No longer as truthful as should be deserved, some names, places and events deliberately vague to protect identities that aren't mine

Monday, 2 December 2013

Role Models

Watching The Addams Family at the weekend and discussing with flatmates how they are one of the best possible role models. - They teach you to always be accepting, never to judge something because it's different; to try new things, not to accept the status quo just because - to branch out and experience everything life has to offer; to be welcoming to whomever your relatives bring home for the holidays, however intolerable they are, because they are important to that person; that you shouldn't betray those closest to you, but even if you do, they will still be there for you whenever you need them because they love you; encourage your kids to be creative, take an interest in the things that they enjoy and teach them to take those things and make them their own in some way; that each and every person in our life has their own unique talents, and if we recognize and embrace those we can support each other far beyond our own individual capabilities; Gomez and Morticia are one of the most passionate and loving couples you'll ever come across, daily finding ways to demonstrate their affection for each other and reminding us that you should take the time to waltz with each other around the living room just because you haven't done it in a while.. We should all be so lucky to have a family that nurtures all of the best qualities in each of us.

Friday, 8 November 2013

Dress Code

I will never understand the corporate environment. I work in an office, surrounded solely by other people in that office. I sit at a desk all day. I required to wear a suit and listening to my music would be frowned upon. Don't get me wrong, I'm more than happy to dress smart and professional if I have meetings, or if I'm representing the business externally in any significant way, and I'm not advocating everyone blasting out tunes, thigh high stiletto boots (unless you work in essex of course), or looking at porn at work. But I never really understand the closed corporate environment that dictates everyone must be uncomfortable and bored. The fact that happy, relaxed workers are FAR more productive has been so well researched and documented as to be common knowledge you could find from people on the street. So long as you maintain an attitude of "reasonable" (subjective I know, but understandable I think), what's wrong with jeans, a tee, and some headphones? Again, too many years in the theatre industry have spoiled me on this regard...

Macbeth hath murdered sleep, and so Macbeth shall sleep no more.

Yes, I know that's not the word for word quote.

Some of my friends and I have a running joke that we were SS officers in a past life, who somehow avoided being reincarnated into dung beetles, and so the universe punishes us constantly in myriad other ways.

I've decided another of my past lives was Macbeth.  It would explain the whole not sleeping thing.

I'm notorious for not sleeping well.  Basically my body clock doesn't work properly.  Most people's reset when necessary, or struggle to keep going past the usual circadian cycle.  Most people's reset every night, the standard circadian rhythm (i.e. your internal body clock) is usually a little over 25h.  We operate a 24h diurnal cycle so most people's just reset a little every night.  It's usually quite easy for people to reset their body clocks.  It's how jet lag works.  It's also very simple for most people to shorten their circadian rhythm given they tend to do it every night. This is why travelling east and adjusting for jetlag is a lot easier than travelling west - you just go to bed earlier rather than having to stay up late.

My body clock has very little ability to adjust it's 0-hour starting position.  It's pretty much set around 4am UK time.  Sure, some nights I'm tired and it's 3am and some nights I'm up late and it's 6am, but it's more or less set around 4am.  With enough determination and access to appropriate diurnal stimuli (i.e. what time the sun rises, streetlights being on etc), I can move it about an hour or two in either direction.   This means I can cope with the clocks changing for summer time, though it takes me about 3-4 weeks to really get used to it from a sleep pattern perspective.  My body clock doesn't adjust that well as I move around the world either.  This means on the US East Coast, 2300 ET hits and I'm pretty much done and ready for bed (which everyone just takes as yet more proof that I was in fact, born in the wrong country).  When I go to the West Coast, I force it to a little, but my body very obviously still starts to wind down around 2130/2200 local time.  When I travel to Malaysia, it's not just a simple case of mid-afternoon slump for me; I find it nigh on impossible to keep awake in afternoons, no matter how bright the sun may be.  Luckily being equatorial/tropical in climate things like siestas are quite acceptable there, and afternoons are often more sedentary due to the heat, especially in the dry season.  I will happily find myself up all night and into the morning in Malaysia with no problems whatsoever.  In the US I'm a morning person because I naturally wake up rested then.  In Malaysia I'm morning person because that's evening and time to go out as far as my body is concerned.

The other major sleep issue I have, is that probably by decades of experience (I've had the above issue with sleep times since I can remember as a child) I'm used to running on empty.  Practicalities of living in the UK means I rarely get full opportunity to let my body do what it likes with sleep.  Whilst the theatre industry helped because start times are generally not 9am in the morning, there's inevitably something that needs doing, a chore I need to run, which I have to run before work during the day because at 1am when i finish a show those places aren't open.  I'm permanently tired.  And my body is used in a state of permanent sleep deprivation, to greater or lesser degrees as it varies throughout any given period of time.  I'll go out with friends and we'll be out all night and the next day they are wrecked.  And I'm tired, but I'll go shopping, I'll meet my parents for lunch, I'll go to work, I'll do all that, be up for 48h, and I will STILL not get to sleep until around 4am the next morning.  My body has stopped recognising sleep debt, tiredness, and sleep deprivation as indicators that something is wrong.  I can go to bed, and feel tired, but my body just won't sleep despite the fact it clearly needs to.  It's just desensitized to the normal factors and warning signs.

Occasionally, I get insomnia on top of all this.  My body stays up for around 3 days straight.  On the third day, I start to be notably sleep deprived.  Maintaining focus in a 1 on 1 conversation in a quiet room is difficult.  My muscles get a very specific type of ache that tells me they've been going for too long and my body's cannibalizing them for energy.  My body either can't eat and will only accept about 500kcal throughout the day, or it's desperate for energy because it's in overdrive so much with no rest, and I'll eat about 5000kcal to get me through the day.  What's concerning about this, is not the fact that it happens, it's the fact it happens regularly enough that I can highlight specific symptoms.

