Thursday, January 31, 2013

Where Mikey gets assistance from a handsome pirate

It's the start of the calendar year and that means it's sending out reports time. We held a working bee in a downstairs room, bundling reports together, boxing them and getting them ready to be shipped out to regional places across Australia.

Only the postman said no (cough).

Yes, after I'd left the parcels in the postal pick up spot I came back after he'd been to find them not taken. Instead was a missive split across two standard post-it notes about why the postman couldn't take the parcels. Too many large-sized units basically. He said he could only take one or two on his daily pick up.

I did a search on the internal website for clues as to what I could do—and soon discovered his 'maximum pick-up rule' was set nowhere in e-stone. But I did find contact details to where the mail goes and called them up. Can I simply deliver the parcels to their door? 

They said yes. 

Rather than go through the dreary meh of organising a government vehicle—requiring Outlook booking and a signature—I elected to take the parcels to the mailman in my old shitbox of a car. 

C---, my over the partition neighbour, is a muscular fit dude. And knowing my clear propensity for non-masculinity offered to help me port all the parcels to the door and then shift them into my vehicle (1).

For over a year now I haven't been able to open the boot, for the lock would only pop up halfway when the key was turned and the boot simply refused to open. As C--- arrived to help me chuck boxes in, my plan being to fold the back seats down and slot the parcels into the boot that way, I asked if C--- if he could apply his manly skills to seeing if he could get my boot open. 

'Give me the keys, mate,' said C---. 'I'll give it a go.'

I crawled into the back as he went around to the boot, preparing to pull the release knob of the back seat so I could fold it down, presuming I'd sent C--- on a fool's errand.

Two seconds later the boot was opened. 

'Huh?' I said. 'How did you do that?'

'You just have to turn the key all the way around a couple of time to get it to pop up,' he said. 

'That was like that for a year,' I whispered. 

What an epic fail. 

C---,  his piratical bearded face shaded by towering gum trees, laughed richly, his strong voice ringing in the Summer air.

It's a fair call. And yet another example of Mikey, the anti-man. 

I'm just glad I've got proper man friends that know how to do things. 

(1) The shitbox nearly overheated on the way there. Afterwards I had to stop and let the car cool off in a car park and wait a half hour until I could try and top up the radiator. I went across two double lanes of traffic to enter a greasy-spoon style take-away to get a drink for while I waited. It wasn't a greasy spoon. Sure, it was a take-away but it was clean, spacious and had decent seating. And best of all the can of icy cold Diet Coke (1a) he sold me was just a dollar. I sat there surfing the net with my loaner iPhone until enough time had passed, got a container and topped the car up. On the way home the needle crept back to the red but the car's journey at maximum red—it cannae take it, Captain!—lasted just five minutes and I managed to make it home. I'd say 2013 is its last year at this rate.
(1a) Diet Coke is now a sometime drink for Mikey. So instead of drinking cases of it a week I'll maybe have one every couple of days, and I make myself go for a walk to get it. Go Mikey growing as a person! 

Farewall to thee, the first generation

A first generation has just past. The first white goods theWife and I bought as adult life furnishings—the money used a gift from theWife's parents—are finally being replaced. 

As our first new white goods they were magnificent—and certainly a step up from our initial experiences in that glorious spray of life between school and work. A life of group houses with furnishings shabby, reclaimed, absent or spent. Our first flat as just us had a washing machine that had a cylinder for the soaking phase and a separate cylinder for spinning the clothes. At the end of the soaking you'd have to port the sodden mass from the soaker to the spinner. And if you forgot to put the circular rubber mesh on the top of the clothes to keep them down, then you ran the risk of clothes leaping from the spinner to splat somewhere in the combined sliver of bathroom and laundry. 

We got our first generation new white goods in 1999. The new dryer was especially magnificent. Before that we'd been reliant on the one in our previous place, a partially furnished ex-government concrete house. The dryer was an ancient bear of a machine that hibernated in a pungent always-moist laundry. We'd didn't realise you had to clean a dryer's lint trap and presumed the thick circular mat of fibre sandwiched between the inner and outer vents was insulation needed by the machine. Over our first year the lint built up until, one night, the overstuffed trap began to smoulder sending tendrils of burnt cloth smell throughout the house. I had to rewash the clothes three times before the burnt smell faded away. 

So to go from that to a clean glorious new machine, one of the first truly brand new things we'd ever bought, was just incredible (1). No aged smell or aura of of clothes dried decades past. No previous user. Just us, for the first time, and all ours. 

The dryer lasted until this month. We of course obsessively cleaned the lint trap, so the released lint donut was barely jumper thick before it was plucked and chunked within the cat litter as the tray was lifted up for its every third day clean (2). But these goods only have a certain lifespan and after 13 years it upped and died. To repair it is more than it's worth.

Our first generation washing machine, however, went gimpy five years ago. A downward hanging plastic switch that activated the water filling when the lid was closed had snapped away, so the machine was useless without it—no water could flow unless the switch was depressed. The solution was to soak a scrunched up sponge and jam it up in between the inner side of the wall and the machine innards within so when the lid was closed the upthrusting lid would press into the sponge which in turn hit the stub of where the switch should be. 

For the most part that jury-rig worked (3). But inevitably the sponge would drop away, down into the depths of the machine's inner space, to lie on tile in darkness below, and you'd have to repeat the insertion. I'd usually encounter the dull useless click upon pulling up the start knob, meaning sponge away!, when theWife was away. And almost always after I'd already doused my clothes with detergent. For my skills at jury-rigging the sponge paled in to hers. She could always do it; I failed nine times in ten. So sometimes I was forced to leave my soap doused clothes to await her return to perform the sponge's re-entry. Because after the tenth or so go at failed sponge insertion I'd lose my shit at the useless piece of crap and start inarticulately screaming with rage at it—and everything else that was on simmer—and kick the living shit out of the front panel of the broken crap-fest. The thin metal would sproing in and out like a metallic wobble board with each flailing weak footed kick, the panel unmarred by my feeble footwork. 

