Friday, April 02, 2021
I was a bit anxious at the start of March - lots going on at work, nothing too tricky in itself except for recruitment and interviews (which had yet to be confirmed at the start), but lots of jumping between different meetings and updates, and unclear approaches to how some of them should best be organised.
Oh, and COVID knocked on the door. The kids went back to school. For a week. Then we got 'the call' on a peaceful Saturday morning, and that was us back to homeschooling for another 7 days.
I reorganised time, we slipped timing in a couple of places, but nothing got dropped overall. I even managed to get over one afternoon for my first vaccine jab, which left me feeling a little tumultuous (in among everything else) for a weekend.
It's tricky to think through what else happened, but lots has been going on. I've been helping out Seaford Environmental Alliance, a new local environmental charity trying to push forwards change. And also I've been involved in Writing Our Legacy too. In both cases, I'm kind of feeling slightly impostery, and everyone else seems to know what they're doing and all the people in the network, so hopefully people don't mind me helping from a tech and planning? point of view, and otherwise cheekily learning from all these knowledgeable ones :) I've been thinkingI should sign up on one of the WOL writing courses...
In some spare time, I've been working privately on 'Sprite Country', a "labyrinthine gallery" for my in-game screenshot photography. The basics are in place but there's a little bit more to do before launching the initial site. The code is on github anyway, but don't expect much support on it yet ;) Thinking about it, I'd like to adapt it to a second site for my other photography when it's ready.
To continue that thread, I've been trying to nudge myself more into a 'foraging' mindset. Or call it exploration, or synchronicity, or what-have-you. I realised I'm still fairly tied into quite a 'rapid consumption of novelty' way of life, in that I keep an eye on new things coming out (however indie), pick up some of them (however cheaply) and then just ignore at least half of it. That goes for books, games, zines, and music to a lesser extent.
Yet I now have enough 'content' (matter/culture) to last me a Very Long Time. And there is plenty of free stuff out there as well. So I really don't need anyone informing me about new releases. Foraging for plants involves wandering, discovering, and appreciating, and I think the same can be applied to the rest of life too - libraries of games, of books, of videos and music. I can relax into the abundance of content without that nagging doubt of FOMO that pervades much of life now.
This month, my wife and I have done a thoroughly good job (if I say so myself) of playing through the original Overcooked on the Switch. It's been a bit of a surprise - I picked it up randomly on sale, after a couple of others mentioned it, and thought it would be fun as a family thing. But it morphed into just the two of us playing it in the evening, and getting hilariously far-too-serious about it - in that way that some people just love organising things for the sake of it. The game is like a frantic form of kanban, and its level design is pretty clever; once you 'crack' the 'rhythm' of a level, it becomes much more possible, and almost a zen-like experience in some places as you settle into a chain of actions and communication that flows freely.
I'm also sure it's made the two of us much more efficient when navigating our real-world kitchen together.
Other than that, things are fairly low-key and I'm trying to just relax where I can. Playing Thalamus on the Switch as well. I'm reading through A Phoenix First Must Burn on the Kindle alongside various magazines. We're replacing a shed. Figuring out Space Hulk: Death Angel from a German edition. Sometimes I even get out for a walk. Been looking into how NFTs work. Published a new Beamspun. That sort of stuff.
I'm still getting my head round the idea that I could potentially meet up with a few people and family now. I've been in 'hibernation'/survival mode for so long now that I've sort of forgotten how to do social planning - or don't trust it yet. Being so close to covid cases makes it trickier too - you know, the risk becomes more real. But once my brain decides to accept it's a Possible Thing, I know I'm looking forward to actually grown up chatting for a change.
Maybe things are changing after all.
Saturday, January 16, 2021
(Drafted before Christmas.)
Mask up, lost in thought in the queue, I overhear a fragment of a conversation. Two letters dart out like fingers: A, and E. But it's nearly Christmas, I think. All the people here in the supermarket are busy picking up chocolates, decorations, drinks and the daily newspaper. The annual selection of festive chart toppers is seeping out over the aisles in an attempt of normality. ("Last Christmas"?) A vaccine is on the way. How can anyone be in A&E? Didn't the world just stop this year? It must be the virus, surely.
Mask up, I load my basket onto the conveyor belt. It reminds me of a crematorium, except the items slide conveniently behind the clear plastic screen in front of the cashier. Transparent, cut off, the screen feels like a window, as if I'm being gently reassured that there's no embezzlement going on. I switch to thinking of an airport security scanner, uniformed guards peering into people's lives through oversized x-ray scans. Is it me rifling through the cashier's day as I pass by, or is she assessing me and my intent?
"How are you today?" I ask, muffled by mask cloth and nine months of conscious distancing. (Lockdown babies must be being born soon, "a decree went out that everyone must return to their birthplace".) She passes a loaf of bread to me. "Not too bad, thanks. How are you?" That polite, programmed response that comes out of all of us instinctively, a script that weaves us together and stops us going insane on an hourly basis. It jars awkwardly wih the conversation I just heard. The bread is too big for this bag, so I start filling a new one.
I can't help myself though. Maybe it's curiosity, fear of awkward silences, or an awareness of Christmas spirit. "Did you say you had someone in A&E?" I ask, trying to sound clear from under this mask. Without lips, my eyes and the inflections have to do the real talking, a tilt of the head carrying some hint of concern against the flow of incoming vegetables. From where I'm standing, I can talk to her without the screen in the way now. The lady in the queue behind me has started loading her shopping on to the belt - bottles of water and a glossy magazine. The thin aisle of the checkout lane acts as both a wall and a checkpoint between me and her.
Not Covid. Crohn's disease. I've heard of it but I'm a passer-by, a shopper, not a doctor. It's her son, in his twenties, taken in last night. Tests. Always tests. She hopes to hear something about the tests when she gets her lunch break. I mentally check my watch - lunch must feel like a million miles away right now. Meanwhile, more bread and chocolates and Christmas jumpers rolling past, more lives and small talk. Wham and Jesus.
The conveyor belt pauses sometimes, the never-ending line of processed goods being held up momentarily by an invisible thread being broken by something huge and global getting in the way. The lady in the queue behind carries on piling up her things into a neat stack while the belt remains motionless. As I watch, the stack turns into a tower - meat and yoghurt and tinned fruit form columns and terraces, dwarfing the line of waiting customers, all growing smaller as the heap gets higher. It looks stable even though I have to crane my neck to see the top. How does she pile it like that without it wobbling? I want to send a message down the space in the aisle, despatch a rodent with a letter asking her to wait. Even though the cashier is passing me more loaves of bread, the conveyor belt is still static and pensive.
I'm not a doctor, I can't fill the silence left by lab checks and sterilised floors. Hiding behind my mask again, I grab the bread and fill up another shopping bag. Seeded baps. White cobs. Baguettes until break. Loaves until lunch time. Bread. Always bread.
Saturday, January 09, 2021
Great to see Signal getting a bunch of recommendation in light of WhatsApp's latest unprivacy move. I should note that I've been on Signal for a few years, and will happily take contact requests from people I'm in touch with regularly. (Currently Signal needs a phone number, hence the level of trust required here, but they're working on user IDs, according to this Reddit AMA.) Just drop me an email, a DM via Twitter, or via XMPP.