It’s a year since we finished completion on the house and were given the keys. I know this because the first thing I did when we got inside was to claim it (fig. 1).
Over winter we made a load of plans for what we wanted to do with the house, from garden improvements to loft improvements, and by spring we had sorted out some priorities and started to get quotes for things…
… and then Lockdown hit, and all that exploded.
So of the first twelve months of home ownership, we’ve spent six locked-down inside it, which is a good way for the minor annoyances to build up, and so when the harsher aspects of lockdown were lifted, we started to action those new things. Except, of course, they were all booked out by people in exactly the same situation, so it was a couple of months until anything actually happened.
First was a visit from Spotless to clean the windows and clear out the guttering. Last Wednesday was Instaloft, who boarded up the loft so we can use it for storage space, moved the hatch to a place where there’s actually clearance to climb up, and removed the metric crapton of shit that had been left up there, some of which I’d swear wouldn’t fit through the old hatch. The loft looks so much better now, and I’m very much looking forward to emptying our rented garage into it at some point.
Unfortunately the loft guys found some evidence of rodent activity in the insulation up there, so Thursday morning a guy from Total Pest Control came around to totally control some pests. The electrician from Instaloft also noted that our fuse-box was a couple of decades short of current regulations and some of our wiring had the sheen of a man with DIY enthusiasm. So on a Wednesday morning, the electrician called…
Tomorrow is a plasterer to fix up the old loft hatch, Friday a plumber will appear to tell us why the toilet backs up and the stopcock doesn’t turn, as well as some sage words of wisdom about why the boiler is in a stupid place and a couple of radiators don’t. Saturday someone will come to install a smart thermostat.
Sunday we rest.
Monday is Fyr & my anniversary, and we will spend it in the manner of our people: Looking at new kitchen light fittings on the B&Q website.
One of the pages that still works from that era is the Codes page. Back in the usenet era, it was common to have incomprehensible “code blocks” that described your personality problems to four decimal places, and I collected loads of them, put them in a Marquee tag for reasons best understood by my 18 y/o self, and uploaded them black onto a dark cyan background, thus: The 1999 Codes Page.
Every two years since, I’ve updated my “Geek Code”. The Geek Code itself hasn’t been updated since 1996, so basically this is an archive of what geeks twenty three years ago – and counting – thought was important enough to be your biography. The original geek code site by Robert A. Hayden has long since gone to the great availability zone in the sky, but nothing ever leaves the internet really, so it’s archived at Geekcode.xyz too.
So, as is traditional, the updated geekcode:
GCM$/GAT d--/d+ s+:+ a C++++ UL++++ P+ L+$ E-- W++++ N U+ K w O-- M+++ V- PS+++ PE- Y+ PGP++ t+ 5+ X R++ tv b+ DI-- D+ G+ e++/* h--- r++ z?
The main things I notice in the above is a continual reevaluation of what I actually *do*, a gradual shift further left politically, and the gradual decline into fury and then apathy of my opinion of Dilbert.
However, for the first time, what that actually means, officially decoded:
I’m a geek of Computer Management (I get paid for this).
I am a a geek of All Trades.
My t-shirts go a step further and have a trendy political message on them. … and … Good leisure-wear. Slacks, button-shirt, etc. No jeans, tennis shoes, or t-shirts.
I’m a little taller than most. I’m a little rounder than most.
I’m between 30 and 39.
I’ll be the first in line to get the new cybernetic interface installed into my skull.
I not only have a Unix account, but I slam VMS any chance get.
Unix Linux UL++++
I am the sysadmin. If you try and crack my machine, don’t be surprised if the municipal works department gets an “accidental” computer-generated order to start a new landfill on your front lawn or your quota is reduced to 4K.
I know of perl. I like perl. I just haven’t learned much perl, but it’s on my agenda.
I’ve managed to get Linux installed and even used it a few times. It seems like it is just another OS.
I’m making money at this.
Emacs is just a fancy word processor.
Three pluses is “ I am a WebMaster. Don’t even think about trying to view my homepage without the latest version of Netscape. When I’m not on my normal net connection, I surf the web using my Newton and a cellular modem. ” This is one stage beyond that.
Usenet News? Sure, I read that once.
I know who Kibo is.
Ok, so I use MS Windows. I don’t have to like it.
I can’t even get the thing to install!
I am a Mac guru. Anything those DOS putzes and Unix nerds can do, I can do better, and if not, I’ll write the damn software to do it.
