Category Archives: Trying new things

Making ends meet

“Check it out, Beavis — that dude’s, like, back putting words on the screen or something!”

Once again, I’d planned for ages to vent my anger about the world in this blog — not against the “virtue-signalling SJW snowflake leftie libtards”, but the opposite, at those who keep hurling such terms and thus sounding like self-righteous bullies — or to say to extreme right-wingers what Bill Hicks once said to advertisers.  Instead, I’ll talk about issues pertaining to finance and friendship, which aren’t mutually exclusive, and keep me going in these interesting times.

You’ll be pleased to know that I’m still working from home… well, not pleased with the “from home” bit, which still brings on anxiety due to how difficult it would be if my computer at work simply turned itself off (or worse, changed IP address), but it has meant me saving even more money than before, simply because I don’t have to spend on the order of £200 every month on Tube fares!

This plus the money I was already saving due to almost never going into the red for the month (i.e. earning more than spending… oh, you knew?) means I’d already saved around £3,000 since the start of this year… but that’s now gone down significantly, because I’ve been, er, upgrading the PC of Theseus once again, this time without “boss lady” paying for the new CPU and me getting everything else.

I’m once again feeling buyer’s remorse, as first of all I got… prepare yourselves… a GTX 2080Ti graphics card for over a grand.  Argh!  Don’t worry, it works fine (and wasn’t substituted in the packaging), but it wasn’t enough: I’ve also ordered a 9th-generation CPU, and a motherboard to put it in (as my current one has the right socket but wrong, er, something-or-other to do with it), though this total comes to only half as much as the price of the graphics card.

(Hey, this way I’ll be able to play the Halo and Doom games in 4K without slowdown, and I’ll have extra heating when winter comes!)

But my bank account’s only just gone under £10,000, and it’s payday next Thursday — and I’ve managed to sell the old 1080 I got in November 2017 for around £200 (a certain housemate thought I was foolish for accepting so little, but owing to the way he speaks to me at other times, I’d have been hesitant to accept his advice if I’d known it prior anyway).  Unless something goes badly wrong, I’ve got plenty to sustain me, and I can help others as well, including my folks.

She was so happy I was home, she jumped on my bed and French-kissed me!

I won’t be having an expensive holiday abroad any time soon, partly due to the pandemic lockdown, and partly because changing to a timezone more than one or two hours away would really screw up my twice-daily medication (8am and 8pm, after breakfast and dinner, being better than 4pm and 4am!).  However, I can still travel within Britain, and so I’ve been able to visit my folks in Worthing, and help take the dog walkies.

More importantly, though: although I can’t visit her in her native Far Eastern island nation yet, I at least had one last chance to meet my dear female friend before she flew home back in June (and had to sit through quarantine).  We’d had an adventure visiting my old university (and now, sadly, her old university too) at the end of May, but before she left the country, we also met at Camden Town for a walk, a chat, and some food (boy, that giant vegan hot dog was awkward!), our travels including a visit to “nearby” Regent’s Park.

When we were exploring the market, I ended up buying a Prince T-shirt for a princely £20, simply because… well, I couldn’t get out of it once the shopkeeper noticed me — but in all honesty, if it helps the shopkeeper stay afloat during the coronacession, what’s the harm?  In the same way, I’d hope to continue attending the “helping the homeless” events that have been held off during the lockdown, though the organiser there has had to put back the next one due to his own life interfering.

(I tried to help him install Linux on a new laptop, but sadly, he seems to have submitted to Windows 10 instead…)

I wouldn’t say I’m wealthy, but I do feel that I have enough to share with others without going under myself — which doesn’t mean I’m a capitalist libertarian who only chooses to help others, as I still believe in well-managed taxes (which I acknowledge is overly-optimistic at best) for public services that everyone can use.  Haven’t I helped fund the NHS, which was rather more eager to help me with the “space invader” than any private health insurance company would ever be?

At least I can still talk to my female friend online, via (of course) Skype — we may be at opposite ends of the Earth now, but we can meet and share our experiences (and show each other what we’ve got in our rooms, including books and plush toys) — and thus, in a virtual way, keep each other company.  She’s even subscribing to this blog now (hi!), and therefore is more meaningful in my life than that dreadful harridan who lives in Worthing.

(Oh cripes!  Er, er, er, sorry old mother, I mean Mumsy, er, I jolly well shouldn’t have said that, yaroo!  Or I could do a Trump and claim never to have said that, it’s fake news!)

In addition, I can still afford to pay my personal trainer, and be guided by him via the Internet in weekly self-torture sessions to keep myself healthy; it may be possible to visit his gym again next month (or the mini-gym in the Castle), or even go boxing in the park again (weather permitting) — but never mind the cost, how would public transport get me there in time after working hours, if I’m travelling from home instead of work?

“Um… your billing sucks!”

Finally, I have both good and bad news about my outgoings: firstly, it seems that we’re paid up at last with the dreadful E.ON, possibly due to “best mate” calling them up one last time to clear up the issue of a closed account in our late landlord’s name being chased up.  Today I updated our meter reading, and it seems our next payment will reduce our debt to…  prepare yourselves… £1.91!  This should mean we can lower the monthly DD amount, and “fifth housemate” can then stop complaining about household bills being too high (though she’s aware of the 6-monthly water bill coming up) — and all this despite the amount of electricity used by three of us having been working from home since March.

The bad news, which one might say results from the metaphorical double-edged sword, is that I’m now earning so much monthly (before tax), more than ever in my life (in terms of both numbers and value), I have no hope of deferring my Stupid Loans repayments from September onwards — and the amount my gross monthly is above their maximum gross monthly is less than the amount I’ll have to start paying back monthly!

