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!

Self-isolation (with apologies to every other blogger in the world)

“One night last week, some fools got the electric light in order, and there was all Regent Street and the Circus ablaze, crowded with painted and ragged drunkards, men and women, dancing and shouting till dawn.  And as the day came they became aware of a Fighting-Machine standing near by the Langham and looking down at them.  Heaven knows how long he had been there.  He came down the road towards them, and picked up nearly a hundred too drunk or frightened to run away.”
Grotesque gleam of a time no history will ever fully describe!
—H.G. Wells, The War of the Worlds

By coincidence, this is where I’m up to rewatching The Twilight Zone from the beginning!

I’m still alive, and the closest I’ve got to coronavirus seems to be just hay fever (and the sort of catarrh I always get three seasons out of four), but I’m certainly sick of staying indoors and being away from human contact — and the rules regarding this are now being tightened!

I know: when I’m on leave from work, I tend to just sit in front of this computer and play endless computer games, and due to aches and pains I’ve not been out dancing or climbing in the evenings lately, but at least during my breaks, I have the choice of going to the shops, or the park, to stretch my legs and get stuff (and maybe pet dogs). Plus, of course, I can still let my personal trainer torture me on Fridays, as a final penance for the reward of the weekend.

However, sitting constantly in front of this contraption 9-to-5, with maybe the chance to go outside and get food at lunchtime (which will be hard now that our local Tesco is making people queue outside), while keeping an eye on the helpdesk ticket list, really sucks — and not solely due to my having to do my job remotely over the Internet, but largely; the other aspect being forbidden from travel via public transport, resulting in having no opportunity to visit my folks (and the best dog in the world) down in Worthing.

Last week we sorted out just about all our staff being able to work from home, but at times I’ve felt anxious about either doing something wrong, or having done something wrong at some undefined point in the past — and since I can’t speak to my teammates or our flock face-to-face (the office has been closed for a week now), it’s all… well, even more uncomfortable than in the weeks before.

He’s truly been ill, not just drinnnkinnninnnge!

Mostly I’m getting things right, at least in terms of simple chores (like helping staff to restart their laptops); this is to spare senpai and the Asian Eddie Hitler-lookalike from tedious side issues while they work on far more serious tasks, like keeping our remote services running (fair play to them for enduring this and having families of their own!).  The latter’s been snappy at me even over little things (like misunderstanding him breaking his own vow on using an IP address instead of a machine name for remote access), and at times I’ve felt like chucking it all in and finally handing in my notice — but since he’s been suffering from something not unadjacent to coronavirus, I’m willing to stay in my job for now, and not hold a grudge against him.

Indeed, although “boss lady” was a bit impatient at times (as would be expected), she was otherwise perfectly nice, thanking me for setting up so many laptops during the onsite first three days of last week.  However, she’s said I can’t have a week off any time soon, because they really need me right now, due to how much work the others have taken on (senpai says they aren’t even getting paid overtime) — and due to a couple of big planned changes, there’ll be even more soon!

(Thanks again, Micro$haft, for announcing the retirement of Skype for Business and making us switch to a whole ‘nuther system — if you’d known this predicament was coming, would you have delayed it another couple of years?)

If it weren’t for sitting here in front of my computer to work, I would at least be able to, er, sit in front of my computer playing games, or watching TV (even if it’s entirely via web apps, as I’m unlikely to get the satellite dish fixed any month soon).  Fortunately I can have the radio on pretty much all day without disturbing the staff I phone (or, rarely, phone me), and between tasks I’ve got the chance, again, to learn to strum away on my guitar (which I can do without getting out of my seat) — perhaps this song being my greatest inspiration to learn the difficult F-chord.  I can also be a pen-friend instead of dating in person: I’m currently writing to a young lady teaching at, of all places, my alma mater, who needs help with both English and Japanese!

To be fair, I’m not missing the usual crowds of London, and certainly not public transport (even the Northern Line no longer being the “Misery Line” wasn’t enough!), and I do wonder what kind of fools would still want to hold big events with lots of people crammed in together, partying like the people in my Wells quote above, because they think they can celebrate the end of the world… but then again, I’ve never liked that anyway (one reason I’ve never been a footie fan).

On the other hand, I feel unhappy at the risk of being fined, or even arrested, if I’m suspiciously outside for a reason the coppers don’t like (even though we’re supposed to be allowed to get a bit of exercise and buy food at shops), or if walk past someone on a narrow pavement instead of stepping into the road (in front of an admittedly-rare car) just to maintain an arbitrary distance.  The police in this country are at risk of only caring about numerical targets, hence going after litterers because it’s easier to feel their collars than go after burglars or murders.

I guess it’s another necessary balance: follow the rules for now, out of compassion for other human beings (and one’s own safety in the same situation), BUT hold the government to account, and ensure the rules are reasonable and necessary (for example, fines should never be regarded as an opportunistic revenue-raiser) — and, unlike Trump’s yuge idea, we should be allowed to resume our lives once it’s known to be safe, for our own sakes, not purely to “save the economy” when it’s still unsafe!

