Category Archives: Complaints

The bullies who made me

No, this is not in any way, shape or form a clue to his name, or the reason I refer to him as “capital P” — those are alternative facts.  Sad!

I’m lucky to be online tonight, as when I came back from visiting my folks in Worthing for the first time in two months, our Internet connection was down.  I knew how to fix it (unscrew the cable from the router, touch the core, screw it back in), and so did my former-drummer housemate — indeed, he was the one who came up with the solution originally — but for some reason he hadn’t done so, and with him in the lounge (where the router is), I felt I couldn’t go in and take care of it.

It was only when I heard him go in the shower that I dared step foot outside the sanctity of my room, and got it working on the second or third attempt; I’d killed the intervening time by, amongst other things, starting season 5 of Game of Thrones, which I have on Blu-ray and thus don’t need an Internet connection to watch (sorry Netflix).

But why should I feel so intimidated by my housemate, a session drummer / music teacher who became a truck driver?  Wait… shall I call him “drummer-trucker”?  Yes, that works.  I find “drummer-trucker” intimidating because he’s gone wonky recently, and acts condescending and confrontational, like the kind of bully who insults you for no reason and then claims you’re the one with the problem, because he’s just having a laugh and you’re taking it too seriously.  About the only thing missing is a crowd for him to be playing up to, like when I was at school…

Don’t worry, I won’t drone on about every individual school bully I faced off against, or we’d be here all day (and I’ve probably forgotten a few) — and more to the point, I’ve covered a lot of this before.  No, I’ll just focus on the ones who stayed with me, up here (Dave-ros taps his temple, pointing approximately at his brain), for long periods of time, and perhaps changed my life directions now and then…

Moving to Worthing in 1992 wasn’t ideal — I’d worked my way up the social order going to an all-boys school in Surrey (and no, not through any vulgar or political means), and going to a mixed school in September just meant I got bullied by the girls as well as the guys.  Fortunately the girls had grown to accept me by Easter 1993, and it was just the boys making my life hellish… especially one guy with curly hair, big gums and permanently-slitted eyes (and no, he wasn’t from the Far East, just incredibly smug).  He was certainly the kind of bully who’d get everyone against me when I was minding my own business, and somehow I let him get inside my head, to the point that it was only when he left school at the end of Year 11 that I was finally able to get on with my life.

The strange thing is, a couple of times he was actually nice to me — either returning my schoolbag when other thugs were throwing it around, or chatting amiably outside school one day.  It’s why I’ve often wondered if he and I were actually supposed to be friends… but hey, I wasn’t into BYOB parties when I was 15-16, so I’d never have fitted into his crowd.  Fortunately, I no longer bear him ill will, and hope he’s sorted his life out.

You’d think leaving home would change things, but nooo, I got more of it at university — perhaps due to studying Geology, the most “thuggish” of the sciences (presumably because you have to do a lot of walking, and get to hit rocks with hammers!).  Not only did I get comments like “coathanger” shouted out when I was nearby during a field trip to Wales, but apparently one night two real scumbags got drunk and decided to come by my room to beat me up!  Fortunately I was out playing Quake in a computer lab that evening, otherwise I’d have suffered for the crime of… what, exactly?  Being myself?  I guess they made me more determined to be myself, if they had any effect at all…

My postgrad days saw the two blokes in my Astrophysics MSc ka-tet treating me badly, but at least one naffed off to do a PhD, while the other became the fellow I always refer to as “good housemate” in these hallowed pages, simply because I learned to roll with the punches, and gave as good as I got — in a way, he toughened me up and helped me laugh.  This guy, of course, once upset me by saying I was obliged to hurry up and (he thought) lose my virginity to a prostitute, to stop letting mankind down, but when he got his own place, and precipitated my worst month, he let me sleep on his couch for a week, while I waited for my new room to become available, so he’s forgiven.  I haven’t heard from him in ages, but I hope he’s all right and living his life!

Even beyond education, there exist bullies — and sadly, some of them have authority… when I first moved in with “good housemate” and our two female friends in Wood Green, I managed to get a temp admin job working for the local council (which I’ve mentioned before); at first I was doing well, organising deliveries and collections of Occupational Therapy (OT) equipment, and making friends with the delivery men (and on one or two occasions, helping them out when they were a man down) — and this seemed to frustrate the boss, a Scots lady with long white hair, whose very presence eventually made me cringe.

