A Day in the Life?

•18 December, 2014 • Leave a Comment

Despite having more flexibility with my time these days, I’m still not blogging enough. As much as anything, it’s because I’m out of the habit. I mean, I’m on the dole at the moment, so surely that at least deserves a sort of “day in the life” while the whole benefits issue is so politically charged. But what do you write about being on the dole?

“Day one: looked at jobs website. Applied for some jobs. One or two of them I actually even want to do.”

“Day eight: Went to jobcentre. Once again surprised not to receive the Spanish Inquisition from my so-called ‘job coach’.”

“Day eleven: Money arrived. Bought food.”

Rinse and repeat.

Okay, being fair, I am getting out of the house. I got a week’s work moving files from one end of a room to the other in a hospital last month, which has at least allowed me to celebrate Christmas. On Saturday, as a result, I did the “Frankfurt Christmas Market” in Birmingham with a new friend and Harlequin’s Kiss’ new guitarist. The night went on to the Gunmakers Arms and then to Eddies, before ending in drunken rambling at McDonald’s. It was a lot of fun, but there wasn’t anything blog-worthy about it. At least, not that I can remember…

I may leave any serious writing on here until the new year. I know for certain that January’s going to be a busy month. I’ve been offered work for the month, but it is just for the month. In the meantime, I’ve already mostly taken the decision to do an online “Introduction to Linux” course offered by EdX. Yes, I’ve been using Linux for years, but like most Windows users, I tend to just do day-to-day computing (i.e. net browsing and word processing) without really understanding the inner workings of my operating system. It would be nice to have a real idea how my computer works, and I hope to be able to use that as a base for further training. I may blog about that. The thing is, I’ll be doing this over January to March, while also doing this temporary job, and still having to continue a hunt for a permanent job. Add the band to the mix, and this could turn out to be hectic. I’ve got everything planned out, so all I can do now is see if it works. The last time I tried to do this kind of work load, I did end up having a breakdown, but that took seven months and this nonsense will be over in three at the most.

So, yeah, does this count as New Year’s resolutions? I know it’s not quite Christmas yet, but I do have a five-hundred word quota to fill. How about this, too: I’ll try to blog weekly again to save you all from being bombarded with aimless rambles like this one.

I thought you’d like that.

Oh! Christmas Tree???

•8 December, 2014 • Leave a Comment

My “home” life has always been chaos. While I was at university and coming home pretty much only for Christmas, and for those few years I spent in Cambridge before, that chaos usually meant that the Christmas tree tended to go up after midnight on Christmas morning. I used to hate it. Putting it up at that time was just a demonstration that we celebrated Christmas not for any joy in the festival, but out of lip-service to appearing normal and functional. The sorry nature of family Christmases in Cambridge was further highlighted by the fact that my “Bah! Humbug!” housemate of the time bought a tree and decorations and tended to have the thing up sometime around the second week of December. And, let’s face it, he really was only paying lip-service to the festive season.

Fast-forward to now and, as regular readers will know, I’ve had to move back in with my Mum. Christmas has started to be less fraught this last year or two, as illustrated by some strange presences in the flat. Now, normally, I object to any mention of Christmas before Advent. I once went so far as to boycott Glade for a year because they began an advertising campaign in mid-October with the words, “It’s never to early to think about Christmas.” My Mum’s much the same, so imagine my surprise when a tiny (four inches high) tree appeared on the mantle piece around mid October. Apparently, the plan was to have a bunch of mini trees over the fire, so by the last week of November this happened:

Trees

Of course, my Mum has a thing for real trees. I think of them as needle-shedding nuisances myself, but I’m a bit jaded. We also have a 6ft artificial white tree in the garage. However, we’d not long rearranged the living room furniture, and the first thought on my mind was: where the bloody hell would we put a full-size tree in here? Arguably, Paperchase came to the rescue. They had some natty little two-foot plastic trees that I managed to convince her to get instead. Already up and decorated, they look quite nice on top of the low book cases in the lounge. As such, other Christmas decorations are starting to make their presence felt. A string very literal fairy lights has attached itself to a wall, and a bulbous penguin hangs suspended over the entranceway to the living room. I’m still debating whether or not to put some tinsel up over my personal book-cases.

