Monday 25th June, 2012
I've been reflecting lately on how much I hate not being perfect at everything. Actually, not so much my current ability at anything, but the limits on my ability to learn and improve.
Whether I was bound to be this way since birth, or whether it's a result choices I have made in my life, I have an affinity for a certain kind of thinking. By no coincidence, I'm sure, my work (and play) in software is very well suited to the way my mind works, and learning 'new' concepts and ideas in that area usually comes very easily to me. I can see similarities in how I approach everything, from programming to life in general; rationally, as a problem to be analysed and solved, finding the necessary interactions between objects to produce the desired changes in state. Almost everything I've ever had any interest in learning has been either logical by nature, or able to be forced into some kind of algorithm anyway. Almost everything, but not everything.
It's those exceptions that annoy me. When I come across something that doesn't come naturally to me, that doesn't fit my usual approach, I need to try a different way. The problem is that I don't have a different way. I've become specialised in a particular kind of thought, it seems, at the expense of any other. By why should they be exclusive? I should be able to learn new ways of thinking. Maybe I can, I don't know any reason why not, but I don't know how to learn things.
When I'm reading or writing code, I know the rules of the language it's written in. If something doesn't work the way it should, or even if the same thing can be done in a better or more efficient way, I can change it. With learning, I don't know the rules.
Also, it seems to me that beyond a certain skill level in anything, it is impossible or at least impractical for us to do consciously. When we start out with something, we usually put a lot of conscious thought into doing it, but we usually suck. When we get better is when we start to find that we don't really need to think about it any more. Our brain has developed some method of doing whatever it is, and that can now be applied without 'trying'. From my point of view, I'd say it'd come up with some algorithm and written some code, but unfortunately I can't see what it wrote, don't know how it works, and can't do anything about it. It's completely out of my control.
It's great that we can do this, and I'm sure necessary for us to even survive at all, but when it goes 'wrong', what can you do? I often make a mistake with something that I'd done subconsciously, then immediately consciously think about the error and produce a solution, only to discard it and proceed to make the same mistake again. Knowing what the mistake was or even what should be done to correct it is completely useless, because there's no way to directly alter the 'code' the brain has written. Certainly it adapts by itself, reinforcing some aspects and weakening others, but the method by which it does this is also a mystery.
If there was a way to directly alter the brain, I could fix all these issues, add new procedures for learning new skills. Sadly, all that can be done are 'tricks' to try and influence development in the right direction, and hope for the best.
Tuesday 15th June, 2010
In the bath just now, I was thinking. I often consider writing some of the things I think about during the day; I think they're quite interesting, but they're too small to make an entry on. This however, just about qualifies. I should pre-emptively clarify that 'you' in this entry is an abstract you, and not any particular person or set of people. If you get the idea that this is somehow about you, you're too vain, and thanks for reminding me of that awful song.
I've been called many negative things in my life, some of which I accept and agree with, and some I don't, but they all tend to be opinions, and therefore subjective. There is one thing though, that I can't accept in this way, because I believe it is a matter of fact, and not opinion; objectively I either meet the definition of this property or I do not.
Being called inconsistent offends me, because I am not. Asserting that I have acted inconsistently when I can explain the path that led to my action, and there is no other situation in which identical circumstances led to a different result, is insulting because it requires you to dismiss selective differences in these situations as 'insignificant'. In doing so you imply that the process by which you decide on a course of action is superior to mine. The fact that you think the differences between two given scenarios are 'small' enough to be inconsequential, does not make me inconsistent. I am consistent because at the most basic level, given the same inputs I will produce the same output, every time.
Of course, this is difficult to test; there is one major factor which makes it almost impossible to recreate a past situation, and that is experience. Every time an event occurs, I have the experience (or not, in the first-time case) of previous similar events to draw upon in reaching a decision. In some cases, its influence will be small, but in others (especially anything that involves interaction with another person) it is almost the entirety of the considered evidence. We all accept (I hope) that learning from past experience is a good thing. If we are presented with a choice, make our decision, and are then subjected to good or bad consequences of our decision, I think we would all agree that given the identical choice again, what happened to us last time will be a big factor in making that second decision. Would anybody call this inconsistent behaviour?
Perhaps what you are trying to say is that you find my reasoning frustrating, and that I might well agree with. However, your ignorance of or disagreement with my methods does not make me inconsistent. I may sometimes appear to be acting like a cryptographic hash function, with very small differences in input causing large changes in output, and you might find that very annoying, but like a hash function, my process is deterministic.
All of this led to the 'thoughtful' part, and wanting to share something about myself, explain something to you: why I hate answering your questions.
I am terrible at explaining my thoughts and feelings to people, but I realised some time ago that it's not entirely my fault; you are terrible at asking questions. My inability to answer your queries is in no small part due to your inability to phrase your query in sufficient detail. The most abstract cases are perhaps questions like "How do you feel about... ?". What does that mean?. Probably the ones I detest the most though, take the form "What would you do if... ?", and that is where my thoughts on consistency come in. Maybe it's a fault of mine, but I apparently have a completely inability to generalise questions like this. To do so simply makes no sense to me; I know that one seemingly small variable can have a large impact on the outcome of the situation, so it's not safe to assume that the result of one given scenario will the same as that of another, even if the circumstances appear very similar. I realise that generalisations can be useful, but only when you take them for what they are, and don't treat them as fact. When the input information falls below a certain detail threshold, the output rapidly starts to become useless.
I was thinking in particular of the classic 'Would you give your life to save a million lives?'. I cannot answer this question, because it is so vague that the answer is completely useless. Whether I answer yes or no will tell you absolutely nothing about me, or how I would approach such an issue. Worse, it leaves you free to think that you learned something about me and how I would approach such an issue, when in fact you did not.
I need to understand this situation. The first thing that comes to mind is that a person offering me such a choice is perhaps not trustworthy. Is it guaranteed that my death will save the million people? If not, I need to make a judgement on how much the risk is worth taking. If for example, there was an estimated 10% probability that the condition was true, the question effectively becomes 'would you give your life for 100,000 lives?'. At 1%, 10,000 lives, and so on. These numbers are still significant numbers of course, but I'm just making a point. Starting with say, a hypothetical hostage situation with five hostages including yourself, and the offer that your death would save the other four, judging that the criminal is probably a liar (or perhaps, has been known to lie in previous similar situations), assigning a 10% change that he is telling the truth makes it logically equivalent to exchanging your life for the certainty of saving 0.4 of a person. How that happens I'm not quite sure, perhaps they just get injured or something (in which case, is that worth dying for?).
Then of course, there's the matter of 'who are these people?'. Now, presuming that I have the right to decide who 'deserves' to live or die is not a pretty subject; it's entirely subjective and not at all fair. There is no definitive right or wrong. However, assuming for a moment everybody is perfectly classifiable into 'good' or 'bad' without having to state any criteria, are these people that I will save good or bad people? For that matter, which am I?
The point is, unless you can describe the situation in sufficient detail, I cannot give you an accurate answer, and very likely, you cannot describe the situation in sufficient detail. This is simply because we're human, and we'll forget things or not think of them entirely. There will be variables we couldn't even begin to predict, and that one tiny thing could have completely changed my answer. The only way you're going to get a meaningful answer from me is to role-play the whole scene, and honestly, most of the time I'm just not interested in making the effort to do that. Even then, what you'll get is my answer for that case, and that specific case only. There may be (and probably are) similarities between that and other similar circumstances, but you cannot assume that as fact. That, finally, is the reason I hate answering your questions: because you often do take it as fact, and then blame me for that. I cannot trust you not to extrapolate my answer to one specific question to predict my answer to another specific question, and then assume that prediction is accurate.
When you find out that it wasn't, you'll call me inconsistent.
Friday 21st May, 2010
This entry is actually composed of many entries that were started and never completed in the period between my last update and now. Hopefully I've combined them in a way that makes sense, and caught all the relative time references (like 'last week...') that were no longer correct.
