Category Archives: Marking time

Prelude to return

gmgThis may be one of the last ever posts I write in this blog, unless — UNLESS — the host, WordPress, let me use the classical editor again, properly, rather than in this stupid “classic block” method in the rubbish Gutenberg editor.  I also can’t turn on justified mode at all any more, even with the long-standing Ctrl+Alt+J shortcut (there’s been no button for it in the taskbar for years now), but I can’t install plugins because I’m not a business member and have no intention of being (this is a personal blog, not advertising).

All things considered, unless I can migrate this blog completely to another service, it feels like there’s no way I can continue writing it — especially since any way of editing using the “old” system (other than in a small box with a separate toolbar) involves paying for membership, and even then, it’d only be supported until next year anyway.  Why are they making things worse for non-paying users?

— — —

And all I wanted to do today is say I’m hoping to return to London soon (assuming the latest lockdown is lifted on schedule), but at the same time feeling guilty for what will amount to leaving my mother to care alone for my grandmother, who was recently hurt when she fell out of bed, and spent a week in hospital (which itself wasn’t run properly).

It’s sad that my mother and I felt rather better around the house during that week, but it’s sadder that this is because my grandmother literally can’t do anything any more (as opposed to 2018, when she helped look after me during my recovery from brain surgery #1), and — I hate to say it — we’re effectively waiting for her to die, which, despite her worsening condition, may not happen for a long time.

But I need to get back to the London house: leaving aside what I mentioned last time — wanting to regain things such as my computer, my CD collection, and… er… sleep somewhere other than my mother’s bed — I really need to sort out household bills, ideally getting my name off them (since I want to leave that particular residence behind this year).

Our useless local council (LB Barnet) are sending us a new council tax schedule, which will probably show an increase, and the dreadful energy company E.ON (should I call them “PE.ON”?  No, that’d make it harder for people on Google to find my complaints here!) say they’re raising their prices, and I want to (belatedly) leave them once and for all.

(Especially if it turns out they’ve “forgotten” to charge us for gas — if we can hide it for a year, they wouldn’t be able to catch up and demand overdue money… would they?)

I’ll need to take care of a few things before I head back, though: I’ve been seeing an osteopath recently, due to pain in my right side recurring (and really not helping with my sleeping pattern), and I’ve got one more session next Tuesday, so I’ll need to be here for that.  Fortunately I’ll be able to get the health insurer we use at work to refund me for this, in addition to the long-overdue dental and vision jobs I’ve had done recently!

I’ve also been playing the original The Witcher, so I can play the second and third ones on my superior London PC (and maybe watch the separate-canon TV series while I’m at it?), and want to finish it while I’m here, simply because my screen here is “only” 1080p, and therefore the text is visible!

But once I’m back in London, and my mother doesn’t need to keep cooking for me (including breakfast in bed!), I’ll be compelled to act like a man again: making my own food, keeping my room clean, walking in the park (without having to carry the dog because she already wants to go home), doing personal training (since my trainer has a wider view in my London room than here), working towards resuming my job… and maybe, just maybe, continuing to write this blog.

After all, I’ve got a ton of political things to say in the current “the liberal left are bullying, it’s cancel culture, we’re the real victims of racism!” atmosphere, and I need to vent my own anger, don’t I — especially where it concerns my fellow straight honkeys

(Fortunately, the only frustration Facebook’s been giving me today is the sheer number of Father Ted fans responding to my funny group picture of gigantic speakers, with all sorts of suggested songs — I keep getting sooo many notifications!)

I may be over the depression and suicidal thoughts that prompted me to start this blog in autumn 2012, but I’ve still got a lot of things to deal with, including the “space invader” inside my head, and finding a way to meet my special woman in person (for more than a few hours) at long last, hopefully by her coming back over here when the lockdown has been reduced a lot further.

Okay, I’ll keep this blog going a little longer, somehow — I still need to talk about how I’m pressing on with life — so I’ll say…


The longest stay

Hi everyone, I’m finally back writing in this blog; the delay hasn’t been due to brain activity (or lack thereof) following the operation, but… well, having little to say until now: I’ve been staying here at my family’s Worthing home for longer than I did in 2018, following my first bout of brain surgery, and indeed longer than any single period of time since I first went to London in 2003 — with no end date currently in sight!

However, even if Tier 4 lockdown hadn’t begun after I came down to Worthing for my folks (well, my mother) to take care of me during my recovery, I’d still be happy to stay here for the time being: it’s more consistently warm in this house than in the Victorian one back in London, I can take baths instead of showers, I (mostly) don’t need to cook for myself, and our weather’s a bit more moderate (due to being close to the sea) than in London, where it’s snowed!