So since our first generation dryer had died, and burly types were coming with a new machine and to take the dead one away, we got a new washing machine as well. 

Soon our dying and dead white goods will be taken away. Ethically disposed of, for we have dedicated e-waste in Canberra now and I presume that means some kind of environmental considerations are in play. And in the first generation's place will come spanking new machines, machines that should in theory work without hitch. And if they are tickled with hitch then warranties will trigger and replacements will be sought. 

So adios washing machine. A machine whose broken switch meant in its life with me around 83 minutes of attempted-yet-failed jury-rigging sponge insertion. Insertions that on at least three occasions caused me to scrape the back of my hand on the drum rim within and gouge mt skin till I bled. And in that life of 83 minutes then at least five of that was my frantically kicking the front of the useless white turd as it gloated with bloated insouciance and failed to fucking start no matter how many times I tried yanking the sponge blob and plugging it back in.

We're now entering early middle age, with our together life about as long as as our before . And here we about to enjoy our second generation of white goods.

I wonder what the third generation might be? Meh, like I care! My exo-suit (slash) domestic housebot will take of such domestic minutia for me, as well as the unpleasantness of processing my man-nappy...

Hooray for the future! Apart, that is, from all the horror we'll endure there thanks to the dilly-dallying on combating global warming by my generation.

Good one, current power figures in world humanity, you really let the lint trap build up.

(1) Apart, that is, from the disastrous yet enjoyable purchase of a decidedly dodgy Mackintosh PC hybrid that barely functioned in either Mac or PC mode. We paid $6000 for it in mid-'90s money and had to get a loan for it. The computer was our then biggest ever joint purchase. I obsessively played Warlords II upon it in the Mac mode near every night after theWife went to bed until the computer died in 2002. We bought the hybrid. I might add, before we ever got internet access. We didn't get that until ... 1999! That was a dial-up connection patched into a self-assembled PC from components bought at a computer fair. All thanks to my work friend G--- who kindly spent a couple of days turning it from bits into our first proper PC. Oh yeah.  
(2) I used to take it in turns to change the litter, though theWife was far more attentive than I. For if you didn't change it in time the cats would void on the surrounding tiles beyond the tray. But now, with my loss of much of my arm strength due to my lady condition (2a) she's taken on board the litter change as a solo challenge. Even before my body declined she did far more actual housework than I—I had to be pressed into service and my threshold of mess was higher. Now she has to do almost all of it; including care and maintenance of theBoy. I do what I can but it's not enough. So big ups to her!
(2a) In that nine times as many women than men have my condition. I know that likening a man to a woman in terms of physical capability is a dated cliché, and likely offensive to many women. But that's just how it rolls with cultural masculinity. Many men stupidly define themselves by their physical being. Because, you see, they totally have control over that. Someone once said my tribe were women; that I identify with women and prefer their company. I suppose in a way I've experienced the same scorn of lowered expectation and reduced opportunity (2b). That those that meet me define me by my outer being rather than my inner self. And I do the same thing to my own damn, sorry self, all the time. Oh, Mikey...
(2b) But without the glorious home-based access to womanly naughty bits
(3) A fun Mikey gaming story. In the '90s, in my old home town and here in Canberra, I played many a session of Paranoia, the awesome clone-on-clone game set in a comedic dystopia run by an insane computer where each player started with six clones and played each one in turn, a new clone deployed upon death of the elder. Your "character" therefore effectively kept going. Until that is you ran out of clones. Typically two clones would die in the briefing room in the first five minutes of the game as we'd all scream traitor and wave our blasters around in a massive paranoid ridden Mexican stand-off, convinced each other were traitorous mutant scum. Which, of course, you all were, since all player characters were both traitors, their level of treachery dependent on which secret society they belonged to, and mutants with each character having a sci-fi power—telekinesis, levitation, fire-blasting and so forth. Sometimes you'd even lose another clone when a new clone turned up, the clone insertion module being a cannonball style delivery system where the module would bounce into play, the replacement clone strapped safely within, with said module sometimes bounce-squishing a carelessly nearby clone awaiting the arrival of the replacement. I had one character last without a single clone lost for near eight sessions. He was a pre-gen from the rulebook who game with the introductory module. I forget which society he treacherously belonged to but his mutant power was "matter eater", allowing him to basically gobble any material object without harm. Each mutant had a single name and a security classification. Lowest was Infrared, the lowest caste of the underground arcology, but you started as Red, the next level up, as brand new agents launched into the complex to hunt down mutants and traitors. You also had a sector you lived in, identified by a three letter code. My pre-gen character's name? Jerry R-IGG. See that? That's tasty, right there.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Comedy gold

A moment from The Campaign.

Around the house fashion

All of us, even the Queen, must have around the house clothes. Clothes you don't care about wearing 'cos you're not really going to be seen in them; any human contact likely incidental or accidental. For many of us sleepwear would qualify as around the house wear. Such as in my case with ladies pyjama (PJ) bottoms (1). 

My after exercise around the house wear is PJ bottoms and a t-shirt. Alas our dryer has died and is being replaced later in the week and I can't be fucked doing a load and hanging it out (2).