All this, means sleep is one hell of an issue for me.  I've ranted previously about how getting to sleep just doesn't work for me.  My brain simply won't ever shut off.  The thoughts in my head during the day just coalesce into more tangible dreams at night and continue going.  Staying asleep isn't too much of an issue for me thankfully.  Sure, I often wake up in the middle of the night, but I turn over and fall back asleep.  It's just my body doesn't go to sleep properly.  And I have severe trouble getting up.  I mean with enough determination and willpower (i.e. I have to go to work and get paid), I can just about do it, just like anyone can get up early when they really have to, but it's very obvious that my body doesn't start to ramp up the gears like most people do after waking up.  I have problems eating breakfast without causing horrific stomach cramps.  Which them means I'm low on blood sugar all morning making me even worse.  My mental processes obviously don't function properly.  I've lost count of the number of times I've almost been run over by a bus because it simply wasn't there as far as my brain was concerned.  It's not that I wasn't looking, or that it was in my blind spot, my optical processes just didn't process the existence of traffic on the road, or forgot that they move and didnt' factor in momentum accordingly.  Techies aren't designed for getting up in the morning, but we can do it, load-ins or events can require very early starts and you just get on and do it.  EVERYONE is tired.  It's why a good crew chief/production manager makes sure there is coffee around 10am. 

What techies as a whole are not good at, and bearing in mind all the above, what I'm really not good at, is 9-5hours.  Regularly getting up early and having to function and function well.  A few days, sure.  Even for 2 weeks straight in a mad run up to opening night of a production.  But day in, day out, no.

I'm currently averaging 3h52m sleep per night over the last 7 days and trying to do an office job.  It's not that I don't want to sleep.  It's not that I don't try.  I go to the gym for 2h each night till I'm EXHAUSTED so I make sure I get about 3.5-4h each night instead of 2-3h.  Tell me in what world that is sustainable.  And drugs aren't an option.  Sedatives have one of two effects on me: they make me tired, but not actually sleep, exacerbating the problem; or they have to be of such a strength that I'm either knocked out or feeling groggy for days.  Eventually after long enough I sort of pass out in a rather unexpected narcoleptic manner and sleep for between 36-48h.  The best I can do is hope and pray that with my current job, that falls on a Friday evening.

Being productive

I have a new job, and not enough work, so I guess it's time to start blogging again.  I can't say much about what my work is and any issues that are directly related due to fun secrecy and professional conduct agreements, but I can blog about the indirect things.

Basically the short version for those who don't know is I recently started a high flying job in a corporate environment, which is obviously fairly different to the theatre world

Things like how, I find it really really difficult to sit at a desk at work for 8h a day.  Don't get me wrong, I might do that at home playing games, watching tv or just sitting on twitter, being far less productive than any work day, but it's the sedentary part of working at this job that I'm struggling with.  Sitting at a desk, in front of a PC and on a telephone for 8h.  For the last 7/8 years, the kind of work I've been doing I might have been able to sit down, it might have required heavy use of IT systems, but there was never really just sitting there.  There was always something to check in elsewhere in a venue, someone to help with a costume, a cast member with a question, clearance to obtain, a 5 minute call to give, a standby for a cue.  When oping a show I might get the chance to sit down for it, but it's not just staring at a screen, it's a constant adjustment process.

The other problem is it's been a long time since the kind of work I've done has been 'work on x until complete'.  By which I mean, most theatre work comes in lots of little discrete chunks.  Help someone with a costume, prepare props, give calls, standby for cue.  Even the larger chunks break down into relatively small pieces.  It might take a good few hours to hang a piece of set off a fly bar, but that's broken down into things like rearrange set store/workshop for clear access, clear stage, bring set piece in, install fly hardware, clear stage, bring fly bar in, attach fly lines, take bar half out, load bar, walk set piece up the stage till it's upright, check bar loading, fly bar fully out, fly bar in, check alignment etc.  Even problems break down into little chunks.  The job I'm currently doing, chunks break down into: 'test system', which i could further break down into -> 'plan systems testing '-> do background reading -> read specific report.  Except that specific report is often hundreds of pages long.  And not easily locatable, and then requires a data access permission I don't have and need to request and wait until someone else approves it.

I'm the least experienced person in my team at my new job.  Which isn't a problem per se, but coming from a background which involves EVERYONE being very in control of their workload.  I always considered tech crew, whether theatre, film, events, whatever, somewhat similar to a military squad.  Experience and technical expertise will be taken into consideration, but you rely on everyone else on the team knowing more or less what needs doing, and how to do it, on picking up the next piece of work and getting on with it without needing to ask first, and being capable of doing that work to a high level without needing checking.  If you ask someone to rig a light, you more or less expect it to be done right, clamps tightened enough, safety chains, accessories installed as per the plan, and plugged up to the right channel/circuit. By and large, you don't have time to review and check everyone's work, you expect them to be able to do it, and get on with it, and move on to the next thing, they don't need to ask everytime they finish rigging a light, they just move onto the next one on the plan, and once that bar's done, you move on to the next bar, etc.  Events, film, tv, theatre, they all rely on having a skilled team of people who know what to do, how to do it, when to do it, and they all just get on with it relatively autonomously

I'm currently in a position where it's not easy to move around between the various tasks that make up the whole 'job'.  If I'm waiting on someone to give me access to a file, there's not a lot else I can be getting on with.  I don't know enough to know how or where to pick up other bits of work that other people might not have started on, and most work we havent started on in because we CANT.  As a team we're waiting on other people in other divisions etc.  It's like knowing a set piece needs to be rigged and flown, but the piece not having arrived at the venue yet.  Aside from the occasional chase, there's not a lot you can do.  And coming from a place where even if I've been just general crew, you have to be very in control and keep a good awareness of how everything fits into the big picture, which due to my lack of experience in my new role, is something I simply don't have the capability or understanding of yet.  I know it's by and large jsut new job teething problems, I know this kind of stuff will get better, or I'll get used to it, but for now it's making the transition for me, on a mental level, very difficult.  It's more or less the complete opposite of what I'm used to so na

Also, the last time I was working a corporate job, I had a boyfriend to email pointlessly during the day, keeping me occupied, helping boost my motivation and mood throughout the day, and generally making it look like I was doing work when I wasn't.

No such luck this time around...

Though as a boon, the graduate intake are back from college and in the office this week so there's lots of cute boys to check out.  Less cute girls unfortuantely.  But that might be because it's hard to rock a pant suit unless you're Hillary Clinton.  Still, cute boys in suits (alas sitting at the other end of the office to me, but the coffee machine is that way so...).

Saturday, 15 June 2013

One (singular sensation...)

So.. Let's talk about the Xbox One.

There's all kinds of rants going on about the features announced about the Xbox One, so I figured the crowd isn't exactly going to get any louder in relative terms if I add my voice into the mix.