Of course, there are always problems: I’m still having a lot of trouble sleeping, and although the dwindling supply of melatonin I was able to get prescribed has helped a little, bodily aches still either wake me up or keep me from ever falling asleep — and even ibuprofen (which I was nervous about, considering the depression it brought upon me in previous years) only prevents this for a time, if at all.

Perhaps this is why my plans to fill time productively while staying in my family home have all faltered: I’ve stopped practising the guitar (just when I was finally progressing through the Justin Guitar lessons I started seven years ago), I’ve barely managed to translate even one paragraph of a Japanese book (which I did a lot more between tasks when I was working from home), I haven’t written in this blog since the end of December… and worst of all, I’m barely even playing computer games now!

(My Kindle works still lets me read Stephen King at bedtime, though…)

All I seem to do is watch TV these days, and noting how little swearing is cut out of old evening comedies being broadcast in daytime on Gold: indeed, the only word I’m sure has been edited out is the one that starts with “B” and rhymes with “mastered” (Raquel to Del in Only Fools and Horses, a pre-watershed show), and not when it’s used in its original meaning of “illegitimate child” (Samuel Johnson in Blackadder the Third, a post-watershed show).

Other than this, they’ve kept in the other mild B-words (Del in Only Fools and Horses), a five-letter P-word used to describe a cat with even greater innuendo today than back then (Mrs. Slocum in Are You Being Served?), a three-letter S-word (where Baldrick’s first name came from in Blackadder the Third), and (especially in Blackadder Goes Forth), amazingly, both of the four-letter words (one dirty, one sexual) that start “sh–“!

The F-word is absent, because it wasn’t even used in post-watershed shows at the time (and indeed edited out of films, resulting in complaints about the Beeb showing The Terminator late at night in 1991) — but one type of thing that doesn’t seem to get edited out, are references to Jimmy Saville (Del promoting Uncle Albert in Only Fools and Horses) and Gary Glitter (Miss Brahms in a Christmas episode of Are You Being Served?).

(As a side note, Are You Being Served? inspired me to go to the trouble of adding another notification sound effect to my phone: “I’m free!”)

At least I’m saving money, my workplace happy to pay me during sick leave (it’s payday tomorrow!), and allowing me to take additional time off to recover before I return to work, putting me on furlough in the meantime.  I may not be in London, but I’m still able to handle bills for that shared household; three of my housemates are fine with it (I’m having the usual argument with “worst housemate”, who doesn’t think we should pay bills when we’re not in the house) — but as for the actual transference of funds, well, therein lie a couple of tales…

  • E.ON (who have been named and shamed many times in this blog) somehow took their £100 monthly DND from my bank account on Christmas Eve, instead of the day it was actually arranged for (and did this to other customers too), leaving me overdrawn as it’s an old account I only use for getting my housemates’ bill amounts together; the bank helped me more than the electricity company, who then “repaid” £100 that they hadn’t been able to take in the first place (due to my bank cancelling the event), and I had to arrange to pay that back to them!
  • When “ambivalent housemate” paid me his share for January, Barclays Bank somehow managed to reactivate an old standing order of his, which automatically paid me the old, much larger monthly amount in addition to his intended payment, and so I had to pay him back via my normal bank account (due to the difficulty of setting up a new recipient on the old bank account) — so for the second time, I had to be honest and not keep the accidental payment for myself!
  • And then there’s Barnet council, who I needed to call today to make sure we’re still paying council tax to the end of the 2020-2021 financial year (as I didn’t bring my set of bills with me to Worthing, only my folder of surgery letters), but their main number directs me to an engaged line — and that’s only if I call via landline, as my mobile gets cut off instantly!  I’ve thus had to assume it is indeed the same through to March, just in case.

But what of the people in my life?  Well, my poor mother’s overstressed looking after both me and her mother, and while I’ve recovered enough to help out a little, my grandmother has deteriorated over the recent months, to the point where (despite her defiance) she needs to go around the house in a wheelchair, to avoid the danger of her falling and hurting herself.  She can’t do any housework beyond drying the washing-up (from a seated position), and she barely seems herself any more — but at least we’ve been able to get her vaccinated, so she’s got a better chance of survival.

(The dog’s okay, and just needs attention, treats and walks — all of which I can do!)

