Saturday, 29 March 2014

Time For The Slow Clap

Because I'm a very special kind of genius, at approximately 10 am on Thursday morning I knocked a full cup of coffee with my hand and sloshed a good quarter of it onto my laptop keyboard.

I'll pause to allow you time to make the appropriate series of faces (i.e. oh no! --> you idiot... --> you poor, dumb idiot...).

All done?

Well I hope that didn't wear out your face muscles because I'm not done.

As I was flailing around trying to right the coffee mug and swearing inventively at myself... I knocked over a glass of water.

Right onto my laptop keyboard.


Feel free to proceed directly to 'you idiot' and stay there this time.

On the upside, it washed the coffee out of my laptop.

On the downside... laptop full of water.

At this point my brain finally joined the party.

I switched my laptop (which was still miraculously on at this point) off, pulled the battery and stood it on its end to let the water run out.

Knowing there was nothing else I could do, I just had to sit there cursing my own name until the end of the day at which point I took it to the computer shop and - shamefaced and penitent - handed it over to see what can be done.

Seeing as Step 1 is 'take it apart, clean it and then leave it to dry for a few days before even thinking about putting it back together and seeing if it will reboot' I have some suspense and plenty of time to feel like an idiot ahead.

If I've wrecked it I'll only be truly mad at myself if I also lose all my data.

If it's still working by some miracle I will have shortened its lifespan and learned a fairly valuable life lesson the hard way.

But the most important thing to remember here is that I'm an idiot :-P

Thursday, 27 March 2014

Sometimes My Brain Is A Jerk

I can't remember most of the dream but the bit that stuck with me was that there was something drastically wrong.
Something was going to happen and it was going to endanger people across the galaxy or make life on Earth impossible or plunge people into endless suffering.
The point is there was a very real reason that a bomb had to be set off that would destroy the entire world and I was the person who had to do it.
So here I am, in front of a bomb that looks like the sea mine shown in Hot Fuzz, pressing a couple of buttons on its face to start the countdown.
As little red numbers flicked and counted down I thought 'No-one else  knows this is about to happen, so they don't have to be scared, they can be happy right until the end and then they'll be safe' and 'At least I won't feel anything, I'm standing right next to it, it'll be instant and then I'll be gone'.
Then there was a bloom of light and then darkness but I was still there.
Nothing floating in nothing.
Just thinking 'I'm sorry. Good bye. I love you. I love you.'

The worst part was how real the emotions felt.
I had this peaceful moment before I pressed the button where I thought 'All those things I thought I would have time for, I guess I'm not going to get do them now' and just let it all go.
So now I know what it feels like to realise that you're going to die before getting to experience certain life events, along with wanting to call loved ones to say goodbye but knowing that it would make it harder for you and scare them so it's best to just remember the last conversation you had with them instead.
Not to mention the annihilation of the planet.

Needless to say, I awoke feeling more than a little messed up :-/

Sunday, 23 March 2014

Online Isolation

This year I decided to quit Facebook for Lent.

I was raised Catholic but I'm not particularly religious* and don't often observe Lent but it's a handy time to consider your behaviours and indulgences if the mood takes you and I had been spending faaaaar too much time staring blankly at social media.

It isn't as though anything particularly Earth-shaking was happening on Facebook, there weren't many people posting huge life events and the stuff they were sharing ran from interesting and/or amusing to repetitive and/or boring.
The stuff that was happening on Facebook wasn't the real problem, it was the 'maybe something interesting will happen, better keep checking' impulse.

This impulse first manifested itself earlier in my life as 'maybe the next music video on Rage won't suck so much' and could lead to sitting up until 2am until I realised that the odd video that I enjoyed wasn't really worth the shit ones I was sitting through to get to them.

So when I really took the time to notice that I was wasting an inordinate amount of time checking, hitting refresh, and scrolling about on Facebook just in case something of note happened I figured this was a good chance to stop with that shit and have a crack at actually doing something myself.

Some people reacted with surprise when I said I was doing it, warned me I'd miss out on things, said they wouldn't be able to do it themselves and then looked sly so I know when I log back in there will be hundreds of notifications awaiting me because everyone I know is a bastard.

Other people, who have militantly resisted joining Facebook, took me into their arms like a long-lost loved one who had escaped a cult and spoke to me soothingly of how much bullshit I'll be freeing myself from and how I'll no longer be providing free market research for an unloving corporate monster.