Unix is much better than VMS for my computing needs.
Legalize drugs! Abolish the government. “Fuck the draft!”
It’s ok to increase government spending, so we can help more poor people. Tax the rich! Cut the defense budget!
I have an interest and concern in privacy issues, but in reality I am not really all that active or vocal.
I have the most recent version and use it regularly
It’s a damn fine TV show and is one of the only things good on television any more.
Babylon 5: 5+
Babylon 5 certainly presents a fresh perspective in the Sci-Fi universe. I watch it weekly.
Ho hum. Just another Fox show.
There is no life outside the role of the die. I know all the piddly rules of (chosen game). MY own warped rules scare the rest of the players.
I watch only the shows that are actually worth while, such as those found on PBS.
I enjoy reading, but don’t get the time very often.
Don’t read it, but I think the dog is kinda cute.
It’s a fun, action game that is a nice diversion on a lazy afternoon.
Geek Code: G+
I was once G++ (or higher), but the new versions are getting too long and too complicated.
Got a bachelors degree … and … I learned everything there is to know about life from the “Hitchhiker’s Trilogy”.
Married, (persons living romanticly with someone might as well label themselves h—, you’re as good as there already.)
I’ve dated my current SO for a long time.
It’s none of your business what my sex life is like.
That’s the single biggest thing that propelled this process. I’m an IT worker on significantly above the UK average wage, my partner is also employed, and without this kick-start we would be renting for the rest of our lives no question. “Relief” for first time buyers saved us ~£5k on a £70,000 investment. Sure, the numbers would be a lot different if we weren’t buying in one of the most expensive areas of the country (Oxford is, on a house-price to average-salary ratio, more expensive than London, though that’s partially due to demographics); but people have to live here too.
2: Very Large Nets or, House Hunting
So June happened, and with it a large amount of money arrived. I paid off all debts, set a budget for Shiny Things from it, spent that, and realised that if I didn’t start this house-buying process now, I was going to gradually chip away at my inheritance on a “well, it’s only” and “I’ll put it back in next month” basis until I’d fucked everything up.
Just down the road from us was a brand new development – rare in Oxford, whose surrounding Green Belt constricts new housing development a lot of the time – called Barton Park, announced to great fanfare as having 40% affordable housing. All of that, however, appears to have been allocated to Oxford’s massively underserved Social Housing system, which I entirely support as a concept, but in this case means that none of the affordable housing is actually buy-able, and the non-affordable housing is… well, not affordable. 3 bedroom places were going from £580,000. My budget was – with a 60k deposit and a rough and ready mortgage calculation – £350,000. (I could have gone higher, but I wanted to keep monthly rates down. Plus every year I’ve not been able to do this is a year I’ve put over £12,000 into a landlord’s pocket instead of a house, and correspondingly reduced the time I can spend paying off a mortgage before I – hah – retire. I’m 38).
So, budget set, area set (within commute distance for my partner’s work. I’m remote, so it matters less to me), I hit my preferred house-hunting tool, Nestopia. There wasn’t much there. Apparently the housing market goes quiet between June and August – a fact that boggles my mind – but we had a couple of available options.
The first was a home that had been until quiet recently the Forever Home of an elderly couple for most of last century. Small rooms, a desperate need for redecorating and dodgy wiring aside, it had a nice garden and an external garage. It was going to take a certain amount of fixing up, but it was a nice option. We dithered for a bit, and a buy-to-let landlord scooped it.
The second place we saw was an end of terrace 3 bedroom with good transport links, an even nicer garden, a less nice but still great shed, decent sized rooms fairly recently redecorated. The floorboards felt a bit weird, and the religious iconography in every room was certainly a design choice, but it felt like a nice place. We were viewing it at the same time as another mid-30s couple, and as we left we decided it was worth a punt.
3: The Punt or, An Offer They Certainly Could Refuse
I told the seller’s Estate Agent, and they recommended a third party insurance broker. I booked an appointment with her the following morning, and we went though various options and what the next steps were. She put all our data into her system, and it spat out several options on mortgages, and I selected one based on her recommendation and terms. I could have done a lot of this online, but the deals I could get myself weren’t anywhere near as good as the broker’s. There are very few companies who come out of this process without complaint, but our mortgage brokers are one of them, they’ve been great though the rest of this torturous process. Let me know if you’re looking nearby, and I’ll put you in touch.