(Funny how those at the top denigrate poor people living paycheque-to-paycheque for not having somehow kept savings for a rainy day, at the same time they call for big businesses to get bail-outs from the taxpayer — is this one-sided libertarianism, where “tax is theft” only when it’s used to help the little guy?)

Well, if I’m under house arrest for the duration, and getting way under 10,000 steps a day (and can’t even pet people’s dogs now!), at least I’ve got the opportunity to post here a bit more often, eh guys?  Guys?  Er, guys……..?

Disaster averted, times two?

The last couple of weeks, I was thinking of posting here (yes, I do that occasionally, even seven years after I started this blog) about how worried I was regarding not only my job, but my life here in London — not to mention my health.  Well, it looks like at least two of those potential Chernobyls have been reduced to mere Fukushimas, which may help alleviate the third, at least a little bit…

(Yes, a Simpsons reference, except with a slightly more contemporary equivalent of “Three Mile Island”!)

I’d have said I didn’t want to worry you, but merely wanted to express my worries in written form and get them off my chest, though I imagine I’d simply have made you guys worry even more about me than I intended!  Well, don’t worry, it’s mostly over now, so I can reminisce about my problems, and how I got over them.

Above all, don’t worry about one thing: I can’t even begin to contemplate suicide!  Apart from not wanting my friends and family (and dog!) to miss me, I’ve simply come to fear death itself — simply because I have no memories of being unconscious during my brain surgery in 2018: no slumber, no dreams, not even a SCENE MISSING card — just an immediate jump from feeling drowsy and tingly on the operating table, to being asked by a nurse in intensive care whether I could understand her!

I hate the thought of my memories simply ending, and me not being there to feel bad about it, or even knowing that I’m not there — but I also can’t force myself to follow any religion, so I’ll just have to hope something good happens in a few decades, when I reach the clearing at the end of the path.

(Yes, I’d be happy to wake up in Midworld, and be asked by Roland of Gilead to join his ka-tet in search of the Dark Tower — isn’t that obvious?)

However, there have been times when I couldn’t stop myself from considering career suicide, simply giving up on my life in London and returning to Worthing to live with my folks, and never, ever returning to the Smoke for even a single visit — especially if my life depended upon it, because I’d feel like simply carrying on existing instead of truly living.  I’m over that now, though it’s hardly the first time I’ve felt this way (the early stages of my misery in late 2011 being a major example, and even 2013 having a particularly bad patch).

What brought it on this time?  Well, no matter how well I think I’m doing at work, now and then I let the team down — and not always right away, but retrospectively!  For example, do you guys know what VPN means?  Ah yes, you remember — well, it seems I’d been a little over-enthusiastic in setting up this secure connection for homeworkers, when I’d actually been told to only do so for specific ones, for whom new hardware and a new Internet connection had been arranged.

But having “boss lady” angry at me in front of the office (don’t worry, I spoke to HR) somehow doesn’t seem significant compared to letting down senpai.  We’re switching to a new electronic phone system (thanks to Micro$haft planning to do away with one of their own products), but although just about everyone’s been set up now, it turned out I was supposed to have been going round helping them simplify their statuses.  I felt worthless, and panicked into trying to make up for this… only to make things worse by doing it wrong!

And even when I thought I was doing it right, I’d still screw up little things, or forget what I’d been told (or supposed to have read in an e-mail) — and I’m wondering if I’ll ever be able to hear the funny ringtone I set up for him (see if you can guess it from this Family Guy clip), as now I associate it with him calling me to tell me off for not listening to him, again…

Fortunately, late last week he was a lot more understanding than before, and said I can always double-check things with him (something I’d become afraid to do) — but most of all, that my health is more important than supporting the team.  Y’see, I thought it might have been an issue with short-term memory, either due to the same thing that’s been causing my recent weird dizziness (the neurologist says it’s a possible side-effect of one of my medications), or just plain ol’ age.

(Then again, I can remember what happened well enough to write this, not to mention my nightly diary!)

I made up for things by discovering why a team he was trying to train with the new system couldn’t hear or be heard through their new electronic headsets — though since it involved one of those Win10 privacy (or lack thereof) options that I always find myself turning off when setting up people’s local profiles on PCs, it may not entirely have been MS’s fault… this time.  He and “boss lady” are being more patient with me as well, and looking for a new helper so I’m not overworked any more!

— — —

The other issue, as I’m sure you’ve guessed, has been “worst housemate” — the latest in a long line of female housemates living in the room originally occupied by the leaderene who sorted out our bills when I first moved here.  She’s been consistently underpaying me every month, and claiming we “agreed” a lower value (even if she didn’t need to pay for energy, she was still £4.60 down for March’s rent and council tax!).