I'm actually a supporter of a lot of the things most people are bitching about.  And yes, I'll start by admitting I was never going to be a potential PS4 buyer.  I like Halo too much :P

The Xbox One is supposed to be part of the 'next-generation' of consoles.  It's a successor that builds on an established franchise, yes, but the entire point of the new consoles, especially with regards to the PS4 and Xbox One, is that they are supposed to be the flagships in what will be the next generation of consoles.  When you step up a generation, the point is that there's generally a leap, it's supposed to take a new approach and inevitably people gripe about it because we don't like change.  Remember the change from keypad mobiles to touchscreen keypads?  The sudden change (or even lack of) haptic feedback took a LOT of getting used to for a lot of us.

Microsoft has tried (and arguably failed) the 'next generation' trick recently, with Windows 8.  I admire them for what they set out to do: recognizing that we are moving into a world of tablets and touchscreens, the way we interact with a UI is evolving, at a seemingly increasingly rapid rate as technology grows in leaps and bounds and the commercial processes for putting that once-futuristic technology into every aspect of our life equally grows in great strides.  So they got rid of the Start button, a mainstay of Windows for decades.  Everyone knows, that everything, sooner or later, can be found from the Start menu.  And that was the problem.  When they removed the Start button, no-one had any idea how to access things that weren't already there on the screen in Windows 8.  How do I change the settings, how do I change the layout, the background, what if I want to  run a program I don't use very often, how do I bring up the system specs etc. Windows 8 has a lot of issues, but to me, that was the biggest issue with the Start function.  Not that they got rid of it, but that Windows as a UI had been built around the Start button for so long, it wasn't obvious to anyone how to use a version that did away with it, and people are generally pretty impatient in terms of how long they're willing to persevere with non-intuitive technology.  Removing the Start button was supposed to signify a total rethink about how users interacted with the Windows system and the technology it drives.  It failed, but I admire the idea behind it.

That's kind of where I stand on the Xbox One.  I think what the Xbox One is trying to do is exactly what should be expected of a next generation console.  Think of the 'futuristic' media and entertainment technology  we're all familiar with from every 80's sci-fi movie.  And even more recent stuff like Minority Report or <...>.  It shows a world that is completely connected, in every way.  The media we have on our computers connects with our TV, connects with our phone, connects with us out and about.  It updates, adapting and adjusting for local weather, traffic, whatever.  We envisaged this as the way technology would work in the future 3 decades ago and more.  And this is very much the end goal technology has looked to over the last few years, driving the smartphone revolution, phablets, the iCloud, Windows Media Center, Skype phones as effective land-lines, you name it.

Well, with that said, how in the hell did you think all this future tech was gonna happen?!
Of course the Xbox One is permanently connected to the internet; of course it requires an input system that relies not just on predetermined button presses, but can learn to read your movements and understand your voice; of course it's designed with the idea it will integrate with your other technology in a way that is so ubiquitous it seems almost invasive to us (though arguably, Apple has been ahead of the curve on this one for years, though equally, it has less hurdles to overcome).  As I said, this is exactly what I think should be expected of a console that is supposed to be indicative of the "next generation" of console technology.  Consoles aren't gaming stations anymore.  They're not glorified DVD players.  They're not something to keep the kids occupied that isn't as expensive as a PC or a Mac.  And we don't expect to be constrained by formats anymore.  Multiplayer gamers want to play with their friends whether they have an Xbox, a Playstation, a Mac, Windows or Linux.  We want the same list of friends and contacts as we have in our email clients, phones, skype lists etc.  With the same ability to separate and divide according to privacy.  It's what we expect more and more out of our technology, but the underlying things that allow that to happen, that drive that, that will give us our hoverboards and our lightsabers and auto-drive cars, we're going to kick up a huge fuss about.

That's not to say I'm oblivious to the shortcomings of the Xbox One.  All that future tech, the ubiquity I mentioned earlier, we ARE a little uncomfortable with all of that.  We don't want people video calling us on toilet walls, or asking us how that pair of crotchless panties is working out for us, or getting fired by a message sent to our home during dinner one evening.  The PRISM scandal is all too topical and indicative of a 1984 society in which our every feeling, thought, and action is monitored, not by the CCTV used to deter crime or obvious designated systems, but by everything's in our daily lives; our chats to grandma over the phone, our weekly shopping & travel habits via rewards cards and credit histories, the social groups we move in - we're simply not comfortable having all this monitored so overtly just yet.

The Xbox One can, and should offer a lot to those who want to (and can) be connected 24/7 - the prospect for evolving gaming worlds could herald a new era of MMORPG developers who I'm sure would be all too happy to find a way to reignite their continually declining revenue streams.  But I fully agree that requiring a connection every 24 hours is going to push people away from it.  There's a strong contingent of people out there who avoid Ubisoft and EA games precisely because they require a constant connection.  And for some people this is simply too onerous a requirement.  My parents have broadband, but they live in the country, it's shitty broadband, it cuts out, it drags like a dog in bad weather, it's never gonna cope with a 24/7 online streaming demands.  They easily could have implemented a system that would have required an online connection only once every 30 days - which seems to be the current market-acceptable time interval for compulsory syncing services - leaving decisions of 24/7 connectivity to game and app developers.  Even streaming services - which by their nature demand a constant connection - are increasingly finding ways to allow "offline streaming" by downloading a TV show or movie at a time.  People still want, and expect, the option to play their games on a rainy day, when they're cut off from the world.  Everyone's internet goes down and we all know it usually takes a good 2 weeks till the company gets it up and running properly again, so 30 days seems adequate.

The Kinect sensor is a mandatory piece of kit for the Xbox One, and again, it arguably needn't be.  You can have the option of it adding a whole range of extra content, and new ways of interacting with the console and all it's media, but why is it necessary?  And there's no backwards compatibility, which is always going to be an issue, and is just dumb on a lot of levels, but then that's going to be a growing problem in the next few years as the internal architecture of computing components, and how technology works at its underlying fundamental levels (as in more underlying and fundamental than the programming language) goes through a complete overhaul.  But I still agree that backwards compatibility is a huge issue at the end of the day.  And then of course there's the US/EU & UK pricing.  Now I fully concede I'm somewhat desensitized to the habit of just changing a $ sign to a £/€ and making a tidy profit on the extra mark-up due to too much US travel, but in an increasingly global world, making an extra $100 or so off people just because they live in Germany simply doesn't fly.  People are monumentally stupid.  But when you actually say "we think you're stupid" to them, angry (consumer) mobs tend to be surprisingly effective at voicing their anger one way or another.

