Category Archives: Happy alone time

Locked down but going to town

This was also me the second time I watched Beavis and Butt-head Do America, alone in the cinema

Don’t worry, the reports of my being ill or dead from coronavirus are greatly inappropriate: I’m pretty fine at the moment, even if I’m having to sit quietly in my room all the time.  It’s been insinuated that I’m more at risk of infection than “normal” people, so if I’d caught it, I’d be suffering right now… or is that a bizarre combination of optimism and pessimism?

Anyway, I’ve finally worked up the enthusiasm to write something else in this blog, even though very little has changed since last time, just to keep my readers (both of them, and at least one is me) assured that Dave-ros does indeed still live, even if stuck at home and having to endure work instead of play during working hours.

Then again, with so much in my job taken care of (including stuff I should have done before, but don’t tell ’em), and the helpdesk queue finally calming down (as people learn not to switch off their office PCs if they want to remote onto them), maybe, just maybe, I can take some proper time off, so I can, er, do all those things I normally do when on holiday.

The good news is that the makers of the new PC re-releases of the Halo games have sorted out the Shift key working in-game, so I can finally play them properly… as long as my right arm doesn’t ache from mousing around too much.  Yes, I know, that’s why I move my mouse over to the left side of my desk while working, though my right hand can still ache holding my work mobile against my head — though it’s also ached when holding a joypad to play the other big game I’ve been on recently, Assassin’s Creed Rogue (boy, I’ve had a lot to catch up with!).

Doom Eternal, review bombing? Don’t say that at the airport

I still don’t own Doom Eternal, and no, they haven’t stopped people needing to sign in like with the Halo games — but at least they’re undoing a recent major screw-up, whereby a newly-added deep-level bit of software spies on your computer to make sure you aren’t cheating, even in the single-player campaign, which was so bad that people review-bombed the game!

It wouldn’t have affected me anyway, as it doesn’t spy on a Linux install — it just crashes the entire game, the only fix being to somehow roll back to an older version (difficult in itself).  Good job I haven’t recently replayed the original from 2016, and thus want to continue the complex plot.

(Technically, I have replayed the original recently… the one from 1993, as well as its 1994 sequel, and the 2003 reboot, which for some reason has a sequencial number!)

Don’t worry, I’ve found ways to stay sane during the working day: not just locking my PC and having lunch without worrying about the ticket queue for an hour, but actually doing nice things in between phone calls and computer-based tasks, instead of just staring at my screen in anticipation.  Apart from listening to CDs I got hold of recently (including a couple I got through the post, adding to my collections of Fatboy Slim and The Prodigy), I’ve discovered a recent remake of a 35-year-old adventure game, The Bard’s Tale, which I knew about in my Amstrad days (thanks to Amstrad Action doing a big feature on it), but had never played before.

It’d be very difficult if I were trying to play the original version now (it’s been hard enough getting a half-decent Amstrad emulator working under Linux), but with a modern interface and auto-mapping (I’d really hate to have to be making my own maps on squared paper, or worse, Excel!), it’s merely difficult — but I’m levelling up my posse, and learning how to find my way around the various places… and how to save game and retry, again and again!

(Protip: have an actual bard in your team, and get them playing music as you move around, instead of just in combat!)

Of course, that’s something I could do on my older PC back in Worthing — work remotely via Citrix, while playing a video game in another window — but I can’t travel all that way just to see my folks (and the dog)… can I?  I mean, it’s not like “best mate” could drive me down to the south coast (as a kind of bookend to what he did for me nearly two years ago), and I could self-isolate there, just in case…

It’s not like I’d be going to my own second home over 250 miles away, while showing definite signs of the virus, just so family could look after my children instead of someone else living much closer to my London home, like some little-known nobody involved with the current Tory administration…

Four-day weekend 2020

I wish everyone, including the haters and losers, a very happy Easter!
—Trump on Twitter in 2015 (before he did it again this year)

The Man Jesus, unwillingly self-isolating

I miss my folks down in Worthing (yes, especially the dog, since unlike my mother and grandmother, she can’t see or hear me through Skype) — but as I said last time, it’s not being stuck indoors that’s frustrating me at the moment: it’s having to work at home, sitting in front of this contraption 9-to-5 waiting for tickets to come in, in case I get done for not resolving them fast enough.

So how wonderful it was, for at least 75% of this long weekend, to have a nice, quiet time here in the house — now there’s something Jesus’ death and resurrection has finally done to make my life better, and inspire me to carry on!

(I’d say I’ve just lost my Christian readership, but that’d put me into negative figures!)

Yes, finally, lacking (for now) the chance of any actual booked time off, I had a few days to relax and not worry about remoting onto to a barely-functional PC miles away in central London, possibly getting cut off for no apparent reason (Virgin Media so called because they have no experience pleasing people, especially in Wi-Fi terms).  Instead of fretting about work, I could, er, do all those other things that I do — watching Family Guy and American Dad! on TV (or at least the catch-up service, while the satellite dish presumably swings in the breeze), dozing, watching The Twilight Zone on Blu-ray, eating (badly), quietly going for a walk in the sunshine (but keeping away from other people), and playing video games as much as I want (or can stand).

What games have I been playing?  Well, amongst others, the re-release of the original Halo, which has only two flaws (apart from its innate frustrating difficulty level): the Shift keys don’t work under Linux (I normally use Right-Shift to jump and Right-Ctrl to duck in FPS games), and it’s an example of a new system whereby you need to set up a separate online account in order to start the program, even if you’re playing the damn thing through Steam in the first place!

(Maybe they’ll lighten up and stop requiring it with Doom Eternal by the time I finally get that too?)

