Sunday, 24 February 2008

My PC And Me

So some time this week it looks like I am to be reintroduced to the joy of PC games. Yippee!

Many a year a go - OK a couple of years ago - I used to play the occasional PC game but given the amazing quality of some of them I either won/completed a mission/whatever and spent the rest of the day feeling quietly invincible or I completely cocked up/lost patience/couldn't work out what the flip I was meant to be doing.
So I slowly drifted away from using my computer to play anything more challenging than minesweeper and solitaire and it wasn't until I found myself in a workplace crammed full of other people who quote embarrassing amounts of Red Dwarf, watch teh anime and read the occasional comic book... I mean graphic novel, Mum, they're very in right now, kinda Art Nouveau... that I started to think I might be missing out on something.
This was mostly because of the big old excitement and swears filled conversations they would all have about what was happening to them in Game A, what happened to the other people when they played Game A, and what they plan to do if they ever met the [expletive or fangirl/boy exclamation of devotion deleted] who designed Game A.

All this talk reminded me of my poorly suppressed tendency to pretend to be someone else - I've got my mutant name and powers picked out, have you? - and accomplish exciting things, even if by proxy in a make-believe world outside of reality...
We had a big serious talk where they gave me the gaming equivalent of a psychological profiling and they are going to bring in a selection on Monday to wave in front of me like a bunch of Rorschach ink blots to determine which game would suit me best.

I'm not sure how I'm going to go with all these new fangled games seeing as some of the games I enjoyed the most are somewhat ye olde.
Especially the nostalgically awesome Future Wars which apart from being heavily pixellated, and comprising a jamming soundtrack played entirely with the same synthesizer as the Tetris theme-song, is so venerable that the game was installed on our computer courtesy of some floppy disks. For the younger members of the audience they looked like this...

So as you can see from the labelling on the image, not everyone you ever overheard talking about a 3 and 1/2 inch floppy was a pervert... though some of them were...

The game could only be completed by picking up pretty much anything that wasn't nailed down and using the items in the most random combination of weird and sometimes worrying ways.
Like the bit where the plastic bag you nicked from the office you broke into whilst working as a window washer came in handy after you'd been transported to medieval times when you needed to short-circuit an electronic wolf that was guarding a monastery full of time travelling aliens...
No really. I swear.
You just had to walk really fast because the baggie had a little hole in it and the water from the lake leaked out real quick...
Anyway, moving on...
Despite how long it took to get past some points or work out what the hell was going on and shuffle through your enormous bag of tricks to find the appropriate McGyver selection with which to construct your victory, this game was enormous fun.
It took effort to complete, even after you'd played it a couple of times due to the whole quick time events thing or dexterity requirements, but it wasn't impossible and you were left feeling slightly smug and all entertained by the game itself and imagining what kind of weirdos actually designed this masterpiece.
Of course if I went into a game shop and explained this special experience and the specs of the game and asked them for 'something like that' I'm sure they'd get a painful feeling in their souls as they wondered exactly how they were going to keep me from ever ever coming back.
Luckily I have friends who have to put up with the whining that will follow should I completely and utterly suck at the games they lend me.

Of the things that we came up with as we went through what might appeal, one of the key agreements we reached was that the game should be 'NOT like The Sims'.
The Sims kept me merrily entertained for maybe two days before I realised that it was just going to keep going. I was going to have to keep feeding and teaching and caring for this apparently grown human person who - without my help - was capable of collapsing exhausted in a pool of their own urine. All the shuffling around trying to keep them fed, rested, entertained and finding time for all their little friends...
If I wanted to be a mother I would just get myself knocked up and be done with it. If I raise a kid and manage to get them to adulthood they should at least feel obligated to put me in a good nursing home where they bathe you with water instead of kerosene and feed you real food - pureed if need be - instead of 'casserole' which turns out to be dog food with a tin of corn kernels and bits of carrot mixed into it. If I keep my Sim alive for 20 years... well apart from being a weirdo I expect that I'll just have gotten them all the way to their dream job of mad scientist and they will still occasionally sleep in their own wee if I don't pay close enough attention.
I don't like games that don't end! That implies a kind of pointless long term commitment that should be reserved for things like marriage, the spawn of your loins and trying to work out where the universe came from and whether you'll be able to slip away peacefully before it gets where it's going and does anything unexpected.