The Xbox One has a lot of problems.  I really like what it's trying to do.  I don't think it will work, and I am counting down the days until Microsoft makes a backtrack on the internet connectivity issue.  It's a shame, but I don't think consumers are willing to accept the 'restrictions' of an Xbox One system just yet.  Not in a "they'll grumble but eventually get used to it" way, I really don't think the market is at that point where it will accept these things as inherent requirements yet.  But then the problem is, isn't an Xbox One without all the things that people are currently throwing up a huge fuss about just an Xbox 360 with some faster processors in it?  Where's the next generation in that?

EDIT:  Penny Arcade's comic today sums this up beautifully:

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

By tomorrow morning I'll have this thing beat.

Points for reference.

My mind is currently in a very specific haze where it loses all ability to process any higher level thoughts.  Not because those thoughts are too trying or oppressive or anything, it just loses the ability to do it.  Like trying to do complex tasks when you're drunk for example (though actually, i'm pretty competent at that particular skill).

This haze only comes about in certain circumstances - basically when my brain effectively completely shuts down without warning and reboots itself.  It takes a good few days to get itself back to fully functional each time.  When I'm less crazy, this is usually characterized by my body without warning or indication crashing out for 18 - 36 hours at a time, usually causing me to miss work without notifying them which as you can imagine is all kinds of fun to explain afterwards.

Unfortunately, I'm beyond batshit crazy these days.  Crashing out still forms a part of the circumstances, but this particular instance was also characterized by a 3 hour memory blank in my head.  It's a memory blank that feels very much different to the block of absence of awareness you get from sleep.  I can't remember anything from 3pm - 6pm today.  I appear to have tweeted during that time, so I was obviously awake.  To be honest I can't remember anything until 11.30pm.  But there's a good block of a few hours that definitely does feel like the absence of awareness that happens during sleep I mentioned above.  And my activities I can track using computer logs dry up around 5.30pm, so I'm guessing not long after I crashed out.  I remember being at my friends house at 2.30pm, hence why I've managed to pin down the memory blank down to 3pm - 6pm.

I've managed to work out a few things about my mindset during these hours.  I was clearly going very very crazy inside my head.  The sort of crazy that makes me curl up as tight as possible it hurts so much.  The sort of crazy that leaves me crying, as I have done at several points in the last 4 days.  My ability to deal with reality completely broke down, and when this happens I know what the safest place my mind considers is.  A small, warm, dark place.  The smaller, and more minimalist the space, the better.  So I will curl myself up into a tight ball, pressed up against a wall so hard it hurts my back.  Or under a desk space.  Or bathrooms.  Bathrooms are generally the smallest and least furnished rooms in a house.  Often with no natural light sources especially if you live in a city.  And they have a lock on them.  I can shut the world out and not let anything in I don't want to deal with.   I find the dark comforting too.  Most people don't, but what I don't see, I don't have to accept as part of my reality.  The darkness helps to delineate a firm boundary wherein I define my reality.  The darker the better.  Pitch black so you can't see your hand in front of your face.  And I have exceptionally good night vision so this requires blocking out practically all light that could possibly enter the space.  The place I create for myself is small and defensible.  It has virtually nothing beyond myself in it, and so nothing else that I need to deal with on any level.  Within this space there are no distractions from just me, myself and I, so I can fully devote myself to fighting the monsters that rage inside my head.  Chris could attest to this, he's seen me scramble across the room in fear driving myself into the smallest possible space in a bid to feel safe when my crazy has been in full overdrive.  It terrified the crap out of him.

At least that's how it's supposed to work in theory.  Except the problem is, when I'm that crazy, my ability to comprehend and process reality has become so dysfunctional, that I have to reduce my concept of reality to this artificial, practically non-existent state, so equally, my ability to deal with the thoughts in my head, even then, is still so poor that eventually my head just BSOD's, and I crash out wherever I happen to be,

Which is how I came to find myself, at 11.30pm tonight, on the floor in the corner of my bedroom up against the door, the lights switched off, and the door firmly locked (luckily for occasions like this, my bedroom has a lock on it, so I didn't end up commandeering the bathroom for the entire evening mysteriously), my head in a haze that immediately told me it wasn't working properly, and a distinct feeling that some of the missing time that had passed was not just because I was unconscious.  Given this was a Monday night, I was supposed to be running Exalted, which means that the front door (which my bedroom is right next to) was opened and shut at least 5 or so times, my phone rang, people probably knocked on my door; when I crash, I really crash, and not even the fires of hell will wake me (seriously I've slept through neighbours' houses in the same block being on fire, engines outside with sirens blaring, firemen all over my house checking for damage etc).  I did not notice a thing.

Worst of all in all this, the random memory blanks I'd been having for about 2 months up until 4 weeks ago had pretty much stopped.  It was one of the few improvements in my crazy recently.  Then again, maybe not so improved.

This also took me 1h36 minutes to write.  Writing is HARD when your thought processes simply don't aren't operating.

Saturday, 8 June 2013

In Conversation With.... Myself

I'm watching '3 Day Weekend' which is one of those trashy TLA gay releasing movies, and this is the conversation I have with myself about the film's plot:

 This is clearly a movie about people and their sexual hang-ups.  I'm gonna get annoyed aren't I

 My issue isn't so much GET OVER IT PEOPLE (though that too), its more BE FUCKING HONEST ALREADY.  You don't like something, or you're not comfortable with a situation, say so for god's sakes, it's fix SO MANY relationship issues

 See and now, because you waited till your boyfriend was gone to sleep with the other guy, it looks like you're sneaking around and now he's obviously gonna walk in on you both early and throw a hissy and you just shoulda all had a threesome and got it over with.

I should never, ever be allowed to be in any kind of position that requires me to give relationship and/or sex advice to people.  It'd end OH SO BADLY.  Like lawsuit-badly.

EDIT:  Turns out when the guy got back they did actually have a threesome, he then kicked his partner out of bed and stayed fucking the third wheel as revenge sex.  And then they broke up.  Go figure.