Still, if (as told by the debt owners) the 1998 loan is going to be written off in 2023, maybe the 1996 and 1997 ones (owned by a different company) will also disappear 25 years later, and I can finally stop worrying about payback for three of my four years as an undergrad, and get back to saving… assuming I don’t have to resume commuting to work every day, of course…

Four-day weekend 2020

I wish everyone, including the haters and losers, a very happy Easter!
—Trump on Twitter in 2015 (before he did it again this year)

The Man Jesus, unwillingly self-isolating

I miss my folks down in Worthing (yes, especially the dog, since unlike my mother and grandmother, she can’t see or hear me through Skype) — but as I said last time, it’s not being stuck indoors that’s frustrating me at the moment: it’s having to work at home, sitting in front of this contraption 9-to-5 waiting for tickets to come in, in case I get done for not resolving them fast enough.

So how wonderful it was, for at least 75% of this long weekend, to have a nice, quiet time here in the house — now there’s something Jesus’ death and resurrection has finally done to make my life better, and inspire me to carry on!

(I’d say I’ve just lost my Christian readership, but that’d put me into negative figures!)

Yes, finally, lacking (for now) the chance of any actual booked time off, I had a few days to relax and not worry about remoting onto to a barely-functional PC miles away in central London, possibly getting cut off for no apparent reason (Virgin Media so called because they have no experience pleasing people, especially in Wi-Fi terms).  Instead of fretting about work, I could, er, do all those other things that I do — watching Family Guy and American Dad! on TV (or at least the catch-up service, while the satellite dish presumably swings in the breeze), dozing, watching The Twilight Zone on Blu-ray, eating (badly), quietly going for a walk in the sunshine (but keeping away from other people), and playing video games as much as I want (or can stand).

What games have I been playing?  Well, amongst others, the re-release of the original Halo, which has only two flaws (apart from its innate frustrating difficulty level): the Shift keys don’t work under Linux (I normally use Right-Shift to jump and Right-Ctrl to duck in FPS games), and it’s an example of a new system whereby you need to set up a separate online account in order to start the program, even if you’re playing the damn thing through Steam in the first place!

(Maybe they’ll lighten up and stop requiring it with Doom Eternal by the time I finally get that too?)

Sadly, some of this enjoyment stopped on Monday: the temperature outside suddenly got around 10 degrees colder (is it March again?), senpai at work needed my help (fortunately he and “Asian Eddie Hitler” sorted out a major problem with VPN laptops needing a new certificate), and the final escape sequence in Halo made me want to break something — which soon came to pass, as the Blu-ray player I’d brought up from Worthing returned to its dodgy “I can’t play a BD I’ve played before, or any others” attitude, and is now no more, though it’ll be some time before we can take it to the dump.

At least today things have been tolerable: in between cutoffs, I was able to figure out a couple of problems at work, earning senpai‘s approval — mainly, that two (and perhaps more) of our homeworkers can’t be reached through TeamViewer because, er, their ISP (TalkTalk, who don’t have a good reputation anyway) has resumed blocking the service, ostensibly to protect users from online scams!

— — —

What about the future, if this lockdown in the UK is going to continue at least a few more weeks?  Well, apart from me having ordered a new (actually working) Blu-ray player online, perhaps arriving this weekend instead of at the end of April, and starting Assassin’s Creed: Rogue (which works fine under Linux if you set it up with Lutris), my non-housemate human contact is resuming online.  I listened to a speech by my dating coach on Saturday, my old yoga teacher is doing some evening classes after working hours… and tomorrow, my very own personal torturer will be giving me instructions via webcam, so maybe doing a plank means my right arm won’t ache from mousing around so much!

(This is why I move the mouse over to my left side during working hours, for all the good that does clutching my mobile to the right side of my head anyway!)

Oh, what an age to be alive, when we can actually communicate online and stay in touch with each other (except the dog), and make sure we all know how we’re feeling, and guide each other through difficult times (barring Internet problems)… and all three of my teachers are back in action, and helping me once again!

New year, new OS?

Dammit Beavis, he’s using that, like, picture of us at this computer thing again, or something!

Looks like I’ll need to make another big jump in word processorising in order to keep writing my diary (somewhere other than on my PC at work), as Tuesday is the day that Windows 7 (and Office 2010) pass into the clearing at the end of the path — or at least lose all hope of being patched by Micro$haft (sort-of named and shamed), unless you’re a business and can afford their fees.

(They’ll still patch Win7, but not for home users?  Is that because we’re their test base for Win10, and so they want us to use that instead?)

Updating to Windows 10 isn’t a positive option — I’ve done that on the Frankencomputer at my family home in Worthing (the one upon which I installed Win7 as an experiment back in the day), and it’s just as bad as on my flock’s PCs at work — and staying on Win7 would be risky (much like WinXP when that went obsolete a few years ago), as even more bugs and backdoors may be revealed, enabling h4x0rz to extort us with ransomware, or steal our private information in a way that MS can only dream of.

Thus I’m strongly considering switching over from my May 2011 installation of Win7 (the very final aspect that lingers from May 2011 on my PC of Theseus) to a flavour of Linux, the free-at-the-point-of-use family of OSes; I’ve had the “Mint” version installed on a slow but serviceable laptop (a relic from work that they let me take home) for some time, and it seems to do all the same stuff as Windows, but (unlike Win10) doesn’t have a load of unturnoffable telemetry, and unavoidable patches that may actually screw you over — imagine if I lost my diary this way!

(Like I said: we, the home users, are their unwilling test base, so they don’t have to employ their own QA section!)

Anyway, Linux Mint — it’s an OS that stays out of the way instead of advertising and subtly installing bloatware (or limiting you to installing stuff from their quasi-Apple, quasi-Android app store), and forcing you to update with a full restart every so often… sorry, I’m still having a go at Win10 — but hey, remember my job!  It has a start menu, it has desktop icons, it has shortcuts pinned to the taskbar, it runs Mozilla Firefox (I avoid Google Chrome due to its telemetry, which MS are also looking at incorporating), it lets you actually change settings without needing to go to old and new settings screens, and it runs software — and yes, it lets you put up wallpaper… in my case, ahem, anime babes.