At least none of us are suffering indirectly due to the pandemic: my mother’s not worked for years, taking care of my grandmother full-time (and receiving a pitiful welfare grant for it), and is close to her (unfortunately five-year advanced) retirement age, while my grandmother hasn’t been able to go anywhere over the past few years (lately not even to the supermarket with my mother) due to her health situation, so their lives have remained unchanged, and I empathise with them (in my current situation), the only real difference between weekdays and weekends being what’s on TV.

I myself don’t much like going outside except to exercise, and throughout the lockdown have been happy having my personal trainer torture me online via Zoom —  and now that my “six to eight weeks” limit on exercise has come to an end, and his own health situation seems to be under control, we should be able to resume.  I’ve always hated loud, crowded places such as pubs and offices, and I never go to football grounds (or other sporting events), so you can understand I’m happier in a quieter world — and I certainly have no sympathy or respect whatsoever for party animals creating chaos on housing estates, spreading the disease as well as making a hell of a noise and risking destruction of property!

I’ll never truly miss commuting every morning on a packed London Underground train (even sitting next to “manspreaders” and politely but firmly nudging their legs back across the seat divides gets dull after a while), though I would be delighted to do so once in a while, acting as “boots on the ground” in the workplace for the sake of the team.  The only other places I’ve used it to travel to, apart from work, hospital and Victoria (when going to Worthing), were the Castle climbing centre, my personal trainer’s gym, and Trafalgar Square to meet the “helping the homeless” organiser, and I can’t do any of these from here anyway.

I won’t need it to travel to salsa classes or to meet “first dates” any more: as you know, there is one special person in my life… and she lives in a Far Eastern island nation (not Japan) which appears to be the only country in the entire world to get a grip on the virus and keep it down to virtually zero — so I wish I could meet her again face-to-face, either me visiting her in the safe region she lives, or her visiting me without bringing a virus to this nation (or catching ours).  But that’ll take time, due to the international lockdown and quarantine (currently three weeks for me visiting her, or her returning home from visiting me), so we must continue to chat online, textually or through Skype, and hope for the future.

(She’s making sure I live long enough, by sending me medical supplies that might enable me to travel safely back to London some day!)

As for living here in Ferring medium-term: obviously I’d rather have a truly private room, but my mother keeps her visits to this room to a minimum (mini-mum?  No?), and I’ve rotated things so I have the space for an armchair in front of this contraption, as this small computer chair may be behind my aches and pains to some extent, and nowhere near as comfortable as the “gamer’s chair” I got for my birthday in 2019, to use in front of my non-Windows 10 supercomputer (by chance, also useful in 2020 when working from home!) — and the low “tray table” I’ve used for the keyboard here since 2018 hasn’t helped either, especially the crossbar at foot level.

So, apart from my room (when it’s not cold), my supercomputer, my desk and my gamer’s chair, the only thing I miss about my London home is… er… my physical CD collection, as I’ve been systematically re-ripping them in .ogg format (I hate having to use Windows’ lousy .wma format on my phone, as it clicks between tracks), and want to listen just to those superior-format albums in bed at night, as a sleep aid (missing most of the tracks is a good sign!).

On which topic: I’ve gotten some new CDs recently (mail order is still working), and one of them… well, guess who remastered their 1990 album, the first of theirs I ever heard…?

— — —

P.S. Just be thankful I didn’t get all political this time… I’ve saved the text I cut out, so maybe I’ll have the basis of another blog post soon, just to get things off my mind?  Regarding the sort of people who call themselves “Proud Boys” or “QAnon”…?

Making ends meet

“Check it out, Beavis — that dude’s, like, back putting words on the screen or something!”

Once again, I’d planned for ages to vent my anger about the world in this blog — not against the “virtue-signalling SJW snowflake leftie libtards”, but the opposite, at those who keep hurling such terms and thus sounding like self-righteous bullies — or to say to extreme right-wingers what Bill Hicks once said to advertisers.  Instead, I’ll talk about issues pertaining to finance and friendship, which aren’t mutually exclusive, and keep me going in these interesting times.

You’ll be pleased to know that I’m still working from home… well, not pleased with the “from home” bit, which still brings on anxiety due to how difficult it would be if my computer at work simply turned itself off (or worse, changed IP address), but it has meant me saving even more money than before, simply because I don’t have to spend on the order of £200 every month on Tube fares!

This plus the money I was already saving due to almost never going into the red for the month (i.e. earning more than spending… oh, you knew?) means I’d already saved around £3,000 since the start of this year… but that’s now gone down significantly, because I’ve been, er, upgrading the PC of Theseus once again, this time without “boss lady” paying for the new CPU and me getting everything else.

