Monday, October 13, 2014

77 Days of Happiness

For my own mysterious reasons - which are plainly laid out here- I'm taking photos of things that make me happy. One a day for 100 days, in the style of the 100HappyDays project.

This series was slightly delayed by two weddings and a move (Did you know? - Two Weddings and a Move was the working title for 'Four Weddings and a Funeral' - in the first draft, the gay fella read out 'Stop All the Clocks' while everyone else hauled furniture upstairs).

Day 71

"One thing I don't understand about Switzerland," I said to a student, "is why my electricity bill is so low. I mean, I'd almost prefer to pay more. Electricity should be expensive so we use less and save the planet." "I totally agree," came the reply, "but it's strange because my bill is quite high." Somewhere in the world, a crack of thunder rumbled ominously.

The student said, "Now tell me more about your plan to spend no money in July." "Well," I said, "my plan is to spend no money in July." "Gosh. I hope you don't get any unexpected bills!"

On July 1st, just after breakfast, I went to my mailbox and found an unexpected bill. The electricity company had been undercharging me for 6 years, and decided now was the right time to ask me to pay the difference.

I took the news with a smile and good grace. 

Still, six years. Six bloody years. You have to laugh.

Day 72

One of the basic principles of relationships, which any fool can learn from watching sitcoms or romantic comedies (e.g. the classic Three Weddings and a Baptism), is that people should notice when their partners have had haircuts.

I take care to notice Jen's hair every morning and evening and comment on every change, even if it's just a suspicious darkening or if it has acquired a more wig-like texture.

Needless to say, I have noticed every haircut Jen has ever had since the beginning of the relationship.

She hasn't noticed a single one of mine. It's got to the ludicrous point that when I say 'Do you notice anything different?' her eyes dart around the room and she shouts things like 'The chair is bigger? The printer is out of ink? You hid my crocs?'

Today's failure made it Andrew 14 - Jen 0 in haircut-noticing. So I've got that going for me, which is nice.

Day 73

My new iPhone arrived. It's the same as the old one, but a bit bigger, and a fraction faster. It was fun unboxing it, stroking it against my cheeks, and trying to get the fingerprint scanner to recognise my tongue, but I quickly reverted to normal use - looking for pictures to send to my German friend Anna that she'll find disturbing or annoying.

As the first ever transmission from the new phone, I sent her this:

The reply was simply, 'dude, WTF.'

I assume she looked away as fast as possible, but it must have been nagging at her. Every few minutes I'd get a follow-up question: 'What's that thing she's hugging? Where did you get this? Is this what a wedding in Manchester looks like?'

Day 74

Monty Python did a show at the O2 arena in London which was also streamed live in cinemas around the world.

One of my students thought buying tickets to that broadcast would be the perfect way to seduce a middle-aged Swiss woman. If you're not familiar with the Swiss, I can tell you that the previous sentence is as surreal as anything the Pythons ever came up with.

To his great surprise, he was rebuffed, so he ended up inviting me. I smuggled in some mini-wines, we got 'just as sloshed as Schlegel' and chuckled at the sketches. 

No-one expects original material

There was nothing new, which I found disappointing. But as the alcohol kicked in I decided I was having a good time anyway. It's all very well trying to be fresh and original every time you perform, but probably most fans want to hear the classic hits. Jen, for example, doesn't laugh at much of my new stuff, but has fits of giggles when I sneak up behind her and burp in her ear.

Day 75

After a bad start to my spend-no-money project I finally had some good news: I sold my old iPhone for a fair price. That meant all the calculations I'd done before upgrading hadn't been mere fantasy, but cold hard science.

Of course, it meant handing over my 4S, my faithful guide and companion. That little phone and I had some good times. There was the time we watched a video of Scarlett Johansson squirming on a rubber ball on a loop for about eight minutes. There was the time I pretended to use it to film some hoodlums and they got spooked and ran off.

But there was also the time it used a whole month's data plan in ten minutes instead of connecting to the wifi in my flat. There was the time it charged me for data roaming in Spain even though I'd turned off all the roaming features. And there was the time it took all my voice memos, containing some important notes to myself about my book, sent them to the NSA, then wiped them from my account, while laughing and nudging its mates.