Sadly, some of this enjoyment stopped on Monday: the temperature outside suddenly got around 10 degrees colder (is it March again?), senpai at work needed my help (fortunately he and “Asian Eddie Hitler” sorted out a major problem with VPN laptops needing a new certificate), and the final escape sequence in Halo made me want to break something — which soon came to pass, as the Blu-ray player I’d brought up from Worthing returned to its dodgy “I can’t play a BD I’ve played before, or any others” attitude, and is now no more, though it’ll be some time before we can take it to the dump.

At least today things have been tolerable: in between cutoffs, I was able to figure out a couple of problems at work, earning senpai‘s approval — mainly, that two (and perhaps more) of our homeworkers can’t be reached through TeamViewer because, er, their ISP (TalkTalk, who don’t have a good reputation anyway) has resumed blocking the service, ostensibly to protect users from online scams!

— — —

What about the future, if this lockdown in the UK is going to continue at least a few more weeks?  Well, apart from me having ordered a new (actually working) Blu-ray player online, perhaps arriving this weekend instead of at the end of April, and starting Assassin’s Creed: Rogue (which works fine under Linux if you set it up with Lutris), my non-housemate human contact is resuming online.  I listened to a speech by my dating coach on Saturday, my old yoga teacher is doing some evening classes after working hours… and tomorrow, my very own personal torturer will be giving me instructions via webcam, so maybe doing a plank means my right arm won’t ache from mousing around so much!

(This is why I move the mouse over to my left side during working hours, for all the good that does clutching my mobile to the right side of my head anyway!)

Oh, what an age to be alive, when we can actually communicate online and stay in touch with each other (except the dog), and make sure we all know how we’re feeling, and guide each other through difficult times (barring Internet problems)… and all three of my teachers are back in action, and helping me once again!

Little things

Uh huh huh huh, he said “little thingies”!

Although some big things are causing me problems at the moment — my back hurting again (needing the osteopath), the ever-present risk of further brain issues (and the possibility of my anti-epilepsy medication being Shkrelised after Brexit), and, of course, E.ON still causing my household billing problems — it’s the little things in life that can cheer me up now and again.

For one thing, I’m using my big, expensive TV that I bought and brought home (with “best mate’s” help) in 2017!  Ironically, it’s partly due to me switching from Windows to Linux, and partly due to the recent severe winds damaging or destroying the satellite dish that’s brought me Freesat since moving in here (installed by a previous Sky Digital-subscribing tenant).  The first means I (probably) can’t play Blu-rays on this machine any more, but since I brought up an old 2008 Blu-ray player from Worthing (one which mysteriously started playing discs again, without needing a 2011 firmware update installed via esoteric CD-R format), I can now watch movies on a big screen.

And although I can’t get a live broadcast signal any more, I can use apps in the Freesat box itself — including the one made by the Horror Channel, which means I can watch the evening episodes of Star Trek: Voyager any time, instead of having to make dinner ready for 7pm (or 8pm on the +1 channel), or catching the Sunday reruns!  They’ve even fixed the damn app so it shows the episode with one- or two-advert breaks, instead of being just a recording of the evening broadcast, with the ads made unskippable (it was easier to record and skip through!).

I can also watch Family Guy and American Dad! any time on ITV’s app, instead of scheduling my showers around them, as well as BBC stuff like Doctor Who (which I can do live, though not tonight thanks to the time I was making dinner) and, if and when it comes back, Watchdog.  All things considered, I’m not sure I miss live broadcasts after all — but don’t worry, I haven’t demanded a refund on this household’s TV licence!  All things considered, it’s an impetus to turn away from my computer desk and face the TV itself, instead of using it like a radio in the background.

(If I want to listen to stuff, I can always play CDs in this thing — and Linux ripping to .ogg instead of .wma format means I can finally play albums properly gapless on my phone!  And I just found Eminem’s newest album in Tesco…)

But back to the first thing: I’m still on Linux, and have figured out a number of things regarding getting it to look right for me — though it sucks that LibreOffice Writer (which has assumed the role of being used to write my diary) can’t do some simple things like search for words with apostrophes in them unless you use the exact same one in the search term (straight vs. curly), something even Micro$haft got right years ago!

It also sucks that I can’t get Fitbit (which I went back to recently) to sync via its own USB dongle (sadly, the independent software Galileo doesn’t seem to be up to the task), but hey, it’s having trouble syncing through my phone as well — what’s wrong with the app lately?  I mean, it’s nice to know I’m walking over 10,000 steps every working day, and just possibly sleeping close to 7 hours each night (more at the weekend), but still, maybe I should give it up once and for all…

Well, once I got Linux to stop mixing up the controls so that moving the right stick to the right brought up the game menu!

However, there are far more important things than mere trifles like word processing and physical health: yes, video games.  I’ve managed to get an Xbox One joypad working with the OS (despite Micro$haft not wanting it available to non-Win10 users), and can thus enjoy games like the classic Postal, and (when I’m ready) the later Assassin’s Creed games, which can be run under Linux by special means thanks to a fan-made system called Lutris.

(Good job I completed Assassin’s Creed IV and Watch_Dogs while I was still using Windows 7, though!)

I’ve had trouble with my current (released in 2019) game, Rage 2 (the original of which I played around the time I was taken on in my current job) — fun and glorious-looking as it may be, I almost gave up as unplayable, due to the entire game freezing up completely whenever I tried to use the in-game menus (for things like inventory, map, upgrades for weapons and abilities… you know, the usual).  I researched it and tried various things — such as changing which version of Proton it used, migrating all my game files from NTFS (Windows) to EXT4 (Linux) partitions, disabling the Steam overlay, and adding some esoteric code to limit the framerate to 55fps — but nothing seemed to work…

Finally, when all seemed lost (and I was starting to replay the more cartoony Borderlands games instead), I found a resolution… the screen resolution, that is, because although I can play the game in 3840×2160 (I’ve got a good graphics card), by chance I found that running the game in 1920×1080 stops the crashes, and so now I can actually make useful objects and set destination markers!  Maybe it was down to Linux Mint itself needing the desktop double-sized so I can actually see things on my hi-res 4K monitor (which itself works much better than Windows 7 could ever hope to achieve), but whatever, it works now.

