Category Archives: Meta

Dear Diary

Over two years since I last blogged anything. So long in fact that WordPress is completely different. There’s some kind of weird block editor that I don’t understand. Why can’t I just write text in a huge box like I used to? 

Aha, installed a plugin to turn that off, and back to normal simple text input in a dialog box.  I guess they think people will only blog tiny missives these days, but I’m here for the epic long hall and the block editor does not suit!

This will be a rambling blog post with compressed and confused timelines, missing information, out of sync actions, and no conclusion.  You’re welcome.

There are always grades of discomfort, I think I might have blogged that before, and my life is easy compared to very many people in the world.  I don’t think I really understood privilege when I was blogging a lot a few years ago, but over the last couple of years or so I’ve come to understand it a lot better.   So I’m privileged, but as should be obvious, it doesn’t mean that shit doesn’t cause anxiety.  And so September, October and now November are the months that just keep on giving.  I’m blogging because I want to rant partly about work, and that means I can’t use Facebook (too many work colleagues), and I can’t use Twitter (240 characters).  So I need somewhere I can vent sure in the knowledge no one will ever read it, and so my personal blog seems like the perfect choice.  This is not going to be one of those posts where I focus on 3 good things and how lucky I am.  That’s never the person I’ve been.  I can’t fight against it really, I’ve always looked at the problems and thought about the issues, and that includes my own life.  It’s what made me excellent at my job in technical support, but it comes with a burden that it’s hard to see the good things amongst the broken.

I am, as anyone who’s read this blog will know, terrible at owning a house.  The last few months have tested that to the limit and continue to do so.  We noticed some woodlice in the corner of the dining room, we knew what it was, rotten wood, we just weren’t sure why.  But dealing with that takes energy, and the last three months have been low energy periods for us for several reasons.  So we didn’t deal with it straight away, and then it started preying on our minds, making it harder to sleep, consuming more spoons, adding more to the cup, whatever metaphor you prefer.  Eventually, Greté found enough energy to contact a handyman on Facebook, and it’s being handled.  Never as bad as you fear, but never as easy as you hope.  It’s half fixed, but now we’re waiting for some dry weather for the guy to finish the job (for which he’s already been paid).

There’s also a leak in our mains water supply.  A good few weeks back now we noticed that the cold water pipes were making a noise as if someone was running a tap.  Initially, I didn’t think much of it, but then I began to think about what it might imply before finally realising it probably meant a leak.  At first, I assumed it was in the house, and so I spent 3 hours one night, until 2am, because when else do you panic about this stuff than at 11pm before you go to bed, trying to find it.  There wasn’t anywhere in the house that obviously had any water leak.   I formed the view the leak was outside.  What followed was is rather frustrating.  We had a British Gas appointment to check the boiler anyway, and they provide plumbing repairs and quotes, so we asked them to also ‘check the plumbing’.  The guy who arrived thought he was only here to find a plumbing issue, Greté managed to get him to do the boiler service, and he agreed he thought the leak sounded like it was outside in the mains pipe.  He had another guy come the next day, from Dynorod (who I think British Gas own) to confirm that, and he did.  There was some confusion that included being told if we signed up to the extended home care agreement it would cover the problem.  So we signed up.  We them had an appointment scheduled for many weeks later for Dynorod to come and ‘find the leak’.  However, before that occurred, Dynorod called us to say it wouldn’t be covered because the cover only covered internal pipes.  Many furious conversations later didn’t provide any progress.  I then called our insurance company, but their ’emergency cover’ line told me because I’d already had a plumber look at it, they wouldn’t cover it, even though they literally just listened to a pipe.  Our regular buildings insurance doesn’t cover it (most likely) because it’s wear and tear.  But they advised us to ring Severn Trent first anyway, which we did.  About three weeks had passed now, with the sound of water leaking in to the ground present in the house all the time.  We also asked Dynorod to come and quote in case we needed them to do the repair.  A lovely lady at Dynorod rang us the day they were supposed to be here, to tell us they were running late and to berate us for getting them back when they said it wouldn’t be free.  I explained we were getting them back to quote, and that if they didn’t arrive soon we’d have to go out.  She told me she could quote and we never needed them to visit anyway, at which point I was pretty pissed off.  So, anything from £700 to £2000 depending on where the leak is, but that’s open ended if access proves hard.  Meanwhile, Severn Trent have now been twice, once to confirm it’s a leak (sounds like it), and once to put a boundary box outside the property, and a meter to measure the rate of loss.  Now however, upon ringing them today, they’re not sure what’s happened, who we may or may not be passed to, and what the status is.  So several weeks after first hearing the noise, we can still hear it, and there’s water leaking in to the ground somewhere between us and the mains.  It’s like water torture for real.

