Archive for January, 2008

The social dynamics of speed-dating – a cynic’s perspective

Yes, I did in fact go to a speed-dating event. To give a little background to this, sometime around last september my whirlwind but overall rather short-term romance with the yank ended on a somewhat disillusioned note. The disillusionment part was not so much because I thought I had actually found a relationship that worked, as because I had been starting to think I was a half-decent judge of character. In summary kids, I am often wrong. In any case, this did not improve my opinion of relationships in general, and probably makes it even less likely that I would get involved in one without a damn good reason. So why go to an event that is intended to start such?

Well for a start, the premise is hilarious. For anyone unfamiliar with this concept, the idea is that you go to a venue, are seated next to a complete stranger of the opposite gender, and given 3 minutes to converse. At the end of that time, a whistle blows, he stands up and moves to the next girl, and another one sits down with you, wash, rinse, repeat. This generally involves about 20 pairs, and so lasts an hour. At the end of each session, you make notes about the person you spoke to, so that later you can go to the website and enter “Yes”,”No” or “Friend” next to the name of each person. If you put down a Yes or Friend vote for anyone and they put the same for you, you get each other’s contact details.

Aside from the fact that the idea is bizarre, it also generates a unique and interesting social situation situation. 180 seconds in which to not only judge someone else but present yourself. No normal exchange can be crammed into that amount of time, even a short chat with a stranger in a bar would take ten minutes. You need to answer quickly, and ask questions that actually reveal something of the person next to you. In that very limited amount of time things like speed of response become important. If I ask someone what their favourite hobby is and they spend 2 minutes telling me why they are an Everton fan, it can be really frustrating listening to that and knowing that they might actually be an interesting person but that I will not get to find out.

Overall I found it interesting as a social experiment, but slightly dull as an experience. The dullness may be more to do with my complete lack of both nervousness and tolerance than anything else though. The people I met varied from deathly boring, to entertaining and chatty, right through to utter sleazy scum. I have no idea what anyone thought of me, suffice it to say that about 2 people into the process I got a little bored and started to inject a note of randomness into the conversation. I just about managed to refrain from making “So, what level do you play guitar hero on?” my opening line. My favourite moments from the event include:

Me: So, whats your favourite hobby?

Guy: Em…. (Pause of about 10 seconds, a long time in this game. Laughs a bit as if he is humouring a lunatic.) Hobby?

Me:Yes, hobby, pastime, extracurricular activity, personal method of entertainment of some kind?

Guy: Wow, no-one has ever asked me about that.

Me: Really? I would have thought it a fairly obvious question… Well, what _is_ your favourite hobby?

Guy: I just have so many….. (more laughing, and some beard-stroking.)

Me: Ok then, forget hobbies, Batman or Superman?

Guy: What?

Me: Batman or Superman? Like, in a fight, who would win?

Guy (looks amused in a dumb sort of way): Eh, I don’t know that one

Me: Ok, well who would you guess?

Guy: Spiderman.

Me: Oh really? Why is that?

Guy: He looks good, I like the outfit.

————

Or, definitely the highlight of my evening…

Me: So, who is your favourite superhero?

Guy: Em, what?

Me: Superhero, you know, comic books, cartoons, batman, spiderman, superman?

Guy: Eh, football I suppose. Yeah, football

I am rarely speechless but that one kinda floored me a bit.

——-

In summary, if you are reasonably shallow and also charming/attractive then this is definitely for you. If it takes you longer than 3 minutes to even contemplate liking someone, or you are after a partner who is particularly clever, then I would only recommend attending one of these out of sheer boredom or vague curiousity.

Bottomless cesspits of idiocy should not be businesses, they should be hurled into the sun

In the past I may or may not have ranted about the determined stupidity of my ISP, which incidentally if anyone wanted to know, is Bulldog. If I haven’t written anything down, it is probably because I have been seething too much with rage and frustration to actually commit to using words which might limit my emotions to merely “disgusted fury”.

The actual broadband and phone service itself is almost always satisfactory. It is merely absolutely everything around said service that is utterly and completely pants. For example, I had to set up a direct debit with these people 7 times, the first three of which resulted in one payment going out successfully and then all the details disappearing, two of which didn’t work at all, one of which had 3 months worth of successful payments before vanishing off the face of the earth, and the last of which finally, mercifully, has worked for the last year. Except of course, for the time when they randomly cut me off, presumably because paying 4 bills in a row is suspicious behaviour.

Alas it was pretty much obligatory to pay by direct debit, because when I tried to pay by credit card this was not possible approximately 95% of the time because their system was down. Their system only seemed to be up at random moments of celestial import, like when a full moon falls on the second tuesday of the month. or when a partial solar eclipse was in progress.

