what’s up!

Short run-down of what I’m doing lately: nothing.

Less short: I’m trying to get work out the door, get a good run at some personal projects, pass grade 2 piano, get organised, and generally improve my lot.

None of this is working. I think the “get organised” bit is the most important, as it will help the rest of it fall into place.

I usually only post about web-development-related topics here, as that’s the only subject where I feel I can contribute something new and interesting, so I tend to not talk about other stuff. But sometimes, rattling off the current state of the head is good for clearing it.

In work, I can’t really complain – we have a number of largish projects which are slowly creeping towards completion. The hardest thing about them is getting information from the clients, and then a week or two later being told that half the information is not required. I guess my main complaint at work is the inexorably slow completion rate.

On the personal projects side:

There are still a number of small bugs in KFM 1.4, and either I don’t have the time to get to them, or there is no enough information to recreate the bug and the submitter doesn’t give me access to their copy so I can’t see it from their side.

KFM 2 has been halted for a while – the idea is huge, but I simply don’t have the time, and no-one is clambering for it. I’ll get to it when I have time, but I might have to approach it by evolving KFM 1.x into meeting what I wanted, instead of the original goal of building KFM 2 from scratch.

I started a new project, OddJobs4Locals two weeks back, and got a good two-day run at it, then time got ahead of me again. I think this will be a good one, when I can complete it. Useful for students, people with a little spare time, or simply people that just want to make a little extra cash. Not yet working, but it will be soon, I hope… This is doubly interesting to me, as it is done purely through AJAX, so it will be easy to do a smart-phone client or a desktop client when the time comes.

I’m in the back/forth stage of working with Packt publishing to see if they want me to do a second book (the first one has no bad reviews at all). We’ve mostly agreed on a table of contents, and I’m just trying to get the time to combine a few of the smaller chapters together.

On the piano, I’ve been ready for the grade 2 exam since November, and am still waiting to see if there will be an exam near me any time soon – I hate the effort that goes into travelling (I have a family, and no car). I was hoping to do a grade every 6 months. It looks like this might not be possible, despite me being ready for it… The tunes I’m doing for it are Beethoven’s Sonatina in G Major, a waltz by Bela Bartok, and Boys And Girls Come Out To Samba, by Terence Greaves – by the way, I don’t like those videos; there are no dynamics in any of them, and I can hear a number of mistakes as well. No video apparently of the Terence Greaves one.

As for organisation… well I guess I’d better start working with Mantis again.

My lot will have to wait – I’ve a load of work to get done before it can improve.

Meh. Depression taking hold again.


I’ve been thinking recently that my life should reflect my coding.

With my coding, I like to write an application out in “full” (ie, no shortcuts), then look over the code I’ve written, and try to abstract out as much as I can, which helps to simplify the code, making it easier to understand and to extend.

As some people know, I’m a diagnosed depressive, which means that I tend to get overwhelmed by things pretty easily. I came to an understanding recently that this was partly because I had been living my life “in full”, where it was now time to abstract out as much as possible.

One example is my books and media. I have a very extensive library, with hundreds each of books, VHS videos, and DVDs. Whenever I need to find something, I have to go digging through all those things, which are scattered around my house, crammed wherever they will fit.

It is that “scattering” which I think is an apt description of how my life is at the moment – I have too many different types of bill, there are too many projects I’m trying to keep track of, and in general, my attention is too scattered to be able to progress with anything.

So, it’s time to abstract it all. I’ve started, by calling up almost every company I have a bill from, and organising direct debits with them. Next, I need to convert all my media into one single format (divx), and pack away the originals (in computer terms, the divx files might be considered an “abstraction layer”). Then I need to prioritise my projects, and cut myself off from those that I have no time for.

Then, I can sit down again and see if my life is still complex. If so, then there is more pruning to do. If not, then I can finally progress with my life.

lots of stuff!

This post may seem a bit whacked, as I am suffering the side-effects of anti-depressant withdrawal.

As an example, I closed the last paragraph by typing “</P>”, looked at that in confusion, turned the caps lock off and tried again, then realised I had turned on the caps lock, turned off caps lock and tried again, this time tutting to myself as I caught myself pressing the caps key (or “shift”, as some silly people call it).