The others — including “best mate” and “condescending housemate” (yes, that’s my new nickname for him and I’m sticking with it) — have nagged me to have it out with her, because the amount of money she owes me will only ever go up, and even our landlady (who at least seems to have dealt with the useless E.ON sending bailiffs after her long-dead husband) has gotten involved, saying she’s on my side in this, and that she doesn’t like the girl either (apparently she complained about the rent rise in December, despite signing the new contract with that value in November!).

Amazingly, though, it seems that being told she can either pay the money in full, or move out and find somewhere else, has worked: tonight she told me that she’ll start paying the full monthly amount, and catch up with what she owes me from before!  Perhaps this is because she “loves” her room, or perhaps it’s because she really can afford to pay (seeing as she buys herself coffees and takeaways, yet won’t put a fiver in the household kitty), but it’s a good sign that she’s finally taking responsibility for the costs of living in rented accommodation… in what is presumably her first time living away from home.

Or, of course, she’s got access to daddy’s (or mummy’s) chequebook in a serious situation such at this — but hey, if she moves out after all, “best mate” has offered to provide a van for her to shift her stuff!

— — —

But what of health matters?  Well, increasing my lamotrigine dose may not be helping as much as I hoped, though I doubt it’s responsible for my right arm hurting this week, especially when using a mouse (and it’s something I’ve noted in the upper arm when personal training over the past year or so).  It may well be some prelude to RSI, but if it happens even when I’ve been playing games with a joypad instead of mouse and keyboard, what can I do?  Avoid computers entirely?!

Fortunately, despite a bit of a sniffle and sore throat on Saturday afternoon (which could have been early hay fever), and indeed despite my daily commutes involving the crowded Northern Line, I’ve not (as yet) developed anything remotely resembling coronavirus!

(COVID-19?  That surely must be a Stephen King reference — I’ll set my watch and warrant on it!)

Never mind petty things like biochemistry, physiology and virology, though — it’s in psychological terms that I’m improving, as for now, not only do I still have a job (indeed, they need me to be able to work from home just in case we do an Italy), but I should be getting repaid by a housemate now willing to pay her share (or, more precisely, next month I won’t need to pay so much into the old bank account I use for gathering our household bills together).

With these two weights off my shoulders, I shouldn’t need to see the osteopath for a while…

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…

New year, new OS?

Dammit Beavis, he’s using that, like, picture of us at this computer thing again, or something!

Looks like I’ll need to make another big jump in word processorising in order to keep writing my diary (somewhere other than on my PC at work), as Tuesday is the day that Windows 7 (and Office 2010) pass into the clearing at the end of the path — or at least lose all hope of being patched by Micro$haft (sort-of named and shamed), unless you’re a business and can afford their fees.

(They’ll still patch Win7, but not for home users?  Is that because we’re their test base for Win10, and so they want us to use that instead?)

Updating to Windows 10 isn’t a positive option — I’ve done that on the Frankencomputer at my family home in Worthing (the one upon which I installed Win7 as an experiment back in the day), and it’s just as bad as on my flock’s PCs at work — and staying on Win7 would be risky (much like WinXP when that went obsolete a few years ago), as even more bugs and backdoors may be revealed, enabling h4x0rz to extort us with ransomware, or steal our private information in a way that MS can only dream of.

Thus I’m strongly considering switching over from my May 2011 installation of Win7 (the very final aspect that lingers from May 2011 on my PC of Theseus) to a flavour of Linux, the free-at-the-point-of-use family of OSes; I’ve had the “Mint” version installed on a slow but serviceable laptop (a relic from work that they let me take home) for some time, and it seems to do all the same stuff as Windows, but (unlike Win10) doesn’t have a load of unturnoffable telemetry, and unavoidable patches that may actually screw you over — imagine if I lost my diary this way!

(Like I said: we, the home users, are their unwilling test base, so they don’t have to employ their own QA section!)

Anyway, Linux Mint — it’s an OS that stays out of the way instead of advertising and subtly installing bloatware (or limiting you to installing stuff from their quasi-Apple, quasi-Android app store), and forcing you to update with a full restart every so often… sorry, I’m still having a go at Win10 — but hey, remember my job!  It has a start menu, it has desktop icons, it has shortcuts pinned to the taskbar, it runs Mozilla Firefox (I avoid Google Chrome due to its telemetry, which MS are also looking at incorporating), it lets you actually change settings without needing to go to old and new settings screens, and it runs software — and yes, it lets you put up wallpaper… in my case, ahem, anime babes.

I’m going to look at reverting to good ol’ OpenOffice — or, in terms of forking off after (diab)Oracle took over, the superior LibreOffice — since even if it’d work under Linux, Office 2010 is also on the way out (and I have no desire to do everything online through Office 365).  This is something I’ll help my mother with too: her current PC of Theseus also runs Win7 (and Office 2007), but she wants to continue creating and editing proper Word documents that others can access, instead of some esoteric format, so I’ll need to prove to her that it can be done and nothing significant would change.

One aspect which my mother won’t need, but I certainly shall (still the old playboy lifestyle!), is video gaming — in particular, the Steam games library program, which among other things records your purchase licences.  The good news is that it’s available for Linux, and some actual games have Linux version too… but by no means all: I see there’s Borderlands 2 but not the original, BioShock Infinite but not the first two, and neither of the Rage games I’m playing through now.