Thursday, 28 March 2013

Skim Milk Marriage

So I've been reading the transcripts from the recent Prop 8 and DOMA Supreme Court Of The United States hearings that have been happening over the last two days.  I'll highlight other gems in future, but this one particularly stood out:

Counsel for BLAG (i.e. the pro-DOMA side) arguing the merits in the DOMA case: "...No State loses any benefits by recognizing same-sex marriage. Things stay the same. What they don't do is they don't sort of open up an additional class of beneficiaries under their State law for -- that get additional Federal benefits. But things stay the same..."

Justice Ginsburg: "They're not -- they're not a question of additional benefits. I mean, they touch every aspect of life. Your partner is sick. Social Security. I mean, it's pervasive. It's not as though, well, there's this little Federal sphere and it's only a tax question. It's -- it's -- as Justice Kennedy said, 1100 statutes, and it affects every area of life. And so he was really diminishing what the State has said is marriage. You're saying, no, State said two kinds of marriage; the full marriage, and then this sort of skim milk marriage."

YES.  Justice Ginsburg TOTALLY gets it.  It's not asking to be granted additional benefits, it's asking for recognition of equal rights and benefits already existent.

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Murdering Sleep

A twitter rant I posted the other night regarding my sleep...

You know what I hate most about being tired?  This whole getting-to-sleep thing.  It's supremely time consuming and I'm crap at it :(
Unless I'm pass out style drunk it takes me at least 2 - 3 hours to get to sleep.  Every single night.  Since I was 12.
It doesn't matter where I am, how tired I am, what time it is, what side I sleep on, I close my eyes and my brain just doesn't turn off.
I've tried music, reading, meditation, breathing techniques, counting sheep, none of it works.
Hell even sleeping pills don't seem to work on me properly half the time.
I know other people have problems sleeping, but 2 -  3 hours just to get to sleep every night for 14+ years?
It feels like everyone else learnt this ability and I somehow just missed it.
Like how I don't walk right.  Somehow it just came out wrong in me and it's too late to really do anything about it now.
I don't understand how everyone else can sleep so easily and sometimes I want to practically cry about that it's so bad.
I just want to be able to sleep properly.  One night every 2 weeks even.
At least then maybe I wouldn't feel going to bed was such a battle.  That at least once every 14 days I could sleep right.
And I'd have that to look forward to.  But somehow, I'm broken.  Again.

Monday night/daytime I actually slept about 12 hours, including a solid period of 8 uninterrupted hours.  This is the first time I've done this in over a month.  |In fact over the last month I've been averaging less than 3 hours sleep a night and the most I'd had in one 24h period was 5 hours.  Of course the 12 hours were completely full of bad dreams but at least some kind of proper sleep was something.  And then naturally Tuesday night I was wide awake at 5am and unable to sleep again.

And yes, I've been to the doctors, I've told them about this, I've told them I work with high voltage electricity and a month's severe sleep deprivation (relatively speaking by my standards, technically I'm probably always sleep deprived given how bad/absent my 'normal' sleep patterns are) is having noticeable effects on my ability to do things, reaction times, thought processes etc.  They refused to do anything about it.  Well technically they told me to come back in 2 weeks (this already being 2 weeks since I first went to them with the problem).  So I went to book an appointment.  The doctor has no appointments before 4pm for the whole of April.  I start work at 4.30pm each day.  I love the NHS, but I really hate my healthcare at times, it's a constant battle against the multitude of ways in which I try to seek some actual help.  And people wonder why I hate going to the doctors.

Sunday, 24 March 2013


The last time I wrote this many blog posts in one night you all panicked.  Guess it shows there's something in me trying to come out I guess.  Can't promise it will be good.  Or pretty.  Or come out on my blog first rather some more physical method.

Thoughts 2

I don't know why people say they wish they were on a beach somewhere when they need a time out from life.  Sure beaches are lovely, and great, but you can only spend so much time on them.  I'd rather be skiing, coming in from the cold, sore from where I've pushed myself too hard or where I've fallen, and grabbing that hot chocolate that's so hot it burns your tongue and you don't care, before doing it all over again, and then in the evening when you finally get home, you spend too long in a hot shower or bath, you go into an outdoor hottub and dont move for an hour because you dont want to brave the cold, or you find the nearest bar, drink like hell, and collapse before getting up at 5am to do it all the next day.

But where I want to go to relax?  I'd like to be in bed, with a cute boy - I normally wake up around 7.30 am when I'm with him, and I'd open my eyes and even in a half asleep state I'd know I was already smiling and happy, because I'd see him next to me, because I could stay in bed next to him, and curl up next to his body and feel safe and warm just having him there.  Because it's still so much of a rarity that I get to see him there, that I can appreciate it at 7.30am, even if I or he had to get up and leave the other in bed, even if the other never roused even slightly as we got up, he's there.  I spent my whole night sleeping next to him, and I might never get that chance again.  I wasn't even conscious or aware of it, but just waking up and realising that I've spent 8 hours happy and calm and safe because he was there, and he still is, and I can fall back asleep knowing that is the best feeling I can ever have, the most relaxing one.  We might even be angry at each other, and we'll still sleep together, and we'll wake up, and we might start arguing 20 minutes later, but for those few moments, that first bit of awareness when you stop sleeping, none of that matters, none of that is important, all that's important and all that matters and all that makes you smile and realise how lucky you are, is them.


I'm aware I haven't posted on here in a good while.  It's been a very bad start to the year.  The last 1/3/6/15 months, depending on where you want to start counting from have been particularly vicious to me, and I know they've been just as bad or worse on a lot of others too.  A lot of the people that I would normally turn to in instances like this are barely holding it together themselves.

I have a lot of stuff I want to write about, it would just either take too long, or I'm honestly not sure how to put it down into words, they just wont come out, not because I don't have the vocabulary to express it, I'm just not sure they're feelings and sentiments that can be expressed in written or spoken form.  Like linguistic translation, the nuance and specific meaning of what I'd be trying to get across would be lost in the act of communicating it between people.

Maybe I'll get round to it eventually and take a stab at it, maybe I won't.  I'm still here.  And when I can work out what to write about, I'll put something down.  I just don't know when that will be.