Although at first I was apparently the best they’d had in that job, she changed her appraisal of me when she decided that I should stop using my initiative and start blindly following rules — as though process was more important than results.  She’d also heap her own work on me in stupid ways, telling me to prepare fax messages, then telling me “that’s not how I’d phrase it” and requiring me to ask her for the exact wording I should use (which she then scrawled on the smallest size of Post-It notes, rather than e-mailing me).

At times it felt like she was trying to “sicken” me, and one day I actually had a bit of a breakdown from her constant nagging and work-heaping… fortunately the guy between me and her smoothed things over.  Still, this was the only job I ever quit for reasons other than returning to university or moving on to a better job, and I don’t regret doing so — and apparently I lasted longer than anyone else, and virtually no-one else liked her!

She wasn’t the only female superior to make me sad at work, though at least the loud girl I worked with at a nearby housing department in 2005 turned out to be all right in the end, and just a bit bossy at times.  However, it was a different but similar girl in my HR (Recruitment) days who really got to me — and, much like my current woes (not to mention the “brain fuzz” I was getting at the start of the year), it would always seem to be one week good, one week bad.  If she was unhappy with me, she’d criticise me for just about everything, even stuff that wasn’t my fault (like two recruiting managers for the same job telling us different things, or someone having written the wrong department next to a job in the diary), and claim I was “picking and choosing” my work.  If I was lucky, she’d leave me alone, and maybe sometimes even thank me.

It’s largely thanks to her hot-and-cold treatment that I didn’t reapply for my job there when yet another restructuring took place, and jumped at the chance to be redeployed in 2009 (to the job I was doing when I first started this blog).  Mind you, she got her comeuppance: she actually wanted to work in HR as a career and so reapplied for her job, yet when it came time to her interview, she panicked so much (perhaps due to criticism of her treatment of me?) that she had to walk out to compose herself!  After that she was a lot nicer to me during the remainder of our time there, and I wished her well when she went on to better things.

I reckon she was going through some bad stuff at that time of her life — what with actually wanting to succeed in a job I could take or leave — and perhaps that’s why my “drummer-trucker” housemate is being such a see-you-next-Tuesday lately: he regrets his decision to throw in music in favour of trucking, and is taking it out on the rest of us… or maybe he’s gone alcoholic: he drinks a six-pack every time he’s home in the evenings, with his music or DVDs playing loudly, and these are the worst times if we encounter each other.

He used to be all right: yes, there have been times we’ve argued, and he accused me of “needing to get laid” when I didn’t enjoy being locked out of the kitchen, but he also drove me to the hospital when I did my ankle in last year… mind you, he was still teaching drumming at the time, and thus had social skills.  Still, his pranks have never even been funny: things like shouting out he’s joining me and “best mate” when we’re going to the Castle, or telling me there’s a man who keeps coming to the door asking for me — it’s like he’s setting up jokes, but never follows through with the punchline.  Even today, he yanked the kitchen door open as he was walking past from the lounge, and any time he catches me using the upstairs toilet, he rattles the door handle impatiently.

Worst of all: this guy who sits alone drinking, actually has the gaul to accuse me and my other housemates (including “best mate”, the only person who doesn’t actively try to avoid him) of being “anti-social”!  Perhaps he’s just a hypocrite, considering he fills the house with his cookery smells (or on one occasion, petrol fumes from the motorbike he keeps on the front path), after leaving passive-aggressive notes in the kitchen for a previous housemate over curry odours.

I wish things hadn’t gotten to this stage, as I respect him for handling our billing (and the landlady) all these years, and want to part on good terms — but it’s up to him to make any moves to apologise, as he’s the one behaving badly… though I wonder if he himself is trying to avoid me, for precisely that reason?

My gears are still being ground in 2016


Bet you never thought you’d see this picture again, did you?

I was supposed to be writing a “happy alone time” post tonight about how I’ve been relaxing this weekend, and indeed will be doing so tomorrow as well (I’ve got to stay in to let in the gas man), but in fact I’ve got a number of things to moan about, and a number of famous companies to name and shame for their awful service.

(Obviously I should include a disclaimer that this is all my personal opinion and experience, and thus protected by freedom of speech!)

As if it wasn’t bad enough that I hurt my toes recently, and so have been hobbling around everywhere (hence doing nothing this weekend), and that I’ve had to cut down on my personal trainer sessions, so I feel bad (and still short of money!), and that it’s constantly cold, despite beingalmost March (I really hope the weather doesn’t copy 2013 and stay cold until April!), I’ve been let down this week.  For one thing, the “catchall” address at my personal e-mail domain at Fasthosts, which receives all e-mails sent to any address at that isn’t in a pre-defined mailbox, turned out to be full on Wednesday, and I only found this out when I checked it in webmail format after noting I’d had no e-mails from (who haven’t upset me, hence their name isn’t in bold) since Tuesday evening arriving in Outlook.