In Tesco car park, sometime in the last two months or so, it’s a blur, I was slowly reversing out of a parking bay when someone drove in to the back corner of the car.  Their passenger side front corner impacted my passenger side rear corner.  The insurance company didn’t even bother debating it, I was reversing so my fault.  I would maintain I checked, it was clear, I reversed slowly, and someone travelling too quickly drove in to the car.  However, I’m now £300 worse off (excess) and we’ll see what it does to the premium.  First insurance accident claim we’ve ever made, since Greté started driving in 1997ish.  Not a big deal, but I’ve never had to deal with car insurance companies, and my natural ‘must follow the rules to the letter’ behaviour gets in the way when those rules are fucking unclear and contradictory.  Just another spoon theft I don’t need.

Fizz has been unwell for a few months now.  She had full on heart failure a while back and we got to her to the vets and essentially saved her life.  Since then, we’ve been extra vigilant, as you might imagine, and are managing her thyroid issue, and several other conditions.  Over the past month though she’s had another serious health scare, and a couple of periods of extreme lethargy, including yesterday.  We felt we might lose her overnight, but this morning she seemed brighter.  We took her to the vets at 6pm today though, to be safe, and they’ve kept her in overnight for more tests.  She may be anaemic which has many possible causes.  She’s 16, and we’ll need to think carefully about how we manage her quality of life in the face of any new challenges.

Work is bitter-sweet.  There’s some good news coming for me personally, a new challenge, new opportunity, but it’s amid a complex, ego-driven, murky, cost-saving-focussed organisational battle.  People are burning out, and being burned out.  I look around and wonder if this is what failing organisations look like, but we refuse to believe it.  Or maybe I’m just more exposed to it now that I have an increased level of involvement in senior management.  Who knows.  I still manage to leave it behind when I get home, for the most part, which is a bonus over the job I had before, and some days it’s so terrible it’s truly funny and easy to rise above.  But I hate when people suffer, and I see a lot of suffering, and some days it saps energy I need to use to be taking care of Greté and the shit above.  When work consumes too many spoons, the balance is broken.

Greté continues to suffer at the hands of the DSS, in parallel to suffering at the hands of her health issues, one of which is literally suffering of her hands.  Around this time last year we got the regular invite to fill in the WCA form, which we duly did, and we waited.  We got an appointment in January for the face to face assessment,  and then last minute it was cancelled.  Apparently, they didn’t have ‘anyone with the specialist skill required to assess her’.  Okay, at least they were honest.  We waited for a new appointment.  And waited.  And waited.  And finally in September, we received this,

Your appointment at 2.45pm on Thursday 17th JANUARY has been rescheduled for Monday 16th of SEPTEMBER

Literally nine months.  Greté called them on the Friday before to ensure the recording equipment was available as instructed, to be told that it was being rescheduled because they’d got the booking wrong and hadn’t lined up a doctor.  For. Fucks. Sake.  They moved it to October 8th, making it nearer to ten months since the original invite and pretty much 11 months since we’d filled in the original WCA.  In that eleven months, Greté’s health has gotten worse, and medication has changed, and and and …

Anyway, we attended, the assessment went ahead, the audio recording equipment (actual C90 tapes) failed just over half way through but we got through it.  Ultimately, on October 24th Greté received the notice that she’d been placed (kept) in the ESA Support Group.  That’s the group that means you do not need to seek employment to continue receiving the ‘benefit’.  No indication of when that will be reviewed next, when we have to start that whole dehumanising process all over again, but it’s done for now.