Mortgage offer in hand, I went back to the Estate Agents and put in an offer at the asking price. I probably could have gone slightly lower, but the other couple did that, and our offer was accepted.
That was June 21st, and was the last time we’d be in that house until October.
4: Due Process or, Solicitation or Bust.
Here’s a mistake we made: After the excellent advice of the Mortgage Advisor I forgot the central rule of dealing with Estate Agents which is: They work for the Vendor. When they suggested a Conveyancer I said “Yes, put them in touch with me”. Shortly afterwards I got a bill for searches and some other documentation saying “Thank you for retaining us”. When I asked on whose instruction they were working on, they said “Your estate agent”. Then their quote got the Stamp Duty wrong by ten grand. Then they said they couldn’t represent me because the vendors were also with them, but they would transfer me to their Nottingham office because “It’s technically another law firm”.
Reader: I fired them.
I took a couple more recommendations, and then went with the time honoured tradition of picking the one which actually answered and got back to me within a week. They did… fine, I guess. They’re not getting named here, because I’m going to whinge about them later.
They started doing searches for things like flood plain information, building land rights, sorting out contracts, that kind of thing. I wound up their clockwork with some starting cash, and they skittered away like a tin soldier.
That was 25th June.
5: Not-So-Easi-Form or, It’s Coming From Inside The Walls
Between 1920 and 1960, but mostly in the years following the World Wars, it became necessary to put up houses cheap and fast, thereby unticking the classic checkbox “good” of that trilogy. Laing came up with a thing called “Easi-Form”, where the foundations and walls are (as I understand it) cast in place with rebar for reinforcement. This is great, but that was ~70 years ago and there are a few cracks in the walls where it’s settled over the years, and sometimes those cracks leave the rebar open to the elements, at which point it rusts, dissolves and becomes less reinforcement, more liability.
The above took me around 4 months to learn. Here’s why:
Because the floorboards felt slightly weird – as mentioned above – when we went for the building report we got a full “Homeowners Report” instead of the basic level. This report is everything you ever wished to know about a place you were moving into, from which bits have been bodged with plaster and hope, through to what the walls are made out of and what’s going to need to be fixed in the next few years. Our report came back slightly before the mortgage one did, which is why we weren’t surprised when the mortgage company’s structural engineer’s report also came back – in part – with “this is a non-standard build, I’m not qualified to say if it’ll stand upright for the length of the mortgage”, which is when I learnt about Easi-Form.
At which point we needed to hire a Structural Engineer who could give a professional opinion on Easi-Form structures, which proved difficult. Every Structural Engineer our original building inspectors knew were either busy, skiing over the summer, or not willing to stake their liability insurance no-claims on Easi-Form. Eventually we found one, sent out another pile of money, and got back a report saying “Seems fine”, which took a few weeks, by which point it’s August 13th.
Then we sent it on to the mortgage company, who took a couple of weeks, and said “Why is only one of your names on this? There are two of you.” Which had been true of every report so far, but we got the Structural Engineer to add my partner’s name to it anyway, and sent it back. It’s September now.
A couple of weeks later, the mortgage company’s structural engineers came back and said “… we need more specifics about where it is and isn’t fine, and how much it might cost”.
The Structural Engineers bumped this up the chain until it got to the guy whose name is on the masthead, who added a basic cost for refacing all the walls in the next ten years or so and sent it back to us, and I sent it to the mortgage company, who sent it to their structural engineers.
Who, after a couple of weeks, came back with “Seems fine”.
By this point, it’s September 24th.
7: The Cult in Arboriculturalism or, Attack of the killer trees
While this is going on, the mortgage valuation report also came back with a request that we get an Arboriculturist to examine the various trees around the property to which, right, fine. It turns out Structural Engineers and Arboriculturists take their holidays at the same time, and finding a single one in Oxfordshire willing to look at a happy apple tree in the back garden and some distressed lime trees in the neighbour’s was more complicated than we really needed. Eventually I sent an email to everyone within 50 miles on the Arboriculturist Association website – the slightly easier to spell trees.org.uk – and got a reply and, eventually, a report.
That one was £540.
It said “Seems fine”.
8: Horse Dentistry or, A Gift Freely Given
Because I’d not had the money in my account for very long, and it had appeared very suddenly, I of course had to go through proof this wasn’t money laundering. The Conveyancers sent – by post, how quaint – a request for my parents to sign effectively an affidavit that they didn’t expect a financial return on the money and it was a gift. Sadly the bit of paper my parents received was to prove someone *else’s* financial situation.
