Random Wandering

Just for the hell of it I went down to Portsmouth today to gather up myr s, the cub, Ladies J and B and go grab some food, drink, and relative normalcy out on the town. And it feels so good to have done so.

It says so much about the disruption that that has happened this year that it was, for some of us, the first time for eating out. There was a palpable sense of relief and accomplishment in just being around a table in public.

To round out the afternoon, we had a lazy afternoon where we enjoyed each others company. We did some shopping, and went back to Lady B’s flat to talk and pass some time – and it has been a tonic for the spirits for us all.

And then I came home to find that my order of one of my t-shirts had arrived from Amazon. Lady M immediately grabbed it to twirl and model and I very nearly lost it to her before ever wearing it myself.

Careful Choices

I’m finally getting head around the Amazon Merch scheme, in as much as how the Tier system works: essentially they are labelled with numbers that correspond to how many products or designs that you can sell at any one time.

As of the time of writing, I am in the basic level called Tier10, which allows ten designs. For the curious they can be found by searching for Ludd Clothing on the Amazon website. My original reading of the documentation led me to believe that this meant I could have multiple items with the same design so that there would be ten designs but umpteen items based on those designs.

Its not quite so generous – understandable from a quality control point of view – being ten designs including variants such as t-shirt or sweatshirt. The tier level won’t go up until I have sold ten items and the designs manually checked. The next tier is 25.

So I’m carefully monitoring and adjusting what I have up there while continuing to expand the RedBubble Ludd72 range of designs that includes clothing, stickers, prints, phone cases, and all sorts of odds and ends.

Depending on feedback I may change around what is on offer to differentiate between the stores more, but if nothing else the whole exercise has been good practice reminding me of what I can do with Photoshop Elements.

In the meantime, here’s a quick and totally mercenary nudge to buy my stuff?

Attempts to Shop

There must be a memo I missed because I’ve tried twice so far to pop down the road to get a couple of supplies in, and each time the queues have been longer and more fraught – to the point where I’ve given up each time.

The first time was early in the day and I hadn’t realised that the elderly and infirm were having their early hour today. Well I didn’t realise until I saw their queue snake round the carpark and felt the weight of some hundred-plus pensioners giving me the evil eye.

When I tried again a few hours later, they had finished that queue but then the main queue was somehow four times longer. I couldn’t face that either. I’m now weighing up if I can face another attempt. At least its not holding to Sunday Trading hours, or I’d have run out of time today.

On the other hand it does mean that I have managed to have my threatened tshirt cull and have items I can offer round the polycule before donating anything unclaimed. Lady M has already nabbed several plain tops that she has declared suitable for workwear.

A New Map

I’d seen The Discworld Emporium advertised in a few places, both around the wider ‘net and in Terry Pratchett fan groups and been tempted by a few of their offerings. I hadn’t ordered anything until earlier this month though, due to nothing quite leaping off the page until then.

Then they released a colouring map of Ankh-Morpork, and Lady M and I both grinned in anticipation.

image

Much of the appeal of the shop is that most of the memorabilia they sell can be seen as items stolen away from within that flat, magical world. There’s a whimsy to their offerings that appeals. Their good reputation in the groups also tipped the balance.

I ordered the map, and then forgot all about it as life threw some extra curveballs and we got earnest about our decoration.

Yesterday I dropped in to the post office to pick up an undelivered parcel. I had no idea what it was until I saw that it was a poster roll, and it had some decidedly Discworld elements to it: namely Ankh-Morpork Post Office Stamps and warning notices about snails, dribbling toads, and alchemist guild-made contents.

image

Inside was a glorious map of The Big Wahoonie, and a personalised thank you/non-delivery note from the Ankh-Morpork Postal Service blaming “nae ordinary chicken!” which was why the non-magical Royal Mail had completed the delivery.

The map itself is on large high quality, thick and creamy coloured paper and the printing is clear and unsmudged. Details of the city’s landmarks are easily made out, but without labels so that you can stretch your imagination recognising them from descriptions in the book.