Tragically, we won’t soon forget the date Greté got that news (which is bitter-sweet in and of itself).  It was also the day we found out that our dear friend, Lynda, had passed away overnight.

We’ve known Lynda for a long time, and I’ll keep personal details out of this entirely to maintain her dignity.  She lived with and in-spite of multiple serious medical conditions, she gave no quarter, she smiled and never stopped.  She didn’t fight her illness, nor lose to it, she rose above it in life knowing the inevitable conclusion.  We will miss her forever.

None of these issues individually are unmanageable.  Some are tragic and heart breaking, some are annoying, some are frustrating.  But at the same time, grouped together, with some of them being a constant nagging worry / fear, sapping energy and spoons, they’re impacting both mine and Greté’s mental health in ways neither of us need.

We’ll be okay, we’ll get through.  I have a good credit rating, there’s equity in the property, the vets are looking after Fizz, and we’ll be able to handle anything which transpires, but fuck me it feels hard sometimes.

Terrible sentence structure

I read back the blog post I wrote yesterday, and the sentence structure is shockingly bad.  I’m prone to passive writing, and equally prone to run-on sentences.  That blog post is pretty much a master class in shockingly bad writing (structure, not necessarily content).  I thought about going back and correcting it, but it seems a little disingenuous given the post was off the cuff as it were, just a rambling dialogue with my own brain.

It does highlight something I’ve been getting worse at over the years – proof reading.  I’m getting lazier.  I used to write and read everything back a couple of times, these days I’m lucky if I read it while I’m writing it.  This increases the number of incorrect word endings I use (-ed instead of -ing, -ing instead of -s, etc.) along with just missed out words.

I must try harder.

Given up blogging?

Maybe not. Last few weeks I’ve had an itch forming to start writing blog posts again. Maybe I’m starting to finally recover from the crushing despair I felt in the job I left in June this year? Who knows.

Whatever the reasons, I’m definitely starting to feel more creative again and that inevitably leads to blog posts.

Everquested

The first thing that happens, when I start (re-start) playing Everquest, is that I stop writing blog posts (for the most part).  This is probably because most of my blog posts are written while staring at the computer wondering what to do next – and that time is now filled by me staring at Everquest wondering what to do next.

Just, you know, keeping you up-to-date.

In between …

I am writing a blog post on my MCM Comic Con experience, but it’s taking longer than I expected, and now I’ve got an itch to write the next driving lesson post, so that’s going to turn up first.

For some reason though, I felt I needed a random blog post between the two.

So here it is.

It’s January. Actually, it’s January 2013.

This is my semi-regular where the hell have I been post.  I’ve been writing these as long as I’ve been blogging.  I don’t think I write them for you, dear reader, but for me, so that I can remember what the hell I’ve been up to because frankly, I’m not very good at remembering.

It’s good sometimes to take stock, see where I am, what’s happened, where I’m going, why I’m doing whatever it is I’m doing.  This is, in the very best use of the word, meta.

Without a doubt, Twitter and to a lesser extent Facebook have replaced my desire or need to write blog posts.  Letterboxd has replaced the location I write about movies (and I quite like Letterboxd, let me tell you, although I’m not sure the social media side of it is going to work out, a lot of people follow a lot of other people and it’s not easy to see what’s going on there).  As a result, my blog takes second fiddle really, anything I feel the need to urgently blurt out happens in under 140 characters and I tend not to think about it in broader terms and turn it into a blog post.

That’s probably a shame, although I’m not sure it’s as if a thousand readers are missing out on my rambling.

