was inspired to purchase ‘Salem’s Lot, having learned that one of its characters would appear in the later novels of the Dark Tower series!)

I continued buying from charity shops and bookshops (I even found an original version of The Gunslinger, so I could see what was added for the revised version that I bought in 2008 — it was one of King’s very earliest writings), but also borrowed a couple from “boss lady” at work, and even purchased a couple on Kindle (including both Talisman novels and It), which has saved a little on paperback clutter in my room (something you may remember me doing before).

Unfortunately, I’d given away a number of my mother’s copies of King novels in the early 21st century (very likely due to being shamed into getting rid of clutter in my Worthing room), and so couldn’t re-read the shorter, original version of The Stand, thus having to skip ahead to its own revised edition.  Aside from being longer, this version had setpieces updated to its year of release (1990), which meant it stood out somewhat from the novels I read before and after it (late 1970s) — a shame, as I would have liked to experience both.  But I had to rebuy it on Kindle anyway, as my mother’s copy has a load of pages missing, including the first appearance of Randall Flagg…

(Villainous as he is, he inspired me to call myself “the Walkin Dude” when I lived on Caledonian Road, as I walked almost everywhere, including down to computer fairs in central London every Saturday!)

And now, in late 2018 (shortly before the last two digits of the year become a significant number), I’m rereading the final Dark Tower novel — which, in terms of release order, is the latest of his works I’ve ever read.  A lot of books I’ve read for the first time in this run (including his very first published novel, Carrie), in some cases inspiring me to watch the film version as well (I stayed up late to see Christine on the Horror Channel), but soon enough, I’ll be moving into new territory.  I’ve got a few of his next novels on my shelf already, but will consume them one at a time, and in order — which means I’ll need to find The Colorado Kid soon!

And I must confess, I’ve made a point of avoiding Under the Dome on TV (currently showing every evening on the Horror Channel, who have now been plugged twice in quick succession) — partly due to after-work activities, but also simply because it’d spoil the novel, which is currently several books ahead of me!  But don’t worry: one day, I’ll get it on Blu-ray (as I did with Game of Thrones), and watch it over dinner, as I’ve done with other TV shows.  Definitely — I set my watch and warrant on it…

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P.S. I’ve also read his guide, On Writing, and since it gave my mother support in writing her own (vanity press) novels, I feel it’s encouraging me to write clearly, concisely, descriptively (but not overly so) and based on my own knowledge and experience.  Thus, as per his advice, I’ll step away from this blog post for a while, and come back to make a “second draft” later, when I’ve been thinking about other things for a while… something I should do more often with these blog posts, eh?

— — —

P.P.S. Maybe one day I’ll return to a work of my own, that I started in the early 21st century: a comic strip featuring an angry English rapper inspired (in both senses) by Eminem, who fights evil forces such as al-Qaeda, the Dark Judges, the Deep Ones of H.P. Lovecraft and George “Dubya” Bush — and who would one day join forces with a certain gunslinger of Gilead… if I can still draw well enough, that is!

As one illness leaves…

Yes, it’s that time of year again!

Don’t worry, I’m not reverting to my old “mind static” condition: despite some recent minor bouts, it’s clear that, thanks to medication, I’m doing fine now in that aspect of my life, and my healing process is effectively complete.  Although I’ve got a “second opinion” coming up, I hope no further treatment will be necessary any time soon!

But I can’t help wondering whether the elimination (or at least effective control) of that form of epilepsy is what’s brought back a couple of older problems, which I haven’t really experienced in any significant way since the end of 2016, when “mind static” erupted in force — indeed, it’s like I’m back in mid-2016 again, when I had similar issues

A couple of weeks ago, for example, I came down with a familiar old feeling: depression.  It actually reminded me a bit of 2011, at least around the same time of year: not the full-blown suicidal despair I felt on “Twelve-Twelve”, but I felt miserable.  It may have been at least triggered by “boss lady” moving me and a teammate who isn’t my senpai across the office to empty seats, so that the rest of my team (including senpai) could train up two developers joining us, without having to walk over to their distant seats — not only am I now away from the lads, but I’m sitting in the path of TWO aircon units, just when the weather gets colder!

I spoke to an HR lady at work, who tried to help me with advice and reassurance, but perhaps I also felt a certain despair regarding my love life, or eternal lack thereof.  Although I still occasionally get dates through a smartphone app, still I seem to be getting nowhere.  If I had more money and didn’t feel like I should be saving up for emergencies (medical, familial, Brexit-related etc.), I’d have paid my dating coach for a proper set of online classes, to build up my confidence…

But even then, I wonder if I’d have the energy and enthusiasm, as I seem to be enjoying my nights in all over again — even though I’ve resumed climbing, I seem to be only going once in a while, preferring to stay home for dinner, TV and video games.  Last week I was out three nights (once to help the homeless, once for a date that didn’t work out, and once for personal training), and since I’m back to full-time at work, but have an hour’s commute each way (well, 45 minutes, but close enough), I worry I won’t have any time to myself, to relax!

Snot stage coming soon… uh huh huh huh, “coming”!

Still, my room’s getting cold again at this time of year (maybe I should move my computer desk away from the window, since it’s not summer any more?), and that’s not the only cold I’m currently suffering from.  Yes, that old viral condition has returned with a vengeance — just a sore throat for now, but it’s very likely to be in the “three days coming” stage, and so will get worse before it gets better, no matter how much water (and Lemsip!) I drink.

It’s worth noting that, after my serious brain condition started at the end of 2016, I seemed to become almost immune to colds — aside from a very short-lived one in January 2017 (I’ve never gone through the stages so quickly before!), and a lingering cough at the start of this year, I seem to have been entirely free from the symptoms.  Was the cranial situation suppressing them, I wonder?

I’ll just have to hope that the coming week is an improvement — which it may be, as we’re apparently escaping the cold weather for a while — but I’ll have to be careful: “boss lady” had a word with me about being too “abrupt” with people, and while she’s sympathetic when it comes to my medical situation, I’ve certainly had trouble in the past when suffering from cold symptoms (it may be one of the reasons she told me off in January 2016, and I nearly failed my probation!).

Being afraid of losing my job, and livelihood, is something I definitely don’t want to experience all over again, even if it demonstrates that I’m over “mind static” for the foreseeable future.  However, I have to go back to living with my folks in Worthing (again), at least it’ll mean we can finally get a dog… and they certainly cheer me up when I’m down!

And if I do have a cold, I’ll have an excuse not to see my personal trainer TWICE in one week (having just seen him on Friday), and can stay home every evening, playing video games (including a couple of sequels I’ve never played before — Deus Ex: Mankind Divided and, thanks to my mother, StarCraft II: Legacy of the Void)!  That’s if I can even make it into work, of course, but I’ll have no sick leave (until November, my third anniversary), so here’s hoping it won’t be necessary — I want to be helping my colleagues out full-time, not convalescing all over again.

Most hopefully of all, “best mate” will be back from his current job in Luton on Tuesday, and will take me to dinner at Nando’s — some spicy food would certainly help with my cold symptoms!