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Life

Spamasaurus Rex

It would appear that switching old posts from draft to published in WordPress causes them to email notify again. I had no idea.

Apologies for filling your inbox with idiotic notifications, if it happened to you too.

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Life

Experimentation

I think it was Fox Mulder that once said “nothing is ever really gone” – or words to that effect. Of course he was talking about the evidence of a crashed flying saucer. I’m talking about the vast swathe of words I used to pollute the internet with.

After tinkering for a little while this morning, I remembered an online service called “If This Then That” – a Heath Robinson method off employing digital sticky tape and string to attach services together. I got as far as inventing a virtual contraption (that’s a good word, isn’t it) that would have sprayed my words across the internet not unlike the custard machine guns in Bugsy Malone.

One day, when internet archeologists are digging through the annals of cyberspace, they will eventually reach ground zero, and find a tangled mess of sticky tape, string, and hand-written notes on screwed up pieces of paper. There will be no indication that they have discovered the beginning of all things.

Anyway. I need a coffee. I find coffee solves most things.

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Life

So Many Rabbit Holes

Apart from the increasingly rare trips to the supermarket, and a walk to the park with my eldest daughter last weekend, I haven’t left the house for perhaps three weeks. I get up each morning, have a shower, eat cereals, drink coffee, load the washing machine, hang clothes to dry, work throughout the day, help with dinner, wash up, then noodle around with the computer until I collapse into bed – day, after day, after day.

I’m slowly going stir crazy.

I haven’t been running for ages – if nothing else, the confinement might be the thing that finally tips me out of the front door in my running shoes. Tomorrow morning sounds plausible all of a sudden.

The one positive to come from the continual seclusion is my blitz chess rating climbing inexorably back towards a level it has not seen in thirty years. I’m tempted to stop playing now, so I can look at the rating and gloat to myself.

On a Thursday night I might typically join some friends of my Dad online, and fly pretend aircraft somewhere exotic. I’ll admit that the shine is slowly rubbing off that escapade. There’s only so many times you can repeat the same routine without it becoming soporifically boring. Prepare your flight plan – prepare the aircraft – execute the flight plan (while talking to ATC) – then shutdown and say goodnight to everybody. Again, and again, and again.

Maybe I need to start working my way through the mountain of video games stacked on the shelf high above the junk room. Granted – most of them were acquired from the bargain bin at the second-hand games store, but they are still wonderful games. Forza Motorsport, Gears of War, Mass Effect, Halo, Half Life, Crysis, GTA, Saints Row, various versions of “Call of Duty” – the list goes on and on. And then of course there’s the Raspberry Pi – configured to emulate every games machine of the 1970s and 80s – Mario, Sonic, QBert, Space Invaders, Asteroids, Defender, Pacman, Metal Slug – you name it. I suppose there’s also the twenty year old Mac sitting under the desk – and the Amiga emulator on the laptop – that turns it into the computer I read about but never owned back in the late 1980s.

So many rabbit holes. So little time.

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Life

Late Night Thoughts

After sitting in this chair for eight hours already today, wrestling with all manner of complex design problems for a system that only exists in schematics, fake screenshots, and notepad pages at the moment, I’m loathe to spend much further time today sitting in front of a keyboard. And yet something calls to me – knowing that I didn’t post any words yesterday.

(six hours pass)

Do you ever look back at the evening, and wonder where it went? I read some news stories, took part in an online escapade with some friends, played a few games of chess, and then got sucked into watching videos on Facebook. Suddenly it’s midnight.

You know how people go on about productivity, and such like? I wonder if there’s any mileage in the opposite? Making lists of things you’re NOT likely to get around to – like the list of classic movies I wrote at the start of the year and have only watched one of so far, or the tower of books I still haven’t read. I suppose I HAVE stopped buying books though, so there’s that.

Anyway. It’s midnight. Time to wind things down, put things away, turn things off, lock doors, brush teeth, and all the rest of the things.

It’s all about things really, isn’t it – the things we say, the things we do, the things we think about, the things we remember, the things we DON’T remember.

I fear I’m starting to remember less and less – or rather, sometimes I seem to be able to remember everything, and other times I struggle to remember anything at all. On a good day I can give my other half a run for her money at Trivial Pursuit – the next day, I lose horribly.

Chess is something of an enigma – I’ve still not figured out what makes me good one day, and poor the next. Sometimes I “see” everything – tactics, strategies, implications, subtleties – and then other times I see little or nothing. It’s all very strange.

I should stop thinking, and go sleep. Let’s hope the dreams compare favourably with the recent idiocy my brain has been playing back to me while dead to the world.

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Life

People Ruin Everything

The clock is ticking towards midnight on Sunday night. I’m trying to piece the day back together in my head – to recall where it went. Weekends seem to be a bit like that recently – before you know it they are gone, and you’re not entirely sure where.

I got up fairly early, and wandered down to clear the kitchen, put some clothes in the washing machine, and make myself some breakfast. A little while after that – after catching up the the overnight news from across the pond – I woke our eldest daughter.

Half an hour later we ventured into town together. Some fresh air in the sunshine. We walked to the big park in the middle of town, and picked up a coffee from the cafe near the children’s playpark. While in the socially distanced queue, I scanned the NHS barcode for the location with the track and trace app, and we pulled our masks on. I noticed very few people around us were wearing masks – and after ordering coffee and waiting, realised that nobody else was using the track and trace app either.

It’s madness. We walked through the park, and noticed no form of social distancing what-so-ever from older people. It’s not the first time I have noticed it. After finding a secluded park bench, we watched the world go by for a while – shaking our head at people’s behaviour. It’s really no surprise that COVID cases are increasing more quickly now than at any point in the year – people cannot be trusted to do anything they are asked, unless threatened with police intervention. It frustrates me enormously.

