Sunday, 25 January 2009

Restore To Factory Settings

At the start of each year my workplace likes to prime us for the challenges ahead by having us sit in a stuffy un-air-conditioned room during the height of summer and subjecting us to hours of safety and ethics lectures.

Apparently we shouldn't play with electricity, fire or heavy items or steal things, lie or kill people.
Good thing they told me.
Thought it does kind of throw out my plans for the weekends.
Goodbye sexual harassment initiated orgies in piles of stolen stationery whilst on drugs purchased by selling industry secrets.

After suffering through two rounds of this excruciating boredom I think I've worked out what they're up to.
They're trying to reset our expectation levels.

After the possible happiness of the holidays and the festive season* they want to kick off with a couple of days of brain-melting tedium and discomfort because after that anything will seem like an improvement.
The office politics will seem manageable, the nebulous and ever-moving deadlines will still fit into the 'can cope with' column and the mental shortcomings of the people who do the payroll will not send you into a Michael Douglas in Falling Down type mental spiral.

Once it's over the only important thing is that it'll be a full year until you have to do it again and employee dissatisfaction doesn't usually set in until midyear by which point they can depend on the wistful longing for the next vacation and awareness of the requirement for cashy-money for the accompanying festive season to keep things on an even keel.

Of course it could be worse.
I could not have a job.

*Depends on how your holidays went and how festive you are.

Saturday, 17 January 2009

The Time Is Now, Why Do You Ask?

Some time ago the strap on my watch broke and I thought to myself 'Dang, I need a new watch, I'll get right on that'.
Of course this apparently straightforward 'problem + solution = win' equation failed to take into account who I am (me) and what I would actually do (not get right on it, not get right on it at all).

It has now been almost two years and I still do not have a new watch.

I am now one of those people who check their mobile phone when they want to know what time it is.
This is just adding to the categories of 'one of those people' that I find myself qualifying for.
I am also - due to my crappy earbud headphones - one of those people who can often hear less of their music than everyone else can.
I plan to fix this by buying a better pair of headphones...
I think you can see where I'm heading with this.

All this considered it is quite a surprise then to find myself signed up for an Italian class, something I vowed to do a mere couple of weeks ago.
Of course I vowed to do it electronically which has been proven to have a motivating effect but... I still had an entire year to technically not fail on that point and yet here.

Now that the shock and smug back-patting is subsiding I'm moving back into more familiar territory - freak outs.
I haven't studied Italian since 2003 and haven't spoken it conversationally in any useful way since 2006. My vocabulary has evaporated and left behind a jumble of the more esoteric verb conjugations and a scattering of the more interesting aspects of sentence construction.

Brain, you and I have got a hell of a lot of revision ahead of us.
I'll get the coffee, you see if you can remember anything beyond 'Non voglio sposare un mammone!'*

And yet, despite my lovely paranoid imagination trying to insert visions of forgetting words and not having answers and standing up in class and realising that my shirt is inside out or something ridiculous like that it is slowly dawning on me that this might actually be fun...


*Translation: "I don't want to marry a mamma's boy!". You wouldn't believe how useful this phrase is when you have elderly Italian rellos** who are eager to find you a nice local boy each time you visit.


Saturday, 10 January 2009

Holiday Hypochondria

Well hell.

I’m back to work on Monday and have done absolutely nothing my whole time off.


I intended to.

I had such plans.

I was going to organise and achieve and enjoy.

But instead… I slept.

Well I caught up with a few people and had a few nights out and yes there was Christmas and New Year’s.

But they are little islands of memory in a sea of sleep and randomness that have all blended together.

I’m sure I needed some of that sleep, I don’t get enough as a rule due to night-owlishness and bad habits but I don’t think I needed that much.

I feel thoroughly ashamed of myself.
I was going to have a crack at all the things that I always tell myself that I don’t have time for during the work week.
Or at least I told myself I was.

Henry Rollins would be heartily disapproving, if he had time in between travelling about, writing, yelling at folk, compiling music and being mental.
Warren Ellis probably wrote twelve books, harassed half the twittering world, streamed a week’s worth of unsigned music and beat to death no less than four malingering critics in the same time.
If either of them were aware of my existence and inclined to care, my squandering and indolent ways would probably offend them to the bottom of their prolific and impassioned souls.
Thankfully this is not the case as I think the shock of being on the receiving end of a lecture in Henry Rollins’ case and a foully eloquent cussing out in Warren Ellis’ case would probably short-circuit my brain and I would then have to consign myself to a hermit's lifestyle away from civilisation and the possibility of another cussing out*.

I started to wonder if maybe there might be something more than laziness and warm weather behind it.
So I did the worst thing anyone with too much time on their hands and too much imagination in their head can do.
I checked WebMD.

I plugged in one symptom that sounded about right: Fatigue.
And with that comprehensive medical history WebMD suggested that I might have Multiple Sclerosis, Coronary Artery Disease or Diabetes 2. Maybe even Fibromyalgia. I had to look that one up.

Feeling a bit panicky I thought maybe if I put in some more symptoms it would get more specific. But the only other one that I could find was: Weakness (generalised).

WebMD reconsidered for a moment. It decided I might not have Multiple Sclerosis any more but it could still be Diabetes, heart rhythm disorder or gastrointestinal bleeding. Or mononucleosis. I had to look that one up too.

Then I did the next worst thing you can do at this stage.
I looked at the other symptoms of all these conditions. And all the others further down the list.

