Monthly Archives: November 2019

The great burden

We choose to go to the Moon in this decade, and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard; because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills; because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one we intend to win, and the others, too!
—John F. Kennedy, 1962

This is not me sitting next to the guy we lost, who wasn’t Japanese anyway

It’s partly reluctance, and partly overwork that’s stopped me writing over the past couple of weeks — much as I hate getting up early enough to make a roll for lunch, so I’d rather watch Family Guy and play the Assassin’s Creed games instead of opening this web-based editing suite to write stuff that I’ve probably already written, in multiple different ways, over the past seven years.

But I’m not quite repeating this post, although I’m certainly facing increase in one form of personal torture, and hopefully thus my endurance.  This time, it’s at work that I’m expending greater effort, in the hope that I’ll be regarded as indispensible…

It turns out that my first-line helpdesk colleague, who was absent on “career break” last year for reasons to which I was not officially privy, has now left our organisation entirely, after having begun working there in the early 21st century.  He’d been off quite a bit beforehand, but since he was in last Tuesday, and no “leave” was showing up for him in the team calendar, I’d politely assumed he was off sick (though of course I hoped it wasn’t a similar issue to the lead-up to my months-long sick leave in the summer of 2018).

“Boss lady” didn’t officially tell us until Monday, and the rest of the organisation a couple of days later, apparently due to “legal” arrangements needing to be made before the announcement.  She said he’s moved on to pastures new, but it seems he really was crying at his desk after a meeting earlier in the month, and had been told his days at our employer were numbered.  He never told me anything, but my workmates suspected all along…

And there’s always the risk that our team will be “outsourced”, whatever the hell that means (seeing as there are plans under IR35 to make IT contractors pay employee levels of tax without having employee rights to things like paid leave), so I’ve been told by a fellow Trekkie to stay on “yellow alert”, in case I’m next to face the axe.

(Needless to say, I don’t want a five-year cycle meaning I have to relive events around this time in 2014, December being a bad time for finding work!)

However, rather than preparing to jump into a lifeboat, I’m trying to bail out the ship for the time being — hence despite the physical pains I faced a few weeks ago, a bad cough coming on this week, public transport woes, and the fact that my colleague departed at the time of several major projects, I’ve continued going in to work every day, forcing myself to get on with things, and trying to hold back any kind of snapping at people (except maybe to ask them to talk a bit more quietly), not wanting to go on sick leave like I did as the new guy in late 2015.

I won’t go into detail about the major tasks, except to say they involve (a) security, (b) homeworking ability and (c) more desks in the downstairs office (and thus more network connections); since these occur at the same time as fixing the usual problems, I’ve been very overworked lately — and having a cough and sore throat this week made it hard to speak to people.  I’ve been in trouble for that before, and at times I’ve just not felt up to apologising to people for “feeling like Death warmed up”, or even making eye contact with people with whom I normally have a humorous exchange.

This Tuesday was the worst of all, because as I, amongst many other jobs, replaced keyboards and mice for an entire team (who fortunately were understanding), I worried with all my heart about our new dog Lola, who was undergoing a serious operation down in Worthing — because if she died, I’d certainly be upset, but my mother and grandmother would be devastated, this new addition to the family having made them truly happy.  Fortunately she was fine (indeed, the operation went “surprisingly well”), which has lighted my burden in that sense, as I won’t need to think about abandoning London so I can return home and comfort my folks.

And just so you know, “senpai” is actually a black dude with a London accent, with no Japanese blood!

The two geniuses in my team (senpai and the bloke who looks like an Asian Eddie Hitler) can give me guidance and expand my knowledge beyond 1st line, and indeed have taught me some important tasks (including the most important security-based ones of all, VPN and 2FA), but they’ve got so much to take care of, they can only give me limited support — and without our missing gentleman, I’ve thus go sooo much to do at work that my ticket queue seems to be growing exponentially…

(No, VPN doesn’t mean “visible panty nine”, and 2FA doesn’t mean “two, er, nothing”!)

And no, I can’t work evenings or weekends: aside from the important hours when people generally need help being 9-to-5, apparently only those two can claim overtime pay anyway, and “boss lady” knows when I’ve been remoting onto my work computer after hours, thus I am discouraged from working too hard.