I’m once again feeling buyer’s remorse, as first of all I got… prepare yourselves… a GTX 2080Ti graphics card for over a grand.  Argh!  Don’t worry, it works fine (and wasn’t substituted in the packaging), but it wasn’t enough: I’ve also ordered a 9th-generation CPU, and a motherboard to put it in (as my current one has the right socket but wrong, er, something-or-other to do with it), though this total comes to only half as much as the price of the graphics card.

(Hey, this way I’ll be able to play the Halo and Doom games in 4K without slowdown, and I’ll have extra heating when winter comes!)

But my bank account’s only just gone under £10,000, and it’s payday next Thursday — and I’ve managed to sell the old 1080 I got in November 2017 for around £200 (a certain housemate thought I was foolish for accepting so little, but owing to the way he speaks to me at other times, I’d have been hesitant to accept his advice if I’d known it prior anyway).  Unless something goes badly wrong, I’ve got plenty to sustain me, and I can help others as well, including my folks.

She was so happy I was home, she jumped on my bed and French-kissed me!

I won’t be having an expensive holiday abroad any time soon, partly due to the pandemic lockdown, and partly because changing to a timezone more than one or two hours away would really screw up my twice-daily medication (8am and 8pm, after breakfast and dinner, being better than 4pm and 4am!).  However, I can still travel within Britain, and so I’ve been able to visit my folks in Worthing, and help take the dog walkies.

More importantly, though: although I can’t visit her in her native Far Eastern island nation yet, I at least had one last chance to meet my dear female friend before she flew home back in June (and had to sit through quarantine).  We’d had an adventure visiting my old university (and now, sadly, her old university too) at the end of May, but before she left the country, we also met at Camden Town for a walk, a chat, and some food (boy, that giant vegan hot dog was awkward!), our travels including a visit to “nearby” Regent’s Park.

When we were exploring the market, I ended up buying a Prince T-shirt for a princely £20, simply because… well, I couldn’t get out of it once the shopkeeper noticed me — but in all honesty, if it helps the shopkeeper stay afloat during the coronacession, what’s the harm?  In the same way, I’d hope to continue attending the “helping the homeless” events that have been held off during the lockdown, though the organiser there has had to put back the next one due to his own life interfering.

(I tried to help him install Linux on a new laptop, but sadly, he seems to have submitted to Windows 10 instead…)

I wouldn’t say I’m wealthy, but I do feel that I have enough to share with others without going under myself — which doesn’t mean I’m a capitalist libertarian who only chooses to help others, as I still believe in well-managed taxes (which I acknowledge is overly-optimistic at best) for public services that everyone can use.  Haven’t I helped fund the NHS, which was rather more eager to help me with the “space invader” than any private health insurance company would ever be?

At least I can still talk to my female friend online, via (of course) Skype — we may be at opposite ends of the Earth now, but we can meet and share our experiences (and show each other what we’ve got in our rooms, including books and plush toys) — and thus, in a virtual way, keep each other company.  She’s even subscribing to this blog now (hi!), and therefore is more meaningful in my life than that dreadful harridan who lives in Worthing.

(Oh cripes!  Er, er, er, sorry old mother, I mean Mumsy, er, I jolly well shouldn’t have said that, yaroo!  Or I could do a Trump and claim never to have said that, it’s fake news!)

In addition, I can still afford to pay my personal trainer, and be guided by him via the Internet in weekly self-torture sessions to keep myself healthy; it may be possible to visit his gym again next month (or the mini-gym in the Castle), or even go boxing in the park again (weather permitting) — but never mind the cost, how would public transport get me there in time after working hours, if I’m travelling from home instead of work?

“Um… your billing sucks!”

Finally, I have both good and bad news about my outgoings: firstly, it seems that we’re paid up at last with the dreadful E.ON, possibly due to “best mate” calling them up one last time to clear up the issue of a closed account in our late landlord’s name being chased up.  Today I updated our meter reading, and it seems our next payment will reduce our debt to…  prepare yourselves… £1.91!  This should mean we can lower the monthly DD amount, and “fifth housemate” can then stop complaining about household bills being too high (though she’s aware of the 6-monthly water bill coming up) — and all this despite the amount of electricity used by three of us having been working from home since March.

The bad news, which one might say results from the metaphorical double-edged sword, is that I’m now earning so much monthly (before tax), more than ever in my life (in terms of both numbers and value), I have no hope of deferring my Stupid Loans repayments from September onwards — and the amount my gross monthly is above their maximum gross monthly is less than the amount I’ll have to start paying back monthly!