(Why am I going on about this?  So that someone out there in TV land finds their way to this blog and uses my solution, why else?!  Pity there’s still no way to stop the game crashing if it loses focus for even a split second when adjusting the volume via keyboard…)

So anyway, now I can do what I want, and relax in the evenings… well, yeah, it is a matter of coming home from staring at computer screens all day, and staring at two screens here instead (and my phone’s screen in both places).  My mother was once worried, in late 1992, that I was spending all my time in front of “one screen or the other”, but I was happy doing so back then (not wanting a social life in dismal Worthing), and I’m happy doing so now… as long as I can still go outside when I want to, obviously!

But thanks to the necessity of dealing face-to-face with “worst housemate” and her billing, not to mention our landlady being expected to come over and talk about how E.ON are now billing her late husband for his old account (they’re threatening to send the debt collectors here, but won’t tell me why because I’m not him), I wonder if I’ll be able to go out in the evenings… though as long as my back doesn’t play up, maybe it’s high time I climbed the walls again?

Or, perchance, one day I’ll get a date with a woman who turns out to be an introverted gamer as well?  Here’s hoping…

Breaktime

Maybe I’ll finally move my bookcase back across the room, for the first time in two years — I’ll certainly have time enough at last!

It’s good to have a break… and no, not just from writing in this blog — though I’m sure you’ll be glad to know I’m still compiling thoughts on a big political blog post I’ve planned to write for some time now, inspired by “the right” lumping everything they hate into “the left”, despite the self-proclaimed “religious right” clearly being worse, and the recorded words of the Man Jesus seeming to represent the actual stuff they… oh, sorry, spoilers!

(And unless I go through a major rewrite, not only will Stephen King be referenced, but also the original Star Trek!)

But that can wait for my birthday month, and today is the birthday of this very blog — it’s now seven, but next week, on the seventh anniversary of still being alive, I myself will be a multiple of seven… 28?  Yes, that’ll do.  No, I’m actually just having a long-overdue period of leave from work, actually relaxing at home instead of getting stressed taking care of various tasks, and overdosing on caffeine every morning (or possibly not diluting the blood in my caffeine system enough, take your pick).

I’ve got to use up my yearly quota of annual leave, but so far this year I’ve only had a couple of long weekends, and one week off back in June for my mother’s birthday — whereas in summer 2017 I had a two-week holiday abroad in the US (seeing July 4th in all its, ahem, glory at last), and last year, of course, I had a hell of a long period recovering from major surgery, which used up my sick leave and a lot of my annual leave.  I had uncomfortable periods of unemployment back in 2015 and 2014 (but at least a week away when I was in my old job), but that western US camping trip in 2013, well!

But it was in 2016 that I had one, two weeks off late in the year, as well as altogether too many days waiting in for British Gas to fix our heating system, and so here’s a three-year cycle coming around again, except this time both weeks will be consecutive, and I can relax after some busy but productive times, at the same job as before — though earning significantly more (though not quite enough to have to make pre-Blair student loan repayments), hence I’ve finally built my money back up to where it was before my career change in 2014, and can thus lend support to my folks, who are hoping to move away from Worthing (that cancerous polyp on the anus of Britain).

I won’t be going abroad for any length of time: “best mate” may have come back from three weeks in south-east Asia, but I’m not (at this stage) prepared to risk medication issues by going to a completely different timezone (the clocks going back at the end of the month would be bad enough — no, not Brexit!), or having them confiscated by suspicious foreign immigration officers.  This is despite the good news, or rather, barely adequate “no news is good news, right?” sort of news we got last week: the thing in my head hasn’t begun regrowing (yet), and I’m doing okay — indeed, the spells of dizziness and right-side tingling are on the wane, though just to be sure, I’ve been allowed to start taking a bit more lamotrigine.

(Ugh, fiddly little pills — it’d be so much easier to go up to 200mg, as there’s no 175mg tablet, or even a 75mg one I could take with a 100mg one!)

And yes, I’m now onto the Dark Tower interquel, so I’ll read that every night

What, then, will I spend my time doing, especially if it’s going to rain every day (albeit without thunderstorms, naturally)?  Why, I’ll be having lie-ins, watching TV and playing video games, what else?  Don’t worry, the Assassin’s Creed series inspire me to look up historical events (AC3 features the American Revolution of the 1770s), but I don’t automatically believe the Templars are behind everything (or if they are, they’re even more incompetent than BoJo and Trump combined) — it’s just a bit of fun in a fictional world, right?  Right…?

On this basis, I’ve taken the time to move my room around a bit (so my computer desk isn’t by the window, as the weather declines), and also plan to get a better, gamer-focused computer chair to sit in (including when I’m eating dinner, of course) — but non-leather, of course, which makes Amazon a bit of a non-starter (the material often differing between main description and comparison chart below), and in any case, waiting in for deliveries may not be possible this week, as I’ll need to visit my folks for the preliminary stage of, perhaps, finally getting a dog for the first time in 20 years!

So, for a new comfy chair (this high-backed IKEA one thus going to “best mate”), I may need to visit PC World on Tottenham Court Road… near the station where I get off every day in order to walk to work, so I’d be halfway there already!  Well, it’ll get me out of the house, until “best mate” is ready to go climbing again, or I attend a dance class, or I get another date.

Maybe I’ll do what I did back in September 2012 (before I began writing this blog), and go to Paris for a day trip… might be my last chance before Brexit, eh?

Cool things: Gorillaz, Radiohead… and Jamiroquai

It’s about time I did this, and it’s three bands for the price of one — especially since I’m now, in the lead-up to my time off work following surgery, playing a medley of all three as I walk around London… and my mother doesn’t like the first two, but although she likes the third, “boss lady” doesn’t — hence these are musicians I listen to by myself, on my own terms.

