Grumpiness and Preoccupation

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You may have noticed a bit of a slow down in posting of late, and if I put my hand on my heart it’s been because I’ve not really been feeling too motivated. There’s been an awful lot going on recently, on top of the recent winter bugs, and more than a little of it has been – well, personal and private.

Hang on a minute, I hear you say, aren’t you always writing about life events and emotional moments? Some of it’s pretty good reading, and you’re always going on about writing under your own name as transparency. You’ve talked about some pretty intimate and private things already, so why the sudden coyness?

Well firstly, being human, I reserve the right to change my mind. Secondly, I’ll usually only write about things when I’ve had a chance to work it out in my head first so that you get the edited highlights. Thirdly I’m pretty circumspect about other people’s privacy, and it’s this last area that has been taxing me somewhat. That’s because I have no problem talking about my health, past, sexuality, misdemeanours, plans, triumphs, and oddness – but I’m also wary of betraying confidences or broadcasting other people’s intimacies.

Frankly, there are a few people that I’ve been worried about for a variety of reasons. For some the worries have been health-related, where I have been concerned about serious ongoing conditions worsening. Others have been around work-related issues for people, and then there’s the generalised everyday relationship anxieties that always try to sneak into the mix, no matter how confident and committed you are.

Now, most of these worries are things that are either in hand, or are so out of my sphere of control that it doesn’t matter if I worry or not, but they are all issues being faced by other people that I care about. My coping mechanism has been to do what I can, where I can. Failing that, to distract myself with games and books and the company of people I love. Blogging about it has been fairly far down the agenda.

That said, this little self-referential grumpiness has reminded me that there’s more in life to write about. I have games, reviews, observations and silliness in mind. I also have interest from a number of people in more general articles, so I shall link to any of those projects as they come to fruition. Time to get busy again in the final push to the end of the year…

Visitor Statistics

Out of sheer curiosity, I thought I’d take a look at the visitor statistics for the site. Since adopting a more regular posting schedule we’ve nearly doubled the page views here since last year to 6754 as of time of writing.

This is a huge leap, and while it may feel small beans, it’s truly impressive considering this is mostly just me wittering away to myself in the corner.

Not only that, but the number of individual visitors for this year is only 300 short of the total number of page views for last year. 3360 people have been curious enough to come take a look around this year. Thank you all very much, whether you’re human, bot, household pet, or extremely unlucky extraterrestrial. What on earth are you all doing here?

For all that, there’s only been 30 (moderated) comments on the site. I’ve had a few on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and G+ where the links to these posts appear and it seems people are happier commenting there.

I’m obviously not particularly contentious, so perhaps I should start writing the occasional deliberately contrary post to see who I can tempt out of the woodwork. Or not; I’ve enough going on without manufacturing drama among those who “have read your blog”…

So there we are, a bit dry, but I’ll no doubt ruminate more nearer the end of the year. Good night, and may the stats be ever in your favour.

And Still The Colds Linger

Good grief… I think today’s the first time in a while that our household hasn’t echoed to racking coughs, sniffles, streaming noses and sinus-related groans of discomfort. As primary plague-spreader, I’d hoped to have come out the other side of it before now, but no it wasn’t to be.

The Charleesi has seemed to be immune, which suggests I actually got it from her in the first place (got to love college bugs), so there’s that as a bonus I guess, because Ladies M and P have both been so very careful to keep telling me it’s just one of those things. It’s sometimes been through gritted teeth, but I appreciate the thought.

So, a new week, and there’s job applications to finish, invoices to draw up, and hopefully a bit more of a return to an even keel. Fingers crossed

Professionally Foolish

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Warning: Rose Tinted Spectacles Engaged

One of the things I did when ill back in the early 00s was become enamoured of social media and blogs. I set up online journals and didn’t care who knew about it. I wrote caustically about life, illness, and the people who upset me, often all at the same time and with no regard for who it might hurt. It never even occurred to me that it would come back to bite me. This was partly because it was a relatively new medium of expression and there were few codified workplace sets of guidance, and partly because I was very ill.

It certainly did bite me in the arse though, largely because one of the people following my blog was my manager, and they didn’t take my blowing off steam lightly. It was one of those horrible self-sabotaging things that depression made so easy to do, and I must have been horrifying to manage at the time. As it was, it led to mistrust, stress and nearly the ending of my contract as we all fumbled around and tried to work through it. Things said in jest were taken seriously, and pain best kept private was broadcast to the world, and those were the good days.

I did at least learn from the experience – eventually – and it is what led to my resolving to blog under my own name, and to talk openly but carefully about topics as they wandered into focus. I wrote a while back about how, for me, blogging under a pseudonym just wasn’t an option, largely because it risked being a shield for my delusions and encouraged an imprecision of expression.