You know what? I've changed my mind. I hope that piece of shit phone chokes on its own vomit!

Day 76

One of my students has worked for his bank for so long that they gave him a three-month sabbatical. He was telling me about his plans. 

"I'll fly to New York, spend some time there. Then fly to Vancouver, and take a month-long luxury cruise ship down the coast of America, Mexico, through the Panama canal, round the Caribbean, and up to Miami. Then we'll drive around California for a while. There's a bunch of spas we want to try out."

It's all too human to listen to such things with envy and resentment. But I was just really happy for him. That surprised me. Why should I be happy about the happiness of someone else? 

Maybe it's because he's a great guy and I know he deserves it. Maybe it's just that I'm growing up, maturing, becoming a better person. Hmm. No, it's the first one.

"Um... they're gonna come back for us, right?"

Day 77

You might remember me trying to put some pizzazz back into my relationship with Jen by becoming more mysterious. That basically meant not answering her questions in full and not finishing certain

Everyone I know, with one exception, thinks me being mysterious towards Jen is a good idea. But they also say that I should 'be nice' to her.

So I thought I'd get her a little present. I acquired Harry Potter book 1 - she wants to read all the HP books so she can enjoy the 'Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality' I mentioned last time.

When she got home I told her it was hidden in plain sight, and if she found it she could have it. 

She wandered around the flat looking kinda gormless actually, and in the end I realised she wouldn't ever find it without help. So I gave her some hotter/colder hints and when that didn't work I picked it up and put it in her tiny hands.

"Aw!" she said, making her sloth-in-a-bucket face. "Where did you get this?"
"Oh," I said. "Just from a place."
"No, I mean, did you buy it or borrow it or what?"
"I have my sources."

That went on for a while. Finally, she went to do what she calls a 'lady poop', and I reflected on how my combination of thoughtfulness, generosity of spirit, and elusive mysteriousness makes me a wonderful person to know. 

Progress after 77 days:
Mood: Forgetful.

Compliments: "The things you think of! Your brain is just really weird." "You got thinner. It's like hugging a stick." "You made my day!" "Oh! It's actually quite firm."

Optimism: Mostly apprehensive about surviving/not being bankrupted by future events - two weddings, two holidays, and one move (another discarded movie title).

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Andrew's True Reviews: Cecile's Wedding

Note - in the original version of this post, I cruelly used an unflattering photo of Cecile for comic effect. It showed her with a very curious facial expression. I have replaced that photo with a similar one of a well-known celebrity.

I went to Cecile's wedding, and wrote an article about it for her newspaper. (Here's a link to the article, but I'll put it at the bottom as well so that you can read this first.) I only had 500 words to work with, so there were some details I didn't have space to include.

1. In the morning we went to the registry office for the legal ceremony. Cecile told me it was going to be "just a simple casual thing" and then complained when I turned up in shorts.

Cecile told everyone to be at the evening service at 16:30 sharp. Sharp! Don't be late! At 17:15 someone turned to me and said, "Here we are, waiting for Cecile to turn up, not sure if she will. This must be how her students felt."

(Okay, I said that. Whatever.)

2. The ceremony was performed in French and English. Cecile tried hard not to mix the two up. "I take you Nick to be my usband... No, husband. Husband! With an H! Everyone heard me say the H! Stop laughing!"

3. When I met Cecile in the weeks before the wedding I asked what kind of cake they would have. "Shoe cake," she said. Obviously I laughed. When this made her angry I realised she was being serious and there really would be shoe cake served.

I genuinely thought it was going to look like a shoe right until the moment I saw the tray of profiteroles (which she smashed with her fists like some nuptial Hulk).

Turns out it's written 'choux'. 

4. Me and my girlfriend had a mini-break in Aix-en-Provence then went to Nice. "Ah no you haff bin somewhere," said Cecile, "bwhut whahere hexactly?"
I replied, "Aix, Aix, baby." She did that puzzled, half-blank, half-stupefied face of hers.