(Oddly, I haven’t listened to Eminem or Gwar for a couple of months now, despite getting their albums for Christmas… maybe later in the year I’ll add them in?)

— — —

Just so you know what they looked like at the start of the band’s career, in “Clint Eastwood”

First of all, Gorillaz, the “virtual band” created by Blur’s Damon Albarn, who provides the singing voice of “2-D”, the lead singer — so named due to the “two dents” in his head left by the actions of Murdoc, who was put in charge of him as a punishment, discovered his excellent singing voice, and decided to form a band with him, taking on himself the role of bassist and manager (signing off his press releases with “Hail Satan!”).  They found a lead guitarist, a mysterious Japanese girl known as “Noodle” (the only English word she could say at first), and as drummer an African-American named Russel (who had the ghosts of his dead homies living in his head).

At least, that’s how they started in 2001, when I learned of their presence through the video “Clint Eastwood” (guest starring American rapper Del Tha Funkee Homosapien, who I got into separately afterwards, thanks to my old American roommate).  I soon bought their self-titled debut album — the first time in my life I’d bought an album when it was new and in the charts — but it took me time to get into them, as they have not one musical style, but about a dozen!  However, I learned that albums can grow on me, even if I’m a little perplexed at first, and later in the year, when I was unemployed and spent a lot of my time watching music channels, I recognised the songs “19-2000” (with Noodle singing in English but subtitled in Japanese!), “Tomorrow Comes Today” (apparently their original video, made before their album), and “Rock the House” (again featuring Del as a ghost who lives in Russel’s head).

However, it’s later that I began to enjoy the tracks that weren’t released as singles — such as “Sound Check (Gravity)”, “Double Bass”, “New Genius (Brother)” and “Latin Simone (¿Qué Pasa Contigo?)”, and added those to my musical rotation (back before I began putting whole albums on my music player du jour), and this persisted with their second album, Demon Days, which I first heard (courtesy of a housemate) in 2005, but only got hold of for myself in 2008.  Much as I enjoy the classic “Feel Good Inc.” (which I liked for the music before I even saw the video), “DARE” (performed by Noodle with help from Shaun Ryder), “Dirty Harry” (with a creepy child choir) and “El Mañana” (the video being something of a sequel to the first one in this list), I’ve also enjoyed the album tracks “O Green World” (very distinctive sound) and “Fire Coming Out of the Monkey’s Head” (guest starring Dennis Hopper, no less!).

I got hold of their third album, Plastic Beach, in 2010 (on a day when I tried to go on a date and failed miserably), but as before it took me a while: at first I only really enjoyed “Stylo”, and I wasn’t even aware it had a video!  However, partly thanks to being allowed to play this and Demon Days in the minibus during my 2013 American camping holiday (by this time I had all my CD albums completely ripped to my smartphone instead of just discrete tracks), I experienced a resurgent interest: two songs in particular, “Glitter Freeze” (featuring Mark E. Smith of The Fall) and “To Binge” (with vocals by Yukimi Nagano from Little Dragon), bring back memories of our drive to Las Vegas.

In 2014 I watched a load of their videos, and again this year, which made me realise how much they’ve done: here’s a list, in approximate story order, of the best songs in Plastic Beach (which I now know to be underrated — it’s a pity they never made it into a trilogy in the end).  Note here that 2-D and Murdoc sometimes as 3D characters, along with Cyborg Noodle (built to replace the real Noodle after her apparent death in “El Mañana”), while Russel, having been replaced with a drumming machine, swims to the island and grows enormous due to sea pollution…

  • Welcome to the World of Plastic Beach” (guest starring the almighty Snoop Dogg)
  • Stylo” (guest starring Bruce Willis, but not on vocals!)
  • On Melancholy Hill” (with the real Noodle still alive, and giant Russel rescuing her at sea)
  • Broken” (a backdrop projection used in concerts — I wonder if they used pyrotechnics and other special effects to scare the audience?)
  • Rhinestone Eyes” (never completed, so this is a storyboard — but fans made an excellent version of their own over the following seven years)
  • Empire Ants” (guest starring Yukimi Nagano)
  • Plastic Beach” (something of a compilation in video terms)

And finally, this year I got hold of their other two albums, The Fall and Humanz; the first was something of a postscript to their 2010 work, and I don’t think any official videos have come out, but I do find “Little Pink Plastic Bags” to be one of the eeriest things I’ve ever heard!  They’re back in the big time with the latter album, which came out in 2017; I’m still learning the songs (as always happened when I got Gwar albums in 2013 and 2014!), but it’s good to see the videos of “Strobelite” and “Saturnz Bars” (the former showing the band having fun in a nightclub, the latter not unlike Scooby-Doo)!  My discovery of these albums is what encouraged me to listen to the band’s works all over again, and I also looked on YouTube to find more of their videos — including Murdoc showing MTV Cribs around their mansion…

— — —

Radiohead were good enough sports to guest star in South Park, although they didn’t play any songs!

It was Gorillaz that got me into their predecessor, Blur, whose albums I’ve been buying from charity shops, and listening to along with other Britpop bands like the Kaiser Chiefs, Franz Ferdinand and Travis; however, the one I’ve been enjoying the most lately is Radiohead, a group I originally only knew from one video in 2001: “Pyramid Song“, which I saw around the same time as I got into Gorillaz, as I remember speaking to my old American roommate about it when I visited Michigan that summer.  However, aside from their guest appearance in South Park, I knew little else about them…

It was in 2015, when I was putting my life back together as I worked towards an IT career, that I started dipping into other music, buying CDs at charity shops in order to give bands a try, and found I enjoyed The Bends, their 1995 album which had passed me by back in those days; my favourite from there would have to be “My Iron Lung“.  It’s their 1997 album OK Computer (which I happened to find second-hand at the same time as Amnesiac), which contains the most songs I like and recognise: “Paranoid Android” (never mind the silly animated video and listen to the song), “Exit Music (For a Film)” (which I heard at the end of Christina Ricci’s movie After.Life), and most of all, “Karma Police” (a pity my mother thought it sounded “dreary”, but I embrace melancholic music rather than rejecting it).