And thus it is I've run out of t-shirts. My solution to my shirty need? Work shirts. Yep, tasteful upper body fit-for-work shirt twinned with PJ pants from the women's plus-size section of your nearest Big W, Target or K-Mart. 

I'm like a public service centaur, baby; upper half for work, lower half for pleasure...

(1) Why ladies PJ? No cock-hole. For if I am in my lady PJ bottoms and I have to present myself—a surprise visit from a friend or perhaps a tradie has turned up—then I don't have to worry about my penis mysteriously swinging into view through the frontal slit that is found in almost all PJ bottoms for men. 
(2) I know, the carbon. But I do have a defence; I'm a (dis)abled! (2a)
(2a) I'm still able-bodied; I just have difficulty with some things like mobility, reaching, grip, abdominal and muscular-skeletal pain and so forth. I can use my hands and I can walk. I can see, smell, taste and hear. So, really, I can't complain. I'm basically a 40-year-old man tooling around as a fit 70-year-old. Boo-ya, ladies. On a side note, today at work theBoss mentioned a former manager she had that used to go home in the day for a nanna nap. My riposte? 'It sounds like he's nipped home at lunch for some afternoon delight with a octogenarian!' (2b)
(2b) Still got it (waggles tie).

Farewell, Fringe

I finally saw the last episode of Fringe

Aw, man, what an awesome series. Sure, it was bedevilled by some of the same plot restrictions shooting crap as any show—hello light industrial district down by the riverside—but the writing was tight, the effects were kewl, and the broad story arc of the Observers was frigging awesome. Oh, and the acting was bliss. I loved all the characters, but for me it was Dr. Walter Bishop—in either universe—that stole the series. John Noble's portrayal of a flawed man, one dealing with constant guilt at his earlier arrogance with his scientific endeavours, and the depiction of the complex relationship he had with his son, Peter (as ably played by Joshua Jackson) added depth and made Fringe for me something beyond just another Sci-Fi show. Maybe it's because I'm a father now that their relationship resonated so deeply; the deepness of love and the sheer fear of its loss.

So, the ending. In retrospect I hated the ending of Lost, also a J. J. Abrams linked production. I didn't like the religious theme and the fact it ended where it started, with Jack looking at the sky. I felt robbed of something.

Well, I didn't hate the ending of Fringe. It was a decent finale to a well-made series, a series that kept me entertained the length of its run. May it do well in syndication!

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

It's a bit like zooming out in Google maps

I bark and moan about pain and discomfort. Probably too much, truth be told. I feel ancient—my bones seemingly crackle and pop with any exertion, though I know it's just the sound of tendons rubbing across joints as they bend or twist—and when I rise I can't but help bellow, huff or curse. 

But—and there's always a but—in this case the but is the recognition that I could have it so much more worse. 

We all have our individual experience as a sentient being. And in these modern times people who nature had destined to die early are still here thanks to medical support. Be it surgeries or fought infections, medications or other interventions. 

And for some they have lifelong discomforts to endure, or obtain limitations earlier in life, such as degradation in trunk and limb. That's the genetic lotto we're forced to play; we couldn't exist without our bodily crud because we wouldn't be us without it.

I joke that I'm a practiced hand at being prodded and poked; forced to disrobe in curtain bedecked alcoves and slot my standard pocket fare of pass, wallet, phone and keys into my hat. And sure, that medical crap bites the wang, as do the limitations I am under by dint of genetics.

But, fuck it, reading about a far harder journey puts your own crap in perspective. Like zooming out just your street to your suburb in Google maps. 

It's almost too much fucking perspective.

I lost a Sunday trying to save Gorpel Hind and the barman of the Helm and Cloak

As long as I've played computer games—since 1984 if memory serves, when we got an Apple IIe—I've enjoyed encountering entertaining bugs. Bugs or kinks in a game that don't prevent you playing but do afford you an interesting way to use the mechanics of the bug to your advantage.

The first game I really embraced this in was Ultima III. A basic graphic D&D-like game of a character and friends Vs monsters but with hidden depths and extreme playability. We had drag out fights at home before mum and dad got back from work—we were coming home to an empty house from early high school onward—over who got to play the computer. 

One of the bugs in Ultima III involved the strategic movement map. You moved your character icon on this movement map which had basic geographical features like forest, mountains, rivers, settlements and so forth. And as you travelled along this map wandering monsters would spawn and they'd attempt to intersect your path. Given the arrow key and floppy disc nature of the game's limitations then it was often a foregone conclusion; they would get you. The map would then change to a tactical map and you'd get to move your characters, or attack if you had a spell or ranged weapon, the computer would move the enemy and so on. When the last monster died you would be returned to the strategic movement map and a small treasure chest graphic to represent the loot in the square where the monsters died.

So what was the bug? Monsters couldn't inhabit a square on the movement map if there was a treasure chest there. But your icon could since you had to hop over it to collect it. Since the nature of the monster determined the quality and quantity of the loot gained—easily killed monsters gave fuck all loot—it was no biggie to leave the chest on the map unclaimed. You could readily engineer wandering monster encounters so you killed the monsters on a particular square on the map. Thus it was we built a roadway of treasure chests, three chests wide, allowing journeys between settlement locations, your icon travelling down the middle column, with wandering monsters impotently shaking their arms up and down hard up against the outer line of chests. 

In Ultima IV, a massive game that spanned about five floppy discs (1), if you travelled along on the strategic map and then swapped out the game disc for the dungeon disc—for when your party entered a cavern or cave mouth icon that lead to a dungeon complex with 3D wire graphic corridors—then after a while the strategic map would warp and on the map would appear dungeon icon tactical screen graphics like door symbols, chunks of wall ... and treasure chests. Yes, the ubiquitous chest. For though the monster blocking chest bug was absent in Ultima IV, a treasure chest from a misapplied dungeon disc did not vanish upon looting. If you were willing to deal with the inevitable trap going off every 20 or so loot actions you could get yourself near unlimited coin if you so wished.