(Astonishingly, all three of the most recent generation of Tomb Raider games have Linux versions, but I already played them to death in 2018 and 2019!)

It’s a while since I played Nidhogg against my mother — will it work in Linux, with two joypads?  Hmm, it works with one, that’s a good sign…

However, there’s a lot of experimentation going on at the moment, regarding the running of Windows-made programs under Linux through an emulator process called WINE, and Linux Steam itself has an option to let you install non-Linux-version games anyway — no promises of full functionality (especially in multiplayer games, though I don’t touch that side of things anyway), but I have… faith that things will improve over time, as more geeks like me (and no, I don’t find that term offensive, at least when we use it) will be ditching Windows but still wanting to use software we paid for.

I’ll look at getting a new SSD (the current one I got in late 2013, and thus one of the oldest components) onto which I can install Linux as a first step, and see whether connecting up my other two physical drives works or not.  These are a yuge SSD (a 2017 work present, same as my current CPU), with my games installed, and an old “spinning rust” one with My Documents upon it, but as long as they’re detected and NTFS isn’t treated as some freaky foreign format, my only problem could be whether I need to reinstall any of my Steam games completely from scratch (which could mean a geological age of downloading), or if they just need some extras.

(And I haven’t even begun to consider the other game installer libraries, like Uplay, Origin and Battle.net — but at least Good Old Games are putting in some effort with Galaxy!)

One more aspect I wonder about, though: while I certainly should be able to play CDs and DVDs (and hopefully rip them as well), will anything available for Linux enable me to play Blu-rays (VLC apparently only works in some cases), or would I have to get an actual player to plug into my TV?  When you consider the one my folks passed down to me in Worthing doesn’t play some modern discs (and its firmware can only be upgraded with a file dating back to 2011, which needs to be burned onto a very specific format of CD-R), you can’t help but wonder about planned obsolescence…

Twenty-eight years later

Today was a totally horrible day back.
—Me at the start of school in 1992, underestimating just how bad things would get later on

Obvious disclaimer: this was written recently, not in 1992

This year, 2020, is significant to me for one particular reason: it’s got the same date structure as 1992, due to a 28-year cycle I figured out (seven leap years, cycling through which day of the week 29th February occurs on), which is the year we moved to Worthing, one of the worst things to ever happen to my family — and also the year that I, over twenty years before starting this blog, began writing a diary, which I’ve continued to this day.

(Sorry, this is gonna be a looong, self-indulgent post…)

I started writing it in something I’ve just reminded myself of in an Amstrad CPC emulator: the word processor aspect of Mini Office II, which my folks got for me for Christmas 1991.  It was yesterday (Monday 6th January), more than a quarter of a century ago, that I began on the first day of the Spring term at my secondary school, and already I knew we’d be moving away from Walton-on-Thames due to my grandfather’s job being transferred down south.

Boy, that program was unwieldy, and limited to 16kB worth of characters — and some idiot non-h4x0r must have programmed it to count even the empty spaces of the margins either side of the actual document to count as characters in the memory!  Hence I only wrote it on school days, because I simply didn’t have enough room to include weekends (except maybe a brief flashback on Monday) — and I also didn’t write during holidays (again, with a summary afterwards, especially after summer).

Indeed, I almost stopped writing after the half-term holiday twenty-eight Februarys ago, but fortunately only missed out one week — and shortly afterwards, lost the Wednesday 11th March entry due to changing the side of the 3″ disc I was saving to, and not realising (thanks to the Amstrad not dating files)!  Fortunately they were the only diary entries I lost, though I certainly came close in November, when I accidentally erased the files I’d been writing since September and the start of my time at a new school, but fortunately even the Amstrad could “unerase”.

And so it continued for the rest of my school days, and indeed university — though I did use two other word processors: the copy of Tasword I got from Amstrad Action just before Easter 1993 sucked, and it was very reluctantly that I used it for the first couple of months in 1997, when my 3″ disc drive was malfunctioning, and I had to do everything on my secondary 3½” disc drive (upon which Mini Office II couldn’t run), until the situation was resolved.  That program had even less space (and justified paragraphs together unless they were space out with blank lines), and I had to split weeks into separate files!

Alas, poor Amstrad (my fault for bashing the keyboard in frustration) — but good job I didn’t need to rely on tape by the end of 1991

And then there’s disc images: all the data of a 3″ disc transferred to a file on a 3½” disc (formatted for a PC to read), which meant I could back everything up to my university personal hard drive space, and access via Amstrad emulator (running a disc image version of Mini Office II) — hence I was still able to write if my Amstrad wasn’t available.  This was significant in early 1998, when it gave up the ghost, though when my folks helped me find a Worthing chap selling a refurbished 6128, I also got hold of the far superior Protext — and if I’d had that from the very start in 1992, ooh, I wonder how much more I’d have written (including weekends)…

 

I kept my e-mails while I was at the American university in 1998-9 and during the summer, hence at least having some semblance of a journal, but when I returned to university over here, I was able to buy my own (second-hand) PC, and install upon it (my mother’s PC’s copy of) Win98 — and although I still wrote only diary entries on weekdays (except on special occasions) and split the weeks into separate files, I was now using… wait for it… Wordpad.  Well, at least I could do bold, italic and underlined, and different font sizes — and now it was proportional instead of monotype!  And I wasn’t limited to 16kB, which meant I could say a bit more.