(You may be most familiar with “No Surprises” musically (owing to a scene in The Royle Family where it’s “sung” to Baby David), but check out the original video, with lead singer Thom Yorke almost drowning during filming!)

I also enjoyed Amnesiac (2001), in particular “Morning Bell/Amnesiac” (not available online, but it’s worth noting that the line “Release me” oddly reminding me of Brent Spiner in Independence Day!), as well as the surreal “Pulk/Pull Revolving Doors” and the eerie “Like Spinning Plates” (both combined into a single video here)… and not forgetting the somewhat jaunty yet sinister “Knives Out“.

However, as with Gwar, it was after I got their second, third and fourth albums that I got their first, Pablo Honey, which by an amazing coincidence I’d bought for “female best friend” ten years earlier!  And as with “I’m in Love (With a Dead Dog)” on Gwar’s Hell-O, there’s one significant song I like: “Creep” (though note this is the “clean” version, of course!).

— — —

Hey, c’mon, I only had cartoon versions of the other two bands, so here’s an impression of Jay Kay in 2DTV!

Both Gorillaz and Radiohead are largely surreal and melancholy, but the former is capable of cheerful songs (though intended to mock manufactured “poppy” music); a more consistently cheerful band, albeit with some slow, quiet songs, is Jamiroquai, who I’ve been playing in rotation with Prince and Michael Jackson (for whom I also own a great deal of music) over the past couple of years, during my daily walks while commuting.

I first heard the band in my mother’s car in 1996-7, when she drove us both between Worthing and Surrey (where I was attending university and she was working during the week), and often played the tape version of their 1996 album, Travelling Without Moving, the songs of which always bring back my memories of those days.  However, I didn’t see any of their videos until “Virtual Insanity” in 1999 (upon returning from my American odyssey)!

Another song I remember, for more poignant reasons (despite, or perhaps because of, its up-tempo jauntiness), is “Cosmic Girl“: I had it as a discrete track in 2012 (before I bought the whole album on CD), and hearing it in early November made me feel sad, missing those days when we drove together, thinking I’d left part of my life behind and needed to reconnect with her, as gratitude for all she’d done to keep me going during the bad times…

(Mind you, it’s perhaps “Funktion”, the long final secret track, which I recall best in this context: someone blows a raspberry in the opening, and I’d always act mock-indignant about it!)

I didn’t get my own copy of Travelling Without Moving until 2014; before that, I’d received a copy of Synkronized (1999) from “good housemate” (surplus to his requirements), and “borrowed” my mother’s copy of Emergency on Planet Earth (1993), which technically means I broke the law (though even ripping my own CDs is technically a crime!); I think she may have also played that one in the car at some stage during my university years (or when we drove to work together in 2003), as at least one song is very familiar.  I later found Return of the Space Cowboy (released in 1994, the only one in which Jay Kay drops the F-bomb!), A Funk Odyssey (2001) and Dynamite (2005) in second-hand shops, so I feel like I’ve got a full collection of their music now… oh, aside from their 2010 album Rock Dust Light Star (thanks Wikipedia), but I’ll keep my eyes open!

I’ve listened to their music enough times to know which songs I like best — in no particular order, and with no tedious references to which albums they’re from, I’d say “Canned Heat“, “Emergency on Planet Earth“, “Little L“, “Revolution 1993” (a long one, but with no video), “King for a Day“, “Light Years“… had enough of me linking to YouTube videos yet?  I’m sure Google aren’t, as it increases their advertising revenue…

Dynamite is my most recent acquisition, and I’m still learning the songs, but one track is most distinctive to me: “World That He Wants” — it creeped me out one morning as I started playing it in my headphones as I set off for work, and thought something had gone wrong: the first 60 seconds are quiet and in the left speaker, before it goes full stereo and high fidelity!

— — —

So there you have it — my three favourite bands at the moment; sorry I’ve spent so long droning on about them (this took me days to write, way longer than my long “cool things” post about Doctor Who in 2013), but it’ll be interesting to see how I feel when I’ve recovered enough from brain surgery to listen to music again (assuming I’m even allowed to put headphones on any time soon!).

I’ve still got 100 of their combined tracks left to listen to in my phone music app’s queue, and I won’t get through all of them by Tuesday (when I check into hospital for the big event), but this just means I have one more thing to live for — or, as Jamiroquai themselves put it: I’m “Too Young to Die“…

I’d say all three artists make me feel both happy and sad in equal measure… which of course is the very nature of music, right?

Evenings off

Let down your hairs, forget all your cares
Kick off your shoes, here is the news
Take off your shirt, here is the dirt
Take off your pants, thanks!
—Opening theme to Lee & Herring’s This Morning With Richard Not Judy

This is not me playing Nidhogg against my mother

You might be surprised to learn that I’m not all that fussed about having to stop climbing, at least for the time being, as it means an extra evening at home each week — and thus the chance to do whatever I want, instead of feeling obliged to get out there and mingle.

Yes, apart from yoga on Mondays (which has replaced salsa, due to being a lot more calming) and personal training on Fridays, and very occasionally going with Shy London to help the homeless, I’m not doing much in the evenings: almost every day I find myself coming straight home from work, making my own dinner, and relaxing as much as I can — maybe playing video games (like the Evil Within series), or listening to newly-acquired music CDs (including Gorillaz, as depicted above), or looking up old and new music videos on YouTube (including Gorillaz, as, er…).