So with all these fun facts and musing running about inside my head I guess I'll just keep my fingers crossed and we'll see how I go!
Wish me luck!

Monday, 18 February 2008

Tiny Invisible Doom!

According to a blood test I had the other month and my very serious-voiced doctor, I am apparently highly allergic to dust and grass/pollen. That was the phrase he used, "highly allergic".
The way he described it made it sound as if I should be safely bundled into a hermetically sealed bubble and fed through a tube.
I don't feel highly allergic. I get hayfever (a couple of sneezes a day not that taxing) but apart from that there are no highly inconvenient health problems that have now been explained fully by my newfound nemesis that I can gleefully banish with the power of more intensive housework.
I figured all it would just mean was that I should vac and dust about the place more often.
He told me that, yes that would be a good idea but ideally I should find someone else to do it for me. God knows I wouldn't be able to wait for them outside though, whilst they battled the armies of dust for me, because then the grass and pollen and such would get me.
He also advised me against drying my sheets outside when I wash them because they may become infused with pollen which would then join forces with the dust that is bound to be lurking in my flat to persecute me unmercifully.
The end result is effectively that I can't go out but can't stay in either.

Due to my lovely hayfever I wasn't entirely surprised by the grass/pollen verdict but if I'm allergic to dust... well, I must have built up a super hero level immunity because our house is very much a friend to the dust bunny and its brethren and I feel fine.
Possibly I'm only living a sad half-life and once I've covered every piece of furniture I own in those lovely don't-pee-on-me-plastic-upholstery-barriers, hired an anal-retentive cleaning service and started using mattress and pillow protectors I will magically be infused with a level of energy erstwhile unbeknowst to me, never ever have bad hair days and will realise that up until now I have been completely unaware of the colour purple.

Given all the things that we're all allergic to in our modern wonderland and the things that are guaranteed to give us cancer (ie eating food, breathing air and drinking anything) I figure we might as well give up now.
Given some careful planning and a bit of dedication, in a couple of generations we will all be locked in underground bunkers surviving on mushrooms and lichens - providing we can genetically engineer them not to involve spores - and warning our pallid and sickly looking offspring about the evils of the above-world and how the tiny enemies that surrounded us constantly almost wiped us out.
We might as well, it would at least pass the time and allow us to feel all important and post-apocalypticy and if the seas rise and cover the exits to the above-world I can guarantee that something exciting would happen that would require one of our more burly and witty pale-o-nauts to have to somehow get out, get to the surface and in the process learn something about the human spirit and that we actually can survive the Daystar and the world that basks in its glow... And when he returns with this heart-warming news I'm sure people will also be interested to hear that they can stop eating Soylent Green, but only if they want to.
Waste not, want not.

Sunday, 10 February 2008

Sleep - The Final Frontier...

Dear God in Heaven, when did buying a new mattress become so complicated!?
I have spent a good part of this weekend trolling around the bed/mattress shops in my area, rolling and bouncing around and feeling like a complete deviant as the salesperson stands over me, watching, and says "And how does this one feel?"
There are so many bloody options and brands and settings and... things! And forgive me for sounding like an old lady but when did beds become so expensive?
Instead of just somewhere to deck out at night they seem to have become an investment for the future, health supplement and masseuse alternative all in one!