I’m going to look at reverting to good ol’ OpenOffice — or, in terms of forking off after (diab)Oracle took over, the superior LibreOffice — since even if it’d work under Linux, Office 2010 is also on the way out (and I have no desire to do everything online through Office 365).  This is something I’ll help my mother with too: her current PC of Theseus also runs Win7 (and Office 2007), but she wants to continue creating and editing proper Word documents that others can access, instead of some esoteric format, so I’ll need to prove to her that it can be done and nothing significant would change.

One aspect which my mother won’t need, but I certainly shall (still the old playboy lifestyle!), is video gaming — in particular, the Steam games library program, which among other things records your purchase licences.  The good news is that it’s available for Linux, and some actual games have Linux version too… but by no means all: I see there’s Borderlands 2 but not the original, BioShock Infinite but not the first two, and neither of the Rage games I’m playing through now.

(Astonishingly, all three of the most recent generation of Tomb Raider games have Linux versions, but I already played them to death in 2018 and 2019!)

It’s a while since I played Nidhogg against my mother — will it work in Linux, with two joypads?  Hmm, it works with one, that’s a good sign…

However, there’s a lot of experimentation going on at the moment, regarding the running of Windows-made programs under Linux through an emulator process called WINE, and Linux Steam itself has an option to let you install non-Linux-version games anyway — no promises of full functionality (especially in multiplayer games, though I don’t touch that side of things anyway), but I have… faith that things will improve over time, as more geeks like me (and no, I don’t find that term offensive, at least when we use it) will be ditching Windows but still wanting to use software we paid for.

I’ll look at getting a new SSD (the current one I got in late 2013, and thus one of the oldest components) onto which I can install Linux as a first step, and see whether connecting up my other two physical drives works or not.  These are a yuge SSD (a 2017 work present, same as my current CPU), with my games installed, and an old “spinning rust” one with My Documents upon it, but as long as they’re detected and NTFS isn’t treated as some freaky foreign format, my only problem could be whether I need to reinstall any of my Steam games completely from scratch (which could mean a geological age of downloading), or if they just need some extras.

(And I haven’t even begun to consider the other game installer libraries, like Uplay, Origin and Battle.net — but at least Good Old Games are putting in some effort with Galaxy!)

One more aspect I wonder about, though: while I certainly should be able to play CDs and DVDs (and hopefully rip them as well), will anything available for Linux enable me to play Blu-rays (VLC apparently only works in some cases), or would I have to get an actual player to plug into my TV?  When you consider the one my folks passed down to me in Worthing doesn’t play some modern discs (and its firmware can only be upgraded with a file dating back to 2011, which needs to be burned onto a very specific format of CD-R), you can’t help but wonder about planned obsolescence…

More losses, more gains

You’ll be sad to know I don’t have a girlfriend, but delighted to hear I’ve met a bitch… oh cripes, I, I, I shouldn’t have said that, I’m, er, not a bally idiot like Trump — ho no, I’m far more sensible and cultured than that comedy politician!  Oh, too late — yaroo, I’d better scarper before they give me the cane…

(Yes, that was a vague attempt at a BoJo impression — be thankful it’s as political as I’ll get tonight!)

I’ll keep using this meme until I’m forever not alone!

My latest attempt to get a girlfriend proved to have been doomed from the start: even though I met her through a dating app, it seems that “date no.3” was actually “friendly meeting no.3”, and she’d never been actually dating me in the first place… despite all she’d gone through to get together with me (such as walking all the way down to Trafalgar Square to join the homeless-helping event I was part of).  She was happy for me to kiss her on both cheeks, but when I tried to kiss her on the mouth, she suddenly realised I’d been going for her all along, instead of regarding her as yet another “friend who is a girl”.

I know I’ve said in the past that men and women can be “just friends”, though also that I hate the limiter “just”, as though the only people I’m allowed to be in close platonic relationships with are those not of my sexual preference (or who are, but I don’t fancy them).  However, I really wish I didn’t keep making more female friends, and could actually, y’know, find one special girl and get some action without having to pay for it through anything other than the long, hard journey to find her.

(Uh huh huh huh, “long and hard” — hey baby, wanna see my, uh, journey?)

However, I’ve still got hope that my efforts will bear fruit, and my mother’s inspired me in that respect.  No, I’m not being a mummy’s boy here, and indeed tend to go precisely against her advice (especially in political terms) out of lingering teenage parental rebellion — it’s something she achieved, after I helped her get that far through simple support… and, of course, a desire for her to achieve it because I’d benefit as well.

Best dog ever, mk.2!

Yes, you’ve guessed: finally, we have a doggy in the family again, for the first time in 20 years!  Twice I came down to visit my folks in Worthing during my two weeks off work, and while the dog we met at a rescue centre during my first visit didn’t seem appropriate to us (more interested in fetching a tennis ball than being petted), it was when I’d returned to London that she told me she’d just met another dog at the centre, which had liked both her and my grandmother — and indeed, the latter had become so willing to accept a new dog that she paid herself!

Of course we’ll always remember Scraps and the other dogs we’ve known in our lives, but who have sadly gone walkies in Doggy Heaven, but it’s time to move on and make the most of our new little friend, a Chihuahua named Lola, who insists on rolling over and having her tummy tickled at every opportunity (even grabbing your hand with her front paws and pulling it towards her).  She won’t play with toys (yet), but my folks are happy to have her as an affectionate lapdog anyway!