I didn’t write anything contemporary after university, until the end of 2001: I’d been compiling the text of all my diary entries (this time, the weekly documents transferred to my PC as text files) into Word documents, complete with superior formatting (and yes, I corrected some spelling mistakes!). Thanks to things like e-mails (again) and receipts (so I could see when I’d bought things), I managed to write monthly entries about my time back in Worthing with my folks up to that point, after which I finally wrote “live” again — still in the form of monthly entries (based on daily notes I kept).  When I went back to university as a postgrad in 2003, I resumed writing on weekdays (and not during holiday periods), in my old style, albeit now in Word properly.

I finished my post-postgraduate time in 2004 going back to monthly entries (sometimes written much later, and in one case not compiled from its notes at all!), but in 2005 I started something new and more convenient: writing maybe a paragraph about each day, including weekends, with no break periods and no retrospectives!  Except sometimes writing about Friday on Sunday (which I came to call a “Sunday Night Special”), and of course after holidays (including trips with my friends and Christmases with my folks), but I kept going, recording my life in what I often referred to as “these hallowed pages”.  I did this in Word at first, but then ditched Microsoft for the OpenOffice suite, only to convert back when my workplace let me have a copy of Office 2007 (and later 2010), somehow not losing any text or formatting in the process!

Even if I start losing my memory, I’ve got the writing to remind me… as long as I remember how to turn my PC on

It was only in 2012, after the worst time of my life, that I ended that 2005-2011 Word document and started a new one, finally writing multiple paragraphs of feeling each day like I used to before I got lazy, and I’ve been doing it ever since.  Yes, I still write at weekends (admittedly mostly saving Saturday’s text for Sunday), but obviously I can only write retrospectively for holidays abroad (such as 2013), and still I take notes for holiday breaks when I’m near a PC (such as my convalescence in 2018) for later compilation into something readable.

(I’ve also been writing a “prequel” of events in my life prior to 1992, thanks to things like family memories, the dates on comics and magazines, and BBC Genome — yes, I remember a lot of TV from my childhood!)

Yes, I want it all published some day (hence I sent what I’d written thus far to my mother when I was about to go under the knife), but it’d probably be best to arrange for it to happen after my passing… partly so it would be my testament to the ages, but mainly so I’m beyond legal action for insulting my classmates over the years!  Right from the start, when I thanked the readers for their time and bade them “g’night” in the first entry, I’ve been writing this for others than just myself…

Will it one day be regarded as a modern-day autobiographical version of the Bible, and usher in a utopian, Bill & Ted-style world where war is ended and everyone gets on with their lives, due to laughing at my jokes, impressions and parodies?  If so, could someone travel back in time and let me know…?

— — —

Would I travel back in time to January 1992 and relive my earlier life?  Well, er, no — I still ate meat in those days (only so much as considering vegetarianism in 1995), and I’d have to face leaving behind the place I’d liked living in since 1985, and a school I’d enjoyed since 1990, to a dump of a town (in which my family’s been stuck ever since) and a school full of bullies (not all of them male!) — in late 1992 I didn’t contemplate suicide, but I certainly wished I was dead sometimes.  On the other hand, my grandfather and Scraps would still be alive, and at least I’d have a few more months at a school where I was happy…

I’ve probably said it before, but I wouldn’t go back in time to “enjoy” my past — okay, maybe 2013 when I was sorting my life out (and getting into Gwar), or the second half of 2016, when I’d finally made a name for myself at work (and almost got a girlfriend), before things really began to go wrong in my bonce.  There’s also circa 2006, when although the house in was dismal, at least I was living with my postgrad friends — indeed, I just happened to visit my old street in the Wood Green area recently (having just gone dancing in nearby Seven Sisters).  Oh, and 1998 in Michigan, of course, but this time taking things slower (assuming knowledge of the future stayed in my head, and not the brain tumour).

Ah, memories… sorry, I was miles away — no, I really don’t want to go backwards, just forward to better things.  However, it’s always good to learn from the past, lest we repeat it…

The Walkin Dude (with apologies to Randall Flagg)

Goodbye UKIP, you’ve served your purpose… whatever that was

Guess I really was naive last time, as the Tories now have a clear majority rather than a hung Parliament — but I’ll keep going on with my life, as maybe, just maybe, they’ll live up to their promises and not keep screwing over the disabled… then again, a week or so into their next four- or five-year term, this comes up.