My current mattress is what I would generously refer to as an 'antique' but what most people would call 'old'.
I inherited it from my grandmother's house where it had done roughly 10 years long service as the guest bed after about a 10 year stint as my grandmother's bed before she got one of those fancy bed-goes-up-bed-goes-down beds.
Captivated by the fact that it would be my first double bed and hypnotised by the fah-bulous Queen Anne (or Queen Somebody) style wooden bed-head and bed-end with the scrolly bits, I was completely oblivious to the um... generous amount of give in the mattress.
Now that I have had it for a while the novelty of sliding into the depression in the centre of the mattress, spending the night in the foetal position and then having to mountaineer my way out in the mornings has worn off.
So I figured I'd go for a shop around.
And what a wonderland of information and helpful 'tell you those things that other folk won't tell you' salespeople I found!

There were beds with sprung bases, beds with solid bases, beds with frames instead of bases and that was just the bottom half!
Your mattress could be full of springs, made of latex, full of springs with a latex 'pillowtop' or be made of a special kind of foam of a type that doesn't suck and will not eventually turn into a fine powder.
Some of the salespeople insisted that a sprung base would increase the life of your mattress by a third, other salespeople insisted this was a lie made up to sell more bases because bases bring in a sweet profit margin. I was inclined to believe the salespeople in the second camp - because who doesn't trust people who try to save them money? - until I became a little suspicious that I might have been tricked into looking at some of the more expensive mattresses to celebrate all the money I saved by buying a frame instead of a base...

I got to lay on the bed equivalent of those pressure pads they use at shoe shops to figure out how you distribute your weight and ended up with a pretty print-out of how far my bum sinks into the mattress. I desperately wanted them to offer me a cross-trainer bed with air-support at this stage but they didn't, though the shop did have a full-height inflatable double-bed complete with tiny automatic pump that all fits into a backpack.
Now that's how to crash at a friend's in style!
"Sleep on your shitty couch with the acupuncture springs? No thanks, mate, I've got an inflatable bed in my backpack!" *foom*

The long and the short of it is that I spent almost all day laying down, rolling onto my side, onto my stomach and trying to work out exactly what a bed that hasn't turned into a sinkhole should feel like... and now I've got a sore back.
I mean how?
I suspect about 5 years of sleeping in a somewhat shitty bed has something to do with it. I'm probably a little out of whack but all these brand spanking new beds with their nano-pillow technology, kryptonite springs and anti-grav dust-mite resistant weave shouldn't give you upper back pain should they? And if so how? Exactly how broken have I already become?

In the end I've found a mattress/frame ensemble I think I'd be happy with, to be honest I think I'd like to marry the mattress and have soft cushion-y children with it but I've decided to be all grown up and restrained about it and just double-check that my dream mattress is not in fact the one that is sending me into unexpected first-time ever unwelcome back twinges.
I just don't think our love could survive that kind of betrayal.
That and the fact the whole kitten kaboodle is going to wind up costing about AU$2,000 !
That would be the most money I have ever spent on anything that wasn't an airline ticket!*
The fact that the bed is supposed to last in this amazing never-deteriorating condition for at least 20 years is only a slight consolation as I guess it can then be divided down to costing AU$100 a year but you can understand my desire to rethink before I get bamboozled by exciting jargon and seductive talk about German engineered spring systems and the like.

Also I really had to get out of there before I was sent into an epileptic fit by all the brightly coloured cover sets for your doona/eiderdown/counterpane/whatever you call the big floofy warm down-filled blanket thingy on top of your bed. Some people have obviously found their drug habits a touch too costly these days and have swapped to trying to replicate the sensation with psychedelic themed bedrooms. Yeesh!

PS. Yes, I am totally going to buy the accompanying flamingo statue in the picture. What bedroom would be complete without it?

*I don't own a car. I'm... um... an environmentalist *coff coff* Or possibly I'm very bad at making choices on big expensive things that might get broken down or rear-ended by retards.

Sunday, 3 February 2008

The Indefinitely Delayed Resurrection Of The Sun Dial King

Harry's shadow strides down the street, a colossus towering over all it passes. Or would do if it were vertical. He lifts his arms and the shadow lifts its arms, longer, more slender, its fingers tapering to graceful points spread against the grass on his left, the asphalt on his right. He flexes his hands as his shadow-fingers strum the shadow of the overhead power-lines. The shadow lines don't play a tune, the shadow fingers don't show his calluses but the sharp point of his thumbnail becomes a claw.