I’ve been through worse problems with getting a girlfriend over the past few, er, decades (which I summarised earlier this year, and probably a few times before that), but I’ve made it this far, and at least I’m still getting first dates (on the rare occasions I match with a woman who isn’t in Hong Kong or Taiwan) — maybe, just maybe, my onscreen age starting with a digit higher than 3 isn’t causing me too many problems?  I know I’ll need to continue taking the advice of my dating coach (online session on Tuesday), but if my love life has been just as frustrating as my mother’s attempts to gain canine companionship, perhaps someone special is going to appear just when, er, someone else turns out to be fun but unsuitable, just when all seems hopeless?

— — —

Just so you know, other losses and gains during my birthday fortnight include my weight heading back down towards 13 stone (something which hasn’t happened since 2018, when I was in hospital), my lamotrigine twice-daily doses going up towards 200mg, and my achievements in Assassin’s Creed III increasing (finished!) but my patience decreasing when it comes to 100% sync in each mission… and the Liberation mini-game greatly increasing the number of error events and decreasing the reliability index of both my computers (to say nothing of not actually using “the cloud” to store savegames, for no reason!).

There have also been some great additions to my stockpile of possessions: not only did my mother get me a collection of the classic comic strip Invasion 1984! (which was published at the time my grandmother taught me it was the year 1983), but I found the first eight seasons of Red Dwarf on DVD in a charity shop!  I’ll be back to commuting to and from work next week, so I’ll watch those smegging gimboids instead of reading on the Tube, and at night I’ll be enjoying the comic strip that predated Independence Day by over a decade — and since I just finished Stephen King’s The Wind Through the Keyhole before returning to work, it seems like a good time for a change.

It’s almost as though I’m returning to school (or university) in the autumn, after a summer break, ready for a new phase in my life… or it would be if the weather hadn’t sucked so badly that my shoes got soaked taking our new dog walkies in the park, and coat weather having already arrived!

Getting out on the town again

Not the only time these two buttmunches will be appearing in this blog post

If there’s one bit of advice about living life I get tired of hearing — even when it comes from a close friend — it’s “get out of your comfort zone”.  When you consider how uncomfortable I am even being around blokes with hipster beards and “fashionable” haircuts, and the loud scraping, shrieking noises of the London Underground (especially in summer with the windows open), you’d think simply going to work and interacting people would be “getting out of my comfort zone” and socialising a hell of a lot, hence the whole reason I’ve preferred staying home more evenings the past few years, than I did back in 2013 when I first discovered I could have a social life.  Indeed, surely being “desperate for a girlfriend” would mean going to events I don’t enjoy and find extremely anxiety-inducing, with the obvious outcome that if (IF!) I actually meet someone special and start dating her, I stop going to those events entirely because I don’t need to any more?

Well, I know now I’ve really got to force myself to do it, because things are becoming unendurable here at home — and I’m sure you know why: our newest housemate, a friend of “best mate”, who moved in here earlier this year.  I didn’t mention it back then, but right from the beginning, before he’d even officially moved into the spare room, he acted like he had authority, telling me to take my washing stand out of there, because even though he wouldn’t be sleeping in there yet (prior to taking over the bigger room downstairs when the Aussie moved out), he still believed he had the right to store his stuff in there!  And he told me I needed to keep it in my room, only grudgingly letting me decline this because I get sick with clothing drying near me when I’m trying to sleep — which is probably why I was almost constantly ill at university (couldn’t exactly store my towel in the shared facilities!), and managed to come down with colds both times I was in America, in 2013 and 2014, simply by sleeping near drying towels and/or bathing suits.

That’s not the only tedious advice he gives me, almost as though he thinks he’s being helpful when actually he’s grinding me down and making me want to believe the opposite. He keeps leaving passive-aggressive cleaning-based notes around the house, acting like our old “leaderene” in 2012-2013 (except she’d lived here the longest rather than the shortest, so he’s acting more like a manager who’s moved sideways), but today he even objected to me trying to boil an egg for ten minutes, and turned the hob off after six minutes — and while he may have thought I’d forgotten about it (I didn’t want to wait in the kitchen with him for the duration and was in my room with my countdown timer on), he didn’t make up for it by arguing with me that, in his opinion, I’d planned to leave it on “too long” in the first place!

And yet, in noise pollution terms, he doesn’t obey the rules: he seems to be entirely oblivious to how annoying his loud voice and raucous laugh can be (and I’m genuinely sick of his shave-and-a-haircut knock on “best mate’s” door), and although he’s not arbitrarily taken over handling our rent and other bills, his attempt to (without telling me) put his name on our council tax account led to Barnet council (yes, named and shamed) screwing up and resetting our account, now consisting of just his name, twice, and higher monthly payments (due to not carrying over the credit the old bill now had left over)!

(They acknowledged my complaint eventually, more than five working days after they’d received my original e-mail, and said they’d fix it… but we haven’t got the new payment schedule yet, so who knows?)

Don’t worry, I haven’t broken yet another joypad (yet!)

Ironically, it’s both because of and despite him that I want to go out and socialise again in the evenings: while I feel I need to avoid more than basic, polite, brief interaction with him in order to reduce my anger, the fact that he’s patronisingly recommended “getting out of my comfort zone” by going out in the evenings (instead of enjoying myself watching TV and playing video games at home) makes me not want to do it!

Nonetheless, my efforts to get out there continue: I would have gone to a concert in Blackheath on Saturday, brought to my attention by “best mate” (who went himself), featuring none other than Jamiroquai — but unfortunately I wasn’t quick enough getting a ticket (though at £68, would it have been worth it when I had no interest in the other acts?).  However, when it comes down to it, I prefer quieter places — which is why I can’t enjoy the Japanese meetup events in loud, crowded places: on Tuesday I at least tried, for the first time in over two years, but could barely hear anyone I actually wanted to communicate with.