Now it's 30 years on and I'm playing a game that itself is over 13-years-old; Baldur's Gate. I'm playing an edition that came via four DVD discs for the entire run of the game series, the two core versions and the two add on expansions. I've downloaded the patches that's needed to play the game through without issue, but some of the odd entertaining bugs remain. 

One of the bugs is the encounter with Gorpel Hind. You meet Gorpel in the city of Baldur's Gate, in the NW section of the city map, at the inn of the Helm and Cloak. Gorpel and three members of his adventuring party greet you and ask about your adventures. If you follow the proffered chat narrative you swap slabs of manly appreciation text, each exulting the other's accomplishments. It's following your rejoinder and the narrative's conclusion that in through the door of the inn steps another adventuring party. They rudely demand you make way for them but if you refuse then it kicks off with inter-party violence. Only Gorpel and his boys have got your back and join you in the ensuing smack-down. If you win the battle then the five or so deceased pony up with some decent loot; Bracers AC 7, +1 longsword, +2 battle axe to name just three. 

By now, given you're around sixth level in ability given you made the city part of the map, the party who haughtily demand you step off are not a ridiculous challenge. They have a decent set of offensive weapons and spells but if you buff up and use a couple of choice spells like entangle or charm you should be right (2).

But since Gorpel and his lads join in, and you can't control their actions, then Gorpel and his pals can get can get in harm's way. There's a small chance, small, that one or more of them will die. 

So where's the bug? The bug is that you can keep clicking Gorpel to start the manly swapping of tales narrative and each click spawns the evil party. Clicking and completing the narrative cycle five times means five copies of that party having appeared. 

Battling five copies at once is certainly more of a challenge, the screen now home to 30 bad guys. However if you set it up right you can catch most them with entangling spells and fireball the bulk to cinders. At the expense, that is, of Gorpel Hind and chums. Because I lost an entire Sunday of solid gos at personal computer time—theBoy is old enough now he can entertain himself happily for hours at a stretch—trying to kill x5 helping of bad guys without Gorpel and Co. snarking it. Without, that is, the barman also dying. 

Why does the barman die? Because for some inexplicable reason, about most of the time you run the encounter, one of Gorpel's party tries to attack the barman as the violence kicks off. I don't know if that's a separate bug or a sneaky burr thrown in by the programmers but fuck me it's irritating. While Gorpel's party don't usually kill the barman the barman's NPC status colour ring— a circle around the feet of the character that represents their relationship to you: green for ally you control, blue for a NPC you can interact with, red if an enemy—blazes scarlet, with you considered his enemy. And if one of your characters kills him then you cop a staggering -10 in reputation (typically going from the maximum score of 20 back to your initial value of 10) in exchange for 15 exp. That and the Helm and Cloak becomes forever denied to you to rest in since the only one who can give you a room just died at your hands. 

So if I manage to win the x5 copies fight with Gorpel still alive—I don't give a fuck about his posse—then every single time I've succeeded there then the barman was either dead—likely at the hands of Gorpel's men and your reputation thus unsullied—or the barman's status circle was the angry red. Either way, angry or dead, then no room for me (3).

I've tried so many scenarios. The webbing and entangle and fireball. The blocking Gorpel's path with entangle spells and skeletons or batches of summoned monsters. The lot. And if I win, and now I'm winning the x5 copies battle almost every time without loss of characters, and Gorpel lives ... then the barman doesn't ... or doesn't want a bar of you. 

I feel like WOPR in WarGames, the AI computer that seizes control of the US arsenal, running multiple nuclear war scenarios and realizing that the only winning move is not to play.

But ... but if I don't keep trying then all that time will be for nought, right? 

And if I don't try then who else will think of Gorpel and the barman from the Helm and Cloak? 


UPDATE: It's a week later. Just realised I'd spelled Gorpel with an a instead of an e. I have nipped in to fix it! Oh, and it's six enemies in the party, not five. So I amended that as well.

(1) As in floppy floppies; the five and a quarter inch bendable efforts!. 
(2) You can of course buff up before the fight but that's effectively cheating.
(3) And now in danger of accidental death at your hands because if unattended your character will automatically attack an enemy in range.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

The Wendy house of terror!

theBoy has a Wendy house, a single roomed playhouse that's built for his reduced size. theWife sourced it from the classifieds—it was free on pick up to a good home—and one day, and in order to add kays to the car since the free Wendy house was in Woolongong, off theWife went to get it.

It's a plastic affair, with a fake cladding finish, and a plastic roof which can be lifted off the spine a good foot or so to see in and or make a lunge for a Wendy house occupant. 

Recently theWife got her freak on and moved outside objects around our compound like garden—the garden and the front door to the house fenced off from the street by a high fence and further screened by trees between it and the carport yonder. As part of this theWife moved the Wendy house to next to the front gate, the shuttered windows of the Wendy house opening out onto the path between the gate and the front door.

After theWife moved the house I joked to theBoy that he could now scare the shit out of people walking between the gate at the door, by throwing the shutters of the Wendy house open and yelling an effusive "HELLO!"

The other morning I had to nip up to the shops then return home just as theWife and theBoy were getting ready to depart for daycare drop off in the good car. I got back in time before they left.