First of all, and a long time ago now, the new year. Diana was staying with me for a couple of weeks, so she was here at the time. We decided to all (Diana, Graham and myself) go to The Antelope, thinking we'd have a meal early in the evening and then stay for drinks and whatever entertainment they had planned. When we arrived, though, we found that they had replaced their usual menu with a special one for the evening, which was very limited. The items on it were all (at least trying to present themselves as) high class 'gourmet' meals, featuring strange meats and exotic sauces, none of which appealed to me. We probably should have made a decision right then to go elsewhere, but decided to stay and give it a chance. I ordered what I thought were the most edible items, paid lots of money for them, and didn't really enjoy any of it. I think the others felt similarly. We stayed for a short while after the food, had some tea and coffee and tried to talk over the DJ, until deciding that we could do much better by ourselves. We left quickly and called a taxi back home, stopping at a petrol station on the way just in time to buy some whiskey and coke before it got too late for them to sell it. We stopped at my house for a moment for me to pick up the Playstation and Ghettopoly, and then went to Graham's. With various games, music and drinking, the night got a lot better, and 2010 began.
Last year, I wrote that "this year is for repair", and it really has been. I have to say that overall, 2009 was A Good Year™. I feel I have advanced in some way, to a better stage of life. It feels a little strange to say that whilst I'm sat here in my parent's house, when last year I had a house of my own, but I know this is temporary and I feel sure it was a good choice. I learned to drive. There was the interesting change in atmosphere at work, Vantage has been a success and I started working on some new subjects I find fascinating. I finally left Shanna behind me, and spent ten months with Diana. She asked me sometime during December, I think, to tell her when the new year began whether 2009 had been better than the year before. I got annoyed with her for asking, taking it more like a command than a request, but the truth is I had already been thinking about that, and the answer is yes, she helped a lot to make it a much better year, and I thank her for that.
Our relationship is something I would like to say a lot more about, but also one of the things for which I feel the most pressure to keep details to a minimum. Not only because of Diana's preference for privacy, but also because I couldn't tell you just pieces of the story - it wouldn't be a fair account - I would have to tell you all of it, from the beginning. It's interesting. We've been together for a few months over a year now, and though it initially felt strange and difficult to have another long distance relationship, this isn't the same; we've managed to spend on average at least a week together each month, even if that time hasn't been distributed evenly. It hasn't been perfect uninterrupted happiness; there have been plenty of frustrations and arguments, and we spent our anniversary almost breaking up, but we've also had so many good, happy times together, and I still have that strange feeling of optimism about us that I've had since we met. It's hard to see the whole picture sometimes when you're focused on a particular moment, but when I do... the good things are such good things, and the bad things are so stupid and petty, it seems incredible they ever happened. I have felt a change, very recently, I think a kind of recognition that it's time; we've been together quite a while now, we know each other well, we've seen all the good and bad points we have to offer each other and we know we want this - we should just work together and make it happen. I have been very happy, and I know there is much more to come.
I'm going back to Bremen for the last time in the foreseeable future on the 1st of June. Things are about to change; Diana is graduating from her university, and we don't yet know where she'll go next. Since her parents will also be attending the ceremony, this will be the first time that I meet them. It's probably going to be an interesting experience, partly just because we might not be able to communicate very easily - apparently their English is not particularly fluent, and I know only a few simple words of Romanian (which I'll talk about later), so it might be down to Diana to provide translation. I'm looking forward to it, but am also slightly cautious about what they might ask me. I refuse to lie about anything, but there are some subjects I know Diana would rather we did not talk about, so I can only hope that in the interest of peace, they just don't come up. It'll probably be fine - I think everybody would prefer that this all goes smoothly.
I'll actually miss Bremen. I can't speak for the rest of Germany, but from what little I've seen of the city, it's a nice place.
Speaking of where Diana is headed next though, we are hoping she will get a place in a university in England. If she does, there's a possibility that when the time finally comes for me to move out of this house for the second time, I might look for somewhere wherever she is. It's far too early to say how likely that is, but it's an idea, and I already asked Darius about how I could continue working if I wanted to leave Bournemouth. Work is really the only thing tying me to this place, other than general familiarity, but the idea of moving and working remotely didn't seem to be an issue. Indeed, almost everything I do now is remote anyway; they just like my presence in the office for reassurance, I think, but we said we'd agree some scheme where I basically guarantee to be 'available' at certain times and days, and probably hire someone local for the trivial tasks, and who is technically proficient enough that I could give instructions to them for anything that needs to be done 'on-site'.
In January, I went ahead with my plans to build a new PC. I went significantly over budget, but I don't regret it. My computer is my one real possession, the only physical item of any real importance that I own, and very personal - this is why I always build it myself. This time with an AMD Phenom II X4 processor, a lovely MSI motherboard with hardware RAID support and 4GB of DDR3 memory. Initially I kept my old power supply and graphics card, but they were too noisy, so they had to go too. I bought a new Nexus PSU and a Sapphire Vapor-X Radeon HD 5770. The 5770 seems to be roughly equal in power to the 4890 that I had before, despite being almost 1000 more model number units, but is a DirectX 11 card, and most importantly, extremely quiet. Combined with the huge heat sink and fan I bought for the CPU, the system is almost silent, and runs very cool - the processor never makes it much above room temperature even under heavy load. The only things making any noise now are the hard disks - 3 x 1.5TB disks in RAID 5 configuration.
The peace was disturbed briefly when the PSU started making a whining noise under certain conditions. The volume and pitch of the sound seemed to be directly related to system load, which made it very annoying as it would vary as I did things, making itself very noticeable. I sent QuietPC an email asking if I could send it back, and they accepted. Shortly after that however, I lost power without warning a couple of times, and eventually, it wouldn't switch back on at all. I ordered a new Scythe PSU instead, and haven't had any problems since. Also, as the reason for return had changed from 'unwanted noise from item' to 'broken item', QuietPC collected the old one for free and refunded it. I have to say I have been very pleased with their service, and I'm thinking of buying a couple more things from them: a fan controller, and possibly some acoustic foam to put around the hard disk enclosure.
I named it Xana, after the character from Dark Messiah of Might and Magic. My old computer, eventually named Nemo after being called simply WhoAmI for most of its life, met an end strangely fitting to its name. Unlike the system before it, Carbon109, it had many parts replaced, never really retained its own identity, and now serves Graham as a host for various virtual machines. The nameless one has faded from existence.
Back in what I think was April, but may have been March, Graham and I went to see 30 Seconds To Mars at the BIC. They're not by any means our favourite band, but still are somewhat unique in our music collection, and we had a feeling that they'd be good to see live. We were right. Songs that are usually 'pretty good' became an amazing experience. Thankfully it turns out that Leto really can sing every bit as well live as in the studio, and he and the rest of the band gave a fantastic performance. I bought two of the traditionally-ridiculously-overpriced T-shirts they were selling after the show, which I feel was only fair after having downloaded all three of their albums from the internet. We'd talked about seeing them a few times before when we'd noticed that they'd been scheduled to play in local places like Southampton, but nothing ever came of it. Seeing them down to actually play Bournemouth though, was too tempting, and I'm glad we went.
For the first quarter of the year or so, I went through a period of working my way through quite a few games. Mostly they were games I'd been meaning to investigate for a long time but hadn't, and now I've played through all of them in a row. S.T.A.L.K.E.R. was first, and probably the one I was most impressed by. It just somehow fits the perfect balance between FPS and RPG that I'd been waiting for. The combat is much more realistic than typical 'pure' FPSes like Unreal Tournament, with more importance given to stealth and caution, but still plenty of action. Getting shot actually hurts you and is fatal pretty quickly (at least on the hardest difficulty), so rushing in madly is usually not the best tactic. The AI is good, too. The atmosphere of the game is wonderful, fitting the storyline perfectly, having a real sense of hopelessness. Graphically it's not up to the latest standards, but still very impressive, and the underground areas with only your torch light to see by, casting shadows all around the environment, look superb and can actually be pretty scary. The RPG element is just right; I feel like the player character has a real identity, you get a lot of freedom to play things your way, but still directed through a mostly linear storyline to keep things interesting. I think the only aspect that bothered me was the same kind of issue I had with Fallout 3: the game encourages you to put a lot of time into things which end up being worth nothing. STALKER isn't quite so bad as Fallout, since you don't ever really have a 'home', but at least the first half or more of the game is spend travelling between the same territories, and you become very familiar with the world, and start collecting items for 'later'. Then, you take a critical step in the storyline, leave that place and never return. You take only what you can carry (which isn't much) and play through to the end of the game. I'd been so used to games like Morrowind and Oblivion allowing 'free-play' after the main quest is complete, it's still slightly surprising when I reach the end of an RPG-ish game and discover that there is no more to see but the credits.