Second time lucky, the Conveyancers sent the right letter next day.
9: Contractual Obligations, or An Avalanche of Paperwork
I have so many bits of paper at this point. Most of them in both PDF and wood-pulp form. I have reports of the flooding in the area (Seems fine), the original land reservations and boundaries (Seems fine), reports on freehold limitations (an Oxford College has Views on what we do with the externalities of our property, but that’s pretty normal for Oxford) and potential forced-purchase reservations (If Churchill Hospital needs to expand, it can go through us). I have Land Registry forms, mortgage insurance forms, life insurance forms, loss of income insurance forms.
The Estate Agents start to worry. Someone up the chain is trying to leave the country and needs to get their affairs sorted before October 14th (This is, I later learn, a Brexit thing). They might pull out if we don’t get this sorted, and suddenly everything shifts into high gear.
10: Numerically Conflicted or, Your Exchange Service Has Crashed
The Conveyancers and the mortgage company work out their differences, and we get the contract packs in order. They send out the documents on Monday to arrive Tuesday, be signed and returned Wednesday, ready for checking and Exchange on Friday. Tuesday arrives and the documents don’t. Post to this house has never worked especially reliably, which is why I suggest they send me the documents to print out and sign. They say no, it has to be paper. Okay then. The Estate Agents phone me every couple of hours to see if the post has been yet. It has not.
Wednesday dawns, and the post arrives mid-morning. The document pack isn’t in it. The Estate Agents are slowly turning purple, which is actually pretty on-brand for them, and remembering the events of Horse Dentistry above – though it was nearly three months prior – I phoned to ask exactly what address they’d sent it to, betting dollars to donuts they’d sent it to the new flat.
Nope. They’d invented a new address out of the house number of our destination with the street and postcode for our current place. I called upon my Boy Scout Training of ringing complete strangers doorbells and asking them for things (the 90s were a hell of a time) and rescued the documents complete with “Not At This Address” label ready to be given back to the postman.
This is the point I also realised that the bottom of my conveyancers’ emails had changed, advertising their brand new office with a brand new address. This, I realised, may have an effect on where I should send the damn documents. So I phoned their reception and asked, and got a brand new address I’d never seen before as the contact address.
We got them signed and witnessed thanks to a nearby friend, Kay, who helped at short notice, then I got them to the Actual Post Office and sent them posted – registered, signed for, next day or I’ll flay you alive service.
I also transferred 10% of the total cost of the house – just over half my deposit – by tapping at my phone for a bit, because the future is terrifying occasionally.
The next day the Estate Agents stopped asking if the documents had arrived with us, and instead phoned every hour to see if our Conveyancers had. They were also phoning the Conveyancers every hour. And the mortgage broker. And I assume – and kind of hope – each other. Eventually the conveyancers admitted that yes, they had arrived.
Also arriving that day: The second set of documents the conveyancers had now sent to the right address.
Friday they started phoning and telling me that the conveyancers hadn’t validated them yet! They were very insistent that this could take ages, and one single mistake could invalidate this whole process and give us no time to exchange or complete! THIS WAS A DISASTER.
We completed on Friday. It was fine.
11: Domino Rally or, Running In The Shadows
We were, as first-time buyers, at the bottom of a chain. At the top was someone trying to just liquidise their assets who was, as mentioned, in a tearing rush. In between was a series of people who needed to, in sequence, get the stuff out of their old house, hand over the keys, receive the money for their old house and then pay for the new house. A lot of this happens on trust – we’re already contracted to do this – but with the twitchy guy at the top of the chain the person managing the chain was in turn very twitchy. During the week between Exchange and Completion everything went very quiet as the conveyancers shuffled paperwork in the background.
I transferred the rest of the deposit, asked if I needed to do anything else (“No”, they said) then popped the remains of the inheritance into a savings account (by, again, tapping on my phone. This time sitting by the Thames). This was also a mistake.
Friday, 16:45, I got an email from the conveyancers titled “COMPLETION STATEMENT SENT” with a bill of nearly £4,000, which needed to be paid in cleared funds before completion could happen on Monday.
I had forgotten about the Conveyancer’s fees and also Stamp Duty (Which doesn’t apply to First Time Buyers for the first £300,000 of your purchase, but did for the remaining £50k). Because my savings account is a “Next working day” for transfers, I was mildly screwed. Eventually I took out an instant £5k loan though Monzo, used it to pay the fees, and then paid it back in full from my savings account on Monday.