As I said last time, I’ve also returned to salsa classes (with the teacher I first encountered in 2014), but as yet attendance in the new venue is… minimal — I haven’t seen a certain “golden honey” there again… maybe I should give up on that specific event, and attend his Archway classes instead?  Or would that just mean the girls suddenly start going to the Old Street ones, since they avoid me like thunderstorms?  I don’t want to abandon him, but maybe I need to find dance classes closer to home, so I don’t have to spend the whole evening away from home — and my dating coach (HQ, of course) recommends something called bachata… but oh, I miss those “social yoga” classes — I’d feel disloyal if I went with someone else, while he’s abroad!

(Much like my personal torturer trainer, my salsa and yoga teachers have done a lot to keep me sane and healthy over the past six years, and I want to help keep them financially solvent!)

I’ll continue going to the homeless-helping events if I can, as I feel I need to give something back to the world, but I’d really like to meet people with dogs — there was an event like that recently, but (a) it was a hell of a long journey to get there, and (b) it was so hot than only one person felt they could bring their doggy along!  And yes, I need to get out and climb more with people other than just “best mate” — perhaps at the Westway (on Tuesdays) in addition to the Castle — but eating out for dinner always worries me: it’s either expensive and unhealthy (Ed’s Easy Diner closed, Subway pointless, and I’m actually getting bored with Nando’s!), or cheap and unhealthy (bags of crisps and other snacks just to keep me going), and not like cooking for myself at home.

Don’t worry about my health, though: aside from doing okay in cerebral terms, I’m making sure to keep up my work in Wii Fit Plus, which I neglected in 2018 (admittedly due to recovery in cerebral terms) — and just to show I’m socialising at least in virtual terms, check this out: that’s me in the centre, with my personal trainer and grandmother (no, really!) on the left, and… two cool dudes on the right!  I’ve created other Miis to enliven the games, including Eminem, Richie and Eddie from Bottom… and even Donald Trump!  But aside from my mother and grandmother, I do need more females in there… how about “Polish female best friend”, even if we’re not dating?

Back on the road

Another image I’ve massively overused in my blog, except this is somewhat more upbeat

Don’t worry, I’m ending June 2019 in a better mood than I was back on Tuesday: I met “Polish female best friend” for dinner on Wednesday, and didn’t mention once that I thought I had feelings for her — because aside from her having met her current boyfriend months ago (rather than right after we’d spent time together in a homless-helping event, as I feared!), I just… wasn’t that into her.  It’s almost as though absence makes the heart grow fonder, whereas being in someone’s company makes one feel rather more sedate, in emotional terms.

It’s a bit like the reverse of my feelings towards the original “female best friend”: I’ve always regarded her as my quasi-little sister, but, after she moved out of the flat we shared with “good housemate” and we saw each other somewhat rarely (and may I say, Walthamstow is a DUMP!), I began to worry: what if she had a thing for me, and I was breaking her heart by not responding, perhaps making her feel unattractive and worthless?  Yet when we were together, I knew she wasn’t in that state of mind, and that she still regarded me as a friend and quasi-big brother… and, of course, one day she married, so I don’t need to worry about her (unless her husband is a Christian theocrat, though hopefully he’s just a right-wing commenter on Facebook).

Sadly, while I learned of Meetup.com on that special day in 2013, and realised that I needed to get out and socialise more, somehow everyone giving me that advice (including “Polish female best friend” herself) doesn’t make me feel hopeful — due to my full-time work that involves face-to-face interaction, and a much longer commute each way than I had back when I worked in Camden, I’ve been taking things easy and spending more and more evenings at home over the past few years.

(For your info, the video game series I’m currently enjoying working my way through is Assassin’s Creed…)

I still see my personal trainer once a week (barring illness), but going to the Castle to climb after work is troublesome: unless I’m meeting someone there (“best mate”, though we’re more likely to go at the weekend), I have to wait ages for the Session to begin — and while that gives me time for dinner, it also means I’ll have spent around two hours travelling and waiting for just over an hour of climbing, and another journey home (or more, if the Underground’s having a bad evening).  I can’t come home, eat a quick dinner and then head back out again like in my, ahem, younger days (2012-2014), and effectively lose a whole evening each time.

I do need more exercise, so it’s good that my salsa teacher’s back in the game on Mondays, and no longer solely holding classes at a pub that’s a long walk from a nearby station; my plan for tomorrow is to eat dinner near work (rather than at Euston station, as they’ve closed Ed’s and I’m a little bored with Nando’s), and then head to Old Street when the rush hour’s in decline — good, because as I said last time, that golden honey’s right back in my life again, and even if we don’t date, it’s still good to have her company!  And hey, if the new venue picks up popularity, some other actual female classmates may turn up…

One thing “Polish female best friend” tried to impress upon me is that to combat her own shyness, she does the old trick of “get outside your comfort zone”, forcing herself to attend social gatherings.  Ignoring the fact that I do this almost every day simply by getting on the Tube (I still hate the very sight of beardies), I’m going to try this in July: for the first time in over a year (maybe closer to two), I’ll go to a Japanese meetup event on the second Tuesday of the month (maitsuki no daini no kayōbi), and somehow endure the place becoming crowded and noisy, just so I can chat to Japanese people and make sure I can remember everything I learned before.  And oi, if I’m lucky and it’s not a sausage fest, kanojo ni au

I’m trying to do a little more outside the home, and not just helping the homeless (though I’ll keep attending those events as long as I can).  As in the summer of 2014, today I attended a meetup event (to which “Polish female best friend” had alerted me) in which I could pet other people’s dogs; sadly, this time around only one doggy turned up, due to everyone else’s mutts having found Saturday too hot, and thus not being up to the meeting.  It was also a hell of a long journey (Victoria Park in east London, rather than the superior Victoria Park here in Finchley, where I petted loads of dogs last summer), and lots of man-spreading (and in one case loud, drunken behaviour) on the Tube, but at least I was out there making female friends, and meeting friendly doggies!