As I walked down the path from the gate to the front door, the shutters on the Wendy house flew open and a concealed theBoy, who'd been hiding with glee within, yelled at the top of his voice "HELLO!"

I was not expecting it. I went into fight flight for a couple of heartbeats and verbally reacted with a strangled cry like 'BREE-YARK!' (1).

theBoy was most pleased with the result. He emerged from the Wendy house, a massive grin on his face at a scare well done. 

The hours pass...

Later that day, in the afternoon, I was home when theWife and theBoy could be heard returning home. With speed and care I crouched over and entered the Wendy house, hunched into a standing man ball so I didn't lift up the roof and give away my position. I had to hold the shutters closed—they're loose and they drift open otherwise—and through the shutters' gap I could see a sliver of theBoy go past.

I banged the shutters open. "HELLO!" I yelled. 

theBoy leapt back, yelling in delighted surprise as his body instinctively removed itself from my potential grasping reach through the now open shutters. 

And yea did I gloat about getting a scare back on theBoy.

As noted the shutters on the Wendy house are loose. If it's windy out then the shutters will bang with a plastic clunk with any appreciable wind. At night the banging shutters noise can be heard from the bedroom.

As I left for work I saw the shutters on the Wendy house had been jury-rigged closed in the night by theWife. Her solution? She'd jammed a toy plastic chop in the small gap between the shutters; fake meat where the shutters meet. 

She's like MacGyver meets Toys "R" Us...

(1) It's goblin for 'We surrender'! (F) (1a)
(1a) Also, there's piles of magic armour in the southern caves (F) 

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Mr Wobble and the death of the bee

theBoy and I were hanging out in our mesh-walled trampoline (1) when theBoy happened upon a bee. It was sitting peacefully—or standing, I'm not sure if bees can sit (2)—on the trampoline's mesh floor when theBoy sighted it.

He then squished the bee with Mr Wobble, a green skinned Ben 10 themed space hopper that's a standard accoutrement to our trampoline experience. I presume he squished it because he was worried about being stung. But then he's five and I was way more older than that when I stopped being mean to bugs and creepy crawlies.

Only theBoy's squishing did not kill the bee, it was merely broken bodied and now dying. I flicked it away to near where the border of floor and wall begins but saw the bee on its back, legs still twitching vigorously (3). It was suffering; I had to kill it.

I gravely explained to theBoy that his "euthanasia" had been unsuccessful and now I'd have to man up and complete the task. I flicked the dying bee back out onto the mesh floor then down went Mr Wobble, compressed against until Mr Wobble bulged out. I held it there like a night angel pillowing Mr Bilson from the sunset wing because he was a do not resuscitate. I checked; bee still twitching. Down again went Mr Wobble. We waited then rolled Mr Wobble aside to see what had happened to the bee. 

The bee came with Mr Wobble. Yes, in its dying moment the bee had triggered its stinger, the sting lodged in the rubber skin of the space hopper, the stinger and bee innards partially discharged from the body of the bee like a just popped white head. 

We looked closely at the bee, its stinger, and how it stuck to Mr Wobble, the stinger looking like the model stand of an airfix spitfire the way the stinger stuck deceased bee sproinged from the rubber (4).  

'Don't take it out!' yelled theBoy with alarm. 'Mr Wobble will fly around like a balloon!'

theBoy then did a loud raspberry, a released balloon splurting projectile sound.

You know what. Given the physics of the teev he watches, that's a totally fair and valid concern to have had.

Spoiler alert; Mr Wobble was fine.

(1) Tramapoline!
(2) Something to do with the bees' knees?
(3) I am totally kicking myself for missing the opportunity to examine the bee's knees.
(4) Again, another bee's knee examining opportunity missed!

Monday, January 21, 2013

I'm the skeleton lord of fire and wind

Last year, in September, I noted how I could control the settings of my halogen heater with skilful back-fisting with my bony claw hand—a skeleton hand and forearm themed backscratcher—from atop my exercise bike.

Therefore, in essence, making me a skeleton lord of fire. 

With the broiling summer and the shed-siting of SoTPC, my exercise bike, it gets pretty hot in them thar aluminum structure. So I have a pedestal fan pointed at my florid form to provide some relief, assisted with sprays of mist from a water bottle. 

Though SoTPC is a sturdier bike to dismount than its predecessor getting off any exercise bike is a pain. Especially near the end of a ride because the moment I rise from the seat the blood flows back into the compressed area and there's a 10 second flood of acute bottom discomfort before the flow is restored. 

I faced just such a getting up moment when wanting to change the setting on my pedestal fan, boost it a level from low to medium.

Could ... could skeletal back-fisting work for wind as well as fire?!

I leaned forward like Kerry Packer's polo stunt double and back-fisted the scratcher at the fan's shaft (2) where the buttons lay (3), the view obscured by the fan's protective grill

But so it came to pass that the wind of the fan grew in intensity and therefore success.

So that's fire and wind mastered.

Damn, if I'd mastered those elements in reverse order I'd have had a self-powered flamethrower. 

(1) The pain from riding a bike every day, however, is always there. It just dulls in length and intensity between riding bouts. But that initial gasping rush on lift up is somewhat intense.
(2) Shaft! Damn right.
(3) I know, I'm back-fisting a shaft and some buttons. Maybe I'm making out with a Hermaphrodite from Mars in Paul Verhoeven's Total Recall?

Your balance is FIFTY dollars and...

When I ride SoTPC (1) my aimed for prime metric is 40 minutes. If I go past the 40 minute mark then any extra minute I do beyond 40, round down, is added to the bank. 