I’ve also been rewatching the works of Lee & Herring (Fist of Fun and TMWRNJ, hence the opening quote), and now I’ve finally begun season 7 of Game of Thrones (which will hopefully lead to a “cool things” blog post here).  However, despite having more evenings to myself and more free time generally, I still don’t binge-watch, instead enjoying an individual episode over dinner (or lunch at the weekend), savouring the experience and making it last as long as possible (much as I did with classic Doctor Who in 2011-2015, and then with the 21st-century series afterwards).

The explanation for my new introvercy is simple: I socialise a great deal at work, and so feel better keeping myself to myself when I get home.  Speaking to people at work takes a lot out of me (the stress, and head vibration, may be part of the cause of my dizzy spells), and public transport is an ordeal at the best of times, so it’s good to get some peace and quiet, and the chance to recover.  The same goes for the weekends (aside from last weekend, when senpai took me to work to help with a major task), with me barely even going to the shops, and this will also apply to the Easter break coming up (partly due to the Northern Line being effectively closed throughout) — I intend to do as little as possible, and chill out.

(Having to be in for British Gas to come and give us our annual checkup also means I get the day off before Good Friday — “boss lady” is good to me, at least for now!)

Don’t worry, I’ll still go see my folks this weekend (the once chance I’ve had in ages) — after all, who else will set the clocks forward in the spring?  Seriously, though, I’ll need them to take care of me after my surgery for a few weeks (if I ever get informed of the date), and I’m grateful that I have them — and that my mother’s pledged to get us a new dog, which my grandmother has finally approved.  I’ll certainly need a sweet little friend to help me recover… assuming I don’t have a major personality change as a result of brain surgery, and lose interest in dogs!

I have a feeling that once I’ve recovered from surgery (assuming there are no complications, including personality changes), I’ll finally be over the biggest hurdle of my life, and things will change for the better.  However, what if I really do lose the ability to rant about subjects that make me angry, like the Conservatives appearing to hold the disabled in contempt, the closeness of WW3 thanks to Trump, or people calling the monster “Frankenstein”?  I’m no less obsessive than I was in 2014, and perhaps even more so; but if this thing in my head is causing it through cerebral pressure, will removing it make me a lazy git who doesn’t do his job properly, feels unenthusiastic about anything, and just lets things slide?

My mother (no offence, Mumsy!) thinks I am indeed obsessive, her evidence being that I’m reading the works of Stephen King in chronological order — but that’s not the result of some nameless compulsion, it’s because I’ve read bits and pieces of his work before, and want to experience all his stories from the beginning, in more or less the order he wrote, so I can see how his “Kingiverse” evolves (especially the “Dark Tower” series).  I did similar with Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novels in 2011-2014 as well: I’d read many of them, but mostly not in order, and it was good to go through them again and fill in the gaps — especially since the first time I read The Fifth Elephant, I had no idea who the Night Watch were, and had to read an earlier novel (and then an even earlier one) to get their backstory!

The fact is, I like to experience epics from beginning to end (or at least in the order of production, like with the Star Wars films) — that’s not OCD, it’s the same as wanting to read an individual book from the first chapter instead of peeking at the ending (and spoiling the surprise, which is a cardinal sin).  It’s also a way of establishing a mindset: I didn’t enjoy Babylon 5 until I watched the original pilot movie, whereupon it made sense and I was able to get into it — whereas one time I saw the end of an old Doctor Who story on UK Gold, and found it cheap and tacky, despite having greatly enjoyed watching the exact same story (The Hand of Fear, if you must know) from the beginning some years before!

(I should add, I intend to rewatch 24 from beginning to end during my convalescence — though that’s partly because I’ll have a lot of free time… so much that I’ll probably binge-watch it!)

Well, enough digression — the important point I’m trying to convey is, I’m cutting down on socialising these days, but I’m not lonely or regretful, and I’m enjoying my solo activities (ooh, Matron!).  I know I called the recent Christmas holidays “hibernation”, but this part of my life might be that instead, with the surgery and convalescence that lie ahead being my metaphorical emergence from a chrysalis that I’m now forming around myself, after which I’ll be back to cheerfully meeting new people, and hopefully the love of my life.

Of course, it won’t happen unless I chase up the NHS and get them to tell me my appointment date — it’s a sad irony that I’ve had better luck getting British Gas to come and fix our hot water (yet again!), even though they still can’t consistently tell our address apart from that of a flat up the street — but I’m in no hurry, as my medication’s keeping my dizziness under control, at least for now… I’m not exactly obsessive when it comes to arranging to go under the knife!

Alone in the dark

For those of you outside the United Kingdom, our clocks went back during the weekend; as this coincided with the Halloween weekend (I know it’s happening on Monday, but anyway), I decided this weekend to stay in and play scary video games the entire time, with the curtains closed (which I wouldn’t have done if the weather had been sunny).

No, I didn’t replay Amnesia: The Dark Descent, which I did during similar weekends in 2010 and 2011, but I did play its spiritual sequel, Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs — a game I originally got in 2013 and first replayed during my period of intense unemployment-related anxiety in December 2014.  Well, it’s good that I’ve put that time of my life behind me at long last, and can enjoy things again… it’s not as scary as the original, but I can only replay that so many times (and have the music and sound effects on my phone) before I wear it out!

I also replayed another game I obtained in late 2013, Outlast (as well as the Whistleblower DLC), which I would definitely say is a worthy second to the original Amnesia in terms of “scariest video game evar”, partly because, as in the Amnesia games, you can’t fight and just have to run like hell and hide in the darkness whenever danger threatens.  This sets all these games apart from, say, Doom (which I also completed at the weekend, after more than 20 hours’ play) or the Dead Space series, or even difficult games like The Evil Within, Alan Wake or Call of Cthulhu, as you can’t fight back, and any enemy deaths occur in cutscenes!