When I have time I guess.  Time is not forthcoming at any point in my life for the next 3 months that I can see...  In the meantime, have a block of solid text about something that's been in my head today:

Someone made me laugh the other day - they said things were bad but at least they hadn't packed their 'running away' bag yet.  I laughed because I have the same thing.  There's a specific bag that's under my bed.  It's the bag that comes out when I need to bolt, for whatever reason.  When I was younger, at various points my relationship with my parents was strained (whose wasn't), and I got into a certain habit - my shoes, keys and a jacket would always be near the door or together in my room, my wallet would always be in my jacket pocket, and my mobile phone once I got one, was almost always on my person.  I was always ready to bolt straight out the door if needed.  And this continues to this day.  My phone, wallet, shoes, jacket and keys are almost always kept in the same place, either in my room or near the front door, all more or less next to each other (or in a line that means I can grab each in turn), and ready to go.  And as I grew older, and was living in places of my own choosing, this also grew into a bag.  Technically I have 3 of them, but some double up for other purposes.  One bag is for getting away for a few days, when I just need to run and hide somewhere.  One bag lasts me about a week, it's the bag I take when I go back to my parents or am on holiday etc.  And one bag, the bag that I can run and never look back with, the bag that's designed not for hiding, but for just simply running, fits about a month's worth of clothing in it, it can keep all the basic toiletries, electronics, and items of supreme sentimental importance that I refuse to let go of in it; everything needed to pick up the absolute basic essentials of my life and I can take it anywhere with me.  I don't keep this bag packed.  I can pack it in under 15 minutes if I have to.  And recently I've wanted to dig that bag out from under my bed so much.  As I say, I'm not looking to run and hide, I want to run and never come back and forget everything that I am.  And whilst it's not a good reflection of either of our mental states, it is in its own warped and twisted way, comforting to know that someone else has this same bizzare secret ritual.

No Capes

Today I was the unreliable one.  Today I didn't get back to people.  Today I didn't save the day.  Today I didn't do it because no-one else would.  I said no.  And I don't feel guilty about that in the slightest.  Tomorrow I'll put my superhero cape on and swoop in and fix everyone's problems once more.  But today I didn't.

Because in the last week, I've almost smashed the TV, thrown my phone across the room straight into the glass patio doors, punched the fridge, turned the stove on just to burn my hand on it, and drop kicked every plate in the house whilst wearing my boots to smash them.  I've come dangerously close to all these things.  The only way I've avoided it is by gripping onto the arms of my computer chair so firmly I couldn't get up because my entire body was too tensed; by walking out of the room so I couldn't do what was going through my mind right then; instead of throwing my phone across the room I yelled out fuck in a room full of people.  Loud enough, but not screaming, but firmly and strongly enough every single one of them dropped what they were doing and stared at me in shock.

Right now I am far from mentally stable.
Right now I am not thinking normally
Right now I am occasionally proving a danger to myself and others by virtue of not thinking properly, or being too sleep deprived and making mistakes.
Right now I am really not okay.

I haven't been okay for a good few weeks.  But the last week I've barely managed to maintain even a pretence of self control.  This isn't a good sign.


Sometimes I can just close my eyes and imagine you lying here with me so easily.  And part of me is so eager to open them and see you smiling back at me again.  And the other part of me knows to never open them and pretend you're there for as long as I can

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

If I told you this was killing me, would you stop?

To say it's been a bad 72 hours would be an understatement.

I've had a panic attack where I couldn't move, one of my best friends had to leave again, I'm skirting the bounds of mental instability and having periodic convulsions as a result, I can't recognise the people I live with, my dad just got admitted to hospital for a mini-stroke, problems with registering with a new doctor means I wont get any of the numerous medications I'm in increasingly dire need of for at least a week, I start work again tomorrow, which is good, but means more stress, and in a short while my boss goes on holiday for an extended period of time so I'll be covering her job as well.

There's other stuff that's going on as well that I can't put down.  And all this in just 72 hours.  Can someone find the remote control for life and press pause?  Very quickly.  Because that skirting the bounds of mental instability thing?  That's not an exagerration at the moment; several people have seen the evidence to back me up on this, and what's going on is making it increasingly hard to stay on the right side of the line.  And I know I'm not the only person that's in this position.  I don't mind the bad stuff happening, it's okay, I'll deal with it, I just need it to spread itself out a bit more.

I'll write more about the mental issues I'm having shortly, I just wanted to get the above into type.

Monday, 21 January 2013

Aftermath 3/Results 2

A week and a half ago it was time to visit that most delightful of all additions to my life, the HIV clinic.

I'd been just before Christmas to discuss starting meds - I wanted to start meds pretty much as soon as possible after my diagnosis but there were various tests that had to be run first and such.  I can't be put on one of the most commonly used drugs as it tends to cause depression in people, and I already have a history of suicidal depression so that's pretty much a no-brainer.  My doc ran some extra tests to check for any drug resistances, allergies, and also ran her suggested treatment regime past some of her colleagues to see if they had any other suggestions and this december appointment was all about the results of all that.

I actually opted not to start the meds right then - starting a few days before the Christmas & New Year period, when my routine was hardly going to be regular (not that my life can ever really said to be have any form of proper routine or regularity, but still), my eating, alcohol consumption and sleeping habits were likely to be all out of whack, and regular clinics would be shut for the holidays with access only to emergency care via A&E departments.  Added to this the never ending list of potential side effects from HIV meds - if they were serious I wouldn't have quick and easy access to my clinic to adjust my medication; if they were minor I'd spend the holiday period feeling like crap - and it just seemed far more sensible actually start the meds in January.

So January comes around and its time for another appointment.  I'm now on a set of medication, 3 different pills all to be taken once a day with food.  I happen to take mine at midnight, which is probably an irregular time for most people but for me I'm either at home, usually eating dinner around then anyway, getting in from work, finishing work, or far enough through work that I can take a 10 minute break to eat a mars bar, grab a drink and neck some pills and no-one will argue.  I've actually been very lucky and had none of the side effects that tend to happen, not even the relatively minor (and also rather common) ones.  And despite the completely fucked up state of my body's health even without the HIV, wherein it seems to just about hold itself together through some sort of delicate balance of all the various messes, the meds haven't had any knock-on effects to any of my other medical conditions either, so that's a good win all round really.