The reaction that really stunned me was when people found out that I was still using Twitter.

"But that's CHEATING!" they cried. "You might as well not have bothered!"

Uh, no, I gave up Facebook because I was wasting time waiting for it to produce results.
Twitter is interesting and a lot quicker to flick through, harvest and step away from.

Besides, it was like telling people you're giving up coffee and then having them incensed because you're still drinking tea and hot chocolate.

"Next time," they declared, "You should give up the whole internet! Do it properly!"

Give up the internet for 40 days?

Yes, I'm sure I could but it would make life a lot more difficult in some fairly key ways.

I do all my banking online, phone books are no longer physical, research for travel or restaurants or events or even my work would be made almost impossible.

It wasn't so much that they thought I should give up the whole recreational aspect of the internet that took me aback, it was the fact that they already assumed that was what I was doing.

As if giving up Facebook meant giving up the internet.

As if Facebook was the internet.

I hadn't known until then that that's the way a lot of people see it. That Facebook is the only part of a vast sea of information that they have regular and intimate contact with.

It's both fascinating and a little bit worrying.

I know I am missing out on a few things because once people have announced things on Facebook they forget to say things in person but it's made conversations a lot more engaging because when I talk to people now they have news to share which I haven't heard, even if they have to be prompted to remember I won't know it yet.

When you're on Facebook you have a lot of conversations that go:
"Hey, what've you been up to?"
"Oh well I've got that new job."
"Oh yeah, you put up that big post about it."
And that's it.
Because you already know.

I've sent and received a lot more text messages and emails since I've been off.

People have casually mentioned how much more effort it is remembering to forward things separately if they want to share with me, not in an accusatory fashion, but in surprise as if they hadn't realised how much they depended on Facebook to inform people, to arrange meetings and events, and even as a primary medium for private messages.

Apart from ease of communication, I haven't particularly missed it, and I have really enjoyed how much my being absent from it has bugged some people.

When I go back I think I'll be a lot more casual about it, at least I hope I will be.
It might take a few deliberate reminders to keep me from falling into old ways.

In the meantime I'll enjoy the next... 28 days of freedom and prepare myself for the ridiculous deluge of tags and posts that the assholes I lovingly call friends have carefully curated for me in my absence.

And I'll have to work out whether I want to suppress or foster the urge to write smug posts about my time away, partly as revenge for all the tags they'll have accosted me with and partly because, like everyone I know, I am essentially a bastard.

*My beliefs in marriage equality and assumptions that a divine being would have better things to do than keep a list of things he doesn't want you doing to each other's fun bits keeping me from embracing organised religion too closely.

Sunday, 16 March 2014

Market Madness

Last Sunday I ended up helping to run a stall at the Camberwell Market.

I mean, I wasn't snatched off the street and put in charge of it or anything but it was pretty close.

My friend Spooky's sister had finally got herself geared up and booked a spot at the market but just days before her market debut been told she had to work the weekend. This led to her springing the opportunity to run a stall at the flea market/swap-meet-y gathering on Spooky on the Friday.

Spooky had a bunch of clothes she was trying to get rid of so she said yes.

Neither of us had any idea what we were doing but meh, that's half the fun right?

So the night before the market she packed some rolling clothes racks into the back of her car along with a whole mountain of clothes which were carefully bagged by price, made sure she had enough change, got an early night and then got so wound up about the whole situation that she woke up at 1:30 am and couldn't get back to sleep.

As her 'yeah why not' assistant I slept allllllll the way through until the late hour of 3:15am, at which point I rolled out of bed, fed the pets, remembered to get dressed, had a cup of tea and then rolled myself into her father's 4WD when she pulled up the front at 3:45 am looking a little bleary eyed and manically enthusiastic.

First fun part of the day was the 4WD.

It's a Renault Scénic* which her father quite liked about it when he first bought it.
He liked it less when it started needing expensive repairs and imported spare parts.
Sooo he didn't do/import them.
This means that it struggles in 4th and sings you a song of exquisite pain the entire time it's in 5th, so we weren't exactly burning down the highway.

We'd left with enough time to allow for some traffic and other vagaries of fate which meant that even with the poor crippled foreign car we turned up at the market location at 6:15 am, which we figured would be plenty of time to set up our paltry offerings for the market's opening time of 6:30 am.

Yes and no.