I wouldn’t mind so much except for the blatant, badly executed lying. For example, the below conversation:

Me: Hello, you appear to have cut off my phone and internet with no warning whatsoever.

Indian chick: We sent you out an email to inform you madam

Me: You sent me an email, to tell me you had cut off my internet access?

IC: Yes madam

Me: Do you see anything wrong with that statement? Like the fact that my receipt of the email might involve the internet in some way? Besides which, you haven’t sent me an email, because I was able to check it from work and I haven’t received anything.

IC: Well madam we have also sent you a letter

Me: Assuming that I have not received that either, which I haven’t, since you cut it off today, which is a sunday, can you tell me why that is?

IC: There is an overdue bill

Me: But I have a direct debit, its been working for months

IC: Well there is an overdue bill madam, would you like to pay it?

Me: Yes! I would! Please take my money.

—-Ensuing bill stuff and assurances that connection will be restored within 3 working days—-

…..

—-Ten working days and one trip to sweden later—-

Me: Hello, you appear to have either cut off my phone and internet again, or not restored it.

IC: Yes madam there is an unpaid bill on that account and it is blocked.

Me: no there isn’t, because despite your failure to take my direct debit, I paid you 2 weeks ago by credit card, and the money is gone from my account, so there is no outstanding bill.

IC: Yes madam I see you have paid that bill.

Me: Right, so why is it that I do not have an internet connection?

IC: It is a technical fault.

Me: What?

IC: It is a technical fault on the line madam

Me: Em, ok, what is the fault? What is the problem with my line?

IC: I dont know exactly madam that is for our IT team to deal with

Me: well when will they deal with it, I’ve had no connection for 2 weeks!

IC: It will be fixed within 24 hours

Me: But if you dont know what the fault is, how do you know it will be fixed in 24 hours?

IC: because I have removed the block from the account madam

Me: So the account was blocked?

IC: Oh no madam, there was a technical fault.

—-

Since I am moving countries, today I decided to find out what would be needed to transfer the account to a housemate. The conversation went something like this:

Me: Hello, I am moving to another country soon, and would like to transfer my account to another name, what do I need to go about that?

English Guy (???): We can’t actually do house moves at the moment I’m afraid, because of a system migration.

Me: Well I mean its not a house move, I just need to transfer the account

EG: we consider that a house move, because we can’t transfer a contract, we have to cancel it and start a new one.

Me: So you cannot cancel my contract either?

EG: Oh no, we can cancel it.

Me: But you cannot create a new one?

EG: No

Me: Can you create any contracts, or just not renewed ones?

EG: No, we can’t create any at all

Me: How long is this system migration going on for?

EG: We don’t currently know

Me: So for an indefinite period of time you can neither transfer accounts to a new house, transfer them to a new person, or set up any new customers whatsoever?

EG: Yes, thats correct.

——–

I think at this point I almost lost the will to live, and so felt compelled to terminate the conversation. What the fuck? Yes, lets allow our company to atrophy in the process of moving computer systems, despite the fact that the old one was slower and less reliable than writing things down in calligraphy, on papyrus, and sending them off via carrier pigeon

And now to try and convert my phone contract to pre-pay. Stay tuned….

Over-sized fruit and the merits of being paid

1. I am moving to New York in approximately 6 weeks

Yes, I have decided to leave my beloved London for pastures fresh, or in this particular case, pastures fairly smelly and a tad on the filthy side, but still pretty interesting. This move doesn’t mean I like London any less, I don’t. I love it here. But I am a firm believer in learning from experience, and I don’t intend to limit that experience to just one big city. So I’m off. If I’m not back in 2 years, avenge my death. But eh, email me and check if I’ve just moved to Asia first.

2. There is a reason I took the blog down in the first place

Recently this blog was gone, for about 6 months or so. The reason for this is that through an odd set of coincidences, people I work with became aware of its existence and location. Yeah, I know, I don’t care what people think, why does it matter, I am a great bit pus-filled hypocrite. Right.

Obviously, if I don’t use profanity in a professional email I am censoring myself. If I wear a suit to a meeting instead of jeans I am being fake. I work for a global company, owned by a big company, owned by a huge company, clearly I have sold out.

Of course I have bloody well sold out, that’s what having a job means. I sell my time and my abilities for a portion of my life and in return I get paid. I just don’t happen to feel bitter about it. During the time that I am doing that job, I do not behave in the same fashion as I do at home. In the same respect that I do not put my feet on people’s desks, eat sandwiches in a meeting, play guitar hero, or randomly lie down on couches, I also do not generally discuss my personal opinions or feelings in a professional capacity. Nor do I particularly want those to come up, because I don’t necessarily want to intertwine them with my job.