So there you have it, Christmas has come in a more than timely manner to the family home this Christmas. Of course, if (like me) you generally think early Christmas trees are a bit crass, look at it the way I am: this bizarre artificial forest we’ve got is making up for years of late ones.

The Future of Impact

•19 November, 2014 • Leave a Comment

There’s been a lot of doom-mongering about the future of TNA wrestling lately. For those of you who don’t follow the ins and outs of the company’s finances, or wrestling politics for that matter: things are looking a bit grim. But I wouldn’t be placing bets on its demise just yet.

In short, they’re not generating the advertising revenue Spike TV wants, so their contract for US network TV officially came to an end a short time ago. Yes, this is a major revenue stream. Yes, they have had to cancel any live shows that weren’t being used for TV tapings. But this situation needs putting in context.

Firstly, they are still pulling some of Spike’s biggest audiences. The advertising revenue issue is a problem all network TV has due to people watching on on-demand services and skipping the ad’s. This means that live sports are the TV jackpot. For some reason, going out live either didn’t remain viable for long, or didn’t produce the hoped-for results for TNA and Spike. However, wrestling is a virtually-guaranteed million viewers, and that’s not to be sniffed at in a saturated TV market. So Impact has been moved from Thursday, where it was up against live sports, to Wednesday. Negotiations with Spike are, last I heard, ongoing.

TNA has been here before. In fact, WWE (specifically Raw) has been here before. At least Viacom (Spike’s owners) have been careful not to release any damaging statements (an action that weakened WWE’s position in TV negotiations in the past). TNA have recorded shows that will take Impact up to sometime in December or January, so doubtlessly their position with Spike and other interested parties will depend on how they fare on Wednesdays over the next few weeks. One thing has to be said, though: Unlike WWE, TNA are not publically listed, so chaos won’t come from a sudden collapse in share price if a TV deal goes belly-up. And, crucially, US network TV is not TNA’s only revenue stream; Impact has been sold to 15 other broadcasters worldwide.

Honouring contracts that include a pay-per-view show each month has already meant that TNA have had to produce special shows for international broadcasters while they wind down their actual pay-per-view cable broadcasts in America. So, if a US TV deal is not forthcoming, the most likely scenario is this: Impact will probably continue to be made, and shown in the US on their on-demand website. It happened this way when Fox Sports Net dropped Impact in 2005. With a UK tour coming up, the cheapest way to produce episodes may be to tape the whole tour as they did at the beginning of this year. This would cover them for 6 weeks from the end of January, meaning that, at most, they will have to do a couple of US dates just to cover a TV gap at the start of the year. TNA is not dead and buried yet (but it appears to be very sick).

Adventures with a Heisenbug

•10 November, 2014 • Leave a Comment

As I said last week, I decided it was time to return to the arms of Red Hat. My laptop, seeing as I still have the necessary on a pen drive, will merely be put back to Lubuntu 12.04. However, I did have a bit of a soft spot for Fedora back when I was using it in 2007/8 so I wondered if it would be worth trying it out as an alternative. Seeing as this was a bit of an indulgent experiment, I also thought it might be worth trying to use the KDE spin, as I just like the way KDE works. So I’ve done the rigmarole of making a live DVD, and I’ve got everything set up. Two weeks later, I’ve tested some of the things I was worried about and I have to say I’m quite happy with Fedora 20.

The one issue I’ve found so far is that Konqueror 4.14.2 is shit. But we all knew that anyway, didn’t we? Specifically, it crashes if you so much as look at it funny, and corrupts any jpeg files that you download with it. Sure it’s designed to integrate prettily with KDE, like many other K programs, but Firefox 33 is far less hassle to use. Amarok could use some extra features and lose some of the ones it has, but it does the media player bit nicely enough. And I’ve set LibreOffice as my default suite because everything else seems to make a total hash of .rtf files, Calligra is no exception.