It’s little touches like this that mean I will be a return customer. I think I spent more time yesterday geeking out over the packaging than the actual contents, much to the amusement of colleagues and the staff at the local coffee shop.

Now our only decisions remaining are whether we’ll colour it at all, or only certain elements, before or after we mount it on the wall. I’m tempted to order a spare so we can frame one untouched and play with the new one.

Christmas Warm Up

image

It’s been a busy old weekend, with Lady M devastating all before her at her staff party on Friday, and my brother Demonic hosting his annual pre-Christmas bash on Saturday.

From what Lady M has relayed, there are now a number of people who regret asking her direct questions about our relationship with Lady P; and others generally in fear and awe after she broke up a fight that was kicking off at the end of the evening. It would seem that she was channelling a combination of Mary Poppins and The Terminator when she physically separated two staff members and threatened to box their ears. Phrases such as “You are bringing disgrace to the company, now go to your rooms and have a long hard think about what you’ve done” are alleged to have been heard. This tickles me somewhat…

She certainly seemed to have had a riotous night aside from that, and was sporting such a phenomenal hangover when I got home from work on Saturday that I was worried I was going to have to go solo to Douze this year. She of course claims someone spiked her drinks as she didn’t drink that much.

Lady M did rally valiantly though (possibly inspired by the frosty tone in my voice) and took on chauffeur duties so I could enjoy a few drinks and Demonic’s “not at all a dry run for the Christmas Day” roast dinner. It was great to catch up with the usual suspects, and the quality of cooking has me looking forward to the Christmas meal even more than usual.

That just left today for picking up some Christmas stuff in town, and a catch up chat with Lady P about how her first week of her new job went. Oh, and Lady M treated me to a copy of Fallout 4, so there’s a new threat to my productivity right there 😉

Drowned Rat Mode: Engage

image
Keep Calm and Use the Konami Code

So who ordered a whole month’s rain and forgot to space it out over more than one day? I knew I was going to have a busy day, but didn’t anticipate that I’d be spending most of it doing a reasonable impression of a water fowl.

In theory it’s been a day off, but I was up with the larks – or at least Lady M – to get down to the GP for a blood pressure test. Then it was a grind of renewing prescriptions (how is it I can fill a rucksack with my 3 month meds supply?), refuelling the car, and then heading out to get a birthday present for the ex-Lady M.

Now that part was easy, although the expression on the shopkeeper’s face was carefully neutral when I engaged him to ask for advice. The real difficulty was finding a suitable birthday card. I imagine it isn’t something that many people have contemplated, but look at the messages and humour and imagery available on your next pass through a card shop or aisle in the local supermarket.

I was looking for something tasteful but not twee, and a message inside that was either a blank, or generic, rather than a protestation of eternal fluffy gooeyness, or a straight up insult, or accusation of alcoholism. Jokes about old age aren’t my thing either, so that eliminated a whole host of options. As I looked at each option I had a voice in my head going “nope, nope, way inappropriate, nope, hmmm nope”. You get the idea.

Basically there seems to be a default assumption that cards are bought by family members, ardent suitors, or work colleagues with a suspect sense of humour. There’s not really anything for the “We used to think the world of each other, then it went wrong, and now after a few years hard work and tears we can be friendly again but never forget” crowd.

At least, with Charleesi having finished school, I was able to pick her up early for the weekend. It was just as well, because we both made the observation that the heavier the rainfall, the more other drivers’ IQ seems to drop. It was raining very, very hard. Did I mention that?

Apple Stores and Confusions

rednoseCharleesi’s laptop finally died late last week. It was a mid-range Windows machine, bought mostly for homework and that over the years has played many games, accessed the school’s homework and study resources, posted innumerable Facebook entries, processed many, many photos and generally taken the hard battering that a teenage girl’s general usage can provide.

With her GCSE exams fast approaching, this really couldn’t have been a worse time for it to fail, so with her birthday in mind we collectively had a number of conversations among ourselves and then took Charleesi round a few shops to compare laptops to buy as a replacement.