I get paid to do a job in a professional fashion, and I believe that one should give value for money or get a different job. Since I don’t currently want a different job, I choose to segregate my ranting from my working. I feel no obligation to excuse myself for the things I write here, but I also have no desire to be in a professional situation in which principle will require me to state this. I sell my attitude and my behaviour in the exact same way as I sell my time. My moral decisions are not for sale, matters of personal taste however are another matter.

Everyone sells themselves. The key is to sell yourself for lots and lots of money.

Brilliant as it is, Fight Club occasionally irritates me

I loved the movie. The first time I saw it I was deeply impressed with the storyline, and the characters and direction were fresh and fascinating. Brad Pitt as an antisocial weirdo’s hot alter ego in low cut jeans didn’t hurt either. Subsequently I also read the book, which delighted me because so much of the script was faithful to the books narrative, though the essential plot seems to be somewhat squished and twisted into movie form.

But sometimes I find it vastly irritating. Not in and of itself, but in people’s interpretations and the depth they see in the shallowest parts of the idea. Fight Club as I see it was a demonstration of how easily society could theoretically be subverted. That in elevating man so far above the level of an animal we have so thoroughly lost touch with instinct and real emotion, that the slightest contact with either sends us into a frenzy of desperation for more.

It tells us we go to soulless offices every day, and never challenge our own personal hierarchy. That we do not understand what we do, or its place in the world, and so we do not really care and cannot bring ourselves to. That the slight snub of a co-worker is a major event in our lives, that we seek to perfect ourselves through obtaining material things, and that in the end, none of these things truly matter. That we allow ourselves not to matter either, and be trampled by the world and all the other pointless soulless people in it. So when we are offered the chance to feel something real, or passionate, it becomes the centre of our lives, an addiction. If we face losing it we will kill, or die, or subjugate ourselves to keep it.

“You are not your fucking khakis

”. I’ve heard it so often as a rebellion from materialism, an assertion that who you are is deep inside you, and could never be defined or contained within something you buy, or want, or go to work to do. Newsflash kids, you are most definitely your fucking khakis. Do you really think your underwear, suit, and Ikea couch don’t say anything about you? That they aren’t an expression of who and what you are? If you bought it, keep it, or do it, it’s you. Because you chose it, you chose how to behave and how to live. You chose to work in a multinational, you chose to live in the suburbs, you chose your bathroom tiles and your couch. You chose your life, and if you drifted into it without noticing, that’s your fault, not the fault of society.

Fight Club makes the excellent point that no matter how much you happen to like say, your kitchen table, you don’t need it to be happy. The part people seem to miss is that neither do you need to reject it to be happy. You just need to know exactly what things mean to you, what is important and what isn’t.

You are your fucking khakis. Get some better ones.

I’m not a feminist, I’m a bitch. There’s an important difference.

Mostly, the difference is that feminism is conceptually stupid, whereas being a bitch is just conceptually nasty. Besides which, I don’t really see myself as a bitch, I just know I am seen as one by other people, presumably because I’m verbally agressive and I don’t beam sunshine out my arse.

Feminism, as I understand it, is a movement that believes women are superior to men in some way. Possibly every way, I’ve never manged to get that far into the argument. If this is not the case, then they should stop calling themselves something so dumb and be egalitarianists. Or another theory I’ve heard is that feminism is seeking to even things out after the centuries of oppression by men, and therefore the goal is simply for women to have the advantage in circumstances like the workplace.

What a pile of utter drivel. I don’t give a damn what happened previously, you can do the right thing _now_. So why would anyone decide to ignore equality and logic for the sake of some sneaky honourless vengeance? I would be understandably pissed if I wasn’t given a job or a promotion purely because of my gender. But I’d be just as insulted if not more so were I to discover that I had been given something _because_ I was female.

Then there’s the “feminism is just the celebration and empowerment of womanhood” bit. Great, good for you. Have a fucking medal for being born with a uterus. Women aren’t special. Either everyone is special or no-one is. Men and women tend to be differently talented and have diverse personalities, these are inclinations rather than set rules.

I suppose the crux of this rant is that I don’t understand why people are proud of something they have no control over. You can’t be proud of being a woman, or from your country, or beautiful, or smart. You can only be proud of what you do with those things. Anything you are born with is, depending on how you look at it, a gift, or a random chance.

If you’re a woman, and you’ve overcome huge diversity to be where you are in life, congratulations. If you’re a man and you’ve done that, same deal. If you’re beautiful, and make millions as a model, hell even a stripper or a porn star, then you capitalised on what you had. Well done. If you have a 180 IQ and you put together boxes for a living, you deserve a slap. Preferably a slap from someone with half your intelligence, who’d love to be doing anything other than putting boxes together, but just doesn’t have the wherewithal.