The sequel, by comparison, was relatively disappointing. It wasn't terrible, but the world somehow seemed a brighter, happier place, which doesn't really fit with the supposed setting. The contrast in difficulty between areas was extreme too - the game as a whole was significantly easier even on the hardest setting, and felt a lot less serious or challenging, but had some short sections that were ridiculously hard, the only way to make it through alive basically being lots of quicksave/quickload. The main cause of the easiness was the new equipment customisation feature. I don't think I've ever seen this implemented well (except perhaps Mass Effect); all I had to do was save up a bit of money, buy all the upgrades focusing on range and accuracy, and build what was effectively a Assault Rifle of Extremely Long Range Pwnage. Nobody stood a chance after that. The story was much less interesting and immersive, and the ending felt incredibly rushed, not to mention being very buggy. The third instalment, I've only just begun playing, so I can't comment on that yet.
I became interested in trying out the new Red Faction game, but like Half-Life, decided that if I was going to play a franchise I'd start from the beginning. So, I bought the original Red Faction. It was what I expected it to be really - from around the same kind of time as games like Half-Life and Unreal, it was another now-old-looking but very long and fun shooter, which a few interesting gimmicks like the deformable environments thrown in. It was also laughably easy. I tried to take it seriously in the beginning, playing stealthily and trying not to get hit, but pretty soon discovered I didn't have to care. Most of the enemies do little damage (although some do extreme amounts), and the AI is too stupid to be a threat anyway. Most of the weapons seem to have pinpoint accuracy at all times regardless of range or movement, and I'm accurate myself, so enemies tended to be dead before they really had a chance to respond. Interestingly, my main thought after finishing it is that if Doom 3 had been more like Red Faction, it would have sucked significantly less.
Finally, I bought Mass Effect, which is something a little different. It's more like a film than a game for most of the time, very heavy on dialogue and story, and takes the 'pick what your character should say next' approach to determining how events unfold, which I quite like. I found the control system to be almost unplayable in the beginning and almost gave up on it, but eventually got used to it. The interface has quite a steep learning curve with very little instruction, but some of the mechanics, like the inventory and upgrade system, I really like.
Since I'm talking about games, there are two that I will not be buying, at least unless some changes are made. Bioshock 2 and Assassin's Creed 2, both of which I've been looking forward to for a long time, have now arrived but with some horribly restrictive DRM. Bioshock 2 is tied to Games For Windows Live, which means that I have to have an account with them, be online, logged in, and have the GFWL client running at all times if I want to play. I'm used to that general idea because I buy games on Steam, but they are not producing different versions of the game with appropriate copy protection; if I buy it on Steam, I will have to have Steam running, online and logged in, as well as GFWL running, online and logged in. That seems somewhat excessive to be able to play a game I paid them for. It also includes the lovely SecuROM, and apparently now a 15-install limit. Assassin's Creed 2 requires you to be online and connected to Ubisoft's servers for the entire time you are playing - any disconnection, even temporary, and the game will stop running. If you don't reconnect, your progress since the last checkpoint will be lost. It seems to me these companies are continually probing to see how far they can push with these restrictions. Well, this is far enough for me.
Oh actually, there's one more game I won't be buying, because Remedy suck. Alan Wake, announced literally years ago and marketed as a showcase for DirectX 10 and Vista. Time passed though, and now we already have DirectX 11 and Windows 7. Very little information on progress was published, the release date always set as 'when it's done', so for years I've been waiting patiently. Only to see that in the last few months before the waiting came to an end, the plans change from being a primary PC release to a primary XBox release, with PC version coming 'later', to then being an XBox exclusive with no PC version planned. So, that was worth the wait.
Having written this much, I couldn't possibly leave out Portal 2. Valve played a game with fans leading up to the official announcement that it's being developed, and it was... impressive. You can read the whole story elsewhere, but there was a sudden update released over steam with a cryptic description, which turned out to include several new sound files, some of which were Morse code, and some of which were actually encoded SSTV images. The images provided hexadecimal digits, which were assembled into an MD5 hash, and a text mask. Finding a string which had the correct MD5 hash and fitted the mask revealed a phone number, which turned out to be an old BBS. Once the login information was discovered (from the earlier Morse code), it released bits of text and ASCII images. There was a progress bar which counted up towards the official announcement, the text of which had more login details hidden within it. Those details a made the BBS output some new files, including some more images in unique file format, and a QBasic program for reading them. The work that Valve put into setting up these puzzles, and the work that the community put into solving them, was wonderful to see as it all unfolded. Now that is how you generate interest. Apparently the game is actually due for release sometime near the end of the year... I am certainly looking forward to it.
Last time she was here, Diana sort of... arranged a day out with Adele. I thought it was a strange thing to do, but we everyone seemed okay with going ahead with it, so we did. We took the children and had a day at Longleat, which was nice. I'd been there once before but many years ago. We didn't really have time for everything there, but went on train and through the place where you can pet the little animals, had some lunch and then on to the main attraction: the drive-through safari. It was good, and we got quite a few pictures, but as usual the animals everyone most wants to see - the big cats - were lazing around in the distance. The queues in those areas were pretty long too, and eventually everyone except me fell asleep. The next weekend I went back up by myself to spend a couple of days. Adele and I basically did a lot of driving, which turned out to be fun. We initially set off to find Cheddar Gorge, but didn't know the way. Adele suggested heading for Yeovil, thinking we'd see some signs on the way. We didn't, and ended up in Yeovil, which turned out to be in entirely the opposite direction from Cheddar. Since it was late, we went up to Bath, where I reversed into a bush and possibly scared away a burglar. I was a bit nervous about wondering around the city late on a busy night, but being Bath, it wasn't as bad as I thought. We went to Moles music venue for a bit, then decided to have another go at Cheddar. By the time we reached it, it was almost 1 in the morning. The darkness and lack of lighting in the little town, combined with not really knowing what to expect, the first turn took me by quite a surprise, as did the next few. Driving through the Gorge in the middle of the night is scary and dangerous, but lots of fun.
At some point, I managed to get caught by a speed camera. I'd gone the wrong way and was looking for a good place to turn around, and the speed limit kept changing every few hundred metres. I was also following a car in front of me, which makes me wonder how I was speeding and he wasn't. Still, I got a £60 fine and three points on my license. Not a good start, considering I haven't had the license that long... I'll just have to be careful for a while. Six points in the first two years results in having to take the theory and practical tests again, so basically I can't afford to do anything wrong for the next eighteen months or so.
The ticket arrived whilst I was in Spain. I went back over for what was supposed to be a five-day visit to see Darius' new business and discuss extending Vantage for it. However, I got caught up in all the problems over the volcanic eruption, and ended up staying for closer to three weeks. It wasn't a bad time; I went out with Darius and family to a couple of places, and once again ate too much nice food. I got to see the new supermarket develop quite a lot in the time I was there, and we got an office set up which will serve as a base to work from in future. By the end of it though, I was quite tired of being away from home, and of being surrounded by languages I couldn't understand. Since every time I rebooked my flight it got cancelled again, I eventually gave up and planned to come home with Darius, who was driving back. In the end, it had to be the day before I was planning to go to Bremen to see Diana, so I was travelling for almost three days - driving from the south of Spain, across Spain and France, via ferry to Portsmouth, and then back to Bournemouth for only a few hours before having to get on a coach to Heathrow, then Stansted, then fly to Bremen, then the tram and train and bus to the university.
After longing to go home so much, once I got there I almost changed my mind. This place is so full of scum. In just the few hours in the country I had to see some chavs hanging around the coach station disturbing the other waiting passengers, and then try to board the coach without having enough money, arguing with the driver with "just fuckin' let us on mate". When I finally returned from Germany it didn't get much better either. The next day back at work there was some fight outside, and various other things. I suppose it's no different that it's always been, but it's funny... having spent just a few weeks in Spain and Germany, I didn't any of this. It really made me notice so much more when I came back. These people make me sick.