It turned out that although I’d only used up 15% of the allocated space, I’d also used up the maximum number of e-mails (yes, you can have “too many” e-mails in there without them taking up too much space), and they hadn’t notified me!  I dread to think what I might have lost if I hadn’t realised — and this is on top of how I couldn’t connect to their servers properly in late 2014, when I was trying desperately to apply for jobs and suffering from bad mobile signal as well (but don’t worry, 3 have been adequate recently, so they’re not getting a mention here).  I’ve just recently paid them for another year of e-mail hosting, so what can I do?

But now let’s focus on this weekend, and two particular foodstuffs I won’t be buying again: Linda McCartney pies and Hovis sliced bread.  Now, normally I’d endorse anything vegetarian, but the pie in question was soggy and undercooked even after 40 minutes in a pre-heated oven, something which never happened before they changed their packaging, so clearly they’re doing something wrong now (and I’ll be getting the Quorn ones instead).  As for the bread, well, it was so weak and insubstantial that the mere act of trying to spread butter with a knife tore it apart — what’s the point of bread you can’t spread butter upon?  Is it only suitable for toast?!  I used to get Warburtons, which had served me well almost since I moved to Finchley and started making my own lunches, but Tesco stopped selling it in half-loaf size (I can’t buy a whole loaf because too much of it would go off before I could eat it), and so I have to buy whatever’s available… maybe I’ll stick to rolls from now on?

Most of my ire, however, is reserved for the Co-op Bank, who I joined in 2013 and now want to ditch entirely.  I’ve hardly used my account with them since joining Halifax in 2014 (they give me better terms), and foolishly I thus stopped checking it.  I managed to get overdrawn in late 2015 (partly because they still let you take money out at cashpoints even when you’re overdrawn, and partly because PayPal, who I’m also angry at, have made it so hard to set my Halifax account as the default).  Even though I paid back what I owed in early January and had my account at zero, they still charged me £40 in January, and didn’t notify me (they thought a letter before Christmas sufficed), and since I didn’t realise I was overdrawn again until today, in addition to being charged £10 unauthorised overdraft fees in January and February, I’ll have to pay another £10 in March in full and final settlement, plus interest (fortunately less than a pound).  All because they don’t apply fees right away, they make you WAIT before you know how much you owe!  I only kept this account open for emergencies anyway, and now I’m going to cut up my Co-op debit card and be done with them forever, because I really don’t need to lose £70 right now.  But hey, their former chairman has to pay for his coke somehow, right?


Now I’ve finished watching this, it’s time for “South Park” on my morning commute

I suppose the one good thing about this incident is the lesson I’ve received in taking responsibility for my finances, instead of just leaving things.  Not only will I continue to check my Co-op account until I can close it and do away with them forever, and make sure I pay through PayPal only if they use the right bank account, but the financial hit has inspired me to finally put my old Gatchaman DVDs on eBay (these are the ones I was slowly buying in 2005, and which were replaced on my birthday by a single box set of the entire series, which takes up considerably less space).  If I can get suckers customers to pay the prices I’m after, it’ll make up for my losses… and maybe then I’ll be tempted to sell my copy of Stephen King’s The Bachman Books that includes “Rage” (which he allowed to fall out of print due to real life school shootings), for rather more than the £1 I paid for it in a charity shop.

(Don’t worry, I’d split the money with the shop in question — unlike the Co-op bank, I’m ethical!)

As for the other things, well, I’ve wanted to leave Fasthosts for a long time (I doubt anyone in the IT industry would even try to persuade me to stay!), so I’ll make sure to leave them before 2017, no matter what they do to convince me otherwise.  I’ll also avoid the two products named above like the plague: it sucks when I try to save money by making my own food only for it to blow up in my face, but I’m not going to let it get me downhearted, and will avoid eating out, or even getting lunch at the supermarket, for as much of March as I can muster…

Microsoft really grinds my gears

beavbuttpcFirst of all, I’ve atoned for my failure in July by passing my Windows Server 2008 exam, though unlike passing Windows 7, or A+, or the other A+, I feel merely relieved.  The past eighteen months have come to this — I’ve been studying it through some of the biggest changes and the deepest depressions of my life, and I can honestly say I’m glad it’s finally over.  My room even seems slightly larger… because I’ve taken down the myriad Post-It Notes* upon which I’d written revision notes.