However, there’s one thing in each game that really freaks me out.  Not the hideous role-reversal of pigs and men in one game, or the eloquent (and visibly naked) machete-wielding twins in the other.  No, in Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs, it’s the classical-style piece “Mors Praematura“, a deliberate work of discordance that I once tried using as my morning alarm sound, only to switch back to music from the original Amnesia because that was actually less scary.

outlast_frogIn the case of Outlast, it’s a section in one of the kaleidoscopic films being used to hypnotise people: not the flames, teeth, wings or other organic imagery, but the most normal, clearest thing of all, a man in a weird costume (possibly a frog) in a black-and-white film on stage!  The still image I’ve posted doesn’t do it justice… where does that clip come from, and is it going to kill me or send me mad?

(It’ll probably turn out to be something more mundane than I imagine — like the clip that plays with a horrible screech near the end of Ghostwatch, when they discover the ghost is literally in the machine, turned out to be one of the girls banging on pipes earlier in the show!)

As I said, I had my curtains closed throughout, and that’s why I always wait until this time of year for this kind of thing: darkness is scary, and I like to immerse myself in the game world for the best experience — and it’s easier to see things lit by my electric lantern in one game, or battery-powered night vision in the other.  However, locking myself away in my room in this way also made it rather difficult to interact with other people out in the real world, including “best mate” (who had been in Wales all week), and suggests I can still suffer from social anxiety, albeit in this case… self-inflicted?

Admittedly when “best mate” bugged me, I wasn’t in the middle of a game (I was either watching Torchwood or dozing in bed), and he had a friend visiting anyway; however, I declined to go to Comic Con with them, memories being fresh of that Saturday in 2013 at the Excel Centre, when I got so sick of being crowded, in the “queue for the queue”, that I gave up and went home (itself an ordeal thanks to public transport) rather than attend the actual event!  I felt surprisingly withdrawn on Saturday, and while I was better on Sunday, walking to and from Tesco turned out to be more of an unpleasant experience than usual — somehow the public still pee me off something rotten, and occasionally scare me (except those decent enough to have dogs), and interacting with humans sometimes seems like a bizarre dream.

Don’t worry, I won’t build a gigantic machine to slaughter the human race to save it from its own folly; maybe it’s just that I deal with people so much in my job at the moment, I prefer my own company at the weekends.  But I should be better now: since the clocks went back, it’s going to be lighter in the mornings for a while, and so I won’t have so much trouble getting up and end up being such a sourpuss!

And the darker, colder evenings will give me more of an excuse to come straight home after work, instead of obliging myself to socialise…

Time off for good behaviour

spock_eyebrow

“On my planet, to rest is to rest: to cease using energy. To me, it is quite illogical to run up and down on green grass, using energy instead of saving it.”

I’ve finally done it, I’ve booked some actual, appreciable time off work: an entire week.  This is more significant than the three days I took off in July to keep my grandmother company while my mother was working in Germany, as I intend to do whatever I please (though I will of course go to visit my folks next weekend), and while it’s partly to use up some of my annual leave before it expires at the end of the year, it’s also necessary so I can finally rest, something I’ve not done nearly enough since starting this job.

And although I took a day off last week after hurting my ankle, and a day off the previous week for a fever, those were hardly holidays, as I felt rotten.  No, this time I’m going to relax and enjoy having a lie-in every day.

(Okay, so normally I only need to get out of bed around half-past seven every working day, but don’t think I’m not grateful — especially considering the horrendous commutes I had in late 2014!)

A lady at work was nagging me last week to not just sit at home playing video games during my break, but to get out there and do exciting things.  If I was taking two weeks off, I’d probably be looking at a short holiday abroad (somewhere sunny); however, as this would require a lot of bother (and travel time), it’s not worth it for just a couple of days away, unless I go on a day trip to Paris (like I did this time in 2012).  Next year, maybe, but for now, I just want to relax and de-stress, and not feel obligated to “make the most” of my spare time.

I certainly do intend to do a lot of video gaming: specifically I want to complete The Witcher III, as I’ve put a lot in (over 90 hours and counting), and I never finished the similarly-huge Skyrim in 2012.  However, I will still try to do other things every day — including but not limited to:

  • Seeing the dentist for a checkup and hygiene work (my employer should reimburse me), something I should have done months ago;
  • Walking to Waitrose every day for lunch, instead of Tesco (as a means of keeping my daily steps up);
  • Sunbathing (though the predicted heatwave seems to have shrunk to just Thursday), and walking in the park;
  • Working on a laptop I’ve inherited from work, and on which I’ve installed Linux Mint (and selling the Nexus 7 I inherited from my mother when she got a decent tablet instead);
  • Detoxing, after eating too many Fisherman’s Friend lozenges to combat my autumnal catarrh.

One thing I fully intend to do this week is get back into climbing and salsa dancing, both of which I’ve neglected for weeks (though in the latter case it’s because the guy who runs the classes has been away).  Since I’ll be at home and can thus make dinner beforehand, I don’t have to worry about going straight to the venue from work, and thus having to eat out, or coming home to eat and then rushing out again (which wouldn’t be possible with the Castle anyway).

I went climbing successfully today, my right ankle not giving me even as much trouble as my left ankle did after I rolled on it in early 2013, so I reckon I’m ready to properly exercise my legs again, and not worry that my days of activity are over… even if I do intend to laze about most of the time!

(Starting tomorrow morning, as I’m up extra-late writing this…)

Easing off at Easter

I did nothing.  I did absolutely nothing, and it was everything that I thought it could be.
Office Space (1999)

rog_wine

Well, chocolate eggs and cider for me, but close enough, Roger

After the hectic nature of my life in recent times, I’ve been very pleased to have the excuse to spend the four-day Easter weekend doing very little of anything, sitting at home playing games, pigging out (to some extent) and barely getting any steps on my Fitbit.  Apart from going climbing today, I’ve done less physical activity than Jesus did during the original Easter weekend!