By the way, the caps lock is called that because it locks the caps key. If the caps key was called the “shift” key, then the caps lock would be “shift lock”. It’s not, so stop calling caps shift.

You know?

Good news, everybody! I’m having a baby. Actually, my wife is. We have a load of plastic laid out on the sitting room floor, and we’re waiting for the midwife to arrive.

Other good news, everybody! KFM grows yet again. Hubert Garrido has donated a French translation of the project, which brings the number of languages now up to …many! Thanks, Hubert – the language will be available in version 0.5, which I hope to have in beta either tomorrow, or the day after.

I took the plunge and splashed out on a laptop to replace my broken one. I can now code from the comfort of my couch again, which will raise my productivity to no end!

Sitting here, listening to Johnny Cash singing The Mercy Seat (fantastic version). Bronwyn made a list of tunes she asked me to make some CDs of, to listen to while birthing. Here they are:

CD 1

  1. All About Eve – Infrared
  2. All About Eve – Outshine The Sun
  3. Bjork – Joga
  4. Cocteau Twins – I Wear Your Ring
  5. Johnny Cash – The Mercy Seat
  6. Massive Attack – Teardrop
  7. Snow Patrol – Run
  8. Tangerine Dream – Crystal Voice
  9. Tori Amos – Hey Jupiter (Dakota version)

CD 2

  1. Smashing Pumpkins – Stumbleine
  2. All About Eve – Freeze
  3. Blur – Battery In Your Leg
  4. Kate Bush – Breathing
  5. David Bowie – As The World Falls Down
  6. Lacuna Coil – Veins Of Glass
  7. Sneaker Pimps – How Do
  8. Jane Siberry – It Can’t Rain All The Time
  9. Enya – The Memory Of Trees
  10. Tori Amos – Bells For Her

By the way, for those of you who are wondering what side effects there are to coming off Effexor, here are those that I am noticing:

  • At random times, nerve impulses are annoyingly enhanced, for a few tenths of a second. This means that sometimes, for example, sound will increase in volume, or a small movement will turn into a jerk, or the feeling of fingers typing on a keyboard will turn into mild electric shock.
  • Random body jerks. Perhaps related to the above. It feels like Tourette’s syndrome for the body. Watch that guy Pete on Big Brother. The way he jerks every now and then is how I feel. Usually, its quite contained, though, and ends up as a tensing of the body and an audible in-drawn hiss through my teeth.

Snow Patrol’s Run is playing now. That’s the only one I suggested for Bronwyn’s CDs. I love that song.

depression lifting?

I’m feeling cautiously optimistic that I am getting a handle on my depression.

Last week, there was a massive crisis in the office, when our server was suddenly flooded with 1.6 million junk emails. This slowed down our email throughput to basically a standstill, for two days, causing huge headaches in the company, and lots of anger from our poor clients, who had to suffer with us.

Some of the symptoms of my depression is a feeling of responsibility for everything, and massive paranoia when things go wrong. Last week was a real test for this, as I was put under a lot of strain while we tried to get this sorted.

Thankfully, we finally got through it all, with the help of our good buddy Brian of Synergy Int, but it left the whole company in a state of strain.

The reason I say I am optimistic that I’m getting a handle on my depression is that, even though I felt at many times during the week that it was time that I took up my life-long dream of becoming a farmer, I recognised the hopeless despair as simply a response to the stress that I was under. Also, when I felt extremely paranoid that fingers were being pointed at me, I recognised that this was also stress talking.

I am very proud that I managed to recognise these symptoms for what they were, and to continue working despite them.

In total, I lost about two days work last week, but was able to start up again very quickly after the crisis was past.

mental problems suck ass

As some people know, I suffer from depression. I take 75mg of Effexor for it every day. This usually makes the feeling dissipate, so I can get on with my life and get some work done.

Unfortunately, this doesn’t seem to working for me now – the last few days, I’ve felt bloody awful.

So, why am I writing about this, when I usually write about techie crap? I guess I just want to describe the feelings, so that people out there in blogland with the same symptoms might realise they should also be looking for help (yes, there is a light at the end of this tunnel, and it’s not a train).