If I’m totally honest, there’s a level of childish glee to my computing at the moment that I haven’t experienced in a very long time. KDE is a lot of fun, very customisable, and includes a lot of bells and whistles. I’ve got boxed-off folders full of visible files on one desktop, blown-up launch icons for my most used applications, and a massive fucking clock. I really love the Massive Fucking Clock widget. The point here is this: it all looks nice. It all feels nice. Some of it is pointless (why would you need to name your desktops anything other than desktop 1, desktop 2, and desktop 3? I named them Bureau, Switchboard, and Kitchen Table anyway…), and I can understand that some users might not like the way KDE works. Heck, the launcher menu is a little overcomplicated, but with panel customisation and drag-and-drop facilities to make programs launch from desktop widgets, who cares? The one downside in comparison to Ubuntu is that installing proprietary software is a bit more fiddly. Installing Microsoft fonts has turned into a fight where it wasn’t a problem with Ubuntu. On the other hand, though, because the arrangment of user accounts is more traditionally ‘Linux’, I can see what’s really happening more easily – and I always regard that as a good thing.

The verdict? I still wouldn’t recommend Fedora for a novice, but it’s the next step into Linux computing from Ubuntu.

So much for ‘Trusty’

•4 November, 2014 • Leave a Comment

So, after my initial burst of enthusiasm, I discovered that Lubuntu 14.04 has one or two flaws. One is minor. Apparently, a few people have had their sound mysteriously disappear after a recent update of the Linux kernel. In at least once case, their sound mysteriously reappeared. I never got to the bottom of the problem and so submitted a bug report, but I wasn’t feeling confident that an issue effecting a handful of users was going to be fixed by an update. I can live without sound on my PC, at least for a few months while 14.10’s release version finishes teething, but the other problem was too much to bear. You see, Lubuntu 14.04 does not play nicely with USB memory drives.

I recently bought a new desktop PC. My laptop wasn’t doing my back any good, and a concerted job hunt was always going to require my spending hours a day at my own desk. So my mum loaned me the money to get my workspace sorted and comfortable. Before I got round to this, I transferred my files from my laptop (then running Lubuntu 12.04) to an external hard drive, installed 14.04 on my laptop, and put the files back. So far, so good. Obviously, I did a bit of work between this and buying my new PC, so I thought I’d transfer the current version of my laptop’s files to the new PC (which I had also installed Lubuntu 14.04 on). This is where the trouble began.

I shouldn’t have deleted the previous backup – it was only 20GB on a terabyte hard drive. Instead, I did, and started uploading my files from my laptop. The process kept stopping. Just stopping dead. Usually while transferring my photo files. I had to just pull the plug – pull out the hard drive and let the laptop run out of power. I tried reducing the number of files I transferred in one go. Same problem. Meanwhile, I was making enough of a mess that I ended up using Gparted to reformat the external drive.

Thinking that maybe it was a hardware problem, I decided to do the job piecemeal with a 4GB stick. This time, it corrupted filenames, and gave me a list of failed files with an error whose description I now can’t remember. Searching the forums, I found someone having a similar problem, and they were told that the error message in question was the sign of a failing computer hard drive. Brilliant. So I tried to transfer the files that made it onto my PC. More files not copying due to the same error. I was beginning to think that maybe it wasn’t my hardware at fault, and I don’t know enough to be able to convey what was happening in a useful bug report. So I threw my hands up in frustration and decided to look up an old friend I hadn’t seen in years: Red Hat.

Or is it?

•28 October, 2014 • Leave a Comment

This has been something of a frustrating week – my life marred (as usual) by my own shortcomings. I lost Sunday, where I was supposed to be attending a show by the ever-more-popular Kamikaze Pro Wrestling, to a bitch of a hangover that left me totally bed-ridden until 11pm. I am not 21 anymore. While I regret nothing about Saturday and the decisions I made, I need to cut down on my drinking so I can actually haul myself to where I need to be afterwards.