I get it – I’m Dudley Dooright – but people are getting sick, and people are dying. Has the world really become so selfish, thoughtless and ignorant?

Let’s hope the government announces a national lockdown again tomorrow – then perhaps the legion of idiots crammed into one of the cafes we passed on the way home – none distancing – none wearing masks – will only have themselves to blame.

After returning from town I found a note on the kitchen top from my other half – who had taken our daughters to play rugby some miles away from home.

“Please make chilli for dinner – beef mince is in the fridge”.

Luckily chilli is one of the few meals I can make fairly reliably well – which is exactly what I did. You can’t really mess it up, can you – fry the beef, then throw in a pot with chopped onion, chopped tomatoes, chilli, and whatever else you might have to hand. I added carrots – mostly because we had some. My other half had a vegetarian version – identical save for veggie mince instead of beef.

All the kids clean-plated.

In other news, I’m actually starting to enjoy this writing business again. It turns out separating myself from the social elements of “blogging” has helped enormously. I’m not writing for anybody in particular any more – I’m just writing. And of course I’ve made a mental note that NaNoWriMo is just around the corner – because I’m the King of the idiots.

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Life

A Quiet Day

Today was a quiet day. A purposely quiet day. After the last few weeks working on complex projects I needed to give my brain a rest.

Of course the natural result of a quiet day is very little to share. No great thoughts, opinions or stories to impart. Perhaps tomorrow will prove more fruitful – I have arm-twisted my eldest daughter into going for a walk with me in the morning. A slow walk to the river to feed the ducks will do us both some good.

At least we’re not self isolating any more.

It’s funny really – in preparation to self isolate following last week’s COVID scare at home, we started ordering food as one might if you knew you couldn’t leave the house for a couple of weeks – and of course now we have the negative results, those food orders are arriving.

We’re all going to get fat.

While it might seem like I’m being incredibly flippant about the coronavirus, nothing could be further from the truth. When faced with anything sufficiently scary, I tend to look for the positives or the humor in a situation. I think most parents do it – especially when surrounded by their children. There is an instinct to shield them from the more brutal aspects of the world if you can.

I haven’t been running for over a week now. I really need to do something about that. Perhaps a quiet run around town in the morning will do me some good. Unfortunately now the mornings are growing colder, the bedclothes seem infinitely more inviting.

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Life

Negative

The COVID test result came in at 8:30pm this evening. Negative. A wave of relief swept through the house – prisoners no more. Within half an hour I was on my way to the shop around the corner with my youngest daughter – in pursuit of coffee, chocolate bars, and a bottle of wine. A celebration of sorts.

Self imposed house arrest has been lifted, and simple errands are possible once more. I forgot to mention that prior to the test result, we had pulled both of our younger daughters from school and college. Because rules are rules. Our youngest was ecstatic at the prospect of two weeks at home if her sister’s test came back positive. When I explained that she would be doing school work at home, her face fell like a grand piano falling from a very tall building.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have agreed to help my cousin in California with a children’s birthday party. I am required to appear in their living room via the wonders of the internet, flying an aircraft from their local airport to visit Disneyland at Anaheim. The children won’t know it’s a simulator. Let’s hope I don’t stuff it up.

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Life

As Good As It Gets

I watched “As Good As It Gets” this evening – the movie with Jack Nicholson and Helen Hunt. I love stories about broken people – where being different isn’t seen in such a negative light. The moments where the actors drop their character’s walls and connect – if only briefly – is spellbinding. Of course it helps when the actors are Jack Nicholson and Helen Hunt.

I find it interesting – how vulnerability can be so attractive. I wonder how many of our responses are based on instinct. In the same way we might empathise with failure, we feel a pull towards it – to help – to support – to repair.

While I often rant about “people”, there’s an odd duality to my frustrations. I often lose patience with ignorance, and yet if any actual harm comes to those that have raised my ire, the slate is wiped clean.

I’ve never forgotten something a close friend once said, when talking about people from the various cultures he had crossed paths with during his life.

“Folk are just folk really”.

It’s worth remembering that sometimes. Although we might look different, sound different, and come from different worlds, a great many of our values, aspirations, and dreams are the same.

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Life

Meatballs and Starbucks

I missed lunch again today. Actually – missed is a bit of an exaggeration. I was working on something more interesting than stopping and eating, so grabbed something quick to eat, and carried on. I’m struggling to remember the last time I properly stopped at lunchtime – perhaps a week ago when I went for a run and the heavens dumped spectacularly on me for half an hour.

We had pasta and meatballs for dinner. Somehow this required the use of every pot and pan in the damn house. I notice this sort of thing, because I do the washing up. When dinner arrives on the table, the children step from the shadows like assassins from all corners of the house – usually wearing earbuds. After dinner I walk across the kitchen carrying plates and cutlery, turn around, and they are gone – as silently as they arrived.

I’m listening to one of the Starbucks playlists on Spotify. When I clicked the play button, I wondered if there is any sort of subliminal messaging hidden in the music – “buy a Frappuccino tomorrow” – something like that. I can’t remember the last time I went in a coffee shop – probably the weekend before lockdown happened. When was that? March? Even though I rarely set foot in coffee shops, I’ve probably saved enough money to buy a coffee machine of my own. I have an aero-press somewhere – I should find it.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some very important nothing to be getting on with before falling into bed. I’m going to try and turn in before midnight tonight. Wish me luck.

p.s. I didn’t go running this morning.