12: Our House or, Our Castle and Our Keep
Monday was still tense. Nationwide took their time releasing the funds, and the Estate Agents were on their anxiety symptoms again at the point where we both got a message at the same time.
In fact, the Agent was on the phone to me to see if I had a better number for the Conveyancers when he got a call on the other line which he thought might be them. Putting me on hold, he answered them and then after a short while phoned me on another line (while I was still on hold) to tell me the good news.
It was a confusing day.
I finished up my meetings for the day, and then me and fyr took the bus to the Estate Agents to pick up the keys, and from there to our new house. We took with us the traditional kettle, teapot and the mugs I’d bought for this purpose back in 2012 two moves ago, and we sat in the new house and had a nice cup of tea while finding out what keys went in what things.
Then I wrote on the wall.
Appendix: Where Does All The Money Go?
Okay, I’ve been in two minds about doing this, but I think it might be useful for people, so here we go. There might be cheaper or more expensive ways of doing all these things, prices are a guide only:
House (3 Bedrooms, North Oxford): £350,000.00
Stamp Duty: £2,500 (First Time Buyers rate)
Land/Water/Utilities Searches (performed by Conveyancer): £192
Land Registry Fee: £135
Conveyancer Fees: £952.00 (That’s hiring fee plus various expenses)
Arboricultural Report: £540 (Required by Mortgage)
Mortgage Broker: £500
Mortgage Fees: £999 (Was added on to, and then garnished directly off, the mortgage payment without me ever seeing it)
RICS Building Survey £550 (Mortgage included a cheaper survey, but I doubled up because I was – rightly, it turns out – paranoid)
Structural Engineer Survey £510 (Required by Mortgage)
Costs coming up:
Full service moving (Pack & Move): £900
Getting a sparky to check the house isn’t going to burn down: £500
Replacing the locks on the doors whose keys no longer work: £60-200 (Should have checked this one)
Wiring the place for network (because better now than later): £550.
More New House Adventures – the new series from the writers of New Flat Adventures – coming soon.
It’s 23:34, as I type this, on January 26th 2019. Significant only because it’s Austrailia day, and the day after Burns Night, and therefore also my birthday. I’m 38. Gosh.
I’ve been writing these posts on this site as it ebbs and wanes since I was 18, although it was a couple of years since it moved to this domain, usually with some numerical joke about my age. This year I’m mostly ignoring it. I might have a not-birthday party in six months or so, see what a summer birthday without the likelihood of inclement bagpipes is.
I didn’t do much introspection as the year changed, and despite attempting to ignore it, it’s preying on me a bit. Last year, not even counting the national and international trash-fires, was a… let’s say a curate’s egg.
I went an entire year without changing job, and I’m coming up on two years at the same company, which is very nearly a record. I celebrated my tenth anniversary of going out with Fyr, which is nice, and some changes to the flat have made it a lot nicer as a living space.
On the other side, I started the year unable to walk due to a severely buggered ankle, I was diagnosed with diabetes and depression (both a mixed result, as it does mean I’m actually getting treatment for both), and the last half of the year I was preoccupied with a series of close-range mortar strikes in my local social circle which, where most didn’t hit me directly, cause ongoing distress and pain to people I care a lot about.
I’m looking forward to travelling more – both personally and professionally – and I’ve got my first honest-to-goodness “actually go somewhere else” holiday booked for a week coming up, which I’m massively looking forward to. Alba, the new LARP project, has been quite the success so far, and we’ve not even run anything yet. With any luck some of the political mess can resolve positively too, though I don’t hold my breath.
Anyway, I still exist. I still intend to post more things here, but… yeah. It’s a habit I fell out of. My every movement is still tracked on the terrifying megasite, and with any luck I’ll remember to update here more often too.
A number of people wanted me to see this yesterday, and I can understand why. A couple of hot takes on this:
The Junior Woodchuck’s Guide To Diabetes
Diabetes is a series of conditions linked by the major effect, that the body does not produce enough insulin. Insulin is what the body uses to break down glucose in your blood into energy, so if you don’t have enough insulin, a) your body doesn’t get enough energy, and b) the glucose builds up in your blood.