(* Other sticky notes are available… but aren’t as good or as noteworthy)

This follows getting a job in an IT department at long, long last (the six-week unpaid one last year doesn’t count, and the shift-based one after that certainly doesn’t count!), so you’d think I’d be pleased, wouldn’t you?  Indeed, grateful to Microsoft themselves for giving me a purpose in life?  After all, if something goes wrong with Windows, I have a chance to fix it, don’t I?

Alas, Microsoft have started doing something for which they criticised Google: harvesting user information.  Windows 10 gathers all sorts of stuff from you and transmits it to MS — even your keystrokes — and requires visits to various options screens to turn it off, but at least they let you know about this kind of thing in the agreement you electronically sign at installation (hey, you do read those things, don’t you?).  However, they’ve also begun back-patching some of that “telemetry” into Windows 7 and 8, in very sneaky patches that simply say “resolve issues in Windows”.  Do they really think that not having access to our private information is an “issue” that needs to be “resolved”?

It gets worse: they’ve also really begun pushing upgrades to Windows 10 onto users, including those who didn’t signal their interest in the programme.  And since this involves secretly downloading gigabytes of installation files onto your PC, if you’re on a metered connection (such as, $DEITY help you, 3G or 4G), they’ve just cost you a load of money or even gotten you cut off completely, haven’t they?  They claim the auto-ticked upgrade was a mistake (they would, wouldn’t they?), but they haven’t apologised for their habit of unhiding the Windows Updates that nag you to upgrade to Windows 10 after you’ve taken the trouble to hide them.

I’m thus going to post this link to a program, whose honesty I can confirm, that will enable you to keep all the Windows 10 upgrade badness off your PC.  I also have this link to a thread at MS’s own forums about how to cancel the Windows 10 upgrade if it’s inadvertently triggered.  I would advise you to tinker with your Windows Update settings and untick “Give me recommended updates the same way I receive important updates”… and then keep unticking it after every big patch download, as MS seem to be re-ticking it (it seems even their essential security updates are getting dishonest).  If any of those nasty telemetry patches have infected your system, check this list and uninstall them.

The idea of Microsoft claiming the right to lists of filenames on our PCs, the nature of our web searches, the stuff we type out (including passwords, remember?) and other private information is so nauseating to me that I’m actually considering getting rid of Windows on my own PC and installing some form of Linux instead, and buying a games console for gaming instead.  This, of course, would mean only using Windows at work, which would perhaps resolve the issue of “bringing work home with me”…

— — —

On a related topic, online advertising also really grinds my gears: we’re all sick of advertising that doesn’t just sit there at the top or side of a page, and insists on moving around distractingly, playing music, claiming you’ve “won” something or have a “virus”, and (once again) using up your bandwidth with something you didn’t ask for and don’t need.  However, a lot of online advertising now tracks you across different websites (I should point out I don’t mind Amazon showing me stuff related to things I’ve viewed at Amazon while logged in as myself), and in some very bad cases, can even infect your PC with malware thanks to ad brokers taking no real care regarding the advertising they show.  I’ve got two solutions for this:

  • Go to this site, save the text into a text file called “hosts” (not “hosts.txt”), copy it into your Windows\System32\Drivers\Etc folder, and as a result your PC will not have any contact with ad servers (as a side effect, this particular list also blocks out some of Microsoft’s nefariousness).  This works even better than solely using browser ad-blocking plugins (which reminds me, ditch AdBlock Plus and go for uBlock Origin, and also grab Ghostery).
  • Uninstall Adobe Flash, because YouTube works through HTML5 now, and BBC iPlayer is trialling the same.  Flash is so full of security holes it makes even Windows look safe, and deserves to be consigned to the dustbin of history.  Yes, a lot of online games use Flash, but sacrifices have to be made; however, if it’s absolutely essential you have Flash on your PC, at least install a Flash blocker in your browser, so you can control which Flash elements appear on a case-by-case basis.

Together we can beat the scumbags who see our private information as something to be exploited rather than protected… and then maybe we can get to work on the government organisations who think they need to spy on us all the time to make sure we aren’t terrorists?

My own computer really grinds my gears


I was feeling like this today… just work, bunghole!