Her photography is stunning, and she wants to make a career from it. A photography A Level is planned, and every conversation about future plans mentions photojournalism, so one of the options we considered for the first time was an Apple Mac. This is largely due to the widespread adoption of Apple technology in media circles, something that sounds largely axiomatic, but was supported by Lady M’s experience while working for her previous employers. So that’s how we came to experience an Apple Store for the first time.

wpid-wp-1427066913510.jpegIt’s entirely possible that our two visits – the first to scope out models, the second to make the purchase – are still being talked about by the survivors. This is mostly because, due to a lack of signage or communication from staff, it took two visits to realise that we needed to talk to the people by the main pillars to get booked in to talk to anyone. Instead on our first visit we relied on Lady M talking louder and louder and waving her hands in the air more and more wildly until someone stopped running away and came to talk to us.

Our second visit was also characterised by a widening circle of staff as Charleesi, Lady M, the ex-Lady M and myself compared laptop models and tried to catch people’s eyes – so this time I stopped and watched the flows of people in the room – which is how I spotted the identically dressed staff with tablets rather than Iphones who seemed to have separate queues loosely assembled in front of them. There were no signs or other indicators of how to get served, and I had to practically grab and interrogate a passing staff member Batman-style to get confirmation that these individuals could book us in to be seen by the seemingly randomly moving staff.

Fortunately nobody called security.

So in the end, Charleesi came away with a brand new 13″ Retina MacBook Pro and the world’s largest grin, and as we sat in the Montezuma’s across the road she was observed to be quietly stroking and patting her new acquisition. Of course, being a Maidment, by the end of the afternoon she had completely jinxed the itunes store so that the passwords needed three levels of tech support escalation to resolve, but that’s pretty much par for the course for our interactions with technology (i.e., it tends to go ‘bang’ pretty often).

So, a successful resolution for her, and an unexpected critical hit on our savings, but she’s worth it.

Valentine’s Day

slide_398308_4904954_freeI’ve been heard to mutter a little over the last month or so that the selection of cards available for Valentine’s Day locally have been a little…fluffy. A little traditionally saccharine and safe perhaps – and not really a great match for the weird and wonderful ongoing whirlwind that is life in our household.  I may even have mused aloud on social media about the lack of cards mentioning concubines as an illustration of how safe and ordinary the usual ranges are.

Huffingon Post did have an article recently on honest or non-traditional cards that I enjoyed, and that seemed to answer my hopes for more interesting, but there wasn’t anywhere locally that carried anything in a similar vein and I didn’t really trust to ordering from Etsy for any of the examples in the article to be delivered on time. I may have been in a somewhat cynical mood, combined with the low shifts I’ve had recently.

I thought about making some custom cards up, and even had suggestions from my ex-wife on someone who might make some for me, but the last few weeks sped by without really allowing much in the way of time to make that happen. Yes, you read that right, suggestions on custom valentine cards from my ex-wife – being able to forge an amicable relationship post-divorce is a wonderful thing, I can’t recommend it enough where practicable – though it’s not suitable for all, I know. In the end, I did get some fairly traditional cards, and devoted the blank space to writing custom messages to light up faces instead. Maybe next year I’ll track things down on Etsy well ahead of time.

The great joy this year though has been the huge explosion of geeky valentine’s e-cards and graphics that I’ve seen online. Pretty much every fandom has produced templates featuring characters and puns based on their names or favourite catchphrases  – a particular favourite was from Frozen, with the words “I want to hold your Hans” and I did chuckle at the sight of a Monsters, Inc one adorned with the legend “You don’t have to put that thing back where you found it”.

Valentines Day itself has been a quiet affair – I took the Charleesi to her riding lesson as usual while Lady M studied, and we had a slow afternoon between games, reading and a session at the local coffee shop before heading home. One homecooked risotto later, we settled down to an evening of films, introducing Charleesi to Beetlejuice and Red2 as examples of great alternative Valentines Day films. There’s nothing like death, ghosts and explosive gun battles to round off a romantic weekend 😉

Here’s hoping you’ve had a great weekend so far, whether it’s been loved up or quiet and in your own space.