The most obvious symptom I have at the moment is a huge amount of nervous energy, which I can’t seem to channel into anything useful. I have this awful feeling that I need to do something (like the beginning of a yawn, where you just have to finish it), but nothing I do will get rid of it.

There is also a lack of attention – I find myself struggling to stay on topic with anything, and cannot focus on my work.

Also, there is a nervous tick – right now, for example, my legs are jumping up and down, and I find myself cracking my knuckles and some other joints quite a lot.

Basically, I feel like a tightly wound spring locked up in a box and buried – the energy is there, but there’s no way to get at it.

An interesting thing, I think, is that in my mind, I am screaming, but the only physical signs of my stress (or distress) are my ticks, the fact that I keep going on short walks to try get rid of this, and the forcefulness with which I’m attacking teh keyboard.

My usual doctor is off on annual leave, and I was due to see him next on Sep 19 (which is both my birthday, and talk like a pirate day (funny thing: I viewed that page, saw the rounded borders, read the source code to see how it was done, and thought “IE7 supports border-radius now?”, then realised I was actually reading it in Firefox – this is probably a stupid point actually – stop reading it.) ), but I’ve managed to get an appointment for later today, which is handy, as I’ve been blowing my top for the last few days, and I’d prefer to not have killed someone by the time of my next appointment.

Oh alright – a bit of techie crap: in the HTML of this article, I’ve used <i> elements instead of <em> or <strong>. The reason I chose that particular element is that contextually, it was not necessary for the contents to be highlighted in any particular way – the italicising was just an aesthetic choice. This is similar, I guess, to having an <img> which is just there to relieve the boredom of a plain page, and really should not have an alt parameter attached to it, no matter what the accessibility gurus say.


deep depression today

I started on a new drug at the beginning of the week; Efexor (or “venlafaxine”, by its non-commercial name). My doctor said it has received good press from some users.

Of course, “some” does not mean anything more than “more than 0% and less than 100%”.

Efexor, unlike my previous drug, Cipramil (an SSRI), is an SNRI. This means that, as well as combatting my depression, it also combats the malaise that I feel – the lack of concentration and motivation that makes me feel guilty about the amount of work that I do (I know that it’s good work, but I feel I could do more if I could focus on it).

While reading up on SNRIs, I came across this page. Section 9 of it describes what I’m feeling right now, I think.

I feel like I spent most of the last week awake, was allowed to get to sleep, then woken up four hours later and thrust straight into a demanding schedule. The thing is, though – I’ve had ten hours sleep, I try to get at least eight hours of sleep every night (to bed at 10pm, up at 6:30am), and my thoughtful fiancee never forces me to do anything around the house that I’m not up to. There is no obvious reason for me to feel this way, but I do.

Actually, one of the reasons I went to my doctor in the first place was this feeling. It feels like I am trying to cope with two or more straws too many, while all around me are people jogging while juggling straw bales.

Earlier today, I almost cracked again. Jareth was screaming his head off about teeth coming up through his gums, and I was trying to not get too upset by the sound. My chest was tightening, I was finding it hard to concentrate, and my jaw ached. Eventually, I had to get up and find somewhere quiet to stand and look out on my garden. I would have gone out there, but there’s a gale wind blowing.

I really felt like the best thing I could do right then was to leave the house and go to work (on a Sunday, no less!), just for a bit of silence.

He’s asleep now, and there is much less noise. I hate to blame him, as he is an un-knowing conspirator in the out-to-get-me war, but the noise was tearing me apart.

Venlafaxine apparently takes about two weeks to start working, so what I’m feeling now may actually just be what I would be feeling without any drugs at all. I stopped using Cipramil a week ago, and the “flush-time” for that is normally about 48 hours, so I guess I can be considered “stabiliser-free” now for about five days. The new drugs should kick in, within the next week. I look forward to not feeling shitty.

rubber room, here I come

I got my initial psychiatric evaluation today. I talked to the psychiatrist for about an hour and a half, and told me it was depression, with a possibility that it is manic depression (bi-polar disorder).