Yes, the bank. A bank of time I can draw on for those days when my body is not travelling well. Sometimes it's weird grinding cord-wrapping twinges from the site of my hip replacement. Other times it's shooting pains rippling through my body and out my sweaty, hairy form like ghosts fleeing the ark. So for those times, particularly if a super-weird feeling pops from the new hip—especially given you can pop them out of place if you flex too much—I end the session early and draw on the bank. Sometimes, usually later that night after theWife trots to bed, I try and catch up on those days I end early but then the twinge that sent me scuttling away re-twinges and I hastily dismount.

About two weeks ago I took 10 from the bank, dropping my balance to 23. But. since then I've ground my way back, adding to the bank, and now I'm at 50 minutes. 

I haven't missed a daily session since the first ride of SoTPC and with 12.5 kays my switch point, the point where I will flip to see if my astride time has crossed 40, chances are with the 18 kays thing I will be around a minute or so over. Then I can decide whether to keep going and aim for the bank.

I know. It's a perverse self-assigned game show. In my mind the host's got a from-the-future skin shade with a Googie-style haircut and he's then putting the spotlight on me as I yell bank with each extra minute. Except, of course, on the bad days when I draw on my deposit then the light is on me as I cease and desist, sometimes abruptly because of my terror of tendon damage or artificial joint dislocation, and as I write I can hear an unseen audience groan for more. A groan salted with more than one boo. This, from my own head?! 

So I've cranked into the bank 50 minutes. Fifty minutes against the dark days of early quitting. To draw on when my body screams TIMEOUT!

Take that, genetics. 

I've been thinking about better accepting my body. I don't have to love it—to suggest that I should is beyond silly—I just have to accept it. I accepted my height early on; I was always small and I remained short. But accepting weight is so much harder because there's a thrust of smug failure in it. That heavyset people are that way because they don't try or they don't care. To the extent you hear cock-spanks talking about charging an excess on excessively large people and how it's fiscally and socially fair to do so.

I've worn that burden my whole, fat life. Ever since I blossomed to the heavyset person I am I've felt judged and I've self-judged. 

But I can accept that, and my many other limitations, a bit better now. Because now no one, and not even myself, can say I haven't tried.

Take that, ghosts of my past that only I can see!

(1) "Once a Jolly Exercise Bike by the name of TPC once was ridden to death by me. And its frame slowly bent 'cosI mounted from the right and I found out when I was on a lean."(1a)
(1a) The former possession of a mysterious lady pirate whose bloomers contain defensive squid.
(2) And since I've added the secondary metric of staying about 18 kays an hour to get to 60 RPM at my preferred resistance so as to ensure a steady gait that does not wear on hip or knee.

Friday, January 18, 2013

So thanks to C I'm the bus from Speed

It's mid-Summer in the Southern Hemisphere and here in the nation's capital we've endured a run of some nasty hot weather. It's particularly nasty for me because the shitbox—the early-'90s Mazda generously gifted-sold to us by theDad after we wrote the previous car off—hasn't had a working air conditioner for around three years because to replace it is more than the car is worth. 

In Summer I endure 15–25 minute drives from work in the heat of a baking afternoon, my coping mechanism being to wind the electric windows down every three minutes to swap the heated inside air for the cool rush of outside. Only it causes bits of MikeyLifeScat, my leavings of receipts from nips to the shop or filling up, scraps of parking ticket, and long-dried soiled tissues that writhe in the footwell and look akin to the used condom as held up by Frank Oz in The Blues Brothers, to whirligig about my head and perhaps flutter-escape the window like pigeons from a dead magician. 

On the drive I get florid and sweaty, the droplets blasted from my forehead and cheeks when the window goes down, only to re-bead moments later as the air within becomes still and hot. 

Only when I get home in the still-heat of the day my habit for mandatory must-do exercise kicks in and I must away on to SoTPC, my replacement exercise bike (1). Still sweaty I dash into the house, grab my tablet and a stick loaded with (dot)AVI goodness and head off into the broiling shed. 

Yes, broiling. Because to be within the illegal shed (2) in mid-Summer and riding for an attempted 40 minutes is a somewhat broiling-inducing place to be. To cope with this I have a pedestal fan blowing on the middle-setting and pointing at my bare-chested form. I also use a kewl water bottle with hand-pump that mists water across my sweat-licked body (3). So together, even with the heat of near 40 degrees, they help make the illegal shed broil just-endurable. When I emerge from my outlaw metal chrysalis my face is reddened, sweat runs down me front and back and sparse hairs atop my balding dome thrust up like the bony spikes of a crown roast. I look like a mad scientist in the aftermath of a lab explosion. 

Until recently I rode SoTPC at a pace of around 15 kays an hour; sometimes more, sometimes less. I say until recently because in the aftermath of a nerd night session of D&D3.5—a session where a trio of competing villainy performed some adroit villainy on our persons and body-jacked our Paladin owned and operated by C---, my lift for the night—as we sat in the car in my driveway C--- asked me what my RPM was on the exercise bike. RPM as in revolutions per minute. 

C---'s also taken up exercise bike riding, thus maintaining his attractive manly form, and we were discussing this topic when the RPM matter came up. According to C---'s brother, the minimum RPM you should do was 60. Anything less meant an unsteady pace and potential damage to hips and knees. 


I measured the centre of the bike pedal and along the pedal's shaft to the pedal itself, then used that length and maths to work it out. I sent C--- an email asking him to proof my work, and he gently pointed out if my calculations were correct my legs would fall off.

So instead of relying on unsteady maths, a long atrophied skill, I went observation mode. I counted the number of pedal turns in a minute whilst holding to a steady speed. 