(At least the Post Office and Fujitsu have finally admitted that Horizon is broken, and that those sub-postmasters weren’t fraudsters — but too late for the suicide case, sadly…)

I’ve fought my way through a lot over the past few years: this whole blog began in 2012 because I was still recovering from the depression that had hit me the year before, and while I’ve had ups and downs since then, the biggest issues I faced were my unemployment crisis in late 2014 and my cerebral situation from the end of 2016 — though the surgery itself felt more like a mild inconvenience, and while I was grateful for the NHS and paid sick leave (Boris Johnson take note!), I wanted to get back to my life, and job, here in London.

Perhaps that’s why, in late 2019, I’ve been able to drag myself to work even on days when I’ve had a bad back or a severe cold (albeit in both cases with the worst symptoms coming during weekends) — I’m lucky to have what I have, and I want to make the most of the job I was lucky to gain in 2015, supporting my team and employer during a time whem we have a large amount of security-based work to do (and my counterpart’s disappearance means I have to do the daily stuff as well).

No, I haven’t gotten them a new TV, their current one’s already, like, cool and stuff!

It’s also why I’ve been getting (relatively) expensive Christmas presents for my folks, and would have willingly paid for our dog’s recent operation (don’t worry, she’s fine, and awaiting my return) — they’re precious to me, and I’m willing to face such horrors as visiting Oxford Street (and worse, Piccadilly Circus), and carrying heavy packages around, walking everywhere (Tube journeys aside) no matter the effort required or the tendency of my legs or feet to start hurting out of nowhere (as I seem to walk it off, quite literally).

Hey, I’ve been walking a great deal since coming to London — indeed, back in 2007 when I lived on Caledonian Road, there was a period in which I walked down to the Tottenham Court Road area (in search of a weekly computer fair) every weekend!  And more recently I walked a long distance in my old home town, and though I stopped using my Fitbit, I’ve still walked between Warren Street and my workplace in Marylebone (and back again) each working day — and over the years, I’ve built up the ability to walk up and down escalators (nudging smartphone users’ elbows), something which was once excruciatingly difficult and led to me standing on the other side.

(Walk on the left, stand on the right… progressive on the left, conservative on the right?  Or has that one been done to death already?  Either way, I prefer the choice — so don’t make us all stand still on the escalator, TfL!)

However, I don’t believe that just because I can get through all this, anyone who can’t is some kind of pathetic failure, in the same way that I don’t berate myself for not being fit enough to do professional sport or join the armed forces — and much as I don’t look down on people poorer and needier than me for somehow being “lazy” (and calling them all self-entitled scroungers, like some real-life Mr. Bounderby), or dream of throwing the rich off the balconies of their “ivory towers” solely out of envy (even if some lie about making it through their own hard work instead of inheritance, like, er, a real-life Mr. Bounderby).

We’ve all got our own strengths and weaknesses, and each of us is running our own one-person race, while acting as a spectator and supporter for others, cheering them on (and maybe handing over a water bottle).  I think of competitiveness as a risky course of action: it may encourage and inspire some to try harder and reach their potential, but it’s all too easy for others to say “I don’t need to do better, I just need to make them look worse”, which seems to be 21st-century politics in a nutshell (and let’s not forget BA’s “dirty tricks” campaign against their rivals in the 1990s).

To put it another way: when climbing the ladders, let’s not pull on the legs of those above to try and bring them down, and not stamp on the fingers of those below to stop them catching up… and yes, I’m still climbing, but for the exercise, the battle against anxiety, and (believe it or not) the social contact, not to look down with disdain upon those beneath me — especially since my climbing partner would be down there, holding the rope that saves me from a deadly plunge if I lose my grip!

Anyway, I’d better get some sleep, as tomorrow I’ll need to set off early in the hope of getting a train down to Worthing that (a) actually runs*, (b) has seats, and (c) delivers me in time for my mother to pick me up and drive me home without losing her parking space — because the alternative would be a long walk, dragging my heavy suitcase behind me… and while I’d do that for my folks, I’d rather keep some energy and leg strength in reserve, so I can take the dog walkies!

(* This year has the same date structure as 2013, so I’ll just have to hope…)

Never mind Dave-ros, how’s the politics?

Labour = silly but interesting, Tory = sensible but dull?  What a silly idea… they’re not sensible!

Yes, that was a callback to a blog title back in 2013, itself a reference to a Thatcher quote that in turn was a parody of a certain Sex Pistols album title — but it’s about time I gave my own opinions on politics in this country, and whether left or right is the better side of the political… and what the hell “left” and “right” even mean, which seems to depend upon whoever’s talking at the time, especially on Facebook.

(The Internet: serious business!)

I learned the original definition: “the left” were the peasants to the king’s left, and “the right” were the aristocracy to the king’s right, as France tried to put itself back together after the Revolution, and presumably this is how “left=radical, right=conservative” came about — the unrepentant aristocracy wanting to stay where they were (of course), and the rebellious peasantry wanting to change things out of recognition.