She didn't know the song! Ice Ice Baby, the biggest song of the early 90s! Never heard it, never heard of it! She insisted that it was an obscure thing that was "only famous in Manchester." It became - with remarkably little prompting - the biggest running joke of the wedding, culminating in the dance floor being full of people singing 'check out the hook while the DJ revolves it' with Cecile in the corner, arms folded, while everyone laughed at her.

(Not true - she danced along with everyone else.)

5. We also had to endure slideshows showing Nick and Cecile's progression from baby to married adult. ("Slide 296: Nick gets 4 atoms taller"). Well, apparently I'm not allowed to complain about that, because it would be ungrateful, because Cecile organised for me to have a giant delicious tomato instead of a fish dinner.

Listen up, relatives of the newlyweds, you did a good wedding and everything, but I've prepared my own slideshow. Show you how it's done. Learn up.









Anyhoo, here's that link to the article:

Click here for the best article ever printed in the southern hemisphere.


Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Learn EQ with Handrew (part 2)

Hi, it's me again! You know, Andrew Girardin. I won a prize for having the most Emotional Intelligence. But I wasn't born like this - I had a good teacher.

My mentor and life coach Handrew wants to teach you some stuff about Emotional Intelligence so that you, too, can live each and every day to its fullest.

In today's lesson you'll learn how to stop feeling bad about all the things that happen.

Handrew here! In lesson one you learned your personality type. That's very important. Today we're going to step into a submarine, shrink it to tiny size, and swim around your brain. Like in that movie!

I'm being injected into my own brain?

Fasten your seatbelt, buddy. Your brain is a dangerous place. If your personality type was RED, we'll be injected into your medulla oblongata. For all other types, we'll be going into the occipital lobe. (Don't worry about the difference. It's just to validate the personality testing we did, to show it wasn't pointless psychobabble.) 

Once we're inside, we're going to head right towards the part of your brain that our sensors indicate is fucking up your shit. Scanning... target locked. Stand by for launch in 3, 2, 1...

The injection seems to have gone smoothly - we're in. Let's just test all the systems before we press on. Don't think of a pink elephant. See all those lightning bolts? That's you thinking about elephants! The sensors all seem to be working. Let's move on.

We should be getting near - Whoa! Shields up! Achtung, baby! We're getting interference from that memory cloud on the left. The last porn you watched, I assume. Why is that dwarf holding a -? Look, can you try to think clean thoughts for now? - we're burning 18 acres of rainforest every second to power this machine.

Oh! Oh! This is the place. 

No, it's not supposed to look like that. You know when someone doesn't come to your party and you think they hate you? You know when you're talking to someone and they look at their watch and you think you are boring them? Assuming the worst all the time has opened this horrid black hole thing in your brain. Doctors call it a 'Spazzy Assumption Place.'

Don't be a SAP! We can make you all better.

Let's use the scenario about someone checking their watch while you're yapping away. Why are they doing that? Order these from most likely to least likely:

s) because he hates you
b) because he wants to know the time (for any of a billion reasons)
b) because the watch is actually a Geiger counter and he thought he smelled some radiation
o) because he's written your name on his wrist and wants to use it when he asks you on a date
o) because he wants you to notice his Patek Philippe

The correct sequence is, of course, b-o-o-b-s.

Which stands for:

Next time you find yourself assuming the worst, stop and think about what you learned today. Boobs.

Now let's get out of your brain before the smell overpowers us. Maybe we'll come back one day and see what else we can find.

Coming soon - part 3.

Note - I don't like redirecting people to other blogs because everything you need is right here. But if you want more advice on this topic, here's a post called '16 Things Emotionally Strong People Don't Do.' Other than the annoying click-bait title, it's actually good.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

How to Write a CV

So you're struggling with your CV and google, in its robotic wisdom, has brought you here. Well, sir, you're in luck. I recently updated mine and have decided to share my methods with you.


Important note 1 - Because of this blog's graphical limitations, I can't show you my CV as an A4-sized image. So I've broken it down into readable sections. At the end I'll show you how it all fits together.