The speed range I maintained at was 18–19 kays an hour—the speed fluttering between the two—and when I completed the test after several false starts at that speed, in one minute, I counted 61 pedal turns.

And thus it came to pass that a minimum pace of 18 kays an hour was been added to my assorted conditions of service atop SoTPC

So thanks to C I'm the bus from Speed (4).

(1) The previous bike, the TPC (1a), borrowed then purchased post-death from Casso, a well-heeled thunder cat from northern climes; meeeoooooowwwww.
(1a) Oh just hit the tag for exercise and ALT-F for the how and why of its name.
(2) When we bought the place we had to sign a note to say we were aware the shed is an unapproved structure. Unapproved because the owner before the owner—we presume, since the previous owner was a retired priest-widower—had likely used it as a grow house given the sketchy electricals, numerous powerpoints, and overhead racks along the spine of the roof needed for the grow lights.
(3) Fan purchased and assembled by theWife; kewl water bottle provided by theWife.
(4) I can't believe Speed is nearly 20-years-old. I was 20. I can't remember seeing it for the first time but I can remember loving it and it thinking it most awesome. 

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Where Mikey visits Coles and walks through something unpleasant outside

As one of the founding members of our work pod's coffee club—we put on a '70s era percolator and generate around 10 cups worth of coffee on each morning—my job is to get the milk. Why? Because I am allergic to normal milk and since everyone puts up with my milk (1) I figure it's my manly duty to get it. Or even unmanly considering my lack of manliness.

I was retreating from the Coles, having grappled successfully with dealing with the stupid self-service counter (2), and was headed back to my car when I walked through it.

The "" was a two square foot patch of paver bricks smeared with margarine or butter. As if someone had dropped an open tub and the marg (slash) butter block slithered out and around the bricks like soap on the shower tiles, coating paver bricks in yellow grease. There were great lumps of yellow as well, almost berm-worthy amounts toy soldiers could shelter behind.

An older lady saw what had happened. 'THAT'S REALLY DANGEROUS!' she shrieked, aghast, as I examined my shoes for the damage.

She was right; that was really dangerous—and I got the buttery substance all through the sole tracks of my left shoe. I had to madly wipe said shoe on the front mat outside the front of my building when I got to work, after having trapped little rocks and bits of ground litter in my shoes at Coles as I made it to my car—no places to wipe off—and from all those little rocks that whoosh around the footwell of my driver's side. 

Stupid start to the day of footwear being menaced by errantly placed dairy...

(1) A2 milk is basically the same as A1, it's just sourced from cows minus the relevant allergy-triggering protein. It tastes the same as normal milk. My allergy manifests in gas so extreme I feel like I'm going to lift off the bed like Dana in Ghostbusters and I could then be walked around via a handy hanging cord like in the Macey's parade.
(2) I always click no bag but then the self-serve machine sometimes has a fit about bag absence and a grumpy staffer comes over to save me. Have you noticed, though, that both Coles and Woolies tend to put "hot girls" on monitor duty at the six self-service checkouts? I think it's to draw custom. I think McDonald's subscribes to that theory as well and perhaps this is why girls at McDonald's have to wear form fitting pants. That and they don't work out the back and just ladyman the counters.

Where Mikey deals with an absence of free hands

My building is an older affair and with that comes older building issues such as an increased need for maintenance and experiencing light globes failing even on replacement thanks to shaky internal electricals.

The sink on my floor where I clean our communal coffee pot is now routinely blocked by solids, with coffee grounds mentioned as a particular offender. Thus I have to go down to the next floor to find another sink to rinse it out in.

As you lads know Mikey is unblessed with a fail(ed) bod and a steadily degenerating right hip. Which means I have to take lifts instead of stairs where possible so as to preserve what little cartilage I have left as well as to avoid pain and discomfort on my legs from climbing or descending stairs.

The lift doors opened and I had in my hands the coffee pot, three mugs, a spoon and fork, and a bowl.

Alas for me instead of having my pass swinging free in the breeze I'd tucked it in my shirt's top left-hand pocket which sits right above my pec. The pocket has a handsome purple embroidered fleur-de-lys on it (1).

With my hands full there was only one thing for it; I had to push my fleur-de-lys emblazoned left manboob against the badge reader. Fortunately for me my pocket pass manboob combo and the reader was at the same height, so the mashing of Mikey manboob and reader actually worked and the door actually opened.

I'm just glad no one took that moment to walk into the lobby near the lift and see me with my arms out stretched for balance, hands filled with coffee tat, grinding my chest against the wall.

I'm like a Womble, making use of things that I find and in this case it was my left manboob. 

If I ever sign up to get a rice-grain sized RFD chip so as to open doors in the FUTURE! I'm going to fully get it inserted in ole lefty-tit.

Mikey, as ever, with his eye to the future!

(1) And as symbol commonly associated with Medieval France it is not a corporate logo and I can safely wear it to work (whose internally mandated dress code forbids such transgressions.


As a proud Australian male with a fucked up body I have happily devolved any responsibility for building maintenance (slash) improvements to theWife who, as it turns out, loves that shit. Bunnings, for example, is her tasty shizzle. Me? My typical Bunnings experience is sitting on display furniture just outside the wire of the playground where theBoy is happily running around. That is until he gets bored, demands to be let out, and we then march through the Cyclopedian corridors of shelving trying to track theWife down.

theWife came home from shopping with a natty bathrobe for me. When donned it makes me look vaguely like Cliegg Lars from Attack of the Clones. Only there was no place for the robe to hang.