All things considered, though, I still want some nights in to relax, so I don’t completely wear myself out — after all, it’s become difficult to get up in the mornings, almost because I go to bed before midnight instead of staying up until 1am (like in my, ahem, younger days).  Where does the time go…

— — —

P.S. Even when I have nights in, assuming I’m not aching from the previous evening’s activity, I’ll try to exercise in Wii Fit Plus — and one thing to encourage this has been creating new Miis representing others, who appear cheering me on in the background of most games (and as opponents in the snowball game).  I’ve had ones of my mother, grandmother and “best mate” for ages, but I’ve now created ones of my personal trainer, my hero Eminem… and Donald Trump!

Winter welcome?

As long as no White Walkers turn up…

Until yesterday, I was — for very weird reasons — looking forward to winter, and the temperature going down.  Obviously January and February are always uncomfortably cold, but I recall last year’s November and December being refreshingly mild (especially compared to 2014), and I’ll be glad, for once, to see the end of hot weather.

No, I’m not an imposter, I’m still your friendly neighbourhood Dave-ros — it’s just that, for one thing, I’ve been finding it harder to sleep in hot weather, waking up itchy (apparently due to overheating) and unable to get back to sleep for ages.  Since it began cooling, however, I’ve been a lot more able to sleep, with only adrenaline waking me up during the night (after a few hours), and seldom keeping me awake.

For another thing, my new supercomputer.  Yes, that sentence didn’t need a verb — it’s going great (aside from having to re-register Windows 7 by phone, as it wasn’t working online!), and I have a good feeling it’ll pump a nice amount of heat into my room when I play intense 3D games (even if my new casing isn’t big and black like my previous ones, which my mother mistook for space heaters!).

Finally — and most spuriously — cooler weather means I can wear my new coat to and from work without sweating like a porcine mammal (especially on the crowded Underground), and this in turn means I can keep my phone in my hip pocket instead of my backpack, and thus look at it easily to see the title and artist of the track I’m listening to — necessary with unfamiliar songs, which often come up as I keep finding CDs in charity shops of bands I either want to hear more of (Jamiroquai, R.E.M.) or try getting into (Franz Ferdinand, Travis).

On the other hand, the meetup event I attended last night makes me worry about winter for the sake of others: I joined Shy London for their monthly linkup with Pavement People, who walk the streets of London looking for homeless people, in order to (a) offer simple supplies like food and toiletries, and (b) listen to their stories.  We avoided anyone who seemed to be high (or was asking for money instead of food, since they’re more likely to be on drugs), but anyone we met who was sane, we made a point of treating like human beings instead of street furniture, talking instead of ignoring.

I’m glad I took part (at least partially because I vowed I would back in June, if my mother found my dropped USB thumbdrive on the train platform), but it’s reminded me of how precarious our situation is on a daily basis — how everyone below the millionnaire class is, as they say, one paycheque away from poverty, and that you can end up homeless no matter how careful and honest you are.  I’m lucky that — for now at least — I can return to Worthing to live with my folks if London goes wrong for me, but what if they lose their home, through no fault of their own?

It wouldn’t be quite so bad if this country had a hotter climate, but it feels like we’re overdue for a genuinely cold winter (it’s been a long time since I last saw snow), and if that came to pass, those unlucky enough to have no place to stay would find it almost impossible to survive — and the way things are now, the only way to secure a hostel place in some areas (especially Westminster) is to have been there for three months or similar, without moving (even though those out-of-work are nagged to go search for jobs around the country)!  And the NHS also appears to be unable to treat people of “no fixed abode”.

It feels like our government du jour would welcome a nice cold winter, as a way to mitigate the increasing homeless problem without having to shake the magic money tree, or — heaven forfend — change policies to stop penalising people severely for honest mistakes (like missing a single Job Centre appointment, or even  clicking the wrong tickbox in an online form when applying for dental treatment).  It’s almost as though they want to be able to punish ordinary people at any time…

Sorry, I know, no sense going into an angry rant on this occasion (I’ll soapbox about that subject another time) — the important thing is that I got involved and met real people less fortunate than me, the sort of people who aren’t worried about trivial things like computers and gadgets, and while I can’t resolve all their problems (any more than I could for people closer to me), at least I can help them a little, keep them going longer — and look them in the eye.

It’s certainly better than simply claiming that the best way I can help the homeless is to not increase their number by one…

Out with the old…

I know Shady’s in his forties now, but I’m nowhere near as mature as him, am I?

It’s my birthday today, but never mind the number… let’s just say 30 and be done with it, what with my actual 30th in 2007 being a very unhappy day, and occurring during one of the ten years I wasn’t really “living” as such (2000-3 hibernating in Worthing with my folks, between my undergrad and postgrad days, and 2005-11 for reasons I won’t go into here — maybe another night?).

No, the main thrust of my blog tonight is that, around the time of my birthday this year, I’ve been making plans to get rid of some old stuff, and replacing it with new stuff — in many cases with the assistance of people in my life.  However, unlike Eminem in 2002, I’m cleanin’ out my closet without insulting my mother, since she’s a large part of the reason I made it this far in my life!

And my mother and grandmother helped me this weekend: finally I’m rid of the coat I got in 2014, just at the start of my decline into serious anxiety.  I know objects supposedly don’t exude positive or negative karma, but still, the left zip pocket broke earlier this year, and the new one’s not only got red lining inside (red being “my colour” at the moment), but a spider motif!

(No, nothing to do with Spider-Man — I’m not quite that geeky when it comes to my day-to-day clothes!)