I've been taking them for just under 2 weeks now and it's all going fine, on the outside at least, in another 2 weeks I go back for more tests to check they are actually working and doing their job and also not destroying my body on the inside in some outwardly as yet unnoticed manner, but I'm pretty much expecting all that to come back fine.  I haven't missed a dose yet which is good.  Saturday night did mark the first point I had to adjust my life to my treatment regime though - I was working till midnight and a friend had invited me over after.  And as I went to grab the cereal bar I now keep in my bag and take my meds just before leaving work, I found I'd neglected to put my meds in my bag before leaving the house - one of those instances of seeing things on the table and thinking "I really must remember to pack those" and then actually not doing so.  So instead of seeing my friend I had to go home instead, and prioritize my medication, which of course was the right thing to do, but it still marks the first time I've had to reconstruct my life and plans around the fact that I now have to ensure that every day for the rest of my life I take a set of medication at more or less the same time each day.  It did however mean I got to watch the season opening New York Rangers game versus the Bruins.  Okay we lost, but there is NHL hockey in my life again, and Lundqvist made such an amazing glove save that I could probably just be happy if that's all that comes out of the Rangers' entire season.

I've also had another set of CD4 and viral load results.

Back in November, my CD4 was 570 and my VL was 97k.
From my December appointment, my CD4 is up to 1200 and my VL is down a little to 89k.

So my body has an immune response!  Who knew?!  I mean your body is supposed to have an immune response, but this is my body we're talking about, and it never really does what it's supposed to.  My body appears to have noticed it has a horrible infection, ramped up the immune system as a result, and is even managing to fight the thing somewhat.

Of course, this is what the sneaky HIV wants to happen, as my body ramps up the immune response that just gives it more T-cells to infect and turn into HIV ultimately, leading me down a long and dark road of unpleasant demise.  But that's what the meds are for.  They stop that.  Yay meds!

In other health news, I finally have an official address in London once more, that I can send mail to and everything.  Which means for the first time in 18 months I can register with a GP.  This is going to be entertaining, as there's basically a whole host of things that I haven't really dealt with cause they haven't been urgent, but have still been building up over time.  And I'm now running very low on the stockpiles of various medications I keep for all my other various conditions and problems.  And the problem with having spent ~20 years in and out of hospitals, being case studies for research groups and such, is that you know quite a lot about how to medicate.  So I basically have a shopping list to go to my GP with.  Doctors don't tend to like it when you do this.  And amongst the items in that shopping list, I need some sleeping pills, because I'm fed up at struggling through the worst bits of my insomnia, and the pain meds that I'm currently on for my intestinal cramps I've grown too tolerant of, and need to switch from, so I'm asking for something stronger.  Which means a boy with a history of attempted suicide, suicidal thoughts, and a mood disorder, is going to ask to be given large quantities of super strong pain pills and sleeping tablets.  If I'm lucky my doctor is dumb and the pharmacist is blind and no-one notices any GIANT RED FLAGS going off about that one.  For the record, I'm not ever planning to use the drugs to commit suicide - there's a nice block against me acting on any suicidal thoughts in my mind right now due to certain circumstances in life - I genuinely do want the drugs for my various medical problems, but I suspect the system will still set off a few alarms when all that goes together.

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Obligatory Year Round Up Post

I actually worked out a while ago that despite the fact I no longer go to school/college/uni/whatever any more and thus the academic calendar means nothing to me, I still consider sometime around September my liminal point in the year, rather than 'New Years'.

It's the end of the big summer period, the time when everyone tends to act a lot freer, when people seem to enjoy life a lot more.  I've usually just got back from a trip to the US.  It's been the last of the bank holidays (excepting Christmas), and everyone sort of starts to buckle up for 3 months of slogging through work and braving the increasingly cold, wet, and dark weather before Christmas and actual New Year come around and we look forward to Spring (which is just as wet in the UK so I don't know why we fool ourselves otherwise).  It's also one of the few points I can enjoy the summer, as the hayfever season has ended, so I can usually get in some trips out places, some afternoons in the parks and so on and so forth before the weather turns.  There's not a specific date, but sometime around September is most definitely much more the turning point of the year to me.

That said, someone decreed long ago that the year turned on the whim of the god Janus.  And so there's some sort of obligation on me to provide a review of my year around now.  So with that in mind, lets charge full steam ahead...

Looking back, 2011 (yes I mean 2011) was a truly crappy year.  I'd started 2011 suicidal, I worked 90 hour weeks for the first 5 months, half way through the year I broke up with my fiance of 6.5 years, I was living back with dad, and I ended the year firmly unemployed.  2011 had been shitty so I went into 2012 thinking at least it couldn't be as bad, and there was some definite promise of things to come.

...Famous last words.

Now I have to be fair, 2012 has had some truly great moments, but over all, it has somehow managed to trump 2011 as one of the worst points in my life.  I spent 9 months of it unemployed, barely scraping by, and usually relying on friends to mean I didn't starve.  I almost I ended up in court several times.  It was only by the grace of various friends that I genuinely didn't end up homeless and starving.  The situation I found myself was by no means ideal, in fact I hated it, but at least it was a roof over my head and it was in London.  The housing situation, limited funds, and unsociable hours all throughout the year meant my friendship group basically boiled down to 5 people who continued to make the effort for me.  Nevertheless, having got myself some sort of income, things started to look up and there was some sort of vague hope.

Oh foolish naive me...  The last 3 months of the year are probably some of the hardest I have ever been through.  The lives of the most important people I cared about fell apart, I mean really badly, there were lost jobs, threats of losing jobs, losing homes, getting robbed, cancer, death; the serious big shit and it all happened at once.  To all the people I cared about.  My mother almost committed suicide.  And then I got diagnosed with a life threatening disease that means I'll be on meds every day for the rest of my life.

It says something positive (no pun intended) that pretty much all of my friends, even knowing my sexual habits, turn around and said "but you're so sensible about what you do".  And people have since said to me that I'm dealing with it a lot better than they expected, or that they imagine they themselves would do.  So at least it was a shock to them as much as it was to me.  But regardless, somehow, somewhere along the line, it's down to me; I wasn't careful enough, I did something stupid, and I turned into just another dumb kid who let himself become a statistic, another name on someone's list - which was pretty much the one thing I was told never to do, and cause of my own idiocy, however it happened, I did just that.

It's still early, I'm still processing it and coming to terms with it, I get a little bit more okay with it every day.  But I'm probably never gonna get over that panic every time I'm with someone I love.  I start meds on 9th January so we'll see how that goes, no doubt I'll blog about the effects of it and how I'm dealing with it.