More recently this has led to “leftie liberals” who want more equality for minority groups, versus “right-wing neo-fascists” and the “alternate right”, who go on about “snowflakes” and think everyone should toughen up.  But are these related to the left-right spectrum, or is this political line at 90° to the collective “property is theft” extreme left and the “theft is property” extreme right, or just some people arguing?  Or, let’s be honest, the self-styled “right” demanding the right to continue bullying anyone they regard as a viable target.

Actually, I’ve come to think of something my GCSE History teacher said, back in the day: that some believe the political spectrum isn’t a straight line, but a crescent with the extremes almost touching.  This makes sense: a jump from extreme right to extreme left through rebellion (the French and Russian Revolutions) out of bloody vengeance against an unaccountable ruling elite, only to move back from extreme left to extreme right (the Reign of Terror and Stalin’s Russia), simply because power corrupts, and someone always seems to take charge.

After all, if the extreme left, Communism, is supposed to treat all men equally, with no-one in authority, how can it become authoritarian?  That just sounds like the Borg Collective, everyone of no individual value but working together as a single entity, and “raising the quality of life” (they think) for others through assimilation.  Mind you, even the Borg turned out to have a Queen… which implies that it’s Communism for the masses, but not the ruling elite — much as Orwell pointed out in 1984 that the “Middle” tricks the “Low” into helping them overthrow the “High”, when their intent was simply to replace the “High” themselves, and leave the “Low” where they were to begin with.

This is something that seemed to happen after Orwell’s time, with the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia: Pol Pot being anti-intellectual (except for himself) and exterminating minorities, reducing his population to effectively slave farmers, doesn’t seem like equality for all, does it?  As with Orwell’s Animal Farm, it’s more like “all men are equal, but some men are more equal than others” — much as is the case in today’s “communist” China and North Korea (though the former’s bringing in its own class system, suggesting it’s technically moved to the right).

Go ahead and “correct” me, but it seems the left starts with good intentions (wanting Average Joe to be treated with dignity and properly rewarded for, y’know, working), but ends up fragmenting and turning against itself due to so many different ideas (one might almost yell “Splitters!”), and individual desire for power and vengeance (“Come the glorious day, you’ll be first against the wall”) — some are smarter or more determined than others, and feel the need, the need to lead, and while many are willing to work hard to prove their worth, going too far with equality can mean the lazy are treated the same.

Meanwhile, the right is based upon the system of “class”, relatively speaking masters and servants, and so has people in charge rather by default, who (except where utterly incompetent and only there due to privilege) are capable of making decisions, due to a ruthless desire to “damn the consequences” when a choice is needed in a critical situation — but when they’re unrestricted and unaccountable (from feudal lords to capitalist oligarchies), they simply focus on helping the rich get richer and holding on to power for power’s sake, with similar theft of power going on all the way down the pecking order, until the lowest in society get nothing.

Appropriate page positions…

…for both these pictures, eh?

This makes me think (just to continue the Star Trek references) that the left is like Captain Kirk’s “good” half: selfless and fearless but utterly indecisive; and the right is like Kirk’s “evil” half: self-centred and amoral, but also strong-willed and cunning, and the real source of Kirk’s leadership — but under the control of his good half, hence a man who can make decisions with the intention of saving the day.

Sometimes the lesser of two evils must be chosen, otherwise you’re stuck wondering how to proceed — and this is why we need both sides, working together instead of allowing the worst thing in the world, party politics in a democratic society of elected representatives, to leave them divided and trying to undermine each other.  This is why I hope that Thursday’s general election will, as in 2010, leave no party with an overall majority (and hopefully end the “vote the way we tell you” whip system forever), and mean our political class actually have to listen to each other and work towards common goals, and leave behind “that’s a terrible idea, we didn’t think of it first!”

And then there’s religion, which I’m sure you remember me also talking about back in 2013 — the general consensus is that the left tends towards atheism while the right tends towards religion.  I’m in favour of neither being forced on anybody, and while I truly despise theocracy (and have no respect for those who think “faith” means “fact”), banning all religion would itself be a form of theocracy, wouldn’t it?  As I keep saying (and I’m sure you’re sick of me repeating myself), individual faith (or lack thereof) is fine, but it must never be used as an excuse to control others — and while we need to agree our laws on a secular basis (not simply obeying some ancient text, possibly differently to others reading the same text).

There’s vague talk of a “Christian left”, who actually promote helping the poor and sick, y’know, like a certain Man Jesus encouraged — but we hear much, much more from the “Christian right”, the sort of people who are against abortion and welfare, as though they only care about childbirth and not the child surviving for any length of time, and condemn single mothers (especially if they were raped), sodomy (gay or straight) and even contraceptives and voluntary childlessness, either out of a need to control women utterly, or because they believe sex is solely for procreation, and our purpose in life is to reproduce (“go forth and multiply”), not to actually enjoy anything.

(If they weren’t also anti-science, would they be doing a 1984 by encouraging neurologists to “abolish the orgasm”?  Even Islam allows a husband and wife to enjoy sex as an act of love!)