Not that that’s guaranteed. Despite no longer having the variable shift pattern to contend with, I can’t seem to regulate my sleep. Last night’s game was ‘being dog tired, then having a panic attack for a while, before falling asleep for 11 hours’. I just can’t seem to get this ‘regular sleep’ thing to happen no matter how hard I try. I mean, I have to keep trying, so I can pretend I’m a functioning member of society, but sometimes I wish I could just go with the flow and waver between bursts of activity and crashes.

Furthermore, I have been trying to work myself up to writing fiction again. It may not seem like much of a big ask, but I’m getting a sense of paralysis every time I think about doing it. It’s probably just the usual writers’ angst: the belief that one’s writing is shit that is usually only overcome by the fear of disapproval when deadlines are missed. Or alcoholism, but, you know, see above… As such, I probably ought to try some exercises. Like sitting in front of a blank page and not fucking move until I’ve written something, no matter how execrable. But then, I’m confronted by the usual set of anxieties about how I ought to be doing something that’s somebody else’s idea of contructive will start rearing their ugly heads. As they do when I try to do anything that isn’t reading buzzfeed links from facebook.

So my jobhunt crawls on slowly, while I get annoyed with myself that I’m not doing enough for self-improvement and watch entropy consume a bedroom that I spent three days solid cleaning not so many weeks ago. And (speaking of writing) yes, this is just another rambling, stream-of-consciousness post while I try to fulfill a personal quota.

I don’t know what conclusions to draw from all of this. Sometimes I think I’m tired of life. I’ve felt passively suicidal a few times recently, and that’s starting to worry me a little. I want to think I’m starting to wake up again, as I said over a week ago, but I just feel like there’s a stretched void of nothing inside me right now. And maybe that’s as much of a barrier to my doing things as the anxieties. I don’t like feeling as though I only exist, but freedom from the mistakes of the last couple of years isn’t turning out to be a magical cure…

It’s Alive!

•14 October, 2014 • Leave a Comment

I’ve recently discovered that I haven’t been alive for these past two years. I have merely been existing. This came as a bit of a shock to me at first, but I suppose it’s understandable, given the circumstances I’ve sleep-walked into.

My parents offered me the money to do a Masters degree. Even 12 months later, that money wouldn’t be enough, what with tuition fee rises, so I took it. I needed a part-time job so I could eat, so I took the soft option and went back to The Cinema. My course ended, so I tried to leave The Cinema and ended up in a six-month temping Hell. And then I made the real mistake.

I quit temping to look for a permanent job. I could afford to languish on the dole until I got a permanent job, but The Cinema was recruiting again. So I figured more money couldn’t hurt. The difference was that I had moved house during the temping fling, and now the commute to The Cinema was 95 minutes. Assuming that I would get some kind of better job soon, I spent recklessly on a credit card. That meant that my monthly bills increased. Before I knew it, I had moved to another cinema in the chain, with a 105 minute commute, and was spending all the proceeds from a working week that I couldn’t afford to dip below 21 hours plus breaks. My job hunt was barely happening. This new site was very stressful and I allowed myself to engage with trying to improve the place. Suddenly all my waking time was being taken up with The Cinema. I got up, I went to work, I came home, I tried to vapourise my brain into submission so I could sleep, I started the cycle again.

I walked like a zombie through my days off, not being able to bring myself to any kind of creativity. Desperately craving validation, I’d spend a lot of time on facebook. I wasn’t writing, and I wasn’t even remembering. Seriously, I’ve forgotten so much in the last couple of years. This zombie existence plus a brain fried with insomnia has left my memory in shattered fragments. The only times I faded into life were when I was in active social company (thank God for wrestling and Dungeons & Dragons).

Now that I’m no longer walking through the grey mists of a mere existence, it’s time to take stock. Put in place the things that are important before I return to the world of work. Become myself again. I’m having a painful relationship with sleep at the moment, but I’m sure that will pass. Even so, I’ve taken the opportunity during some of the sleepless hours to read Sæmund Sigfusson’s Eddas, so I’m already starting to reconnect with parts of myself that I was losing. Normal service may well be resumed shortly.

 
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