But moving on, lets get to some of the good stuff that happened this year.  Because even this year overall SUCKED, the highlights of it were so intensely blinding I found if difficult to believe they had happened to me, and struggled to even put my words together to say thank you for them.

At the start of the year, I wrote a 7000 word blog post, that had been on my mind for a while, that came about as a result of the fact that pretty much once a week I get some body asking me, via twitter, via gaydar, or recon, or in person, or whatever, about something to do with sex.  Apparently I'm some kind of expert on the subject (which I completely don't understand and the concept just feels weird to me, but if you guys insist).  The post was entitled 'Bottoming 101' (along with a follow up post) and was basically a guide to all sorts of things to do with having anal sex.  I sent the post to just about every gay porn star, studio, lgbt blog etc on my twitter to get it some publicity and boy did it!  The post is now just shy of ONE HUNDRED THOUSAND HITS.  ONE HUNDRED THOUSAND HITS to some random 25 year old's blog mostly bitching about how his life isn't utterly perfect.  I still get THOUSANDS of hits a month to that post.  Just before Christmas I received five thousand hits IN ONE DAY because it got reposted somewhere.  I owe MASSIVE thanks to TwisTurtle, who first submitted it to reddit, where it gets reposted at least once a day, all the readers of Reddit who continue to click through, Dewitt of Manhunt Daily who made an entire post about it - honestly I never thought I would get published by Manhunt.  Yes its just an internet blog, but its run by one of the biggest gay sites around; it was thanks to this post I got to MEET Dewitt in April.  I am really grateful to all the people who helped with the post, who commented on it, who suggested clarifications or extra bits of info, who reposted it and reblogged it; it was a random post I made one night when I had something to say and it took off like I could never expect.  People I don't even know send me messages saying they pointed a friend in the direction of my post.  I hope you are all having some FANTASTIC ANAL SEX as a result of it.

My lovelife took a very unexpected but long hoped for turn over the course of the year.  It's been the thing that has probably got me through everything that's happened in the year without entering a full blown depressive episode.  I'm deliberately fairly coy about it for reasons that anyone who knows about the relationship will be aware of.  The most incredible bit of this was how my friends reacted though.  Despite the unorthodoxness of the relationship, my friends immediately accepted it, without judgement, and in fact ACTIVELY told the both of us how much they approved.  I was left stunned, having finally found the sort of people I'd spent my entire life until that point looking for.  People who would accept things, because I accepted them, and they trusted me.  And then they left me speechless all over again, when they all worked together, without me knowing (until the last moment - SORRY!), just so they could put a smile on my face.  This guy does things I never expected anyone to do for me, that I don't think I deserve, or that I don't think people will notice are important.  And now I have friends that do the same.  So even though it doesn't begin to express the gratitude I feel to you all, thank you.

I watched 2 of my cousins get married this year, one in Las Vegas, and one in Italy, and was reminded what a great family I have, how they piss me off, and drive me crazy, and I dread spending time with them, and how I grew up with 3 effective brothers, how my homophobic cousin has become so accepting he wants to meet the boy I'm in love with, how we look out for each other and cover each other's backs, how my entire family can spend 7 hours drunkenly dancing non stop with each other - not just the cousins, not just the 20 year olds, everyone from my 13 year old cousin, to my grandparents in their 70s, how we can demolish 60 pizzas between us in 15 minutes.  My family are the first people to make me relive any kind of painful or humiliating memory, they will be the first people to pick me up on my shortcomings and failings, and to ask why I haven't got my life perfect yet.  But they will also be the people who will do whatever it takes when I truly need the help, and I may have to ask for that help some time in the coming year, because what I have planned, I can't do on my own, not currently.

Enough with the schmultz huh?  Let's start to wrap up with an examination of how I did at last year's resolutions.  They were:

1. Go to RoomService Club
2. Pay off one credit card.
3. Find some more self confidence

Okay then....

1.  Yes, I finally did this, it took me several months into the year.  You might laugh at such a thing being a resolution, but given it took me several months to do, you'll appreciate it counts as an achievement.

2. Technically, yes, this one got achieved.  But that was only through my parents saving me from bankruptcy and paying off my financial obligations.  I am now close to £5k in debt to my parents, and I am desperately trying to get enough of an income that I can start to pay this off.  So yes, my credit cards got paid off, but I'm not exactly counting this resolution as a success.

3. Ah, now this is the interesting one.  I'm not very good at introducing myself to people, or putting myself out there.  People seem to think I am but anyone who's tried to get me to do it on the spur of the moment will have seen just how much such a situation distresses me.  I was actually doing okay on this, in large part due to the events of March and August.  I suddenly had a lot of confidence, not enough in certain situations, but I was working on it, I was starting to believe in myself finally.  And then I got HIV, and my confidence got shot to pieces, and pretty much still is.  When I found out I rang the boy I love and asked him to tell me that he loved me because I NEEDED to hear him say that he still did.  I'm very slowly getting back to where I was, and coming plans for February will no doubt help this, but currently I'm really not confident AT ALL, about ANYTHING.  If it wasn't for my best friend effectively DRAGGING me back to work I might still be sitting around scared and crying myself to sleep (what are best friends for hey!)  So for now, this is something I'm gonna have to keep working at, and is probably gonna take a good while whilst I get used to being HIV+ and dealing with how that affects my life in all its myriad ways.

Well there we go, so lets lay out some goals for the coming year shall we?  They're all relatively boring obvious things, but like last years resolutions, will actually take a hell of a lot of hard work to achieve, however trivial they may seem.

  1. Get a stable living situation
  2. Get a relatively decent, regular income again (this is kinda a prerequisite before no. 1, but these aims aren't in any specific order)
  3. Find a way to afford 2 very specific things in February
  4. Finally get round to buying myself an Xbox
  5. Achieve at least one of the eligibility criteria for the visa I'm trying to get
Yes I'm aware 3 and 5 are pointedly vague, deal with it.  5 is the big one; if I'm lucky I can tie it into aims 1 and 2 and achieve a lot in one go, but we'll have to see.  2012 brought a hell of a lot of instability and unpredictability, and until 2013 proves otherwise, I'm not about to get complacent in my hope for a better tomorrow.

Thanks for reading kids, tune in next time for a sort of review of 2012 in LGBT related things!