His shadow-legs moved strangely ahead of him, melting into each other and shifting shape as he walks. His knees run up and down his shadow-legs, dragging his shins up with them and then squashing them down again, like weights and two test-your-strength fair games.
The colourful lump of Harry's sneaker is in the way. He can't see the shadow of his foot. He kicks angrily, trying to tuck it back out of his line of sight, his eyes fixed on the shadow.

A car rushes past and for a moment his shadow is gone, obliterated, covered, obscured by the hurtling shadow-car. Harry catches his breath, stopped in mid-stride and doesn't begin again - walking or breathing - until his shadow reemerges. He lets his breath flow out of him, half expecting the shadow to waste away as his lungs empty. It doesn't, but it is taller than it was moments ago. Leaner, stretched and twanging against the ground.

His hair has lengthened to a mane that flows out behind him, flapping gently in the breeze. His shadow-head is indistinguishable from his shadow hair, its size fluctuates, its outline changes, his neck disappears only to reemerge again.
The shadow is streaming away, leaning towards the road, Harry picks up his pace, trying to keep up.

Behind him he hears the approaching murmur of an engine, another car, another shadow. Shadow Harry is too thin, won't survive another eclipse.
As the murmur becomes a growl, Harry begins to run, ushering Shadow Harry before him.

When the police officer arrives to take a statement, the distraught man sitting in the back of the ambulance, one hand over his bloodied temple, swears he'd had no warning. No reason to believe that the boy running down the side of the road would suddenly veer in front of him. Chasing his shadow into the ground and under the wheels.

Friday, 1 February 2008

Clichés Can Still Be Deadly

Despite the fact I know that I have an imagination like a kid with ADHD who has gone off her meds and chugged an entire bottle of red cordial syrup, I persist in watching horror movies.
I know I really shouldn't because it inevitably ends with me shuffling about wearing a crucifix, purposefully cultivating a bout of garlic breath and wondering if there is anywhere nearby that offers classes in how to pilot helicopters, man a machine gun turret on a moving armoured vehicle or kill aliens with your thumb.
Despite all these things, I went and saw I Am Legend the other day and was struck by two things.
Firstly, Karen Healey over at Girls Read Comics is on to a winner with her 'What if Will Smith Was In It' movie game "where one thinks of a movie, and then imagines Will Smith in it, whereupon the movie is instantly improved".
Secondly, a quick assessment finds me to be worryingly vulnerable and chompworthy in the event of any major natural or supernatural disaster.

Let us consider the basics.
I can't run to catch a bus let alone to save myself, even though I can walk for hours at that annoyingly brisk pace that always has the people you're with asking you where the bloody fire is and assuming you aren't the wheezing out of shape wreck you actually are. If not quite power walking is enough to escape the hordes of undead I might last a short while.
I can't physically haul myself over or onto anything that is too high, making fire without the power of matches or a cigarette lighter would be an embarrassing trial and if I had to grow my own vegetables I would die of scurvy because I have a black belt in black thumb.
Of course the last point has strayed into the realm of long term survival concerns, which may be a bit ambitious. You need to survive the initial event before you have to worry about feeding yourself or the joys of dysentery and my initial point was that I probably wouldn't last long enough to worry about what's for dinner.

On the upside I am an inherently suspicious person.
Even a person who has never watched any horror movies should be suspicious of certain situations. Someone who has seen even a modest selection of horror movies will be specifically sensitive to key indicators. This doesn't necessarily offer a straightforward course of action for you to follow or guarantee your survival, especially as you may not know how you perform 'under pressure' until the moment comes.
I present for your consideration the following true life example.