As long as I don’t mind writing as if anything I say could be splashed across the world’s news (technically a possibility, though I fear I’m not likely to have hordes of people interested in me), then this is where I can be Foolish in public while honing my professional skills.

These days there’s generally more awareness, or at least publicity, when things go wrong. I can see examples in news feeds every day of people falling foul of the interface between work life and social media, and sometimes encounter it in my day-to-day work. Fortunately these days it’s usually people coming to me for advice (which amuses me, given the history disclosed above), and if I can help people on either side of the ‘whoops’ moment then all my mistakes have some purpose and reward.

I may still call you a number of inventive names, but you’ll know it was coming from a place of bitter experience and my eagerness to spare your potential blushes.

This moment of whimsy brought to you by “she said what?”, ” he posted what now?” and “I thought they said they were sick?”

Paris

I want to say something about Paris, and the horrors last night. I just can’t think of anything to open with that doesn’t sound trite. I’m a contrary soul at the best of times, as anyone who knows me can affirm. If there’s a difficult way of doing it properly as I see it and an easy way to bodge it, then I’ll be there with my sleeves rolled up taking an almost perverse pleasure in not taking it easy.

Perhaps that’s why I have an instinctive aversion to joining in when social media sites promote a filter to show support, even when it’s for things that I care about. Changing my Facebook picture with a rainbow, or the tricoleur, or an equality symbol seems too easy a way to salve my conscience rather than actually do something.

I’m not saying its a waste of time, or not important to show respect and support, but there’s something that seems too regimented or institutionalised about it. That perversely argumentative element of me interprets the filter as a statement: This is the only way to show your support for this thing. If you do not use this thing then you are against it.

What has lifted my spirits in the face of these evil acts of bullying spite has been how widespread the positive responses have been from individuals to shut down those who tried to use Paris as an excuse to highlight and promote their hate-filled agendas. People have been educating and supporting each other, asking awkward questions, widening the debate and above all not surrendering to fear.

I didn’t hear about it all until this morning until I picked up the papers for work. I started to read the reports as I prepared the papers for my customers, and online on a number of news sites, and I had to purposefully stop myself from overloading on commentary and explanations and reiterations of events because it was all so overwhelmingly horrifying – and I had to work. I had to plaster on a smile for children and families coming in to the library. I had to keep the sense of horror locked inside until I could get home and acknowledge it in private with loved ones.

I also had to balance it against the emergencies of the friends around me who are having their own crises. I may not be in a position to help those directly affected by the shootings and bombings, but I can take a leaf from Terry Pratchett’s witches and deal with what is in front of me. I can comfort those around me; I can pass on useful information;  and I can challenge misinformation or opportunistic nastiness.

There are good things happening today, and Paris remains a place to live and love and sing and play. Because fuck the bullies and those who wound them up like tin robots bought on the Champs Elysées. This isn’t about religion: terror is terror and that’s what the bullies want. They want us to hand over our power to determine our lives and loves for ourselves. You don’t have to be a contrary soul like me to know the correct response to that.

More Halo 5 Thoughts

I hadn’t finished the campaign when I last wrote about Halo 5, and I hadn’t even touched the multiplayer side of things. Now I have done both, so it’s time for a few more relatively spoiler-free musings.

The single-player campaign is surprisingly brief, despite being fifteen levels in length. Three of those levels are not combat orientated, and are basically an excuse to hide exposition and collectible items. The traditional Skulls denoting different game modifiers are hidden in each level, and there are also varying numbers of audio files that provide extra background information to find as well.

The level design is pretty much a traditional linear progression from point A to point B, with wide open spaces for large numbers of set piece encounters. It’s very Halo, and there’s a comfort in that. What is very different is the AI of your team.

In previous Halo games, the player has typically been a lone wolf figure, battling through seemingly insurmountable odds. Any additional computer-controlled characters have tended to just be cannon fodder, useful only for the weapons and ammo they drop when killed by the opposing forces.

In this game your team is actually pretty helpful. They provide covering fire, can be ordered to concentrate fire on designated targets and pick up weapons if you tell them to. Most importantly, they can revive you and others for a short period after incapacitation, which makes a huge difference in avoiding restarting levels and checkpoints.

The team support is so good in fact, that it’s only really at the Legendary level of difficulty that I started to find them less helpful. There isn’t a huge difference between difficulty in playing Normal and Heroic, but the step from Heroic to Legendary actually made it feel a challenge because it was so noticeably harder.

This is a good thing, though maybe playing co-op will make it easier. I haven’t done that yet as no one in my usual gamer circle has yet bought the game, and without split screen I can’t play on the couch with anyone (yep, sorry, raising this one again).