Still, if (as told by the debt owners) the 1998 loan is going to be written off in 2023, maybe the 1996 and 1997 ones (owned by a different company) will also disappear 25 years later, and I can finally stop worrying about payback for three of my four years as an undergrad, and get back to saving… assuming I don’t have to resume commuting to work every day, of course…

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…

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…

Saying farewell?

Look, I’m not much good at big speeches, and I know I haven’t always been an easy guy to get on with; and I know that, given the choice, I probably wouldn’t have chosen you as friends.  But I just want to say that over the years I have come to regard you… as people… I met.
—Rimmer, Red Dwarf (S5E1, “Holoship”)

No, I’m not giving up on this blog and abandoning you, and I’m naively hoping that today’s Brexit departure from Europe won’t lead to total disaster for my country (or worse, disaster for Average Joe and corresponding success for the people in charge).  I certainly hope I won’t have to say goodbye to anyone I care about being deported because “dey’re forrinerz, innit” — my own mother’s one-quarter French, for a start!

However, there are other goodbyes I’ll need to make in 2020, and except in one potential case, they’ll be entirely welcome.  For one thing, I’ve made the jump and am now running Linux Mint on my computer; it’s still a work in progress (which could also be said of Windows 10, except more or less in the opposite direction), but so far, so good — I can write my diary and maintain my finances spreadsheet in LibreOffice, I can (ahem) browse the Internet, and I can even play games, there being a Linux version of Steam.

(Not all of them, but I’m playing the Rage games at the moment, and the first one actually seems to work better than it did under Windows 7!)

I still have to use Win10 at work (hence I don’t want to at home), and it’d take a miracle to convince my mother to leave the works of Microsoft, but for me, it’s goodbye Windows, hopefully forever — leaving aside the possibility of a Win10 “Geek’s Edition” coming out someday, where you can turn off the unsolicited telemetry and advertising, and where the monthly patches and major updates are actually tested before being inflicted upon the masses.

However, one aspect has been difficult to switch across, and that’s my e-mail archive — because converting an Outlook file to one that could be used by Thunderbird involves paying for software, even if you’re doing it at home for your own e-mails and not in a business.  Fortunately there turned out to be a way (involving typing stuff into a command line terminal), and now my only problem is getting Fasthosts (named and shamed) to let me clear out my personal domain’s catchall inbox, so I don’t have to download over 20,000 messages and delete the ones I already have!  Their own webmail times out if I try to delete more than one at a time, so if all else fails, I’ll say bon jour to them as well, after 12 years of lousy service (especially in 2014), and find another hosting company for my own, self-named e-mail domain.

(I set it up originally so I could give a different e-mail address to each company I interact with, all coming into my catchall inbox, and thus tell easily who’d given it away to spammers… hello, Zoosk!)

Something similar is happening at work: we’re saying goodbye to Microsoft’s “Phone System Formerly Known As Lync” (which they’ll be phasing out next year… why?!), and thus working hard to introduce a new system, on which basis I’m helping at the start of February (i.e. tomorrow morning, a Saturday).  Hopefully I’ll make up for my past screwups and be dependable, but you never know what lies ahead, and whether they’ll replace me after all — they’re already looking at hiring a replacement for my former teammate (to whom we never said “goodbye” in person), and once I’ve trained the new’un in our ways, maybe I’ll be surplus to requirements…?

I’d love to say goodbye to incompetent businesses like E.ON, who screwed up our energy account last year and are now making us pay monthly so we can clear “our” debt, but it’s this situation that means we’re going to say goodbye to a dreadful housemate.  No, not the guy I previously called “new bad housemate”, as he and I are chatting amiably about our IT-based jobs now, and he complimented me on dealing with E.ON (it was Mozart’s 40th, by the way).

No, it’s the girl who moved in the same time as him (due to two housemates moving out simultaneously), and who somehow thought all our households bills were included in the rent, despite this being far from the truth.  There have been many female housemates in that room near the back of the house during my time living here, and here they are in chronological order:

  • “Leaderene”, daughter of the landlord’s friend, who bossed us around regarding household bills (including a kitchen kitty), and needed everyone to be quiet after 9pm due to her early commutes;
  • “Northern lass”, the longest-lasting so far, who joined us in mid-2013 but finally moved on to a new home in late 2016 (around the time my brain started acting up);
  • “Spanish housemate #1”, who was here for all of 2017 and the first half of 2018, moving out while I was in hospital;
  • “Two-month housemate”, who I never really had a chance to interact with due to convalescing in Worthing, but who was apparently smoking pot in her room;
  • “Spanish housemate #2”, who was here for less than a year, leaving at the end of the 2018-2019 financial year;
  • “Worst housemate”, who probably misunderstood her predecessor, and can’t understand why our rent and bills went up, and also can’t seem to remember what she was paying in the first place, except that it was less than £600!