Also whilst I was in Spain, my laptop's screen finally broke. The plastic around the hinges had been cracking away for ages, but still just about holding together. At last it gave way completely though, and broke right off; it's attached now only by the wires that provide power and data to it. I'd looked before at the cost of replacement parts (back panel and hinges) and decided it wasn't worth the cost - better to buy a new one. I'd bought that laptop when my priorities were different - I wanted something big with a full keyboard, mainly just for using around the house. Now I wanted something smaller and more portable so that I can take it with me when I travel, and something with a good battery life. I spent several hours looking, unable to decide whether to invest in something with some actual power, or go with the cheap netbooks. In the end I compromised with an Acer Timeline 4810T, a small 14" laptop that was quite cheap, but not completely lacking in power like all the netbooks, and has an 8 hour battery. So far it's been good. I named it Sareth, in keeping with the Dark Messiah theme.
So, as I mentioned briefly earlier, I've been trying to begin learning Romanian. I don't really know why - obviously it's related to Diana, but her English is mostly perfect, there's no actual need for me to speak any Romanian - but it seemed like it'd be a nice thing to do. I kind of like the idea of having a private (except around her friends and family, of course) language to talk to her in. And it's only fair. I'm not doing too badly so far: I've learned a few verbs, nouns and adjectives, pretty much all the ingredients you need to put some sentences together, though only in the present tense. There some things I like, such as the very consistent pronunciation, and plenty of things I don't like, such as the huge number of forms of, well, everything, and the usual things I always think are stupid about foreign languages, like words having genders. I ordered some children's books to read (so far one has arrived, Rața fermieră) , but despite them being aimed at age 3-5, I can't read them easily yet (though well enough to understand what is going on). I've been relying a lot on a program called Anki. I was just looking for a simple program to create flashcards with, but discovered this, which is a bit more sophisticated.
My tooth is still broken, but doesn't seem to have got much worse. For a time I couldn't decide whether it was getting worse or not... one moment it seemed to be staying the same, the next I was sure it would probably only last a few weeks before breaking. My estimates were varying like a Windows file copy dialogue, but it's been six months or so now and despite having a huge hole in it, it still feels pretty solid. It's mostly fake anyway, so it's not like when it does finally break I'm actually going to lose anything, so... I might as well just ignore it until it does.
I guess that will do, for now.
Thursday 31st December, 2009
My backlog of events to write about has once again reached the pressure level where it must inevitably explode into an entry, with or without any real structure.
First of all, Diana came for a few days. I think it was the shortest visit in either direction we've had so far, but it was all that was possible, and we had a good time. One night was the 'surprise' that was kind of for her birthday, since I missed the day itself. I booked us one night at a hotel in Sandbanks. The initial reason behind it is quite silly really; Diana told me some time ago that someone she'd like to do with me but probably wouldn't get to was to have a walk on the beach at night. Despite living very close to Bournemouth beach, I'd never feel comfortable enough to go down there at night and actually be able to relax, because the town centre is just too... unpleasant. Even if we'd done it, I'd have spent the time looking around nervously which would spoil the whole thing. My reasoning was that Sandbanks is an area full of rich people, and so there probably aren't many people wandering around at night, or at least not anyone that would bother me. I found a hotel right on the very end and booked a night, just so we could go out for a walk that night.
Of course it was nice for more reasons than just that original plan. Since I don't have a house of my own any more, it was nice to get a night alone in between staying at my parents' house. Then there's just the general novelty of staying in a hotel, especially a nice one with a room and a balcony looking out over the sea and the harbour. The second thing we did after we got there (I guess I should omit details of the first, though I have a strange, almost overwhelming desire not to) was order a fresh cream tea from room service and sit on the balcony to eat it. It was fresh - still warm - and delicious, and so relaxing and peacful sat outside with Diana.
We went for a walk to find the beach before dinner, because although I knew where it was, I didn't know how to reach it and I thought it would be better to establish that whilst it was still light so it would be easy to come back later. As it happened though, it was dark by the time we found the way down there anyway, and I decided to tell her that it was the reason behind me taking us there, so we kind of did that earlier than expected. Except for a few seconds where a group of a few people passed us in the opposite direction, it was entirely empty, silent, and wonderful.
For dinner we went to The Antelope. We got a taxi all the way to Poole and then all the way back immediately afterwards, which seemed a little excessive, but it was worth it. I really love that place, and Diana hadn't been before. We got back quite a late and had a bath, because it's impossible to resist when one is available. We planned to go out to see the sun rise, but we were both really tired and lazy, so we saw it from the room instead and went to sleep almost right afterwards. We woke up in time to have breakfast before we had to start packing up to leave. At first it seemed like we only just made it in time before they stopped serving, but when we got back to the room I realised we'd checked the time on Diana's laptop which was still set to the time in Bremen, one hour ahead, so actually we had more time than we thought.
After we left the hotel, we went across the chain ferry to the beach on the other side. Diana went swimming in the sea even though it was freezing. I didn't want to at the time, but I later thought that if it had been more private I probably would've gone with her. We got a taxi home to my parents' house and spent the evening talking and playing The Lost Vikings.
I have my full driving license now. I had about thirty-six hours of lessons in the end, although I was 'ready' after about twenty-eight or so - after that I just had one two-hour lesson a week to keep everything 'fresh' whilst I waited for my practical test slot to arrive, since the waiting list was around a month and a half long. I quite enjoyed it overall. I had some problems switching between cars initially - I was driving my instructor's modern car for the lessons and Mum's old car for practice in between, and the difference between them is huge - but that faded and disappeared eventually. I was mostly nervous about the theory test, but luckily I got quite a good set of questions and passed that quite easily. The practical test wasn't great in my opinion, but I feel like that was just unlucky in the way things happened to play out at that particular time; I stopped in a stupid place when the examiner asked me to stop, but still safely, just an inconvenience to other drivers, and I went a little bit too fast in a couple of places. I'd only slept about two hours that night, so I think I did fine.
I haven't really done much driving since passing though, just to work and back like I had been with Mum on my provisional license, but now by myself. I don't have a car of my own and probably won't buy one whilst I'm still living here, so I'm sharing with Mum. That basically means I can have it after she comes home from work, which kind of forces me into working nights, although I was doing that anyway. It's actually alright now that it's become... 'purposeful' though. Before I slept late and got up late just because I couldn't keep to any routine, but now that I have made it my 'official' routine, I'm actually keeping it up rather well and not feeling tired. I haven't been doing enough work though - I can't remember the last time I actually achieved a 40-hour week. Half of the reason for that have been various events and interruptions to normal proceedings, but the other half is definately me being lazy. I really need to fix it though; after having spent almost £1,000 on things related to learning to drive, visits between Diana and me, lending money to others and several other things, I haven't been making much 'profit' at all. If I continue like this I'll be at my parent's for most of next year, which is not what I was aiming for.
When I do get to work though, it's been going quite well. I haven't made any significant updates to Vantage for a couple of months now, it's been very stable, and so I've taken the time to start work on the things I wanted to do but couldn't previously justify spending time on. I've gathered all the things I've learned from developing the current system and designed a new architecture for 'Vantage 2' and RAWR 2 to power it. This time, the RAWR core and storage engines are being developed alongside test cases which they must fully pass after every change or fix is made. Functionality is being split into more logical components and the concepts of storage and business logic are being much more cleanly separated.
Work was also partially responsible for taking me to Spain a couple of weeks ago. I say partially, because I wasn't quite sure what the purpose or context of the trip was supposed to be. Darius had been inviting me to visit him in Spain for a few months now but for one reason or another it never happened, until now. I assumed in the beginning that it was purely business, but after arrangements were finally made for us (Graham came too) and I talked about it with him and with Abi, it seemed more and more to be simply a holiday. I guess in the end it was a bit of both, and quite a strange but interesting experience. We did talk business, but over tea in cafes or dinner in restaurants, and even that was the minority of the time. The rest of the time we were with Darius we were getting a tour of the local area and the mountains, or standing in a pub drinking and talking about life in Spain, or sat outside with the rest of the Saturday night crowd eating burgers and talking about Iranian politics.
I kept searching for a meaning behind it, because I'm convinced there must be one. I can't help thinking that it ties in with the feeling I've had recently about the way things are changing during this transition in management, and seeing it as some kind of 'invitation' to a different kind of relationship, a less formal and more equal one. I got used to it fairly quickly and I generally had a good time, but the slightly weird feeling of 'why am I out drinking with Darius?' never completely went away.