There wasn’t anyone for me to hang out with anyway: “best mate” is in Ireland for the duration, though he’s found a Lego Millennium Falcon to buy at last (we’ll put it together when he’s back here).  I also didn’t visit my folks (with my mother’s blessing) because I already saw them for an even longer weekend two weeks ago.  Don’t worry, I’ll visit them in April (though TfL are closing my exact bit of the Northern Line some weekends for no apparent reason), and do some more work on that Japanese castle model for my mother.  Don’t need to put the clocks forward (something only the son of any family can do), because I did that two weekends ago!

(We Brits were lucky this year that, for us, the clocks went forward during the long Easter weekend — a few weeks ago every American on Facebook was complaining about losing an hour’s sleep on a normal weekend!)

And yes, I’m still “involved” at the moment (i.e. I haven’t been dumped or “ghosted” yet), but the young lady in question and I haven’t had the chance to meet in person since that first Saturday in Oxford — and in the face of our original plans, she had to go on a business trip during Easter!  We’ve kept in touch by text message, but to be honest I was quite grateful not to have to travel anywhere further than the Castle this weekend, and instead laze about here.

Why so lazy?  Well, you know how much stuff I always seem to do after work these days, including salsa dancing and seeing my personal trainer, and in some cases it means I have to rush home to have dinner and then rush out again, to avoid the cost of eating out!  As it is, I already lose a lot of time commuting (I tend to get home around 6pm, admittedly if I’ve stopped at Tesco on the way).  I’ve also been resting my aching limbs after a bout of self-torture on Thursday evening (as though it weren’t hard enough getting to the Castle during the Piccadilly Line strike), which itself followed wrecking my arms in Wii Fit Plus on Wednesday evening.

However, I’ve not felt depressed, isolated or even “cabin feverish” during this break, for a change.  Four years ago (don’t worry, this isn’t a full-on “then and now” post, I’m not supposed to be doing those any more), I spent a six-day Easter break similarly doing nothing much of anything beyond playing Skyrim and eating chocolate eggs, but felt miserable as a result, partly due to a romantic failure, but also because I was still recovering from what at that point had been the worst time of my life.

I’ve been re-reading my diary from those days, and it’s astonishing how far things have risen in my life (leaving aside that terrible fall in late 2014): once again I’m moved to give thanks for all I have now — a decent job, a tolerable house in a “least worst” location, a “best mate” who lives with me, access to climbing and personal training, loving family a phone call away if I need them… I just need more money, so I can afford a holiday abroad, and maybe even a PC upgrade!

Fig. 1: the gulf between my dreams and my (financial) power, at least for now…

But while I fervently hoped 2016 would be a rerun of 2013, it probably won’t come to pass after all, since there’s no way I can have another adventure holiday like the two amazing weeks I spent in the western USA; in a way, this year feels more like a rerun of 2012 (so maybe I’ll go to a European capital city again — and hopefully get a pay rise!), but with me in a better emotional state.  It’s almost as though my life events are on a four-year cycle, but my emotions are on a three-year cycle… should I do more research on that topic and present my findings in another blog post?

(Hey, don’t all scream “NOOO!!!” at once…)

Anyway, the great thing is, I’ve still got one more day of lazing around — and the weather, while atrocious, is at least better than it was in winter, so we barely need the heating on at all!  And, moreover, the working week is only four days long, and since I like my job anyway, it’s not much worse than being on holiday… at least until my boss comes back — and on that topic, let’s close the way we opened, with an Office Space reference:

bl_yeah

Yeah, I’m gonna need you to go ahead and upgrade every PC on the premises to Windows 10; and if you could also somehow man the helpdesk, that’d be great…

 

Indoor holiday

mb_hhJust a brief note: it’s been a “bank holiday weekend” here in the UK, meaning we get Monday off; this was nice for me, because although I’ve only been back at work two days (!), the preceding 11 working days for which I was unemployed weren’t exactly relaxing!  Since I can’t afford to go abroad at the moment, this thus counted as my “holiday” this year.

And how did I spent my long weekend?  Why, staying at home and interacting with almost no-one else on planet Earth, that’s how — my two female housemates were away, my drummer housemate was performing in Oxfordshire, and “best mate” was getting wasted at the Notting Hill Carnival!  Don’t worry, I’m not becoming a recluse (again), it was just nice to stay indoors (especially given the typical bank holiday weather), relaxing and allowing my injured toe to heal.  I did a couple of nerdy things, ripping South Park episodes from DVD onto a big hard drive (yes, I’m finally buying the show), and refitting a giant heatsink to my computer processor (the one I’d taken off when I changed processor last October).

I even had a bit of a clear-out of old junk (especially computer and AV components I’ve had for years), and watched loads of old episodes of Spitting Image on YouTube.  This last is a bit like how I watched loads of old episodes of Kenny Everett’s shows in 2012… and I had a “staycation” about this time back then as well, albeit broken with a day trip to Paris.  Still, it’s better than 2013, when I had to go back to Worthing around this time just to have a working Internet connection, or 2014, when I was waiting for an unpaid internship — so if this year’s a rerun of 2012, so be it!

Back to work on Tuesday — and for a change, I’m looking forward to it… if only because I’ll have yoga afterwards, and due to working in Oxford Circus instead of Euston or King’s Cross, I’ll be approaching it from the opposite direction, so to speak!  There’s probably a metaphor in there somewhere, but it’s too late at night… in any case, I can’t spent too much on dinner, or buying a new DVD/Blu-ray drive, because I’ve got to pay rent tomorrow — and if it hadn’t been for that £750 tax rebate in June, I wouldn’t be able to afford it now!

But hey, if I’m staying indoors, that means I’m really getting my money’s worth for my rent… right?