Learning to drive and other troubles

As you may have noticed, I’ve not been writing much recently. There are several reasons for this.

Firstly, work has been insane for the last few weeks. The other day the project manager I’m working with actually asked why I haven’t crawled into a corner to whimper quietly. I explained that at Harlequin, I became completely acclimated to having an order of magnitude more work than I could ever possibly do in the time allowed. After a while, your worry circuits just burn out, and you do the best that can be done with the resources available, and document that you did so.

I’ve also been going through some bureaucracy. The necessary paperwork for the sale of my UK flat is now in the hands of the solicitors. It included a copy of my passport, which needed to be authenticated by my doctor, oddly enough—whereas the US has notaries, the UK doesn’t, and instead you’re expected to get stuff signed in the presence of your doctor or priest, or a certified engineer, or some other notionally pillar of the community. Since the person has to have known you personally for two years, my doctor was the obvious choice.

To add to the excitement, said passport is expiring in October, and the bureaucrats in the UK (and various other nations) have decided that you’re no longer allowed to enter the country if your passport is within six months of expiring. I can only assume that terrorists don’t commit atrocities until 6 months before their passports expire, because they don’t want to waste the effort they went to to get the document. “Hey, I’ve paid for the ten years, why not use them?”

So, my passport has to go to Washington DC. They don’t expect or want me to go with it, but it does mean that once again I can’t leave the country until expensive paperwork is done.

Last week Dan brought round an old HP laptop. It had been taken to the store for repair, because the DVD-ROM drive was broken. The highly trained engineers at the store had decided it was a software problem, probably something to do with drivers, and that Dan should just reinstall Windows.

Needless to say, the machine wouldn’t boot any kind of CD, not even a Windows install CD. Instead, the drive made sad little clunking noises. So, I ordered the cheapest replacement drive I could find, and fitted it. Then at the weekend, we started the “Teach Dan Linux” project.

Since the objective was forcible education, we installed Gentoo. So, that was pretty much the weekend gone. For those who care, XFree86 doesn’t work properly on S3 Savage IX cards, but X.org works perfectly. Oh, and KDE takes a hell of a long time to compile on a Celeron…

Today it was time for further adventure. Having spent a month or two studing now and again, I felt ready enough to go to the Mass RMV and get a permit to learn to drive one of those four-wheeled metal contraptions that seems to be so popular. The test was a bit odd, including questions like how many days I have to file a complaint if my license is suspended. Yeah, like I need to know that while driving. Still, whizzed through it in under ten minutes and got my permit.

So tomorrow, I guess I call one of the local schools and arrange some driving instruction, since we don’t have a car. I took lessons and a test in the UK, but that combined the twin nightmares of High Wycombe’s roads and manual transmission. High Wycombe, bizarrely enough, is at the bottom of a crater, so every start is a hill start. To add to the fun it has a lot of one-way streets, an abundant supply of 18 wheelers delivering to shops, and a “magic roundabout” consisting of multiple mini-roundabouts around one huge one, allowing you to go around the big roundabout in either direction. If you recover from that, they let you try the really big roundabout up the hill, which has traffic lights on it.

So yeah, I’m expecting Cambridge and Somerville to be a fair bit easier to deal with. Plus, this time I’m actually motivated.

In fairness to Wycombe, I should mention that it is the best place in the entire universe to buy a sofa. And that just outside is Marlow, which takes us back to Dan. But anyway…

The test was still nerve-wracking, because I still have major issues around examinations. Which could be a problem, as IBM expects me to take some to get certified as a project manager. Maybe it’s time for therapy?

I’ve also finished as much of Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time as I think I care to—specifically, everything except the silly final battle. Dammit, Jim, I’m an explorer and puzzle solver, not a twitch gamer. So I’ve purchased Burnout 2: Point of Impact, an educational arcade driving game where you get points for driving as recklessly as possible.

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