As for the place, it had it's good and bad points. The area around the mountains is beautiful, and something I'd never seen before. The food, from what we sampled, was excellent though expensive, but we were mostly treated by Darius anyway. In particular we went to one restaurant and had steak, but cooked it ourselves on large hot stones they brought out to us. I suppose to some people that doesn't seem too much of a novelty, but I've never seen anything like it and it was absolutely delicious. Most of all though, the people were different. We arrived on a Saturday, and after a meal and a little sleep, we went out for the night. We went to a couple of bars and walked along the coast road where all the bars and clubs are, among all the people, and it was okay. I just wouldn't dare do that here, but there... it was the same scene visually - crowds of noisy drunk people - but it really did feel safe, somehow. Everyone was just having a good time and I didn't feel uncomfortable at all, and that for me is practically unheard of. I'm sure it's not perfect and I only saw a small sample, but the difference between that place and Bournemouth was somehow so plainly obvious.
Despite all that though, I don't know if I'd rather live there; I don't think that kind of lifestyle is really for me. Plus apparently the cost of living is quite significantly higher, and I observed that nobody appears to be able to drive properly, in that area at least. The point in the end, it seems, is that he wants to establish a presence out there, for Vecsoft as well as Californias. He intends to get an office over there, and presumably have us working there sometimes. In principal I'm up for that, but I want to make very sure it doesn't go to far. I'm not really willing to commit to spending large amounts of time there without establishing some kind of 'home', but then I don't really want to move there either, so I don't know how exactly this is going to work. I need to keep an eye on where this is heading.
Christmas was mostly uneventful as expected and desired. The day itself I spent mostly playing Micro Machines with Vicky and Connor, other than eating dinner and the morning present-giving. I managed to remove myself from that even more this year; I only bought presents for Diana and for Adele in the end, the latter because I happened to see something I thought would be amusing, and the former gift turned out to be an imitation when it arrived and not the genuine item I'd ordered, so that wasn't very successful. Vicky gave me a little novelty vacuum cleaner, but the main (and only other, apart from foodstuffs) thing I got was a large panini maker from Mum. I had a go at making some in the little sandwich toaster they have a few weeks ago and was actually pleased with how it turned out. Now I've got one to put in my own house, when I finally have one of those again.
Graham and I agreed to a mutual exchange of gifts of precisely equal value, purely to make the point that there is no point in the obligation to give gifts when no gift idea naturally presents itself. We're going to choose things we were going to buy for ourselves anyway, and pointlessly buy them for each other making sure that neither of us gain or lose anything. The biggest 'present' though, I'm going to give myself. I've been planning for a while to build a new PC, and intend to do so right after new year. It's not strictly necessary to replace everything, the main point was to have a computer that runs quieter and has better storage, but then my motherboard died. Since I was planning a new build anyway, it seemed pointless to spend money buying a good replacement for only a month or two, but I found an alternative. Graham said he was looking to build a file server, so we agreed that he would temporarily choose and I would buy a decent new motherboard for me to use for now, and then when I'm ready to build my new system, he'd buy it back off me, along with various other components of my old system.
I'm not sure what performance level I'll be aiming at exactly, but the most important change is that I want RAID this time. I've simply got too much important personal data (over 1TB) and no decent backup solution. I think I'm going to buy three 1TB drives and configure them in a RAID 5 array, resulting in a 2TB logical disk with error recovery - any one of the three drives can fail at any time and I can replace it without losing any of my data. I know I'll suffer slight decrease in write performance, but I should see a vast increase in read performance, which is what matters for me; I'm not a database server, I just want to see fast loading times.
The day after I passed my driving test and the day before I went to Spain (a busy week), we went to see what was potentially the last Perfect Alibi gig ever. Rick, the lead singer, has apparently decided to retire, and promised only to play the remaining gigs that were already booked. However, from the way they were talking at the gig itself, there may actually be more next year, but it's not certain. Yesterday we went to see Fearne, which was also good, but the crowd was very... young, and I ended up wondering whether they came to the gig to see the band or to piss around.
At the moment I'm in my Grandparents' house in Oxford. I drove up here this afternoon, which was my first time on a motorway. It was... uneventful. Driving fast in an almost straight line for an hour or so gets pretty boring. It actually felt really weird when we reached the final part of the journey and I found myself actually having to turn the steering wheel to go round a corner - almost forgot how to do it for a moment. We're going home tomorrow afternoon, only staying for tonight. It was kind of pointless to come in the end, but the plans were originally different. I thought that the family was going up sooner without me, and that I might join them today and then drive to Luton to pick up Diana, but in the end nobody wanted to go except Mum, she wanted to be back home for new year, and I decided I wasn't ready to go all the way to Luton, so Diana is going to get a coach to Oxford, I'll meet her here, and we'll all drive back to Bournemouth tomorrow, in time to go out for new year ourselves. She's staying for two weeks this time, which is great, but I'm not sure how it's going to be living in my parents' house for that long. It is kind of... small.
Well, I need to get into bed before my feet freeze completely. It's so much colder up here than by the coast. There was more, as usual, but it can wait. See in a couple of weeks, probably.
Thursday 8th October, 2009
Things happened. I probably can't remember most of them, but we'll see. I became twenty-three; that was quite uneventful, but considering what was happening on my last two birthdays, I'm glad it was peaceful this year. Now that I think about it, I can barely believe only two years have passed - it feels like ten. I wasn't really expecting to get anything, and mostly didn't. Diana sent me some books: the complete Foundation series by Isaac Asimov. I'd always been interested in reading some of his stories, but never actually started one. Unfortunately, I haven't got very far into one now either since I never seem to have much free time where I feel like reading, but I've read about half of the first book so far, some whilst in Germany with Diana and some on the train to see Adele, both of which I'll mention later. I was actually surprised at how good it was; my expectations hadn't been very high for some reason, but I really like his writing style, and when I finally actually get to reading I find it very enjoyable.
Mum unexpectedly bought me a chair. I had mentioned it as one of the things that I'd consider purchasing in the reasonably near future, since my current one is getting fairly old and the seat is worn to the point where it isn't really comfortable any more. The one she gave me was a very nice one, but I more suited to work than home - though very comfortable, it's designed in a way that keeps you sitting upright, and doesn't allow you to lean back. Bad for me as it may be, I do tend to slouch a lot when I'm in front of my computer at home, and I'd prefer a chair that will adapt to however I feel like sitting in it. So, we took the new one to work to replace the one I had in my office.
I went back to Bremen at the beginning of September. I'd have been going there anyway at some point to stay with Diana again, but this time the particular date was chosen so that I could help her move into her new room at the university, a process involving moving a room's worth of furniture and possessions from storage in the basement to her room on the top floor. I stayed for a week this time, which is longer than usual, but didn't seem to be. Diana is coming here for a few days this weekend, which'll be the first time that I haven't had my own house for her to stay in. My room is pretty small, but I expect we'll be out for most of the time anyway, so it won't matter much. Her birthday was a few days ago, but since I wasn't there for it, I've made some plans for this weekend instead. I can't say what we'll be doing, since she doesn't know yet either, it's a surprise :P.
I've finally started on one of my main reasons for moving back into this house: driving. After looking at a few driving schools in the area, I came to the conclusion that they all pretty much cost the same, and went with the AA instead. They're only a couple of pounds per hour more than some of the local companies, but I get (hopefully) the consistency and generally higher standards of a large company. I've had seven two-hour lessons so far, with my eighth later today, and it all seems to be going well. My parents arranged for me to be added to their insurance, provided I pay the increase in the cost, so I've been able to go out and practice with Mum for an hour or two each week, in addition to my lessons. Practice is what I need, really; I've already covered everything I need to be able to do with my instructor, and been through a few test routes, now I just need to repeat them again and again until all the actions are natural and all my attention can be on the road and what's happening, and none on actually using the controls. I have a theory test booked in two weeks, and assuming I pass and them immediately book my practical test (which has an average two to three week wait), I should be taking it in roughly five weeks. My instructor says he thinks that provided I continue getting private practice, I should definitely be ready for it by then.
Whether I'll then buy a car right away, I don't know. I suppose there isn't any really pressing need right away, and there's nowhere to park around here anyway. I'll probably wait until I've achieved the other things I came here for, and am ready to move out again. Then, having a car will give me more freedom in choosing where to live, since there'll no longer be a requirement to be near to public transport, or shops, or anything else I might need.