As I may have intimated before, when I’m with my folks in Worthing I use a cobbled-together PC that I call “the Frankencomputer” (and please don’t point out that Frankenstein was the creator, I’m well aware of this).  Throughout its history it’s been troublesome for me, and this weekend and Monday have been the worst…

(I call my PC in London “the übercontraption”, if you must know!)

Until late 2011 I was using my mother’s old prebuilt eMachines PC as my Worthing computer, but it was so slow that I couldn’t even listen to Tony Blackburn via iPlayer without stuttering, unless I turned off the antivirus!  Thus, using spare parts (such as a casing I’d bought for my mother’s previous PC, the motherboard I’d upgraded from when my hard drive died in May, and an old copy of Windows XP), I began assembling the Frankencomputer in November.  The casing wasn’t exactly soundproof, however, and I had a good casing in London… and so I carried it home one arm-aching weekend (naturally the nearest Tube station was closed at that exact time).

To make matters worse, the PSU (one of several I had going spare, and one which had needed an extension for the 12V cable) wasn’t able to handle the increased number of cooling fans, and so the hard drive was damaged by power fluctuations.  All I’d wanted to do was play the original F.E.A.R. and its expansions over Christmas, but multiple attempts to download and validate the files through Steam took ages as the drive slowed everything to glacial speeds… and even when I’d finally finished, the ancient 7900GS graphics card turned out to be on the way out.  Gah!

Thus it was that the Frankencomputer was used for only simple tasks for about a year; I tried replacing the hard drive, but only succeeded on the second attempt (the first time I mistakenly bought an old IDE drive, the sort that takes a ribbon cable, and almost killed that one too).  I got a better PSU eventually, and when I bought my mother a compact all-in-one PC for Christmas in 2012, I took the decent graphics card (and memory) from her old PC and stuck it where it might be of some use at last (ooh, Matron!).  It was Easter 2013 (about the time I wrote this entry) when I finally reinstalled Steam, admittedly in the vain hope of being able to play Mumsy’s copy of Total War: Shogun 2 (a difficult prospect even on a decent PC).

However, broadly speaking, the Frankencomputer was finally working more or less fine — and received a boost when I got a DVI-to-HDMI cable so I could plug it into the big TV in my Worthing room, and not need my mother’s old VGA monitor (which joined many other devices and components in the electronics section at Worthing dump), though this of course meant I couldn’t watch TV at the same time.  During my self-imposed exile in September 2013 I was able to study, play games and surf the Interthingy to my heart’s content (but not write in this blog very much, I note), and similarly while keeping my grandmother company recently.

However, since Windows XP officially became obsolete this year, and no longer receives significant updates, it was high time I upgraded it to Windows 7.  I put a slightly better processor in it (more a way of refreshing my thermal paste-scraping skills before I did the same with my own PC in London), and brought home a slightly larger hard drive I had going spare; my intention was to get a copy of Windows 7 and set up an installation on a USB thumb drive including an Autounattend file, just to prove my superior PC skills.

It took me a while to get a copy of Windows 7 (since Computer Exchange’s stock of things I want to buy can go down as well as up, and I needed to sell some stuff to get the necessary credit), but this weekend I created an Autounattend file on my London PC, partly thanks to experimentation with installing it in a virtual machine (just let me big up VirtualBox here… okay, that’s big enough).  I had to use my mother’s PC to set up the USB thumb drive (which I’d foolishly left in Worthing) as a bootable object, and copy the installation files across from the Windows 7 DVD; then I had to use my mother’s PC again in order to recreate the Autounattend file from scratch, because the one I’d brought with me had somehow been corrupted!

I had many, many other issues with this installation, and here’s a litany (apologies for the techie language, but perhaps someone else out there will benefit from my comedy of errors):

  • You need to use both CreatePartition and ManagePartition — don’t just create a partition and not then set it to NTFS (or whatever) format, or you’ll get an error: “Windows could not prepare the partition selected for installation.”
  • Windows 7 needs a 100MB “System” partition, and the rest can be for Windows itself — but both need to be “Primary”, not “MSR” or “EFI” or anything!
  • If you set the main partition to “Extend” (i.e. fill up all remaining space on the hard drive) in CreatePartition, DON’T set it to “Extend” in ManagePartition as well, or the whole installation process will stop with a weird error (0x80300024, fact fans).