Celebratory Sidestep

We fought our way up into London yesterday evening, despite the best efforts of South West Trains, to join G+A for A’s birthday. It’s one of those culturally important birthdays involving a 3 and a zero, and A had resolved to confront this with the application of copious amounts of alcohol. By the time we got there, the assembled miscreants were several rounds of drinks in, so the atmosphere was convivial.

The journey itself was a bit grim. I tend to get a bit anxious about getting to places on time, so I was already a bit antsy before the train rerouted to avoid engineering works and it filled up with people also heading up into town. I had invited Lady P to come join us too, but she hadn’t felt up to it. Right then, I began to think she’d made the sensible decision.

image

Bright young things mingled with drunken Scots men talking non-bloody-stop about football and hiring retired professionals to play in Sunday pub league games. There was the traditional idiot sharing his music with the train through his phone without the aid of headphones, and someone had opened a window somewhere to let the sub-zero night air in. Perhaps someone had farted. I found the sheer babble overwhelming and I was relieved when most of them buggered off at Clapham.

A very brisk ten minute walk got us to the pub on Blackfriars Bridge, and I remembered the last time I’d been there: my youngest brother’s legendary stag night pub crawl with him dressed as a dragon and the rest of us in full LARP armour as knights. I was pretty sure we didn’t get barred, and it was a good excuse to reminisce with G as we got drinks sorted. That event, nearly four years ago, had taken us from Waterloo on a meandering course towards the South Bank and Tower Hill and on to a mediaeval banquet. Tonight was far too cold outside, and the food and drink was good – particularly the Wadworths Chilli and Chocolate beer at 5.5%.

As we wound down the evening, there came the traditional moment where the emotional birthday girl got a bit scared of turning 30. The relative youngsters there commiserated with her, and then those of us who have been there, done that and worn the T-shirt so long it fell apart, told her to stop worrying and shared how much fun she was about to have now she was entering her prime – in particular the confidence to be who she was rather than how others may have defined her.

It’s advice I wish on some levels I’d had at her age, though given the depressive spiral I was in at the time I almost certainly wouldn’t have listened. It’s only really been the last four or five years that I’ve been well enough and comfortable enough in my own skin to take life on, so I do have empathy with her moment of existential horror. By way of contrast, I amused myself while waiting for a taxi by reading the Charleesi’s answers on Tumblr to a series of questions. They revealed a young lady who is far more self assured and confident than I ever was at her age

Car Repairs, Christmas Shopping, and Everything

Busy day this week, and no sign of the pace really letting up just at the moment. The library continues to be short-staffed and demoralised ahead of a restructure, so I’m just focusing there on keeping busy and helping to decorate for Christmas. I’m mostly managing to be supportive and positive, except where I have to try and bite my tongue. It certainly hasn’t helped that this week had a major disruption with failures in a data centre move that knocked out all the IT systems for two days.

Today has been more about my time however. We’ve needed to get work done on the car for a few weeks and really couldn’t put it off any longer, so I was in Staines first thing to drop it off and head into town to buy some presents. Some of it was final top-ups for people, and some of it was specifically for Lady M, so it was a good excuse to take my time in various shops and to try out a number of places selling coffee. I’ve been reasonably successful on both counts, with the added bonus that the actual cost of repairs to the car came to less than the quote they’d originally given us. Can’t complain really.

I’ve even managed to get this week’s game written up while I’ve been commiserating with Charleesi, who is in the middle of her GCSE mocks while suffering with an epic head cold. She remains cheerful with a side order of slight exasperation.

I’ve even managed to get some time to play on the XBox – with some time on the Master Chief collection playing through the Halo CE campaign, and a side trip to look at two games I bought at the weekend for the 360 – Injustice and Prototype 2. I think I shall be kept reasonably entertained between these games between now and Christmas..!