I think part of what motivated me to actually get on and book my first lesson, was going outside. I'd managed quite successfully to avoid it for a while, but eventually I decided one day walk into Kinson to transfer to the local doctor's surgery, and to get the bus to work from there. It was horrible. I've had a problem, a fear of being outside for quite a long time now, but it decreased a little living on a major road in Winton, and significantly for the one and a half years in Poole. Having returned to Kinson though, it seems to be worse than ever. Even in the ten-minute walk to the doctor's I managed to meet a group of teenagers messing around on their bikes all the way up the road. They weren't going anywhere; they just kept going a little way up the road doing their stupid wheelies and things, then stopping and coming back, swerving around and generally getting in the way of traffic, before heading onwards a little again. Because of this, they accompanied me most of the way up the road. No, nothing happened of course. Nothing ever does. Logically I should recognise that and not feel this way... but I can't. I hate this place. There's probably nowhere I'd be completely happy in, or at least nowhere I can afford to live at the moment, but I felt so much better where we were in Poole.
Alan & Bath finally returned our deposit from the house, with minimal deductions thanks to Graham. We used some of it to pay off the last remaining bills, so now our last tie to the property is dealt with.
I had a call from the dentist about a week ago. I'd gone for a check-up just before I went to Bremen, and he'd told me I needed a small filling. However in the usual arrogant way I associate with dentists, he didn't ask what I wanted to do about it, just skipped straight to the question of what kind of filling I would like (as in the cheap stuff or the expensive stuff). The idea of having anything done to me at that moment, based on memories of the last time, really didn't appeal, so I told him I'd make an appointment at the later date. That idea was absolutely not acceptable to him, not the receptionist, both of which acted as if they were amazed that I would dare to defy their instructions. I did manage to escape eventually though, just paying for the check-up and not agreeing any future date. Almost a month later, I got a call from them again asking when I was going to come and have the work done. They'd woken me up with the call so I wasn't thinking clearly, and still didn't like the idea, so I told them I still didn't know. They said that unless I had it done within a month of the check-up, they would consider the course of treatment 'closed', and refuse to treat me in future unless I had another check-up to rediscover what needed to be done. I said fine, and that was that. In the end, that was probably stupid of me. If there really is something that needs doing, I may as well have just agreed to it, but... I know how it will go, and I really don't feel like dealing with it at the moment. Besides, considering that for the past two years he's been telling me that everything is absolutely fine, I doubt that whatever the problem is will deteriorate very much any time soon.
Last weekend I went up to Oxford where Adele was staying for Merlin's birthday. We went out to an animal sanctuary for the day, where the children got to pet various animals, and I got bitten by a parrot. Back at the flat we had some party food, and got Merlin a birthday caek. We realised that nobody had anything to light candles with, but Willow kept trying to blow them out anyway, which was funny. Realising Merlin was one year old brought that strange feeling where you simultaneously think "Wow, only a year? Seems like ages!" and "Wow, a year already? Feels like no time at all!". Was quite a short day, since I got the last direct train back to Bournemouth just after 8pm, but it was fun.
I've also made a start on an effort to learn Romanian. I don't know quite why - obviously it's Diana who influenced my decision, but there's no real purpose behind it. It'll take me a long time to get any good at it, and she speaks perfect English anyway, so I'll never need it... but I guess it's interesting. I'm taking a very slow methodical approach; I decided on the first night that I would lean the table of words on one of the first few pages - eu, tu, noi, voi, el, ea, ei and ele - and that would be enough for that day, or I would try to remember too much and end up forgetting most of it. It worked; I memorised them that night and I can recall them perfectly and instantly about two weeks later. At this rate, especially considering how rarely I actually find the time to read, this is going to take a very long time, but I'll start learning bigger chunks at a time as I get more familiar with the basics, and as long as I stick to manageable pieces like this at a time, and concentrate on learning them thoroughly before moving on, I should be successful. Eventually.
That's pretty much everything up to date, except work... but I'll get to that in another post. It'll make it easier to skip over, anyway, for everyone who avoids those bits. I've stayed up much to late as usual to write this. My driving lesson is about six hours away, so I should probably get some sleep.
Oh, and there's this song, which I've been horribly overplaying lately, and is annoying me because I really love it, and yet it's just missing... something... but that can wait until next time too.
Sunday 30th August, 2009
This entry has been delayed far too long, and I don't mean that in the usual 'sorry it's been so long since I updated' way, but something more practical: feelings change over time, and my memory for such things isn't all that great anyway, so if this isn't written soon enough, it'll probably never get written, and I don't want it to be forgotten. It probably isn't going to be very coherent, and I wont bother very much with describing events, just my thoughts on them.
Why isn't important, but I spent a recent weekend (Friday to Monday) looking after Willow and Merlin as a favour for Adele after a previous arrangement was cancelled at short notice. It wasn't notable, there was nothing unusual about it at all. It was completely normal and familiar, which is insane because I haven't even been in the same room as a small child for months, and the last time I had any responsibility for one was over a year ago. Willow ran to me and hugged me as soon as I arrived. Maybe he does that to everybody, I have no way of knowing, but it felt special then. Merlin seemed happy with me too, though again, he's probably content to be held by anybody, so long as he's comfortable. I was worried that when Adele actually left, they would both eventually get tired of me and just want her back, and cry and be difficult to deal with. That didn't happen though. Willow did 'ask' a couple of times, but I told him Mummy would be back in two days, and he seemed to understand enough to be satisfied by that.
The first day I played with them in the flat and in the playground that's outside, but I didn't know the area well enough to feel okay with taking them much further. A solution to that was that Mum suggested my grandparents might like to meet Merlin, since they haven't yet and they live nearby. I'd mentioned it to Adele and she was okay with it, and for me it provided a convenient way to be able to take them outside and play in a garden, but still feel that I was somewhere safe. When I had talked to Adele about it earlier, we had discussed the 'normality' of taking them there. I hadn't really thought about it, but talking with Adele made me realise I do consider Merlin, and indeed my entire relationship with Adele, very private. Some part of me considers it normal that my parents and grandparents would have a desire to meet my son, but another part considers it none of their business. I somewhat dismissed the feeling at the time we were talking about it, but later, when actually in the taxi on the way to their house, it felt almost wrong. It passed, and actually I think everyone had a nice time in the end, but still I would categorise it as a 'day out' more than anything family-related.
Adele came back late Sunday night, and we ended up talking all morning instead of getting any sleep. About three hours passed standing in the kitchen, having a discussion about various social issues and my lack of useful opinions on them (I generally always have a view, but one I admit has no practical merit whatsoever), and Adele trying to poison me with out of date honey. Eventually I couldn't bare to stand in the kitchen any more, so we actually sat down, and talked about more personal things instead. I'm not sure what conclusion, if any, to draw from what was said - our realtionship is still somewhat of a mystery to me, because we both seem to not want to actually define it. My feelings on how I want things to be were pretty much settled when I visited the first time after Merlin was born; before then I'd not been able to predict how I'd feel about him or Adele. I'm still upset that she initially wanted to keep the fact that he'd even been born from me, and she still defends that decision. I'm aware of and understand her reasons, but I still disagree that she was justified. We never made any formal arrangements, and we have no intentions of making any. I'm happy with that, though I suspect that's only the case for as long as things stay like they are; I want a situation where Adele and I are friends, and spend time together, and I therefore spend time with the children as a result of that - I want the only reason that I see Adele, Willow and Merlin to be that Adele, Willow, Merlin and me mutually enjoy each other's company. We still disagree on many issues of 'rights', and such things, but I don't want any of that to come into it. However, it seems to be a constant reminder that this isn't stable, that all it could take is for her to get upset one day and she can change everything. Though I recognise the practical necessesity for most of these things, it can't help but seem unfair. All of this, led me to eventually realise (and actually communicate, surprisingly), that my greatest concern regarding Merlin is just that he should be able to form his own, completely independent opinions on what he wants from our relationship, and be free to act upon them. The problem with this right now, is obviously that he's only ten months old and not really capable of forming such opinions; once again my views have no practical relevence at all, but the principal is important to me.