And then there’s more to get right in the PC’s BIOS:

  • If you’re using a SATA drive (and you should be, it’s not 1997 any more), for $DEITY’s sake, set it to AHCI mode before you start installing Windows 7, otherwise you’ll have a choice between reinstalling, doing some scary registry hacking via a bootable DVD (to ensure the right drivers get loaded), or living with a slower hard drive!
  • Make sure you’ve set the right boot device order — don’t keep selecting USB-FDD like I did, and then think the thumb drive had been set to no longer be a bootable object, possibly because you edited the Autounattend file under Windows XP… your PC might just ignore everything and go for the first hard drive it finds, ignoring your USB thumb drive entirely!
  • Just because your USB keyboard & mouse work in the BIOS screens and in Windows, there’s no guarantee they’ll work in the Windows boot screen (e.g. to select “Start in Safe Mode”) as well — make sure the BIOS is set to accept input from USB devices!

(Those last two might be quirks of this motherboard’s weird BIOS — the same BIOS that convinced me I’d lost my documents drive in May 2011 as well as my Windows drive, when in fact only the Windows drive had conked out!)

And even once installation is over, there’s still more problems to face:

  • By default, the Administrator account is unavailable to log into — indeed, you won’t even be able to type in the Administrator password when UAC deploys (it’ll tell you to do so, but won’t give you a box to type it into!); to unlock it, you need to restart in Safe Mode, log in as Administrator and run a command before it’ll be available in “normal” mode.  (Oh, all right: net user administrator /active:yes).
  • If you’ve got an older Wi-Fi network card, Windows Updates might misidentify it and install “updated” drivers that actually stop it from detecting any Wi-Fi networks — so make sure you’ve got the right drivers available!
  • Microsoft are paying attention now, so don’t try to install Office 2010 (or similar) on more than one desktop PC, though you might be allowed to install it on a laptop as well.

Honestly, the number of times I’ve had to watch the Windows 7 installation process today alone!  But it’s all finally done, and I’ve saved some useful files (such as nVidia drivers and Firefox) onto the USB thumb drive, in case I ever have to do it all again.  I know, if I’d been better prepared I could have set up a customised WIM image including all the software and drivers I wanted, or even made a fully-updated virtual machine and created an image from that, but I didn’t have time.

Anyway, the Frankencomputer works fine now — but alas, it’s late at night and I need to go back to London tomorrow, to psyche myself up for my first night shift on Thursday, so I have no chance to enjoy it…

Recovering from setbacks

Comic Book Guy

15/9/2014: Worst Tube journey ever.

You’re very lucky I’m writing this tonight… wait, is that right?  Yes, you’re lucky to be reading my blog, indeed privileged — but the reason you might not have been is that my PC, which has existed in more or less its current form since May 2011, today suffered a small hardware failure resulting in the loss of one of my two 4GB sticks of memory.  I was getting weird problems last night (such as Thief crashing to desktop), but thought it was down to the latest nVidia graphics drivers not being up to snuff; however, this morning, when I got a weird error instead of startup, and then repeated “blue screens of death”, I knew something was up…

Fortunately I kept my head and diagnosed the problem, and confirmed that the other stick of memory works fine (for now).  I’m thus down to 4 gigabytes, which isn’t ideal but I can survive for the time being.  Suffice to say, the broken module clearly has a scratch on one of the gold pins, which explains the problem; I don’t know what caused it, though it may explain the strange hissing noise I heard this morning.  Perhaps some ne’er-do-well snuck into my room while I was sleeping, took a memory module out of my computer, carefully scratched one of its gold terminals, and put it back again, all without waking me?

I coped with this little disaster rather better than I coped last Monday with the utter debacle of public transport in London.  I use the Northern and Central Lines to get to my internship in Greenford, and both lines were in utter chaos (as was the Victoria Line, which the other intern had to use).  I ended up having to get a bus for the last part of the journey (and then walk twice as far as I would from the Tube station), and so my 90-minute commute took THREE HOURS!

And, sadly, no-one was ecstatic to see me or thankful that I’d braved such horror and stupidity in order to get to an unpaid job.  I was also still down following last weekend’s events, and then my journey home was almost as bad as getting to work (the Northern Line hadn’t improved), and our Internet connection was down when I finally got home, and when this was restored I couldn’t remember which e-mail address and postcode I’d used to register my Oyster card (part of the hoops you have to jump through for a refund these days)…

(Yes, this was far worse than Christmas Eve — at least I had Christmas with my folks to look forward to afterwards, not a day failing to be paid followed by a similar journey within 24 hours!)

This all made me decide that I’d leave London if I ever had such a dreadful day again.  I know, I went through something similar last year, but at least I didn’t get as low as on a previous occasion, or even another previous occasion, and somehow found the strength to carry on living in London.  I get over it every time, but it keeps happening, doesn’t it?