I also have a new pair of boots bought for me by my folks, to replace the pair I was given by my “second family” in Michigan many years ago, but which I haven’t used since early 2014, due to them being caked in mud while I was watching my mother take part in a mud-run challenge.  It’s a pity, but I feel no real attachment to them any more — and being American boots, somehow I wonder if they were as leather-free as claimed?  The new ones certainly are, judging from the symbols, and I have a feeling I’ll be needing them now that winter is coming… I just have to hope the three-year cycle doesn’t happen again, and that this winter is better for me than those in 2014 and 2011 — which as you know (in the former case because I was writing this then, and the latter case because I keep going on about it) were depressing times of my life.

Speaking of 2011, the most important changes concern my computer — the PC of Theseus is undergoing further replacement, and soon, aside from the Windows 7 installation itself (but not the physical drvie it’s on), nothing will be left of that year.  My “boss-lady” has very kindly (and surprisingly, in light of what happened before) bought me a new sixth-generation i7 processor, in lieu of buying me a laptop so I could work from home.  I was already planning to get one, but she’s saved me quite a bit of money on this operation!  I’ve bought a new motherboard to plug it into, along with DDR4 memory (since I can’t reuse my own DDR3 in it), and a cooling fan for the processor (since one didn’t come with the processor itself, oddly).

I also bought a new computer casing a couple of weekends ago — smaller, sleeker and whiter than the yuge black Cooler Master casing I got in 2011, which fortunately I was able to give to charity (rather than needing someone to drive me to the dump).  Installing my old setup in the new box has paved the way for the new setup: all I have to do is put the new components on the new motherboard, swap that out wholesale with the old motherboard, and plug everything back in!  Positioning the drives (including the Win7 SSD) and running cables through the casing was the hard part, so this bit will be, relatively speaking, nice and easy…

(Says Dave-ros, hoping he’s not jinxing it by being over-confident!)

Once that’s done, I can take my old third-generation i7 (snugly in its motherboard, but with memory and fan removed for the journey) down to Worthing, to replace the creaking old Core 2 Quad (with DDR2 memory) system I have in the Frankencomputer.  I originally bought that ten years ago for use here in London, only upgrading from it in 2011 — which brings us around to that year again!

Since I got rid of the big casing I brought down from London in 2011 (the one with the big green “not handles” on the front), and put the components into a smaller white casing that my mother had originally planned to have me build her new PC in at Christmas, the Frankencomputer is also becoming a PC of Theseus, though still with plenty of “original” components left in it (since it’s not something I worry too much about upgrading, due to only using it when I visit my folks in Worthing).  I know I set it up with Win7 in 2014, but since I upgraded that to Win10 last year, perhaps I’ve driven the 2014 out of it too?

Okay, I know that’s not an acoustic guitar, but I’m workin’ on it!

And finally, there’s the guitar I bought cheaply in 2014… no, don’t worry, I’m not getting rid of it along with other stuff from that year!  Quite the opposite — I’ve started taking guitar classes, coincidentally starting on my birthday today.  One thing I’ve learned repeatedly in life (Japanese, computing etc.) is that I learn a lot better from actual people, with structured classes, than I do trying to study off my own back whenever I can be bothered.  It happened to be a one-to-one session in this first wek, as the other guy who signed up through Meetup.com was off sick!

My teacher’s certainly helped me with holding a guitar properly, and he was impressed that I already knew the basic D-A-E chords thanks to my previous studies, not unlike my personal trainer in 2013 and my Japanese teacher in 2008!  Unfortunately, five years of climbing (which he said many of his other students are also into) still haven’t left the fingertips of my left hand sufficiently calloused to endure the pain of holding down the strings, so good job the class was only an hour long.  And good job he has spare guitars, so I don’t have to lug mine all the way to the end of the Victoria Line!

However, maybe now in 2017, with this guy’s help, I can achieve what I failed to do three years ago: learn to play my guitar skilfully, and one day rock out with the Antarctic rock gods themselves, Gwar…

(What, did you think I’d grown up and given away all my old Scumdog merchandise?  I’m not a boring old fuddy-duddy yet, and hopefully never will be, you… bohab!)

New tactics, old tactics

ad_furrowNo apologies for the increasing gaps between blog posts, I’m sure you’re used to it by now — but let me start by saying that I’ve gone and failed my Windows Server 2008 exam.  Don’t panic, I get a free retake, and I know what I did wrong: I didn’t cheat!

Yes, it seems the only way I can get anywhere in life is by burying my ethics and doing what I shouldn’t — thus I’m going back to the online “exam dumps” that I eschewed this time around through a mixture of moralising and laziness.  The questions in the exam bore so little resemblance to the training material that I was reminded of the disaster of my Windows 7 exam in 2012 (is my life really going in three-year cycles?), except this time I did even worse, not even getting 90% of the pass mark.

(If I didn’t know better, and I don’t, I’d think I was deliberately marked down because I’m not already an IT professional and admitted in the preliminary bit of the test that I didn’t have much experience — after all, Heaven forefend that an enthusiastic amateur be allowed to shame the experts!  Look at Eddie “The Eagle” Edwards… okay, bad example!)

It’s come at a bad time: my current work contract is nearly over, and though they might keep me on a bit longer, depending on workload (and my contribution to my team’s total pedometer count), it looks like I have to face going back into the job market again.  It’s better to be doing so in the summer than the winter (though admittedly the current difference between the two appears to be the length of daylight hours), but this time I’ll have to change tactics regarding my CV, and focus on the “big” jobs I’ve had (the current one and, of course, Camden), instead of mentioning every single one I’ve done recently (like the bad one in November).