Our discussion had no 'aim', but after I left Adele at the train station, I felt a strong feeling of something left unfinished, unresolved. I've spent the couple of weeks since then wanting to talk to her again, though I've no idea where I would begin. This is tied with the same feeling I always get whenever I visit, of how rediculously wrong it is that we ended up here, that we're not all still living together. On that subject, I was actually a little... disturbed by the apparent lack of that emotion from Adele this time, though I thought I might have seen it once. I suppose that our situations just change between times, but I can't help thinking that it may be because of my previous (lack of) responses, or because of Diana's feelings. The fact that I don't know has been bothering me since I left, and I want to talk about it.
It also reminds me of a conversation with Diana, about regrets of a past relationship, and the point that wishing things had been different isn't necessarily the opposite of being happy in the present. I do think that wishing a past relationship had been successful isn't mutually exclusive with wanting your current relationship to succeed. I'm happy with Diana, and I'm happy being friends with Adele, and the way things are... but I still feel a kind of sadness of a wasted possibility. I suppose what I should take from that is determination not to waste the potential future I have now with Diana... I'll certainly try not to...
Well, that was all the rambling I wanted to do. It wasn't really directed anywhere, because what I really want to do is talk privately with Diana, and with Adele. Still, these things have been on my mind for the last two weeks, and I didn't want to forget them; my mood is changing a little now - probably mostly because I'm leaving for Germany in less than twelve hours to finally see Diana again - and my ability to accurately recall these feelings (as in the way they feel, rather than just a description) is degrading. This is the same problem I have with leaving my diary for so long - I know everything that's happened since I last wrote, and I remember and have notes on a lot of what I was thinking at the time, but the way I felt in those moments is lost, and my account won't be the same because of that.
Just to point out, before I finish, that this entry is the friends-only one. My friends list consists only of the two safe types of people I mentioned before: either people who are close to me, or people who don't know me or any of my friends well enough to be a problem regardless, and nothing in between. I'll end by quoting a conversation I wanted to share when it happened over a year ago, but never did. Normal service will resume shortly...
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Wednesday 19th August, 2009
I have a problem. My problem is you. This journal currently contains 310 entries, 310 of which are public, and can be read and commented on by anybody, including anonymously. This was fine whilst everybody was either a friend of mine, or a complete stranger; friends only knew other friends, and strangers didn't know anybody. This past year though, the number of people reading has grown a lot whilst my friends list has barely changed. The problem is that these people aren't friends or strangers, they're a new third category - people who know my friends - and sadly some of them are here for the wrong reasons.
People are a part of my life, so I write about people. In doing so, I have a responsibility to be honest and accurate, which I always do my best to be, and to consider the effect that what I say could have on the people in question. For a long time, this hasn't been an issue, but lately (starting about a year ago) it's been feeling more and more restrictive. Initially, a little bit of drama was amusing to me, but over time it's just become tedious. Whilst it's directed at me, the worst it can be is annoying, but when it starts to involve my friends... I should try to prevent it.
For the first time though, I feel that an entry would have to be diluted so much to avoid trouble that it just wouldn't be worth writing, and that's too far. I think I'm about to write my first entry ever that will be either friends-only, or private.
Thursday 13th August, 2009
Well, here I am, back where I was four and a half years ago. Of course, things are a little different this time around, but it's still weird and somehow unsettlingly familiar. Connor took my old room when I first moved out, so I have what used to be Vicky's room. It's small, and purple, but not as bad as I expected. My bed and desk just fit with literally no room to spare at all, but the arrangement is alright. It also has a built in advanced cooling system, otherwise known as a gap between the walls and the floor, which makes it freezing in the winter, but with the recent heat I'm quite appreciating it at the moment.
Still, I miss Market Close already - The house, the space, the privacy, the location, the feeling of knowing that it's mine. Already I'm being bothered by trivial things, like the fridge not being cold enough - but it's not my fridge, so I can't change the setting. The worst part though, is living in a Skazaa zone; just to get as far as Kinson, where the nearest shops are, I have to walk through a mile of chav-filled estates. Needless to say I haven't yet, and probably never will unless I absolutely have to. Almost every night I can hear them outside, and every now and then someone will have a party or a fight or something that spills out on the street and results in an hour or so of shouting whilst you're trying to get to sleep. I've long felt that the main reason for working and earning money, is so that I can not live in places like this.
I don't know how long I'll stay, but I do have certain goals. First, is learning to drive. I want to book some lessons as soon as possible, and take them regularly - I'm thinking maybe three or four a week. Second, I want to pay off my loan, and put a reasonable amount of money back in my savings, probably about £2,000 or so. Third, to find somewhere good to move to; last time I had the pressure of a time limit to find somewhere else to live, so I took the first flat I found because it seemed decent. It was alright, luckily, but this time that pressure isn't there, and I'm not going anywhere unless it's somewhere I'd actually like to live. Being able to drive also vastly expands my options, as I don't need to be near public transportation. All in all, I expect to be here about six months.
Speaking of six months, that's how long it's been since my friend not-Jenniffer first came here to absolutely definately not do anything like become my girlfriend. The amount of time itself isn't particularly significant to me, but as I said to Diana this evening, I've realised that it's been long enough that I don't clearly remember where it began; it's something that just is, that I've taken into my life as a constant, to rely on. Feeling as if it's always been that way, and always will be - I find that very comforting. Looking back, I do see almost distinct 'stages' in our relationship leading to this 'settling', which is interesting. After excitement of the initial visit and feeling like it was perfect, the inevitable differences in expectations did present themselves. Over time though, you find that a lot of them just don't matter any more. Some were just misunderstandings, some were met all along but in a different way, some were just hidden by fears. In our case certainly a lot were caused just by the way I show (or appear not to show) my feelings, and drive for stability before all else. There've been times it's seemed like our ways were just not compatible, but that isn't true: however they appear from the outside, they're the same thing in the end.
It's been a couple of things lately that have really made me realise how I feel about a future for us. The first was a single sentence she said to me a couple of weeks back. I don't even remember the exact wording of it, and I wasn't going to repeat it anyway, but it was something nobody had ever said to me before, and it gave me hope that something very important would be different this time. The second was only a few days ago, and was actually the result of a very frustrating argument. It was pretty much the recognition of how stupid the argument was, not only that one but others as well, and it brought me a feeling of peace and an idea of why those arguments should never happen. Mixed in with that has been plenty of external drama, with yet another bloody anonymous commenter (who was actually quite easily identified), an argument with one of Diana's friends and a certain recent 'incident' with another one, although none of them have actually had that much effect, and right now I'm feeling happy and optimistic. I love her, and I still really do believe this can work.
Even work is in an interesting phase at the moment. Something of a... transition is occuring, and it feels kind of strange but rewarding to be a part of it. This may be the beginning of many changes in the way I work and the long awaited steps towards greater independence from California. It's taken a long time to get here, but I think the last year has been better than all the previous years combined, with so many things starting to go right, and be done properly. There's still plenty more to do, certainly, but it all actually seems possible now. One of the weirdest moments was a realisation the other night that the three people I was meeting with are California, that it was informal purely because we all know each other personally, and that I was there because my input mattered. It's interesting to think about my 'unofficial' position, and the story of how I got there.
Now it's time for some sleep. As always there's much I've omitted, but I'm tired and it can wait. I wish this room didn't attract so many damn flying things, which are of course all fascinated by the only light source here, my laptop screen.
Monday 3rd August, 2009
These have been two very busy days - almost all of mine and Graham's posessions have been moved to our new (old) houses, and we're almost finished with cleaning this one. Out of all that though, two fairly small and completely unrelated things have been on my mind, interested me enough to want to write them down:
Last night as I was falling asleep, I was thinking more about how I would begin to define a complete set of rules for life, approaching it as if I were writing code for some kind of simulation, or role-playing game. I decided that it's necessary to separate right and wrong from good and bad. Whilst you might expect one to commonly lead to the other, there should be no implicit connection between them, and no amount of one ever constitutes the other. Right and wrong are objective, whilst good and bad are subjective. Whatever various people think regarding your actions as good or bad, does not make them right or wrong, and neither is it safe to assume that right actions will be considered good or wrong actions bad.
Secondly, today I cleaned the fridge and the freezer. After the freezer was finished, I closed the door, and for some reason immediately needed to open it again. I tried, and it was very difficult to open. Curious why, I closed the door again slowly, and observed that once the seal made contact, the door got pulled in quite forcefully, as if there were a vacuum inside. I assumed that this was the case, and that it was in some way due to the inside temperature, but was interested enough to want to look online for a complete explanation. However, after trying different ways of searching for why there would be a vacuum inside a freezer, I found nothing. Then, Graham suggested I was approaching it wrong, and what I should be searching for was "Halp! My freezer door is teh hard to openz!!!11~~". Sure enough, I immediately find an entire page of the results I was looking for.