Did I have a fever?
Were my glands swollen?
Did my joints ever ache?

I wasn’t sure!
Did I?
Were they?
Did they?

Maybe they did!
Good lord!
I was dying!
And I’d just spent my last days lounging about in bed like Jennifer Saunders in Let Them Eat Cake, confined to bed because no one had come to help her dress or cut up her breakfast for her.

It was all over.
How was I going to tell my family?

I rang my sister to tell her that I loved her.
She told me to stop calling her from inside the house because that was stupid and also she didn’t know what I was after but it was too hot and she couldn’t be buggered doing anything so I shouldn’t even ask.
I told her I didn’t want anything and just wanted to make sure she knew that I loved her.
She said she was willing to get up long enough to turn up the air conditioning if that was what I was after but that was her final offer.
I said ‘fine’ and hung up.

I called my mother to tell her that I loved her.
She told me to stop calling her at work because she was busy and that if I really loved her I should take the dog for a walk.
I told her love should be unconditional and shouldn’t require proof.
She said that was fine and that I should take the dog for an unconditionally loving walk.

I thought about calling my father but knew that he would instantly tell me that he loved me too and would also love a cup of tea seeing as I was up, which I wasn’t, and would be unsympathetic to my impending doom.
I thought about calling my brother but knew he would just call me mental and also ask if when I was gone he could have my stuff. To sell it. He wouldn’t want to keep my crap as it was made of crap.

I dragged myself out of bed and into the family room.
Our family Labrador was lounging outside the sliding door and looked up as I flopped into a chair.
She gave me her full attention and a cheerful empty-headed doggy grin.
“Jessie,” I said, “I just want you to know that I love you,”
She tilted her head and continued to give me her doggy grin.
“And when I’m gone I want you to remember that.”
Her tongue flopped out and she rolled on her back.
I gave up.
“You want to go for a walk?”
Her ears perked up and she went nuts in a restrained fashion**.
I gave up some more. It’s hard to be maudlin and melodramatic in the face of such joyous enthusiasm.

By the time we got back I was fairly certain that I didn’t have Multiple-Heart-Diabeteosis but was convinced that I wasn’t getting enough exercise and possibly couldn’t ever drink enough water to satisfy the thirst I’d built up. And that I should change into some less sweaty clothes.

But that at least was a manageable goal for the last few days of the break: get changed and drink more water.
And maybe finish a few of the books I had scattered around the bed.
None of which are about medical symptoms and all of which should at least shove some more knowledge into my head.
Which someday I might do something useful with.
Maybe not.

But at least I’ve learned two things.
I shouldn’t look at WebMD.
Walking the dog gives you an inordinately large sense of accomplishment and tends to do away with ridiculous imagined medical symptoms.

*This would probably be the desired effect as surviving a hermitic existence would take a lot of effort, especially for someone who has never grown or slaughtered any of their own food and would have trouble constructing a rudimentary shelter or even finding an appropriate item to imbue with an imaginary personality. I’d probably chose something heavy which would be difficult to carry about. And it probably wouldn’t like me.

**This is like going nuts in the usual way except she knows she isn’t supposed to so she tries to contain herself which just results in the bounding and wiggling reaching greater heights and speeds.

Sunday, 4 January 2009

I'm Afraid I Shall Be Obliged To Disagree. So Nyerh!

I would like to start off by saying that I always intended to get more furniture.

You know, eventually.

It's one of those grown up things that you do along with getting sets of crockery that all match and getting a full complement of white goods and kitchen appliances that you never use.

I mean I don't need any more, I have a couch to put my bum on, a coffee table to put my feet on, a bed to put my body in and a few other relevant flat surfaces to put TV, books and sundries on and in...

But after having been informed by at least two independent sources - my buttfaced friends... *coff* whom I of course love - that my furnishings give the impression of being constructed mostly of milk crates even when they are not I wonder if I should get around to it.

This presents several difficulties:
  1. It is almost impossible to get things up my damn stairs. They are narrow and wrap around the side of the building in a way that makes you rethink wearing a thick jacket let alone carrying anything on the way up. You can't even move something long by carrying it on its end as the vertical clearance isn't any more generous than the horizontal.

  2. One of the reasons I didn't go all out when I first moved in was that I'm only living where I am for my job and wasn't sure how long I'd be there. Now that it's been a year and a half I know I could have done more but how long am I going to be there now? Technically I'm closer to leaving now than I was then and the more stuff I get now the more I'll have to move later and that just seems like a pain in the arse.

  3. I love the character of my place, the strange decorations and cracks and signs of life that it's gathered over the years but given its age (about 150 years I'm told) I'm worried about putting anything too heavy up there for fear of it going through the floor. This might sound a bit paranoid but my friendly and cheerful landlord one day took it upon himself to cheerfully and friendlily point out a spot on the balcony out back where he'd had to mend the floor because someone had gone through a decade or two back.

  4. I don't like buying things just for the hell of it. If I don't actually like them and need them I don't want them in my home. I would resent them and they would make me cranky. I don't care if other people like them, if they like them so much they can bloody buy them and dust them and find things to put on them and avoid covering them with flotsam and jetsam.

So on mature reflection I have decided, bugger it.

I'll get some more bits when I'm good and ready and in the meantime I will continue to spend my money on the important things - food, comics and CDs.

As a concession I will take a leaf out of Fran Katzenjammer's book and utilise Indian throws for special occasions.

If anyone protests I will put the Indian throws over them.

Just l
et them try to get down the stairs then!