She doesn’t even speak to me when we’re in the same room, so I can’t have a polite conversation about the money — but she’s demanding (via text message, of course) full documentation for the last SIX MONTHS, even though it was December that our rent went up (she must have signed the new housing contract without actually reading it) and my compromise with E.ON about our outstanding bills meant we started paying monthly. During this time I’ve let her postpone the other bills and just pay her share of the rent (which is all our landlady really cares about), but can prove through bank statements what she actually paid, and thus what she still owes.

(Am I Muslamic for charging zero interest on a loan, or some kind of pinko commie?  Does it make me worse than payday loan companies, because I’m not making loadsamoney out of other people’s desperation?)

Mind you, she probably doesn’t want to pay “best mate” £8/month for the Internet connection he’s managed since “drummer-trucker” moved out in 2017, even though she uses it on the rare occasions she’s in the house — and she even has trouble paying a monthly fiver into the current kitchen kitty (set up by “not-so-bad housemate”), or, y’know, doing any housework.  I don’t know what she does for a living, if anything…

I don’t want to slide to “the right”, and think that everyone on “the left” who needs my financial help is some kind of con artist or sponge, and that me being well off somehow means I’m entitled to not help someone poorer than me out of Bounderby-esque contempt — but I also don’t want to let her get away with this: if it comes down to it, I’ll ask our landlady to take the money I’m owed out of this girl’s deposit after she’s moved on, and be done with it.

Good job I keep paperwork, isn’t it?  Though one day I’ll have to say goodbye to the receipts I’ve been logging and keeping files since I moved here in 2012…


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?

Still planning, still hoping

I’m still hoping that caffeine will wake me up in the mornings at work

Just to let you know I’m still alive, but somehow having a cold recently (bad enough that I was able to take the day off work when the Northern Line went to hell!) didn’t give me more time to write in this blog, it thus being weeks since last time I said anything.

My situation’s mostly the same as before, but I’ve been to a couple of “not the Joker’s girlfriend” events, including a practical exercise in the streets of London (which I later discovered was the day of the Brexit protests, hence the sinister helicopters overhead).  I’m still looking at potential girlfriends with whom I’ve matched online, and hoping to find someone special — at this stage, even remaining in touch with a woman after the first date is nothing short of magnificent!

In other social terms, I’m still trying to go to events (though the monthly Japanese one still gets frustratingly loud and crowded), and since “best mate” is on holiday, I’m hoping to resume climbing with strangers, if only for a short time.  And things seem to be going better with “best mate’s” friend who moved in, and who I won’t refer to as “new bad housemate”, as he’s definitely not on the level of the bloke who lived with me and “good housemate” in the final Caledonian Road days, and whose name shall not be spoken on Dave-ros’ homeworld!  Work itself, well, mostly the same, though I feel like I’m letting senpai down, and in danger of losing tasks rather than gaining more, but hopefully I’m just worrying about nothing, and at the very least am in no danger of getting fired.

I’m hoping to continue to save up, not for anything specific, but simply to have something for a rainy day — I won’t go into details here (I’m saving up for a super-political post), but it does sound like Brexit, the way it’s going, will lead to either me, or my mother, or both, losing out big time — her since she’s on benefits due to looking after my grandmother full-time, and me because I’m reliant on the NHS and prescription medication to stay in health, and even if the potential BoJo dictatorship grudgingly allows people to keep the former, somehow the latter looks threatened by our potential “deal” with Trump’s America if we leave the EU on bad terms.

(As a mixed blessing, George Hollingbery MP of the Tories acknowledged that the American health insurance system is worthless, as his own brother-in-law died of a brain tumour due to being diagnosed just as they screwed up his renewal, and he was therefore abandoned by a corrupt system for being “uninsured and uninsurable”!)

I do want to write entries more often in this blog, and I hope I can find the time and inspiration, but still, I find myself trying to get to bed earlier than I did in the early days, when somehow staying up until 1am didn’t seem to affect me!  In fact, aside from the post I’m planning to write regarding my (right and/or wrong) interpretation of left vs. right in the current political (and/or economic) climate, I wonder what else I can write here these days, other than describing my symptoms, or general lack thereof (which is a good sign that I’m not yet suffering a relapse).