Yes because our set up really did only take about 15 minutes once we got to do it.
No because everyone else** had turned up at 5 am, the place was a jam of cars and people wrestling with trestle tables, and some incredibly dedicated shoppers**** were already browsing the wares being unpacked.
They were having to use torches to do this because it was still dark because it was 6:15 AM IN THE MORNING!

So we wrestled the dumb dumb car to our spot, confirmed our assumption that we wouldn't be able to park AND display our wares in the space allocated for our stall was correct and immediately crapped up some more as we tried to set up.

The boot had been completely crammed, so I jumped out, pulled out a few things on top so Spooky could see and then stood there to help usher her back into the car park spot that comprised our stall location for long enough for us to unpack everything before she went to park the car in the assigned area.

This seemed to be going pretty well until the bit where I realised she couldn't see me as she ignored my waved warnings and bumped into a card table with four milk crates of records on it.
Luckily she didn't do this hard enough to damage the table or dislodge the records but we did immediately decide to just unpack with the car sitting in the aisle and get out of the way as soon as possible.

This took us all of three minutes but a market regular still took time to explain to us how because our car was there other people couldn't drive by.
Honey, they wouldn't have been able to drive by while Spooky spent 7 minutes wrestling the weirdo Renault into the spot and then had to force her way back into the flow of traffic to park it elsewhere either, so shut up.

All our stuff was safely in a big pile in the middle of the stall space, Spooky jumped back into the weirdo car to go park it and I stood guard.
And a couple of the 'he always seemed so quiet, never would have guessed' early shoppers came by and tried to browse a bunch of canvas bags of unpacked goods with their torches, one fellow sidling up to me to ask if we were selling any jewellery, another hopefully checking if we had any leather bags.

10 minutes of standing around feeling like bit of a berk as the snooty regular lady occasionally gave me as much of an uppity look as the low light levels would allow and Spooky was back.

Put up clothes racks, pull out clothes hangers, put clothes on hangers, put price signs up, set up our bean bag chairs because we're high-powered professionals and want to flaunt it, and we were ready.

And yes we sold stuff.

That is a thing that happened but it was nowhere near as interesting as just watching the people.

Some of these folks were clearly on a mission, others floated around the place as if they weren't quite sure how they had got here or why they were even outside of the house but how lovely, a market just happens to be here!

A lot of people brought their dogs which had Spooky scurrying off every 10 minutes to go beg to pat them while I stayed to keep an eye on things.

There were people who bought all their clothing at the markets who were clearly rocking the look.
There were people who did the same but with much less successful results.

There was a guy dressed like the lovechild of Cohen the Barbarian and a wizard.

I just googled 'Camberwell Wizard' and here he is!

Found at Andrew D2010's Flickr stream (you have to be signed in to see)

The day we saw him we was wearing royal blue with a bit more leather and honestly looked like he was going to offer to sell you a magic lamp at any second.

Some of the marketeers who I decided to rebadge as 'lifers' obviously knew a lot of tricks of the trade to run their stall smoothly and get customers interested but just as obviously were miserable people.

There was a fellow having what seemed to be a passive-aggressive snipe at a woman I assumed was his wife every time there was a lull in customers, there was the aforementioned snooty lady, there was a woman selling 'vintage' toys who wanted $10 for a low-budget electronic hand-held game that wasn't really worth $10 when it came out in the 90s and certainly not now when it was missing its battery cover and she couldn't actually remember if it worked or not.

I guess a certain amount of manning the barricades and you'd get sick of the looky-lous and the people expecting quality goods for almost free but it seemed a bit sad.
Sure they're running it like a business and probably hit up all sorts of markets on the regular and every market can't be a bustling Disney fantasy of cheerful traders and excited patrons***** but it's a nice atmosphere if you can take the time to appreciate it.

In contrast the fellow whose records Spooky had endangered spent the day popping in to give us little bits of advice, ask us how we were going, make conversation and warn us about the 'lifers'.

At the end of the day - well, by 12:30 pm which is when the market closes - we'd made enough money to cover the cost of running the stall, the petrol getting there and lunch and probably not a lot more but it had been a hell of a time.

What made that end of the experience even better was the fact that all the lifers were so efficient that 10 minutes after close they had packed up entirely and were gone, leaving behind only memories and the echoes of their crushed dreams.
This meant that when Spooky brought the car around to pack up we had plenty of space to park and had everything squared away within 10 minutes and could head off with the crippled Scénic.