I was the only person in the whole house (first warning sign: nobody about!) and had decided to indulge in a spot of post sunset hanging out of the washing (multiple boo boo: I'm outside! At night! Doing something domestic!), as you do, and whilst our Labrador frolicked at my feet (warning: cute pet! Cute pet!), covering my pants in a fine coat of blonde hairs, I noticed an odd noise just on the edge of hearing (Retreat! Retreat!)
A bit of peering around revealed it to be the tap down the back of the yard in the fenced off and overgrown dog area where no one ever goes (AWOOGA!!! AWOOGA!!!) dribbling in a persistent and wasteful manner.
'How odd!' I thought to myself, 'It wasn't doing that before. Oh well, I'll just go in and turn that off...' (WHAT!?) and then post-horror movie paranoia kicked in. I could almost hear my non-existent audience screaming DON'T GO IN THERE! RUN AWAY YOU IDIOT!

Reassessment: Unexplained, innocent seeming change in environment luring unsuspecting solitary girl down to the bottom of the garden.


There are a few ways I could play out this scenario.

Option #1: Open the gate and let the dog go in ahead of me
  • If anything is going to jump out immediately it would get the dog, allowing me to scream like an opera singer and run away.
  • If something happened to the dog I would feel like a complete bitch.
  • If the dog mysteriously disappeared (with or without that gut retching 'Arp!' noise) I would, being a big old idiot, go running after her and straight into a trap.

Option #2: Leave it
  • I wouldn't be going in and wouldn't get got down the bottom of the garden.
  • I could be leaving myself open to getting got later on, probably whilst I was in bed where I would inexplicably be wearing a silky negligee.
  • If there was in fact nothing 'suss'* going on I would feel like an idiot and a drought-exacerbator in the morning

Option #3: Man up and go in, clutching a weapon or two
  • I would feel like less of a wuss.
  • I might get an advance warning of whatever is trying to creep up on me wholesale.
  • I might get got, leaving the dog bouncing up and down barking excitedly but uselessly as my demise is reflected in her big brown eyes.

Option #4: Go in but take someone with you
  • I might have a better chance of survival via confusion or strength in numbers.
  • If they get got I might feel like a bastard (depending who they were).
  • Whilst I'm waiting for them to turn up I might get got.

After overthinking my options I took a variation of Options #1 and #4.
I went in with my dog whilst talking with my mother on my mobile** phone.
This makes me double wuss as I could have ended up with something happening to the dog, myself getting got and my poor mother having to listen to my grisly and protracted final bubbling sounds. But at least someone would know that something had happened and they could get right to the part where they send in a middle aged cop to investigate, he barely gets away with his life and then gets to fall in love with a glamorous lady biochemist who will then save the day. Or bits of it.
So already I have proved myself a crisis wussie and written myself into the role of 'Oh my God! She's dead!... That was so cool!' anonymous or unsympathetic/unimportant bit character.
I have not even the survival skillz to make myself the hero in my own half hypothetical situation.

From this tale of caution and woe you should take two simple lessons.
One: Always be prepared.
Two: If I ever ask you to take a walk with me down a dark garden path... you should probably take a raincheck.

*lit. suspicious (also weird/off colour/dodgy)
**it's mobile... you can carry it around with you... out in the world... come on, you know this one...

Who Me?

I managed to crap out on my hectic 'once a week' posting schedule.
But I have a good reason.
I was at the beach.

What's that?
Well, yes, the town in question did have a magical portal to the land we call internets.

Yes, yes I am just a lazy hussy who was drunk on sand, surf and... well drinks, to be frank.

Am I properly ashamed of myself?
Well I was raised Catholic so I always feel vaguely guilty about something but I suppose, yes, I am.

What am I going to do about it?
*sigh* I'll post two things this weekend and make a note in my weekly planner to stop sucking. OK? OK.

No this is not one of the bloody posts! I'm not that freaking lazy! *

*This is a lie but on this occasion I will overthrow my natural tendencies and produce two more posts to follow this one before the weekend is out.