Oh, and ever hear of Billy James Hargis?  I learned of him thanks to Stephen King’s 11/22/63 (the book, I haven’t seen the TV series), and it seems he was so willing to twist the words of the Good Book, he actually claimed that the Genesis story “The Curse of Canaan” (in which Noah got drunk, his son Ham saw him naked, and Ham’s son Canaan and his descendents were cursed for all eternity) justified, nay, necessitated segregation of black people in America during the 1950s and 1960s.

He in turn influenced a general named Edwin Walker, who organised a protest by white students at the University of Mississippi against a black man (who’d served in the USAF) from studying there — which turned into a riot resulting in execution-style deaths.  Funnily enough, Lee Harvey Oswald, ostensibly a Marxist leftie (albeit himself influenced by a manipulator who didn’t actually lean either way), attempted to assassinate him but missed — and then (mythical second gunman aside) went on to assassinate JFK, who was much more liberal and in favour of equality!

(Let’s leave aside how both King’s work and a classic Red Dwarf episode suggest things would have become a lot worse in America if Kennedy had lived…)

This shows how the white supremacists, much like homophobes, use ridiculous interpretations of the Good Book as justification for their bigotry.  I see no difference between Hargis’ claims about black people being cursed, and the whole “one verse of Leviticus condemns gays, but the other bits about clothes, shellfish, tattoos etc. are just metaphors” argument, and reject them both without question.  They’re an element of the political right that has no redeeming qualities whatsoever, and makes atheism and “leftie liberalism” look preferable.

Ah, but some people on the Internet (serious business, I know) think Nazi Germany was “socialist” (in economic terms), and therefore, bizarrely, left-wing — but since the same people criticise liberals for being so overly-nice and call them left-of-centre, does this mean Hitler wanted to legalise gay marriage at the same time his minions were throwing gays into death camps?  Are white supremacist neo-Nazis, the KKK etc. a bunch of leftie liberal pinko snowflakes, or are they doing something, ahem, “right”?  Are they the victims, and “lefties” the dictators?

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Okay, let’s cut to the chase: where am I politically?  I’m not in favour of Communism (because I have posessions that I feel I earned), but also not unregulated cutthroat capitalism (because I don’t want to be made homeless on a rich man’s whim, or abandoned by profiteering health services); I believe good intentions must be combined with decisiveness (even if not nationalised, public services must ensure that private contractors do their jobs properly — are you listening, Capita?), and that murderous uprising against the corrupt elite is no better than the prospect of genocide being used to intimidate the little guy — evolution, not revolution.  Overall it’s striking a balance between both “sides”, isn’t it?

But those who think any kind of cooperation of this nature is “leftie liberal” are, of course, far right and therefore the people I despise the most — because I’ve never knowingly heard anyone truly “far left” speak, but those who hate tolerance of minorities (and demand tolerance of their own intolerance, e.g. banning gays from their shops) are shouting about it all the time in social media.  You know how rebellious I am against the arrogant and entitled, and it goes double for the self-styled right-wing, who drive me away from anything remotely “right”, and make me feel like I’m some sort of Commie sympathiser when I’m technically in the centre.

(Boy, it sucks having to side with J. Edgar Hoover in Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth!)

Of course, some of them are just bully-boys who enjoy upsetting others for a bit of fun (I’d say 100% of those who use “snowflakes” as an insult), and you know how I feel about bullies from what I’ve posted in this blog (too many times to bother linking) — but while I believe in standing up to bullies, and in a wider sense political or economic oppression, I don’t believe in taking things too far the other way and making them the helpless victims (except, maybe, as a brief lesson so they know how it feels), as apart from being hypocritical, it just starts the cycle all over again.

If only Bwian Coleman was still the worst aspect of Barnet’s eternal Tory council…

But enough ranting — how will I vote on Thursday?  Well, much as I’d never vote for a Tory council in this borough (if anything, they’re worse than they were back in the early 2010s — are you still listening, Capita?), so I won’t support a Tory MP, and thus won’t give Mike Freer my vote — despite him being against Brexit, he’s also one of those Tories who voted against a law making rented homes fit for human habitation, for reasons entirely unrelated to him being a landlord himself!

Maybe he’ll be unseated, but if not, hopefully he’ll at least see a massive drop in his proportion of votes, and realise he needs to change in order to better represent the ordinary people of this borough, instead of doing what a lot of Brexit supporters said, and acting like his side won (barely) and that’s all that matters.

I’m naive in my hopes that politicians will actually learn to care about us instead of themselves (and their business cronies), aren’t I?  But let me close with one bit of wisdom: if politicians lie about everything, that means Corbyn isn’t going to re-nationalise public services, but BoJo is going to privatise the NHS and sell it to Trump’s America!

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P.S. I hope you appreciate me spending whole evenings on this attempt at a political essay, instead of playing games or going on dates!  At least my family’s dog is doing well, even though she’s giving her toys the old ultra-violence, and then demanding patient affection…