Life in general is the same as life in general always is.  I’m still coming to terms with the recent death of my mother, and what that means for my life, and more importantly the life of my sister and her family.

P1120084I will risk the wrath of the car gods by saying that we finally bought into the new car market.  After 3 years of very painful car experiences, both in terms of cost and convenience, we’ve bought a new one.  Three year warranty, no MOT for the first three years either, low road tax, and most importantly, new.  That means it’s not carrying a whole bunch of latent problems that lie in wait until we have no money left that month and then leap out and bite us.  It’s the smallest car we’ve ever owned, but it’s new and it’s ours and it finally gives us a sense of security in terms of being able to get to places.  After 3 years we can use it as the deposit on another new car, and so on, and so hopefully over time, we’ll be in a much more stable position.

Of course, it’s not free, and there’s a monthly payment, but at the moment, the payment year on year is less than we were paying purely for repairs and MOT’s on previous cars.  I think one year the Mondeo cost us around £1200 in multiple essential repairs, each time you think it’s just low enough in cost to cover it, but over the year it always mounted up.  The new car is less than £100pm.

The house needs sorting.  So much stuff.  We’ve not decorated in any sense since we moved in, it’s not in us to just do it, and we can’t afford to pay someone else, but it’s going to have to happen soon.  Both sofas in the lounge are dead, and the excellent covering Grete made to hide the deadness isn’t going to last much longer.  We got the brickwork on the outside of the house sorted, after I blogged about it a while ago, and a nice person responded and said ‘out of all that, sort the bricks before winter’, so we did.  But there’s a bucket load that needs doing.  The drive is basically falling apart since next door removed the massive hedge and replaced it with a fence – I think the soil has shifted quite a bit, and the drive is slumping sideways.  Ah well, as with all things like this, we’ll wait until it becomes necessary rather than desirable and then deal with it.  Like the boiler and the central heating.  We’ll muddle along, doing what’s necessary, always hoping it’s enough until we win the lottery.

Work is work.  I’m not cut out for working for a living, but I manage to hide it pretty well.

I’m amazed daily at the pace of change in the world of IT and technology, if we think this is the future the next five to ten years are going to be amazing.  ‘Screens’ are going to essentially vanish, turning into work surfaces and converging so that they become computers.  Mobile computing will become the only form of computing.  Follow-me data will become the normal kind of data.  Privacy will face even greater challenges, and yet government agencies will continue to realise that they are losing a battle against encryption and secrecy.  The public will become more public and the private will become even more private.

I’m still diabetic, still taking the tablets, and still handling it okay, and all the while still pretending it’s okay not to really lose weight, and that somehow managing it is enough.  One day I’ll finally admit it’s not enough and that the closer I get to 50, the more I’ll have to work to stay off insulin.

We haven’t been to the gym for a very long time, sadly Grete’s back kept us away for a good portion of last year and frankly right now, it’s too cold, but I think if we made new years resolutions, which we don’t, then going back to the gym would be at the top for us both.  Grete’s doing amazingly well with her diet, getting back on that wagon.

My Spectrum fad isn’t over, but it’s on hold.  It turns out that I have room in my life for one hobby.  I’m either playing computer games, or reading, or watching films, or messing with computers, or painting miniatures, but I don’t seem to be able to balance all of them over a several week period.  At the moment, I’m back to games and movies.  Who knows how it’ll change over the next few months as the weather picks up.

bookthing-square2Speaking of books – BookThing is still going strong (and has a nice new logo), and I’m really proud of what Grete has built there.  Sanderson has finally finished the Wheel of Time series, taking over after the tragic death of Jordan.  I’m tempted, at times, to give the whole series a shot now.  I read a quick review of the final book and it suggests Sanderson has given it a fitting end, now that the end is there, maybe I’ll have the will to plough through the braid pulling and complete stupidity that some of the characters demonstrate.  Perhaps.