Thus I need to slow down and not worry so much about how long it’s taking to take care of minor tasks (with people who aren’t even in the office at the time, or can’t answer a simple question about their problem), and be thankful that, as a member of an IT team, I can fix many problems simply by standing nearby!  Perhaps this is why “boss lady” has been refreshingly patient with me lately, as despite my problems, I’ve kept going.

And I feel I must be available to help out with important, urgent tasks when I’m needed — such as today, when the aforementioned Asian Eddie was off without explanation just as we finally replaced an old Win8 machine with a Win10 one that could run a version of our door security software that wasn’t written around the time our departed colleague began working for our employer, possibly for Win2000 or even Win98.  That was an onerous time (which made it hard to have even a late lunch), but “boss lady” agreed at how inexperienced the engineers seemed to be about their own software!

I guess I can cover for others when it’s life or death — something I must learn, so that I’ll either be kept on as an essential member of the team, or I’ll get a good reference for my next job.  Hey, at least the staff like me, and I don’t work for a bank helpdesk — that kind of staff would demand I fix their computer NOW, as every minute costs them money!

(One reason that the collective noun for bankers is “wunch”…)

— — —

P.S. I’ve got burdens at my London home too: not only handling billing (and thanks to E.ON for not writing off their billing mistake, and insisting we pay them what they undercharged us for before), but also living with “still new bad housemate”, who’s managed to be a lot more condescending than any other housemate I’ve ever had who moved in years after me!  I wonder if he’ll even agree to monthly energy payments, seeing as he didn’t think himself liable for any fraction of the household TV licence… thus I vow: if I need a new job, I’ll find a new home!

Age is just an inconsistent number

Well, gentleman, all in all, an experience we’ll remember in our old age… (twinge) …which won’t be for some while, I hope.
Star Trek (S2E11, “The Deadly Years”)

“To quote my captain in an article contrasting physical and mental age is… surprisingly logical.”

Don’t know if I’ve said it in this blog before — it’s been going for over seven years now, after all — but however old I grow chronoligically, and however old I seem physically, my mental age tends to vary between seven and 7,000 years — depending upon the situation, whether I’m in a good mood, the month having an “r” in it… and, of course, who (or what) I’m dealing with.

Looking back at when I started writing this in 2012, and as I noted in 2014, I feel like I was reborn after having metaphorically died in December 2011 (or possibly January 2012), thanks in no small part to climbing.  2013 was the year of my second childhood: the American holiday and my discovery of socialising (not to mention actually dating a great deal, perhaps more than anyone else my age), and also the beginning of my proper education in IT terms (after a false start in 2010).

2014 would represent my troublesome teenage years, ending with horrible depression and anxiety as I tried to work and not end up destitute (or worse, doing admin in an office again!), but in 2015 (despite my early symptoms of brain issues) I gradually recovered, and in a way reached adulthood by getting my current job, which, despite a difficult start, made me happy and comfortable in 2016 — in a way, my carefree twenties, and the resumption of my “playboy lifestyle” (playing video games and watching sci-fi instead of attending dinner parties and worrying about bills).

Perhaps due to the symptoms starting to become near-constant in late 2016, the following year feels somehow “lost” to me, and being treated badly by my old housemate or told off at work didn’t help, though perhaps building a new PC (and even making improvements to that) made things tolerable.  However, it’s because I took over gathering our household bills in lieu of the housemate that moved out (and before him, the leaderene who lived here when I first moved in) that I feel like I finally reached adulthood, taking responsibility for my quasi-family.

Yes, in a way I’m almost fatherly… though it’d mean the lady who’s lived here almost as long as me (taking the place of a creepy little man who lived in the back room when I first moved in) would count as the mother, even though she and I aren’t involved!  Leaving aside our two newest housemates, the thing to note is that “best mate”, since he moved in back in 2015, has been like a son to me — ignoring the too-small age difference!

Then again, “female best friend” at times felt less like a little sister and more like a daughter!  But since she’s now married with children, I feel she’s more like a big sister, living a far more mature life and taking care of actual human offspring instead of just handling the tedious calculations, accumulations and payments of rent, council tax and other household bills for the sake of a group of adults who are equally capable.  However, since I can’t stand babies, perhaps I’m better off in this situation?

(I know I haven’t made my mother a grandmother, but considering how young our new doggy is, she’s still got a little darling to look after and spoil!)