In some of these cases the body doesn’t produce any insulin at all, but in Type 2, it is usually that either the Pancreas can’t produce enough for the amount of body you have, or the insulin is not of sufficient strength to get through the fat around your organs. (This is a Very Simplified Explanation, and is therefore Importantly Wrong in some respects on the details)
Your Pancreas Doesn’t Work As It Should, is the big takeaway.
The treatments are varied depending a lot on exactly what your body is doing or not doing correctly, but generally start with medication that reduces the sugar in your blood by adjusting how it’s absorbed during digestion, and then advance to further. Alongside this, you are advised to adjust your diet to attempt to lose any extra weight you’re carrying, because that will reduce the problems the insulin has getting to the right places if that’s the problem, and also by reducing the amount of insulin your body needs, simply because there is less of you for it to have to go to.
In fact, on average, if you can lose 15% of your body-weight from the time your diabetes starts to become an actual issue, it can go into remission, because your shitty pancreas is now producing enough insulin to do all it needs to.
Second takeaway: Eating sugar doesn’t cause diabetes, overloading your pancreas does, and some people’s pancreas isn’t that great to start with.
A) You’re not cured, though. It’s remission. Your pancreas isn’t going to get any better. In fact, the likelihood is that as you get older, it’s going to fail – along with everything else. Also if you put on weight again – as people who lose weight quickly tend to do – it’s going to come back again.
B) The symptoms of diabetes can range from pissing a lot, through feeling tired, being bitten more often, more skin infections (because your sweat has sugar in it which bacteria feed on), more bug bites (because same) and escalate to heart problems (because you have sugar syrup for blood). Or it could look like nothing at all for a long time. Unless you’re getting blood tests every few years (and, if you have a family history in it, you should) (I am not a good example in this respect), it’s hard to catch early. By the time you know, the losing weight goal may have already passed.
The cure is diet and exercise!
So this is why I think Tom Watson’s advice is dangerous.
First, good on the chap. Losing that amount of weight is hard, because you’re fighting against your own model of how food works as well as your body’s expectations of energy levels. It’s an impressive achievement.
But generalising it isn’t great. An emphasis on diet is already in the NHS education training for people newly diagnosed, and while it was fantastically useful once I got on the course, because it explained in simple terms exactly what the problem was, it still ended up mixing the concepts of “Things that are bad because of the disease you have” and “You should avoid these things because they’re bad for your health”. For example, Carbs turn into glucose. It’s not _sugar_ that is bad, but they are the “worst” kind of carbs. So in a perfect world, cutting out carbs completely would be the solution. Sadly everything else contains stuff that’s also bad for you without moderation, and the eduction pieces have to mention that, so you end up with a message of “This is bad for your condition, but these things are bad for you anyway, and don’t do this (for condition), don’t smoke (for health), eat five portions of fruit and veg a day for health (but not too much fruit because of the condition).
And the public announcement that Mr Watson has “reversed” his diabetes with a strict diet and new exercise regime is something to be congratulated, but it’s also something that, in his position on a decent salary with a job that gives him a lot of freedom over his own schedule, is not available to everyone. It’s a lot like the apocryphal TED talk by a multi-millionaire who did it by winning the lottery, recommending everyone give up working and buy lottery tickets instead. It worked for them, it’ll work for some people, but it’s advice as part of a general set of solutions.
So I’ll stick with my stack of mediation and my lower calorie diet – plateaued though it is – and the advice of my doctor. Which is, incidentally, that congratulating yourself overmuch for rapid weight loss makes it a lot harder to admit when you can’t sustain it long term.
Week One: Replaced lunch each day with my chosen brand of nutrient sludge.
Monday, “New Vanilla” flavour, blended with ice:
An expensive cheap vanilla milkshake. A day out at the beach in England, pleasant enough to be fun, but just enough cloud to keep the joy at bay. Notes of vanilla, a dream of hospital walls, a lick of the cliffs of Dover.
Tuesday: Same, blended with ice, frozen peaches and banana:
A day trip back to the holidays of yesterday, mostly unchanged. A more expensive cheap vanilla milkshake, luxuriously thicker, bananas litter the sidewalks, with the peaches a photograph of a fading memory. More notes of vanilla, the dream is the same, the taste of the cliffs remains.
Wednesday: New Vanilla, blended with frozen peaches and refrigerated overnight:
The same day out, fewer bananas, the peach still a distant memory. Thin particles of chalk dust on the air, like someone cleaned a blackboard eraser nearby some minutes ago, perceptible but unseen.