That said, I enjoyed the story, even if it suffered from the curse of setting up the sequel rather than resolving anything. The new big bad is suitably worrying, even if their reasons for acting feel out of character and petty. I’m not sold on their motivations (how’s that for vague spoiler-light fare?) even if I’m more sold on their allies’s reasons for joining.

The multiplayer side of things is slick, there is no doubt, and I’ve enjoyed it far more than I did Destiny’s Crucible games, if only because the skill matching seems generally more even. The current PvP modes seem balanced, and I’ve rarely experienced lag. On my connection, that’s pretty impressive.

I had worried that the new Halo would prove to be a bit of a one trick pony, but I’ve been pleasantly surprised by its replay value and the online carnage. I’m actually looking forward to the new content landing next week, including Big Team Battles in Arena, which has always been a favourite.

House of Plague

Oh dear, I’ve given my cold to both Lady M and Lady P this week, so you can imagine how popular I am right now. The snark, between sneezes, coughs, and blown noses, has been pointed, though there have also been rueful smiles so I suspect I may be permitted to live. At least the worst of it seems to come and go quite quickly, leaving little more than the usual season sniffle on the long tail-off. At least, it does for those of us not suffering from asthma, like Lady M. I’ll just be in the dog house over here if anyone needs me.

In other news, the Monday game nights are back up and running. For those who don’t know, we play D&D online using Roll20 and Google Hangouts, so at least I can’t infect any of my players with the plague through our screens. This is probably just as well given how many of them LARP, and therefore have access to padded but still solid weapons with which to beat me. The game write-ups will return, as soon as I can get my brain in gear – assuming I don’t sneeze it out first.

Why I Won’t Be Buying The Taken King

I’ve been deliberating over whether to buy into the latest expansion for Destiny: The Taken King for a while now, and on reflection, barring a major price drop, I’ve decided that I won’t.

There are two factors that swung it for me. The first was the price, which was only just short of buying the original game again. Even worse was the fact that there is no way to buy the expansion without also re-purchasing the original game and the two previous expansions.

These are items of content that I have already bought, and that are already installed. For there to be no option to patch to upgrade feels like blatant gouging, and I have many other games to experience without this burden on my time, wallet, or integrity.

The second consideration is that the expansion has inflicted a bit of a first in gaming history. It has actually removed content from players who have not upgraded. The types of matchmaking and game types have been slashed, only to reappear as options for people who have bought the game again.

This is not an expansion, this is extortion. I’m not playing.

The Big Party

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Lady M’s Saturday party was a huge success, thanks to the kindness and dedication of several people, and a willingness to really go for it on the costume side of things. For example, the Charleesi composed a Spotify playlist that the landlord agreed to play through his PA system. Between this list and a later one used by the pub, there was a huge amount of singing. Some of this has made its way onto social media.

Two of our guests (Lord and Lady H) arranged for a birthday cake and cupcakes to be made, based on Robin Hobb’s Farseer trilogy. The gasp from Lady M when we revealed them made all the subterfuge worth it. Lady P helped source decorations and stepped in to provide last minute transport for a couple of guests who might otherwise not have made it. My younger brother, Lord Demonic, entertained and kept the spirits and wine and beer flowing, and the pub served up a great buffet that both fed the troops and didn’t bankrupt me!

As for the costumes, well pretty much everyone threw themselves into the fray. We had an R2D2 and C3P0 couple, The Doctor, Merida, Ursula, Caitlin Snow (from The Flash), Arthur Dent (complete with towel), Jane Bond and her glamorous toyboy, Captain Jack Sparrow, a gangster, a couple of Bollywood stars, Clark Kent, and a survivor of the zombie apocalypse with more than a little bit of red on him.

The landlord and bar staff took it very much in their stride. Many of the regulars were extremely bemused. We all had a great time, and then went our separate ways.

It probably comes as no surprise that Sunday was very, very quiet…

It’s That Time of Year

I have a heavy head cold, which is making the act of writing somewhat difficult right now. I’ve managed to avoid the worst of the various bugs doing the rounds until now, and even managed to organise myself to get the flu jab off my own bat. Normally the diabetic nurses have to bully me and sometimes ambush me to get the needles anywhere near me, but I felt a bit proud to be able to sort it out this year.

Sod’s Law dictates that it is therefore entirely par for the course that just as I hit the dreaded anniversary I also get my sinuses locked tight and a racking chesty cough. So, not only do I not want to sleep due to horrendous anxiety, flashbacks and generalised dread, but when I do sleep I’m then waking up again because I can’t breathe. It’s exactly as fun as it sounds.

Still, I know things will get better on each front. This is after all just a cold, and one that I’m sure will soon evaporate as quickly as it arrived. As for the night terrors and general horrors, well that’s what the counselling, and support from those who love me is for – and the big party on Saturday to round off Lady M’s week is definitely something to focus on and look forward to.