Stella Gemmell has written a novel, due to be released later this year, which is just awesome news.  I so hope it does well, and it’ll be one of the first books I’ve looked forward to in a long time.  I wish Mike Carey would write another Felix Castor book, but it looks like he’s doing something else first.  I know you can’t force art, but come on Mike, for me? Please?  I started the new Dresden book but haven’t finished it, got sidetracked by movies and games (see above).  I think it’s better so far than Ghost Story was, but it still hasn’t kicked into the kind of enjoyment the previous books gave me.  I hope the spark isn’t gone, I hope the flame still burns somewhere and that the story picks up.

fringeFringe!  Fringe, Fringe, Fringe finished.  We watched all 13 episodes over a 2 day period, having specifically stored them all up and read nothing until the finale had been broadcast.  It was excellent.  One of the best TV series’ I’ve ever watched, and a criminal shame it ended so soon.  But at least they knew the end was coming, FOX gave them that gift.  Was it the best it could have been?  Maybe, maybe not, but it reminded us where the story had come from, it answered some of our questions, and it made sure to ask another one right at the end.  I would have liked more of some things and less of others, but art is art and they only had 13 episodes and a reduced budget.   Something has to change if we’re going to get good quality genre TV shows with high production values, rather than cheap serials with guys in capes shooting bows and low production values.  Networks must trust the shows to build a following over several seasons, they must give them the creativity they need and the chance to grow, not order half seasons at a time, risking leaving them in limbo.

Quality genre TV asks sweeping questions over many, many episodes, but I guess they didn’t learn with Babylon 5, nor Firefly, and Fringe won’t teach them anything either.  Advertising revenue is king, immediate gratification is the only option, and our TV will become more and more like the Running Man world we all laughed at (but secretly expected to happen).

the hobbit pressI saw The Hobbit – it was nearly 3 hours of indulgent awesomeness.

We’ve started watching The Following (Bacon is good, in sandwiches and on my TV), and Criminal Minds is back next week, so plenty of harrowing TV to watch, broken up with episodes of Rizzoli & Isles, Bones and hopefully soon Castle, to keep us calm and not fretting quite so much.  Ted Danson in CSI worked far better than I expected, and I’m looking forward to his return as well.  Since our cats bought us the entire Battlestar Galactica series on Blu-ray, we’ll need to get around to watching that eventually, and I’m assured by a friend at work that it’s as good as, if not better than, Fringe.  We’ll see, we’ll see.  Alcatraz got cancelled – you bastards, it was quite good, and Sarah Jones was superb in the lead role, a good, strong, solid, believable female lead character, brushed aside by a network which needs instant results.  That series could have been huge.

I put a long list together on LetterBoxd about movies coming in 2013, you can read it here.  It seemed like a good place to put it, although it’s garnered less interest there than when I previously put that kind of thing on my blog, so maybe I’ll do that next time.

And I’m slowing down which means I think I’ve probably said enough for one post.  This is 2013, even the date sounds futuristic – let’s make the best of it.

Articles and Sorting

Hmm, the 8bit Mid-life Crisis posts are increasing in number pretty quickly, and I think they’re going to break the ‘articles’ page.  They already break the sorting which is alphabetical, so 10 comes before 2, and if I keep writing them at 1 a day, which is where I am at the moment, it’s going to outgrow that list of articles very quickly indeed.

That whole articles page was really a way of tying together a small number of posts on a particular topic, but I guess if I end up writing 10’s of posts for the Spectrum stuff, it’s not going to fit.  Also, frankly, it’s a ball ache adding the custom fields which make the posts show up on that page.

So, I need to have a think and approach this in a different way.  Maybe a simple 8bit Mid-life Crisis category would suffice.  I tend to under-use the categories, and they do list the posts in reverse time order so that might work out okay.

Edit: Right, stuck with ‘Retro Computing’ category, which I’ll post all the Spectrum posts under.  If you want to read them all, they’re there.  You can also read a summary of all the kit, on the Retro Computing page.