However, will I have time for all this studying and applying, since I’ve redoubled my efforts to get out and socialise?  Rather than just climbing, yoga and personal training, plus hanging out with “best mate”, I’m making more of an effort to go to meetup groups I’ve been neglecting, such as salsa dancing and Science Museum end-of-month “lates”.  Perhaps I’m recapturing how I felt when I first discovered Meetup.com in 2013, after my holiday, when I needed some new experiences, and will have to start being sensible again, and force myself to stay in some evenings…

In my effort to try new things, I’ve even taken my dating coach’s advice and visited a gentlemen’s club… that was certainly an experience I’d never had before — and while I won’t go into details (because this is a family blog!), I like to think I’m more relaxed around hot women now, even if I really need to learn to flirt instead of talking to them like they’re human beings.  I have been trying to do that lately, and getting downhearted when it fails to lead to a date, but I mustn’t give up — and if all else fails, I’ll use the same ethics I’m now using with IT exams, and simply cheat.  Yep, I’ll lie about my age on dating sites (perhaps even creating a fake Facebook profile to link with Tinder) — after all, I could pass for 27, couldn’t I?

(Ah, screw you guys!)

I’m trying new things in the musical world as well… no, don’t worry, Gwar will always have a special place in my heart (I’ve even finally learned the lyrics to “Let Us Slay”, exactly a year after I got Lust in Space), but thanks to cheap CDs on Amazon and in charity shops, I’ve discovered Björk, Dido and Radiohead, as well as getting CDs of artists of whom I was already fans (and perhaps already had some tracks), like the Pet Shop Boys, Blur and Jamiroquai.  This is in addition to all the early Prince CDs I bought recently: I think my music collection’s increased in size by about a third this year!  Indeed, I really should get a bigger SD card for my phone, so I can also rip my grandmother’s classical music CDs — because that’s something else I want to try all over again…

And finally, to modify my attitudes I’m trying something new: self-help books!  In addition to that book on CBT I’ve mentioned before, I’ve begun reading a book lent to me by that cool woman at work (who’s like an aunt to me) — The Secret, all about the “Law of Attraction” and the notion that you get whatever you think about, whether you’re thinking about it in a positive or negative context.  This is what a female friend of mine was on about last year, and might explain why the annoying woman was always at work whenever I wanted her not to be; it seems to be working so far: instead of thinking how much I resent the presence of other blokes (especially Middle Eastern ones), I try to focus on how much I want to encounter women… and thus the yoga singles event I attended on Friday had equal numbers of both genders!

Oh, how I want loads of people to come to my blog, see how intelligently I write, and offer me untold riches as though I’m a modern messiah… no?  Well, it was worth a try!

— — —

What’s that?  You want to hear the Gwar song I’ve memorised?  You are never satisfied, are you?  Oh, go on then, here you go… and yes, I’m channelling Frankie Howerd at the end of the Up Pompeii! movie whenever I do this!

Something old, something new

CB

No, no-one’s getting married, stop getting your hopes up that I might have finally met someone!

A relatively quick note tonight, to let you goons know I’m keeping on, both reliving old experiences and trying new things.  Unfortunately one recurring experience is that I’ve got an upset stomach again, and while I’m not involuntarily evacuating my digestive system (by barfing or… other means), I feel a bit off-colour.  Maybe the vomiting bug is doing the rounds again and I’m more resistant this time, or maybe I stirred up something nasty through either tidying my room (an unpleasant prospect at the best of times) or cutting the plant life growing over our back garden wall and into the alleyway.

(Rather worryingly, there was a jacket and dufflebag tangled up in the creepers… almost as though it had eaten someone in the past!)

Anyway, hopefully I’ll be better tomorrow, when I intend to go climbing again — not at the Castle, where I usually go, but at the Westway!  I’ve only been there once before with a Meetup.com group, and they’re going again.  This also means missing my usual Tuesday night yoga (and preceding expensive dinner at Nando’s or Ed’s at Euston station), but hey, I’m allowed to change things up occasionally, aren’t I?

Actually, in entertainment terms, I’ve been mixing it up recently, especially regarding the books I read — or e-books, since I’ve archived most of my paperbacks now (I may not get rid of them after all, thanks to Friern Barnet library not taking new books any more).  Whereas previously I’ve been reading my old Discworld paperbacks at night, and my old Asimov (or Dune) paperbacks on the Tube, recently I’ve started reading previously-unread Discworld novels on my Kindle at night, and The Mote in God’s Eye on my smartphone on the Tube.  I’ve also been taking a break from watching every Doctor Who story (which I’ve seen previously at least once, albeit back in 1996 in some cases) in order to enjoy season 1 of Game of Thrones on Blu-ray.

(I’ve already had season 2 of Game of Thrones spoiled for me: apparently there’s less gratuitous T&A…)

And speaking of new entertainment… yes, it’s the inevitable Gwar reference.  I’ve got three more of their albums to get hold of (making a grand total of 13, my lucky number), but in the meantime I’m getting hold of other albums as well — either albums for which I already had a couple of tracks (such as The Fat of the Land by The Prodigy), or earlier albums for artists I’m already familiar with (such as I Wish My Brother George Was Here by Del the Funky Homosapien).  Indeed, I have plans to go back to the beginning of two of my other favourite artists, 2Pac and Prince, and buy their earlier works (though in the latter case I’ll only go up to 1992).

Buying CDs may cost a lot of money (mitigated by the fact that I’ve hardly any more Doctor Who DVDs to get), but that’s nothing compared to the cost of going to Michigan, which I really want to do so I can see my old roommate’s family in their Fenton homestead one last time.  Air travel seems to have become a lot more expensive than it was in the 2000s, and it seems to be no cheaper than £800 at the moment.  It would suck if I couldn’t go, but maybe I’ll have to rely on some kind of last-minute deal.  It’d help if my stupid workplace would tell me when my final day is (which they should have done last week), but no…

Anything else?  Only that I’m studying Windows Server 2008 in my lunchbreaks, which means some of it’s familiar (since I took classes in Server 2003 back in 2010) while other stuff is brand new.  And now, I’m going to try something really radical: going to bed before midnight… yeah, fat chance!