Thursday: New Vanilla, blended with cocoa powder, made in the morning and refrigerated until lunch.
A seventies version of a fifties diner on the sea shore, off-brand covers of rock and roll on the jukebox and quorn-burgers on the grill, a chocolate milkshake with your third-best partner and the agreement that you’ll go to the prom together if nobody else asks you. The kind who cleans the blackboards is in the booth behind you, and you can tell.
Friday & Saturday: New Vanilla, blended with cocoa powder and frozen strawberries and fridged for a couple of hours:
An actual fifties diner, a jukebox with nothing but the hits of Elvis. A promise made with haste and honour, a dance into the night. Maybe it’s you who cleans the blackboards all along, but it doesn’t matter.
Sunday: Vanilla blended with ice and Huel “Pineapple & Coconut” flavour sachet
A bright day on a sunny beach, the skies of blue and the sands of gold. The memory of a piña colada on the breeze. Hardly anyone for miles in any direction, and your “Blackboard Monitor” badge reflects the sun back on itself.
It’s all a bit male-author-self-discovery-novel, to be entirely honest.
After a couple of decades of dodging the issue with increasingly obvious symptoms, I eventually signed up with a GP who told me a few things I already know (It’s bad to leave 20 years between doctors appointments, and I display signs of depression), and – after a bit of blood work and admin faffery – that I’m type-2 diabetic, my blood sugar is mountainous, and I should get this under control before it very literally actually kills me.
(She was nicer than that).
The resulting changes come in waves, as administration and postal services cause things to arrive. Prescriptions for pills to lower my blood sugar arrived automatically and – Thanking our better past for the NHS – free, and ramp up to their full dosage over the next month. With that I got a pill management thing, because pre-prep and routine help me actually do things and feel more comfortable with it.
Being me, I found a glucose monitor that interfaces with my phone and produces various nerdy graphs I can obsess over, and that arrived this morning, so I can stab myself in a medically approved manner.
Over the next week I’ve got appointments to get my feet stabbed to check for nerve damage, referrals for other bits and bobs.
It’s also finally kicked me into getting back on the “exercise” bandwagon, and back into watching my calorie intake, which will also help me get my blood sugar under control, rather than the four times “normal” it’s currently hovering below.
So I’ve signed up for the slimfast of a new generation, at the moment in the form of Huel, as a meal replacement thing. First results are… not great, to be honest. It’s filling, if a bit chalky to drink. However: If you have any opinions upon this, especially if they involve comparing the thing I am consuming in order to improve my health to vomit or worse, I would appreciate restraint in comments here or elsewhere.
So yeah. It’s been something of a week, and to be honest the diagnosis of an incurable medical disorder isn’t the best news I’ve had this year.
The dying weeks of a world gone mad, played out in spotlights of real-time in the way only a dream or high budget TV show could do, where various of my communities had packed up to spend their last days in a gigantic maze of prefab houses, pushed together and sealed against the world.
There were courtyards and terraces, and there were great moments of friendship and terrible feuds that poisoned whole sections. In the end, the world was saved, and the apocalypse averted, but the government decided that since we had all prepared for the end, they should see it through.
As we prepared slingshots to catch the missiles and throw them back, the dream faded and the specifics washed out into blooms of pencil-outlined sketches in a sea of merging watercolour, and scant details remained: A ramshackle community built of the houses we brought with us, a nuclear missile being redirected with the aid of a large palm tree and a bouncy castle, and a long-running sense of inexorable impending doom.
First weeks at work are generally a bit chaotic, new accounts, new processes, new people. This combined with a few other complexities (We had a Virgin Engineer around to fix the fact that every so often my ping times hit 20 seconds or so, a side effect of a fix of an issue a few months ago, when some gas engineers took a back-hoe to the fibreoptics) made the week slightly less relaxing than ideal.
Going to a new place is often a point of comparison, and it’s possibly worth writing up some of the practices and theories of operation of doing AWS stuff at enterprise-grade that I didn’t have the mental energy to get permission to write about before I left. All theory, anyway, since I can’t refer it back…
This week we won a RL battle of getting all the people lined up to play the third session (And first with everybody there) of Doug’s Trail of Cthulhu game, the Charybdis Protocol. I’ve got an IC writeup of the second session (my first. Scheduling is hard), and I’m working through the writeup of the second (Slightly harder. I’m attempting to walk the line between “useful session notes” and “one-sided account” in a session where I kind of lit a jerry-can of explosives on fire and threw it at the rest of the character party) (In my defense, shit got weird). Those will appear on my IC Diary site – The Hero Diaries – assuming the rest of the PCs don’t mind, and I’ve got their character names right.