It’s kind of relieving to have an actual diagnosis confirmed. I was half-afraid that the shrink would find nothing wrong with me and send me away. I’ve lived with this for ten years now, and I was getting bloody tired of doctors not finding anything wrong.

After the meeting, I was sent for a blood test to find out if there was a physical reason for my tiredness. I warned the nurse that I have a small phobia of injections and especially blood tests. She gave me the option to either sit, or take a bed. Being an idiot, I chose to sit.

At first, I tried to just distract myself by reading the charts on the walls, while she got on with my arm. After a minute or so, though, I noticed a tingling in my fingers, and felt increasingly light-headed. I was a bit worried so I asked if she was almost done.

I think her answer was “Just trying to find a vein”. I only barely heard it, though, as my body chose that moment to faint.

I can only describe the experience of recovering from a faint as similar to being gently pushed awake from a very heavy slumber. I was disoriented, and took a few seconds to remember where I was.

The nurse said I had just turned white and started jerking. I was also sweating heavily, and felt weak and fragile for a while later.

With all the excitement, not a single drop of blood was extracted. I’m going to have to go back next week and have it done again. I was just not up to continuing with it today.

I’ve only ever fainted once before, and that was also from a blood test. In that case, I apparently just fell forward out of the chair I was sitting in, and it wsa just pure luck that there was another nurse there to catch me, or I might have given myself a bad head trauma.

That one was slightly different in feel to today’s episode – I remember it was as if my brain just expanded quickly and I got a “rush” before blacking out. I actually enjoyed that, I think.

what is depression?

After telling people in work that I’ve been diagnosed as depressed, I got some weird reactions. One person acted like it was the end of the world for me and asked what the company could do for me. I replied that I’ve felt like this for about 10 years, so there’s no point acting any different to me just because the root of my attitude problems has been identified.

After writing the above paragraph, I think I’ve figured out the point at which it started! I “lost interest” in school around age 14 or so, and since then, my life has sort of spiralled downwards. Interesting.

Anyway – this post is to try and describe depression as I understand it.

When some people think of depression, they think it means “aw, you’re sad? there there”, and think it’s something that can simply be gotten over. Some people think it’s a matter of simply snapping out of it. I remember people actually telling me that!

Depression is a sort of mental exhaustion – you do not feel the drive to do anything, and even if you do want to do something, it’s hard to dredge up the energy needed to get it done. I go to sleep every day at 10pm, and get up between 6am and 7am – I good 8-9 hours sleep – but I am always tired.

When I was 20-24, I used to carry knife blades around with me and cut myself a lot. It’s hard to describe why I used to do that – I don’t have a clear reason, and didn’t, even then. The reason I would give then was that it made me “feel alive”. I’m not sure anymore if that was true.

What I do know, is that even though I was not actively trying to commit suicide, I would not have minded if one of those cuts went a bit too far.

I think the reason I stopped cutting myself was that I realised that even though I did not care if I was alive or dead, some things interested me. A flimsy reason to live, I know, but that’s all I had.

Hmmm…. lost track of my point.

The last few days were a very low point. I found it especially difficult as we had some guests and I had to at least act interested in things. It’s depressing being depressed (pun intended!).

I’ve been going to doctors for years, trying to find out why I am so tired all the time. I never got a definitive answer. It just took a few minutes of talking for my present doc to spot it.


Over the weekend, I was feeling put-upon. I felt that I had somehow become the underdog – that should carve a big S into my head because I felt as if I was being told what to do by everyone.

I have felt like that before, but it was very strong over the last few days.

That, combined with a general feeling that my life was falling to shit (as I feel every few weeks) and that, despite my efforts over the last few years, there was no tangible improvement and that there was not going to be a tangible improvement ever, convinced me to go get help.

So, yesterday, I went to a doctor, described my feelings, and was pronounced Depressed.

I am now on happy pills. The doctor told me that it should not affect my work. I hope so. It’s very important to me. I have avoided the idea of taking anti-depressants for a very long time because I was not sure how they would affect me.

So there it is. The docs agree with me that there is a “problem”. I somehow feel better just knowing that!

I’m due for a proper clinical meeting by some head-shrinkers within a month, then I’ll know what classification of mad that I can be filed under.