Leaving the market presented its own challenges as some people's stalls looked like they had exploded by this point and it was a bit tricky weaving your way out without driving over any of their valuable crap.
The lifers who had been on our other side had almost driven over a shoe rack in our spot when they started casually pulling out without looking.
It was as we pulled up to the exit that Spooky realised - in the warm light of midday - why the record man had almost ended up short some records.
The rear vision mirror had been tilted down.
What with the blackness of the wee hours and the crammed condition of the boot when we'd driven in, she hadn't been able to tell that the mirror wasn't actually framing the rear window the way you'd ideally like it to if you're trying to use it not to cause a traffic incident.

Whoops :-P

If you were more organised, did some reconnaissance to see what competition you were up against and turned up wearing your game face I'm sure you could make a reasonable amount of money out of the enterprise; but then you might risk turning into a joyless lifer and I much preferred the people watching, dog patting, and boggling at people who ummed and ahhed over whether they really wanted the nice shirt that was in the 'dollar bin' rather than just buying it because it COST A WHOLE DOLLAR!******

We probably won't do it again but I'm certainly glad I said 'yeah, why not!' when she asked me.
The memories we've now got were definitely worth the time it took to form them.

The early morning is a strange and almost unreal land, disassociated from normal life, and in this case it actually did contain a wizard!

*What on Earth is that accent doing there? I mean really?
**All the long time marketeers*** at least
***Shut up, I'm calling them that, it's more interesting than 'stallholders'.
****Overenthusiastic weirdoes
*****That was the medieval fair that my brother and I stumbled upon in Luxembourg when we were travelling in 2006. Best fair ever.
******The people shillyshallying were not responsible impoverished folk on a budget, they were uni-aged kids wearing $200 sunglasses and $5 clothes. I'd guess that's how they can afford the $200 sunglasses but that's just conjecture.

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

I Aten't Dead

*Sidles back onto the internet*

Heeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeey guuuuuuuuuuuuys...

So, OK, I might have gotten a bit carried away and spent... wow... 13 months reading stuff on the internet instead of doing anything else on the internet.

I found a few blogs whose archives I tore through, which led to other blogs which led to collections of short stories that led to collections of longer stories that led to stories long enough to consider books and of course I had to read all of them as well and all this was liberally interspersed with trying to get all the way back to the first post of several tumblrs and some people post so much stuff to their tumblrs that by the time you wake up the next morning the page number you were up to the day before is now showing stuff from four days ago and you aren't so much catching up as being buried alive...

I became straight up obsessed with 'finishing'.

Finishing each blog, each tumblr, each author's selection of stories, each set of stories in a particular genre or collection.

All of it.

I have no idea where it came from.

I haven't been obsessed with anything like that in years and never for that long.

I would have read millions of words worth of fiction and non-fiction while at the same time reading nothing that could be added to my Reading List.

I achieved very little else last year.

Didn't watch many TV shows or movies, did no sewing or drawing, tried fewer new recipes, didn't keep up with my Italian, did very little knitting.

Just made a concentrated effort to READ THE ENTIRE INTERNET!!! 0_0

But I think I'm OK now.

I honestly had a 'the fog lifted' moment and almost full on Ebenezer Scrooge 'You, boy, what day is this!?' style noticed the rest of the world.

Enthusiasm for and interest in other things came flooding back in.

I hadn't by any means felt myself to be depressed, just mysteriously fixated to the exclusion of all else.

The crazy thing is that the entire time I was staring slack-jawed at the pretty screen, I was taking notes for things I wanted to write and projects I wanted to start but popped them to the side because meh, I'd get to them later when I was done.

So now that I've blinked myself awake like Rip Van Winkle I'm going to start posting again.

I'm also going to try post things for all the ideas I had but didn't use and post them up listed when I would have posted them if I hadn't been in a trance state.
These I will clearly mark as backdated posts because I very definitely was not anything approaching productive during that time and I'll not pretend otherwise.

So, yes, hello!

I am in fine health, I've had no negative life events, I just drifted away like a beagle who has locked on to a scent and have now finally found my way back.

I hope you've all been more engaged in the world than I have and look forward to seeing what you have all been doing while I was in my zombie-like state.

And because you can never have enough Nanny Ogg or Granny Weatherwax...

(I swear, if I could find these for sale I would snap them up faster than you could say 'MINE!!!')