Despite the cause, it was good to have a lot of 2018 off — more like a career break than retirement — as I recovered thanks to my folks, returned to London thanks to “best mate”, and resumed my job on a part-time basis once they let me.  I didn’t feel like this was a return to childhood, but more like reintegration into the community after… well, not a prison sentence, but after a serious operation, obviously — and I was mature enough to be thankful to have a life to return to… sorry, to be thankful to have a life to which to return, too many “to”s!

I’ve been listening to his albums over the past couple of weeks — thanks, Em!

More recently I’ve needed the help of an osteopath to deal with lower back pains (hence the Kirk quote at the top of this post), and although I’ve recovered from that (much as I recovered from spraining one ankle in early 2013 and the other in late summer 2016), it’s a reminder of the advances of age — not that I’m doomed to disability now, but that I’ve got to take better care of my physical form (even if technically I’m fitter now than I was at school!), including posture and diet.

All this comes together to make me feel like I’ve grown up and been reborn many times over the years — not just in 2012 after the misery of late 2011, but in 2005, after the dismal last couple of months in 2004, when I grew used to living in that cold but tolerable house in the Wood Green area, and was able to enjoy living with “female best friend” (with whom I shared anime shows, such as Macross 7 and X) and the gentleman who, thanks to our years at Caledonian Road, I would one day refer to here as “good housemate”.

I’ve actually started thinking back to those days recently, and how much simpler things were (it was 2006 before I even built a PC of my own, instead of using the half-decent one my folks paid for two years earlier) — though the 2003-4 academic year was also a time of happiness for me (certainly more than my undergrad days), meeting a new group of people for the first time and escaping from the retirement town of Worthing so I could return to university life.

But where am I now?  Let’s make some estimates of my mental age…

  • Mature enough to handle billing, and take bad companies to task (mid-to-late 30s)
  • Man-childish enough to play video games (late teens to late 20s)
  • Still in the girl-hunting phase and going on many first dates (mid-to-late teens)
  • Getting dating experience, learning from it and hopefully soon finding “the one” (late 20s to early 30s)
  • Staying physically fit (early 20s, or possibly mid-life crisis)
  • Not wanting to get drunk (pre-teens or mature adulthood)
  • Having trouble getting up in the mornings (pretty much any age after pre-teens)
  • Feeling the cold and hating noisy people (elderly and retired)
  • Believing I’m indestructible and will live forever (either teenager or already thousands of years old)
  • Good with computers and willing to learn more (either very old or very young)
  • Working in first-line IT helpdesk (20s) but actually enjoying it (60s?)
  • Reading Judge Dredd comic strips (early teens, and f*** Bill Maher)
  • Listening to Eminem and Gwar (younger than I should be!)
  • Remembering Doctor Who in the 1980s (older than I want to be!)

BBC Genome says it was October 1993 when I first saw “The Terminator” uncensored — and I actually enjoyed it more than the sequel, which my folks let me watch first!

What might be worth noting is that I wonder which generation I’m truly in, and which I should be in — after all, I’m old enough to remember shows from the 1980s and 1990s and reminisce about the days we called home computers “micros”, but I never joined in with my generation’s binge-drinking at school or university, and didn’t watch scary grown-up films, and overcome my fear of them, until my teenage years (including Die Hard and Aliens back in 1992).  As I’ve said before, my peers telling me I’m “wrong” just makes me feel right instead!

I’m sure I overheard Chris Evans on the radio one morning (as opposed to hosting The Big Breakfast back in the day) saying that the current younger generation are more likely to become addicted to smartphone games than alcohol!  And since I play Pokémon GO every day but hold drink-to-get-drunkers in contempt, maybe I’m with them?  I also think gay marriage is okay and that fireworks should be restricted to professional use (JRM opposing this plan makes me like it more), and of course you know I hate cyclists who charge through red lights.  All things considered, I’m childlike but sensible, and don’t want to see others get hurt going about their daily business, purely for who they are… maybe because then it’d happen to me.

Funnily enough, the osteopath reckoned I’d been leaning to the left — well, if hating injustice and intolerance gives me lower back pain, stay tuned to this blog: it’s time I performed a hate catharsis, of both old and young varieties, by writing a post about my negative feelings that better expresses them than my late 2013 one, isn’t it?

(Ah, I was angry about cyclists and cabbies running red lights back then, too!)