Video-Game-wise, I’ve mostly been playing Warcraft, as I’ve been attempting to get my Monk to the end of the levelling campaign. Right now I’ve hit one of my least favourite bit of WoW end-game mechanics, the “Do tiny repetitive missions that reward junk and reputation to get through the reputation gateway” bit. Happily, I’ve managed to get my gear up to the level where I can do pick-up Heroics, so I’m balancing that with knocking out low-level achievements (Explore these zones, Poke this NPC, Poke that interactive object) while watching Twitch channels.
Twitch is my current background noise. Annoyingly I can’t get my old username back – I had a Justin.TV account before they were Twitch – but I did just realise that I could do the same thing as I did for this, so my new Twitch channel is Twitch.TV/Aquarionics. My first experiments in streaming had some mic-quality problems, but it is something I intend to experiment more with.
This may be combined with the fact that SWTOR is picking up speed in my local community again, so might end up doing more of that, and the idea of live-streaming a character path appeals. We’ll see.
I’ve had no beer explode this week, which can only be a plus. Brain-gremlins are down, sociality is up. I never really realise how badly stressful environments screw up my headspace until I’m out of them.
The lack of Odyssey meetings and discussions is kicking in to my calendar, and I’m kind of itching to run something game-like. This, coupled with Torment coming out and a block of Cipher-system/Numenera setting content that I backed with Kickstarter years ago turning up all at once is making that look like a short-run Numenera campaign. Tempting.
However, existing projects exist. I tidied up a bit of The Book, and it’s looking a lot better than I thought when I gave up on it. I almost don’t feel the urge to ditch it all (again) and rebuild. What I probably need to do is go over the first few chapters, redraw the arcs, and get a second opinion on whether the style actually tells the story. And then: Pirates.
I fell out of the habit of writing in 2016. Well, kind of. My Facebook output skyrocketed, and the number of things that went on outputs I actually own fell a lot.
I’ve got a lot of things in the Draft folder. Some have been sidelined because they still feel a bit incendiary, some because the time they were relevant passed, and some just stupid. I spent a lot of the summer working on an idea for a new project, which then failed so hard it left no impact in the wall at all, so there’s a post-mortem on that. But that’s just depressing to write, and without any conclusions to draw it just seems like a stick to beat me with.
2016 hasn’t been a great year in the global space, and my personal 2016 has been significantly mixed. Feeling like I’m stagnating professionally and personally has been an anchor on an already less great year, and while I’ve been getting more social and made a number of new friends who have massively improved my life, I’ve failed to leave Oxford for nearly anything that wasn’t larp or funeral related in a year. Mostly, this is due to a commute that’s eating my days, which means my value of decompression time at home heightens, reducing my desire to go anywhere or do anything.
Having said that, LARP has successfully got me out of the house more than any other thing this year. We successfully landed Odyssey with two of our best-run events ever – I’ll accept some credit for that, but the entire team was without peer; I did two new games purely as a player – Slayers and Tales out of Anchor – as well as successfully starting a purely PC Empire character, who I’m enjoying playing a lot.
The end of Odyssey gives me some free mental space for a couple of other LARP things, and mostly I’ll be focusing on Trajectory, I’m intending on publishing some Theory of Operation type stuff here as it coalesces in mine and ccooke’s heads.
At the end of 2015, I screwed up my major projects. PiracyInc got backed into a corner where I need to sit down and rearchitect the whole thing, and the Novel – Hereinafter Stark Mockery – hit a brick wall where I realised a number of the underlying genre tropes had gone toxic. I’ve started salvaging the book, and will attempt to do so with the game, but I need to put my free time in order.
And then there’s this. AqCom’s been coasting on without major revision for years now, and I want to fix that. So I’m going to try to go back to the Week N series that kept me doing things through 2015, or at least feeling guilty for not doing them. A few times this year I’ve referred back to entries I made years ago to see when something happened, and not having that facility in the future will irritate me, so we shall give it a try.
All of which lays out my plans for 2017:
Reclaim my days
Repair my projects
Write more fiction
Write more LARP
Write more this
Travel to new places, meet interesting people, don’t kill them
Next plan: Go to NYE party. Celebrate. Then prepare for 2017 with a red rag and a baseball bat.