It’s getting frustrating, having to look into the abyss at least once every year, because no amount of advice along the lines of “this too shall pass” can stop me brooding when I get going.  As someone running a spiritual meetup group told me, if you think about something for 17 seconds, it becomes harder to stop thinking about it, and this repeats every 17 seconds, like a self-reinforcing spiral into blackness… I’ve got to stop doing this, somehow — perhaps this should be my achievement for 2014: never, ever giving in to depression again!

Fortunately, when I’m not trapped on public transport, the job itself is going fine — I may not spend literally all day solving people’s computer problems, but the gaps give me time to study and apply for “proper” jobs (both of which are entirely in line with my employer’s blessing), and at least the big, jolly Canadian guy seems to like and encourage me.  Unfortunately the area has no decent shops, unless you want “junk food”, and so it seems I’m going to have to go back to the days when I made my own lunch — something I started doing in 2012 when I was recovering from depression for the first time, and living in a new house.

Hopefully soon I’ll get a new job, and begin my career in IT; assuming it’s at least £20k, I intend to buy some new computer components, thereby enabling me to divest myself of the CPU, motherboard and memory (what’s left of it!) that I acquired in 2011.  Why, I still remember turning on this contraption’s predecessor before work that morning (24th May) and discovering that the main hard drive had failed, and deciding that since I was already planning to upgrade, instead of buying just a new hard drive, I’d get new components as well (which meant I had to take a half-day), so I wouldn’t need to install Windows twice in quick succession.  Although I’ve changed casing, graphics card, keyboard, mouse, monitor and sound system, these bits have remained constant, and have followed me from Caledonian Road to Finchley.

So you see, it’s not just depression I picked up in 2011 and want to rid myself of once and for all…

More annoyances

And another thing!
–Prince Charles as a cabbie, Spitting Image

gmgWell, it had to happen eventually in 2014: a moany post in my blog.  A number of things are bugging me at the moment, and they’re probably all my fault somehow…

(Don’t worry, no girl troubles this time around — my efforts continue…)

First of all, our fridge-freezer seemed to be working again on Monday morning, but today has stopped, like, being cool inside, just like it did on Friday and Saturday.  I and the other housemate who uses the fridge part have tried turning it off and on again (the tried and tested Microsoft method, which I’m going to have to tell people to use when I’m in tech support, no doubt) to no avail, so I’ll have to let the landlady know tomorrow that we still need a replacement.  Of course, my crazy drummer housemate may have done something to it, as he was claiming on Tuesday that it’s “supposed” to turn itself off for 48 hours every so often in order to defrost the freezer — apparently without warning, so you have no way to avoid losing all your refrigerated and frozen food.  I think we can safely say the thing’s broken and be done with it… I certainly won’t be buying Zanussi products for myself if this is how long they last — and even if we’d registered it and gotten a year’s warranty, we got it 13 months ago…

I confirmed the thing was kaput this evening after coming home from a Japanese meetup event (side annoyance: the Central Line to Liverpool St. was horrible thanks to the strike, even though the Northern Line is business as usual), and moreover after walking into my room to discover that the archive boxes I’d neatly stacked in the alcove behind my computer had all come crashing down… fortunately my PC is fine (otherwise I wouldn’t be blithering on my blog tonight, would I?), but the bottom box is clearly crushed beyond utility.  Oh well, I should probably have been using the plastic tubs I used in my house move anyway, so I’ll put my books and back issues of Private Eye in those instead, rather than keep them stacked on top of my wardrobe.  There, one problem solved…

My other annoyances are computer-related.  First of all, Mozilla have updated Firefox with a look and feel that is very different from how it’s been for ages, with no easy way of turning it back.  I’m investigating “classic” themes that have understandably sprung up, made by people more skilful than me to combat a problem that didn’t need to be… and on the same day, I note Microsoft issued a “patch” for Windows 7 that’s supposed to aid “upgrading” to the latest version of Windows.  As if I would ever consider touching Windows 8 with a bargepole!

(Ah ha ha ha, touching, because it’s a touchscreen-focused OS… no?  Oh, please yourselves!)

And finally… I may have gotten into an online argument with “female best friend’s” husband regarding marriage.  I saw he’d posted in some thread in some group on Facebook (yes, I know, Internet discussions, whatever), and felt the need to contribute: it was decrying the notion of polygamous marriage, with the usual Daily Mail-esque sarcastic comments along the lines of “oh, I suppose people will be marrying inanimate objects next, it’s the thin end of the wedge!”.  I tried to post reasonably, but it seems the thread initiator (as well as my quasi-brother-in-law) doesn’t object to this, or to gay marriage, as long as they’re not called marriage, because he feels that to do otherwise would lead to marriage meaning “anything”, and therefore “nothing”.