And no, I’m not far enough through the Assassin’s Creed game series to write a “cool things” post about it — indeed, at times getting 100% synch in parts of the game (by achieving extra things) can get very, very frustrating, especially during the Battle of Bunker Hill!  But don’t worry, I’ve not broken another joypad (yet)…

Making progress 2019

Yes, this one again, it’s like, cool and stuff!

Damn, it’s been a while since I saw an old post on this blog, which I read just to make sure I’m not reusing titles (again) — but as back then, I’m posting now just to make it clear that I’m not dead, especially since I’m older and more at risk now than I was in 2013, partly due to the health situaiton that came to a head (ahem) in 2018, but also simply because I’m in my early forties mid-thirties late twenties now, and not as youthful as I was back then, when not staying up late for Family Guy meant I could get up in the mornings in time to make sarnies before setting off for work, and then climb once or twice a week, as well as going to events, instead of feeling so exhausted (physically and socially) that I spend almost every night in.

(I know, I know, it’s because I worked much closer to home, and could even commute back here to have dinner before setting off for the Castle, something I can’t do now I’m working in Marylebone!)

But still, gradually I’m making progress in ways I didn’t back then: for one thing, my immunity should now render me invulnerable to measles, mumps and rubella.  My mother’s been worried about me lately, as though I had “German measles” as a child (late summer in 1982 or 1983, I wonder?), and a measles jab when I was 17 (late 1994… no, wait, early 21st century!), I’ve never had mumps, despite two people at my school in the 6th form coming down with it at the same time.  Thus I’ve gone through with it, getting a triple-jab (no, not with three needles at once!) at a private clinic just across the road from my workplace, and naturally am feeling dizzy, albeit in a more humdrum fashion than I did when “mind static” was messing with my life.

After spending all day dealing with people at work, this is how I feel around extroverts at social gatherings

I’m improving in romantic terms (hey, only 25 10 five years late, eh?), thanks to my dating dinh (the one with the name very similar to the Joker’s girlfriend), who’s not only encouraged me to go up to women in the street purely to say hi and talk to them briefly (as a way of building confidence to be the initiator), but has also taken better pictures of me than the ones I’d used in my dating profiles before!  My luck may also be changing when it comes to dating apps, as I’m back to connecting with multiple women again (even if some of them aren’t in London but still show as being so because they visited briefly a week ago), and even had a date last week!

In a similar vein (ahem), I’m also progressing in social terms (or at least undoing my recent regression), and while I still don’t go to many events these days, and certainly don’t enjoy “getting out of my comfort zone”, I’m at least going to a few more meetups than earlier this year.  This includes a dancing event tonight, which reminded me of my days in 2013: even if I’m unhappy and anxious at the start, it’s likely I’ll loosen up a bit and feel like joining in, and maybe make new friends.

(Of course, I’m a lot happier talking to girls, or even nice old ladies, than smug male hipsters!)

But the most important progress of all: my mother’s going to sell the flat-above-shops in Worthing, and move herself and my grandmother (and, by extension, my inheritance) away from that wretched hive.  Maybe Horsham, maybe further afield — indeed, she’d rather move to a hot Mediterranean country and ditch this place once and for all, but there’s the rub: although she could care for her mother abroad, if progress is made (or regained) by my “space invader”, she’d have to look after me as well during treatment, which would mean staying here, ideally in close proximity to a hospital.

This is another reason I need to find a woman: if I had a wife and family, they could support me during the difficult times if (or more likely when) my cerebral situation flares up again, and my mother would be able to retire in more ways than one, and not have to take care of me when I should be taking care of her.  On that basis, I need to make progress on improving my diet and getting my weight back below 13 stone, so I don’t run the risk of developing diabetes…

Damn, I wish medical science would make a quantum leap, especially before the NHS is privatised — which wouldn’t be “progress” at all, except on the road to Hell!

Changes (with apologies to David Bowie… and Black Sabbath)

In other Black Sabbath news, I’ve changed my work number ringtone to these dudes performing “Iron Man”

It seems I’ve still got to make changes in my life, because the old ways aren’t working — indeed, not even like they used to: for one thing, the dating app I’ve been using since 2015, and which earned me many first dates in the past, now seems to get me virtually no matches — except for women who appear to be in China or Hong Kong (despite their location being given as “London”), and one whose opening volley was an entirely phony, “Hey handsome”!

On that basis, knowing this and other dating apps are likely to be futile (though I’ll keep trying them in the background), and close female friends not turning out to be “the one”, I’m returning to my dating coach once again (for a not insubstantial fee), and though we’ve had to change the meetup date once thanks to overbooking, perhaps this time I’ll learn how to change my body language so I can approach women with quiet confidence in real life, without coming across as a creepy stalker (or having to change my shaving habit so I look like a hipster).  How that goes, well, I’ll tell you next week…

(Ooh, a preview!)