Important note 2 - My whole CV is only one page. Writing more than that would be like splitting The Hobbit into 3 movies - preposterous and tiresome.

Section 1 - "About Me"

Here you should sell yourself in a few concise sentences. Imagine your CV is a review of a movie - this is where you write the bits that go on the posters. There's no point being modest. Being modest isn't how Megan Fox got her big break. Look how it's done:



Notice that I mentioned teaching two times. That's coz I was applying for a teaching job. I could easily change it to 'laying carpets' or whatever. That's called 'tailoring your CV to the job you want'. Of course, it helps if you have some related experience, which is where the next section comes in - Employment History. 

Section 2 - "Employment History"

This is a list of relevant jobs you've had. Unrelated jobs come in a separate section. We don't have much space, so just describe the most awesome things you did. Like so:



That's a ridiculously impressive teaching CV. What if you don't have such a background? Pfft. Just make it up. Don't lie exactly, but if you've ever straightened a rug or rolled your toes on a bathroom mat you've got carpet laying experience. If you're really struggling, write some vague aspirational fluff and extend the next section.

Section 3 - "Other Employment" and "Education"

Here you can take some liberties, smooth over gaps in your employment history, and exaggerate the value of free online courses you did.



Section 4 - "Andrew is a God Among Men"

In an elegant column on the left of my page, I've added some genuine feedback from students. You can write whatever you want on yours, because there's no way anyone could ever check. 

(I suppose in a job interview someone might ask for the original, but you can just well up with tears and say 'she died'. That should be an end to it.)

Here's mine:



And now a look at how it all fits together.

Notice the clean lines, the subtle use of negative space. If its harmonies aren't resonating in your brain like the first time you saw a Yin/Yang symbol, there's something desperately off about your neurology.

(Photos on CVs are normal in Switzerland. If you live in a more modern economy, you can use that space for a graphic that represents your personality, such as a picture of a tree. Or just write the word YES three times in Comic Sans.)

There's my guide to creating the perfect CV. Go, ye, into the job market, and prosper!


Friday, August 08, 2014

Andrew's True Reviews: Brother HL-3140CW Laser Printer

Some time ago, I reviewed the HP Officejet 6700. A friend who works at HP complained that I had been unfairly negative, but after pouring two beers into him he admitted that among HP employees the Officejet 6700 has the nickname 'the Voldemort'.

The fact that I paid for that object gives me a greater sense of shame and remorse than anything I've ever done in my wicked life. If I could go back in time, I wouldn't change what I said to that babe I later realised wanted to bang me, nor would I try to forestall the incident I call 'Andrew Buys a Chicken' (don't ask). No, I'd persuade myself not to buy that printer, even if it meant creating a time paradox (you know, from future me slapping past me in the face).

Anyway, after I tried to remove the dark spirits that lived inside it by means of a screwdriver, it stopped working. Jen insisted I buy a new device so she could continue to print pictures of sleeping kittens and sloths in buckets.

After some research I decided to take a punt on a Brother laser printer. Here are my findings:


* The HL-3140CW is not possessed by the horcrux of a Dark Lord
* It doesn't download 'updates' every time you want to print a quick page before work
* As far as I can tell, it doesn't report that it's out of ink when you know the cartridge is 1/3 full (I haven't had to replace the toner since I bought it)
* It goes into 'deep sleep' mode soon after you've finished printing, so it's really quiet and doesn't invade your consciousness (unlike certain other objects I could mention)
* It can do modern wifi printing stuff. You know, print from your iPhone and all that


* When you connect it to the wifi the first time, you have to input the password in a really slow, fiddly way (there's no keyboard, just the left, right, up, down keys). So you'll want to choose a short, simple wifi password
* It doesn't give you a lot to complain about, so if you're the sort of person who thrives on drama and strife, this might not be the printer for you
* If you print specialist things you might need something with better quality. I wouldn't know - I only print pages of text, and Jen only prints sloths, which come out just fine.


My name is Andrew Girardin and I approve of this product.