I posted that I was disappointed it was just an argument about semantics and “ownership” of words, and that it would have been for women to be told, when they got the vote, that they couldn’t call it “voting” because that would reduce the value of voting, and the discussion went all quiet… maybe I was being a bit emotive with my argument, but hey — if it was a debate then I was debating; and if it wasn’t, and was just one of those “post how much you agree with me about this sort of thing” threads, then it deserved to be, ahem, “trolled”, because fixed, entrenched ideas about tradition need to be challenged!  Not automatically swept into the dustbin of history, just challenged — as above, I am against change for the sake of it, and do feel that only truly committed couples (or trios etc.) should get married.  But hey, how many “normal” marriages are shams…

Ah, one final annoyance has presented itself this evening: my mother’s trying to scan a letter from the Stupid Loans company, since they’re so stupid that they want me to respond within 14 days to a letter dated 15 days ago.  (Is it the fault of second-class post?)  Naturally, her printer/scanner’s chosen this exact moment to not work properly, so I may just have to call them tomorrow to let them know I definitely want to defer again, and that maybe, if they want me to reply within 2 weeks of the date on the letter, they ought to send it less than 2 weeks after the date.  Which I can, of course, do after phoning my landlady to say that we need a new fridge-freezer after all — and that this time, we need to register it for the guarantee!

And tomorrow, of course, the annoying woman is back at work… lucky I have a tedious desk-based job to do, so I can listen to music!

Good news and bad news

Hello again — the reason I’m writing on Saturday morning is that there’s some important stuff to report.  I’d have written about the good news on Thursday evening if I’d not been out at a meetup event, or on Friday evening if I hadn’t been hanging out with “best mate” following personal training, but it’s a good job I waited, because now, as of 11am on 26/4/2014, there’s bad news to offset the good news…


As per tradition, I indicated my success on Facebook by posting a clip of these lads playing “Iron Man” on the air guitar… duuun duuun dun-dun-dun etc.

The good news first, obviously.  As you’ve no doubt been hoping, I did indeed pass my Windows 7 exam on Thursday; indeed, I got to the venue so early, and completed the test so quickly, that I’d finished by my arranged start time!  Considering I only got 90% of the 700 pass mark in 2012, it was quite gratifying to get 914 (presumably out of 1000?) this time around.

After having taken two days off to study/worry, I returned to the office on Friday with celebratory Krispy Kremes, and discovered I’d received a bonus: the annoying woman was on annual leave!  I also impressed my personal trainer in the evening, despite, you know, over-indulging in sugary doughnuts…

Of course, the real reward for passing a Windows 7 exam is simply not having to study for it any more, like, EVER, and so I’m just glad to get it out of the way.  I’ve got Server 2008 to worry about as well, but I can take that a bit more slowly, and focus on other things for a while.

(Maybe I’ll finally take guitar lessons?  Maybe I’ll work on chatting up women and socialising?  Or maybe I’ll just stay home and play games…)

fcnoooHowever, the bad news this morning is that our fridge-freezer, the one we got last March (as mentioned here), has gone kaput, bitten the dust, rung down the curtain and joined the choir invisible.  This is NOT a good thing, as I had quite a bit of frozen food in there, as did others, and the landlady’s not happy about it either, especially since it was her late husband who arranged delivery of it in the first place (and that’s probably dredged up bad memories for her as well).

We don’t seem to have registered the thing with Zanussi (I’m naming and shaming here) at the time of delivery, so I don’t know what’s going to happen next, whether we’ll have to pay for a full replacement, or if we’re even under warranty… but it’s notable that the last fridge-freezer (for which this was a replacement) took a long time to die, considering the freezer door couldn’t be closed properly due to all the ice, so what the hell went wrong with this one?  And it took well over a week for the new one to be delivered last March, and while we at least have another fridge, we have no working freezer yet again… so I guess it’s lucky I’ll be eating out for much of next week, due to some rather busy evenings!

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go and play Mass Effect 2 until Tony Blackburn comes on the radio.  That’s unless my good news and bad news are followed by ugly news: is the house going to burn down?  Are the ConDems banning video games and music?  Or, worst of all: do I have to tidy my room…?