In the meantime, what else can I change?  I still wish I could get out more, but last week was too hot to go salsa dancing, and indeed too hot to play any video games that use 3D graphics, so I sat at home and relaxed without being too obsessional (don’t worry, I’ve since finished Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood and begun Assassin’s Creed: Revelations).  “Best mate” wanted to go climbing this week, but hasn’t been able to so far (though we did go on a couple of road trips at the weekend), and while “new bad housemate” has mercifully gone to Europe for a couple of weeks to meet his not-quite-ex-wife and son, I still would feel bad if I just sat here in front of my computer every evening… and yet here I am, writing this to make sure my blog doesn’t disappear completely.

In other phone-related news, I’ve changed “best mate’s” text message noise to: “Um, you suck!”

It’s not just for my own sake that I need to change things: my most important task for this household is the management of our bills (except the Internet, for which we pay “best mate”) — and herein lies some major frustration.  I won’t name-and-shame E.on this time, because not only did they change the name on our energy bill from our dead landlord’s to mine, but they also granted us a surprising amount of credit as an aside (which more than paid for our first quarterly bill of the year), so I don’t have to sit waiting on the phone for hours all over again!

(Damn, what’s that classical violin tune they use as their hold music?  Dadada, dadada, dadada-DA — dadada, dadada, dadada-da… Mozart?  Bach?  Debussy?  Handel?)

Sadly, our other public services aren’t doing well: Barnet Council can’t seem to send us an updated list of council tax charges with our actual names on and confirmation that they’ve corrected the monthly amounts (even though they say they did in June), and Affinity Water could barely be persuaded to add my name to our twice-yearly water bill.  Much as the TV Licence organisation won’t change the name on our paperwork unless our dead landlord gives them written permission, so it is that we can’t remove old, long-moved-away residents from our Affinity paperwork unless we provide phone numbers or e-mail addresses that we simply don’t have and can’t obtain — indeed, the only name I even recognise is our one-time “leaderene”, the daughter of a friend of the landlord’s family, who moved out of here in 2013!  Still, with my name added to it, we may be able to close and recreate the account, so all is not lost.

Of course, calculating everyone’s share of the bills gets difficult sometimes, and the water bill that covers a period in which two of our housemates changed over doesn’t help: I have to get a share from our two old housemates (including the Aussie) that moved out at the end of May, itself a difficult calculation (since some of the bill actually extends forward to the start of September), but they’ve both returned to their native countries, and while they seem willing to pay their dues, their exchange rates may drive me nuts!

Go on then, one more relevant Beavis and Butt-head picture — will he take it to the dump?

The biggest irony of all, though: “new bad housemate” may have vehemently refused to pay a share of our TV licence (and plans to get rid of the TV set he brought to this house when he moved in), but even though I told him (twice) that he only needed to pay me his share of the rent for August, he’s gone and paid me his share of the council tax as well, even though he paid the same amount last month when our payment was suspended for a month due to Barnet Council’s incompetence (as with the TV Licence people, they’re run appallingly by Capita, who I intend to name and shame properly in a future post).  The amount he’s thus overpaid is actually MORE than one-fifth of the cost of our TV licence, so he’s not even saving money!

(I’m tempted to keep it and still charge him a share of the council tax in September, but then he’d get angry at me for his own damn ignorant mistake…)

I know, I know, I should change where I live some day — but I wouldn’t want to stay here in Finchley if moving house became necessary (too many memories), and I wouldn’t want to go back to living in Worthing when I hope I can help my folks escape that dump (and move to a house with a garden, so we can finally get a dog).  Where could I move that would mean I could get to work on a train with seats available, and isn’t on the dreadfully overcrowded and unreliable Victoria Line?  And would my rent be more expensive, meaning I couldn’t pay my personal trainer any more, when his guidance is essential to my health (especially if I face radiotherapy in the near future)?

I’d love simply to change one housemate — and no, not the female housemate near the back of the house (who’s now changed FIVE TIMES, the original in that room being the “leaderene”), but rather… oh, you guessed who.  It seems even “best mate”, who brought him here, is finding him annoying — aside from the passive-aggressive notes, he still has to keep some of the new guy’s stuff in his own room, as a “favour”!  Just glad my own friendship with him hasn’t changed…

— — —

Another song called “Changes”, of course, is 2Pac’s posthumous release — scope this out, it’s dope… (just a pity that the “official video” version has half the lyrics cut out!)