Oh well, time to sleep. Interesting how doing hard work actually makes you tired - perhaps if I did some more often, my sleeping would be more normal. I was thinking the other day, that during the time I used to ride to work and back, I used to get up in the morning and sleep at night, and that perhaps the two things are connected...
Wednesday 29th July, 2009
Work lost out to sleep again today. On Monday I did actually make it in, but only did seven hours, so it looks like I'll be missing a few hours this week, having got off to such a bad start, and that the weekend will be consumed by moving. I had expected to be away in Romania this week anyway though, so I suppose anything is better than what I would've been doing. Oh, and speaking of moving, I realised that I forget to mention when in my last entry. We have to leave the house by the morning of the 7th, I believe, so we need to get all of our stuff out and the entire place cleaned before then. Like when we moved in, we're hiring a van between us, and Graham's Dad has agreed to drive. Saturday is convenient for him, and so that's when we'll be doing the bulk of the moving - my furniture and most of our boxes. Most of my things are going into storage, because the room I'll have at my parent's house is pretty small, and they don't have much free space to store anything. The storage isn't particularly expensive, and whilst it is an extra cost, it's a hell of a lot less than what I'll be saving by moving out. This house has been affordable, but only just - it's consumed almost all of our income, meaning I haven't been able to save anything at all. At my parents', I'll be paying only for what I use in electricity and water, and for my food.
In the months leading up to this, I've been alternating between wanting to leave and not wanting to leave. On one hand, the financial saving is not just a good thing in itself, but also a relief - if I want to take a week to see Diana in Germany for example, I'll no longer have to worry about whether I can still pay the rent - but on the other hand, I do like it here. It's a big change to go from living independently back to having a single room in a shared house. I know technically I share this house with Graham, but here I have an equal share of everything (except our bedrooms) - the kitchen is my kitchen as well as his kitchen, but at my parents' it's their kitchen and I'm just using it. The are family of course, and I'll feel at home (I have a big problem with feeling like a guest), but my personal space will be confined to one small room. Then there's the location - Market Close is extremely convenient, and I've got very used to having various forms of transport, a 24-hour supermarket, my bank, and numerous other useful things within a few minutes walking distance. I don't much like the area my parents live in. It's also further from work. I was planning to start riding my bike to work again like I used to, but I tried that for a few days whilst I was 'house-sitting' for Graham's parents in June, and failed spectacularly. Five miles to work used to be no problem at all, but it's been so long that I've become very unfit. Maybe I'll get back into it, but I won't enjoy it one bit. At least it might motivate me in learning to drive sooner.
Today I didn't get out of bed until about 7pm, and when I went downstairs Graham and Rachel asked if I wanted to go with them to eat at The Antelope. I've only eaten there once before, a few months ago, and had meant to write about it then, but as you know I never got around to updating for several months. I wouldn't normally bother mentioning going out for a meal, because it's been pretty common since we've been living here (since Poole is absolutely full of restaurants and cafes and sandwich bars and the like), but I decided that the meal I had was probably the best meal I've ever had in my life. The menu isn't anything special, they have the same things you can find in most establishments in the area, but it was the quality that impressed me. I don't think they could have got it more right, everything is just perfect, from the preparation to the quantity you get. If you live anywhere near here, I highly recommend eating there. I believe they're a hotel as well, but I can't comment on that.
I've been playing games lately. First of all, I bought Morrowind on Steam (even though I already own it - it came with a graphics card I bought years ago), beause it was cheap in some sale and I'd been feeling an urge to play it again. This time, I'm a naked cat. The main reason for that is I always tend to play the the same way, becoming skilled in long blade and light armour, and hacking everything in sight to death - it's just too easy. I tried replaying as a pure magic character a while back, but that wasn't really enjoyable. This time, I'm playing unarmed and unarmoured (unclothed, in fact). The way Morrowind's combat system works means that with a high 'unarmoured' skill, you actually resist more damage without armour than you do whilst wearing it, and it's not any harder to level these skills than it is to level blade and armour. I've been quite enjoying what is probably my fourth or fifth playthough, but it got interrupted because another game I wanted had a special sale price...
So I bought Fallout 3. I'd been wanting to for a while, but the price was still relatively high and the trailers hadn't impressed me at all, though I'd only heard good things from those who'd played it. It took me a while to get into it, but I enjoyed it once I did. I can see how people compare it to Oblivion, but I think it's a big improvement over that; most of the things that annoyed me most about Oblivion were gone, or at least changed or reduced. Its interface is still horribly 'console-y', but I guess we just have to accept that for these days; nobody seems to want to write with PC in mind any more. Actually, only two things bothered me about fallout: the first is something that really annoyed me in Oblivion and many similar games, and whilst is less apparent in Fallout 3, is still there: levelled enemies. I believe that different locations in the world should have different levels of difficulty, with the main plotline leading you smoothly from the easy to the hard. If you wish you go off and explore by yourself, you can, and if you find easy places you'll be okay and if you find hard places you'll get pwned. What these games do instead is level the enemies you encounter to roughly match the level of your character, but that just isn't realistic. It also means that the game never gets any easier, because as you get better, so do the enemies you face, which takes away a sense of reward for your hard work - it's a nice feeling for a player to see their character develop and become more powerful. You can still control progression and avoid the game becoming to easy by having later areas of the game be more difficult, but they should always be that difficult, even if that prevents you from going there early on. As your character grows, places that used to be a challenge should become easier naturally, because you're more powerful now. I do not appreciate places that used to be populated with say, scorpions, suddenly being populated with ultra-tough super giant ultra scorpions, just because I'm a higher level than I used to be. In Oblivion this was ridiculous; high level characters would often encounter 'bandits' or 'highwaymen' on the roads that used to realistically have average equipment, but suddenly were wearing high quality expensive armour and carrying rare and powerful weapons.
The second thing that bothered me was that it ended. Yeah, I know that's what games tend to do when you complete them, but this is an RPG by Bethesda, and being familiar with their Elder Scrolls series, I expected to be able to continue playing once I'd finished the main quest. Instead, I was surprised by... the credits, and then the main menu. For me this just makes me feel like I wasted my time. If it was a shooter, I would understand - you play through the levels, your goal being to complete them one by one and eventually to reach the end of the story and finish the game. However, Fallout isn't like that - it gives you a free world to explore, with hundreds of characters and locations and side quests. It encourages you to invest time in your character, and to collect special and rare items, to actually care about your relationship with other characters and factions. Then you finish the main story, and you have to stop playing. Any time you spent doing anything other than the main quest is rendered completely meaningless.
The other game I'll mention is Trine. Seeing Trine made me happy, because I miss 2D platform games - some of them, particularly the original Sonic games for the MegaDrive/Genesis, are some of my most loved games. Many of the old franchises that originated from 2D platformers went 3D in the late 90s, and in doing so, many people (including me) agree, lost almost all of what made them great. Trine takes the old genre, and adds more modern elements like up-to-date graphics, and physics (and a story, which I have to admit, most 'old' games lack). The levels are indeed beautiful, and though the game is pretty easy, it's quite fun, especially with the physics (the creators would say physics puzzles, but considering they take no intelligence at all to solve, I wouldn't go that far). The last level isn't easy - as I saw someone else saying in a review somewhere, there is a ridiculous spike in difficulty for the last level relative to the rest of the game, which can be very frustrating, but still not too much of a challenge after a few attempts. It's a bit short, I suppose, but I think that of all games these days. I know it's my fault because every time I buy a new game, I stay up all night an play it until I finish it, but still... the average game only provides me with about eight hours of play these days, some less, some more, and that's playing everything on the hardest difficulty (nothing else seems to be a challenge any more). The only notable exception to that, out of the games I've played in the last year, is probably Half-Life 2, which was superb.
Now would probably be the right time to sleep. I only woke up around 5, so I've been awake for about eleven hours. Assuming I go straight to sleep now, there's a chance I might do a decent day tomorrow. I need to call some companies and inform them of the move, and ask Abi for some boxes, as well as continuing my work on transaction support for the RAWR storage engines. We'll see...