So theWife fired up her mad maintenance skillz and put up a hook on my clothes cupboard door for the robe. She then put another hook up on the door next to that for my towel so instead of draping it over the partially open cupboard door where it doesn't dry properly and the  open door gets in the way of passers by I'd hang the towel on the hook and said towel would in theory then dry properly.


I feel ironically proud; like Yossarian felt about the Officer's Club that he did nothing to help build but nonetheless took reflected pride in their existence. 

Mikey; antithesis of Aussie manliness for as long as he can remember...

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Another moment

theBoy and I were reading Animalia. We were trying to spot things in the artwork. 

Mikey—'Oh, look, a giraffe. What can you see?'

theBoy—'Weeing on Daddy!'

He then mimed weeing on me. 

theBoy won that round. Of course on the next page he declared all the things to be found were 'weeing on Daddy!' and he proceeded to milk every last drop out of his previously successful bit.

He's got to learn to leave on a high note.

A moment in time

theWife—"Come see the most amazing creature clinging to the brickwork outside!'

Mikey (said in a most eager manner as he lumbers along the corridor then passed by a speeding theBoy)—"Does it turn out to be me with portents from the future?! Don't let us touch or I'll rent space-time!"

Spoiler alert; the amazing creature was a big fuck-off ugly hairy caterpillar. theWife poked it with a stick. 

It then fell off the brickwork.

'Ooh,' said theBoy.

Ooh indeed.

Yet another reminder to Mikey that 99 per cent of the environment is not for him. Which alas puts paid to camping (slash) vacationing in a tent. 

Mikey don't play that way.

It's the little differences

With thanks to Quentin.

So I've had SoTPC, my new exercise bike, for a few weeks now and there are some notable differences between it and its predecessor. For a start, no offence to the previous bike TPC which served me well until it fell beneath my weight, SoTPC is far sturdier with a composite frame (1). I don't fear tipping it or it breaking beneath me. It's also less slanty though in the TPC's defence that was 'cos I made it slanty by always mounting it from the right hand side and buckling its frame at the join. Unlike the TPC SoTPC does not make a clunky rattle, with but a light gliding noise, perhaps akin to the quiet motorpurr of an escalator, and the lightest click at a single point on its radial turn being the only evident aural accompaniment of its usage. 

But weirdly I miss the single decimal point reading on the TPC. At five point two kays, or 5.2, then on the calculator-screen-style read out of the TPC the character for 5 was simply the mirror opposite of the 2. 

I'm prone to magical thinking at times with numbers being a thing. I like round numbers (2), using them as target points or milestones even though there's no substantial difference between say a 20 and a 21. But when 5.2 came along the 5 and its mirror-opposite as a 2 together not only looked like swans meeting beak-to-beak but it also a swan from head on opening its wings. I called the sighting of the 5.2 "Swanwings" even though they were both two swans and one. The 5.2 became a milestone for me; an aim for point for when I was feeling awful and I promised myself a personnel review at that point to see if I met the metrics for continued riding or having a bit of a breather. 

Alas SoTPC's read out is to two places and 5.20, in normal character type with the 5 character clearly different to that the 2 if mirrored, just doesn't have the same bliss point trigger.

However, on balance, the fact I am balanced and not slanted is the major plus point for SoTPC over its predecessor. That and all though the problem is still there its severity is reduced SoTPC makes for a more comfortable ride. The muscular ache from the saddle is merely confined to the approach V to my anus as opposed to the entire pelvic region and potential acute feelings of horsey costume.  

... and no one wants that.

(1) TPC or The Purgatory Cart (1a), an exercise bike borrowed, broken then bought from its then owner Casso, an illustrious glamour maiden who dwells in a seashell castle far beneath Lake George. There mole men bow to her cruelty and ever furtle (1b) beneath the earth seeking gems to ease her anger. For her anger is great! Especially when delivered with narrowed eyes over lowered spectacles (1c).
(1a) Yes, I am aware that when you say "the TPC" you're saying "the The Purgatory Cart" but it's just one of those things. Accept it; move on.  
(1b) Furtive turtling... 
(1c) I confess at one point I thought to write testicles instead just for the weird mental pic that would paint in the reader's head. 
(2) No ... no, I can't ... I can't do it any more. I cannot ... lie. 

The Pirate's Lament

I recently returned to work. In my work pod S2 is back with theBoss back in a few more days. My across the partition neighbour, C---, is back as well. Only he's grown a beard. And it is an awesome fucking beard. It's about a centimetre long but uniform across his face and it's well-tended. It adds about five years to his apparent age.

We often banter back and forth throughout the day. We typically start seated but if nothing is too pressing then eventually we'll stand and converse like normal people instead of glimpsing each other across a partially obstructed view of up-thrust folders and the ossified remnants of a decade's worth of two day course notes.

Only today, before we stood, it was kind of like peeking at Sir Francis Drake through a bookshelf and we were up to Tudor-style escapade of some kind. 

But seriously, it's like seeing a bodice ripper model walking around. C--- is very much a man's man; buff, deep-voiced, and clearly bringing it in the masculinity department. He can drive proper manly cars, fix engines, build things, is a trained mixed-martial artist and so forth. However as a clean shaven dude he looked still almost boyish. With the beard he looks like the sort of dude you'd see standing above you as you came to in a ditch in the aftermath of an alien invasion and he reaches down a hand then pulls you up into the light. He then leads the ragged remnants of humanity to war and eventual victory over the otherworldly horde. 

Apparently my job is to stay with the women and children. 

Advantage; Mikey.


I was all stinky from my man-riding of SoTPC, an exercise bike spawned from the TPC's joining with his mother the hell bitch, and bare-chested with my having stripped off my shirt about two clicks into the ride (1)(2). I'd not given theBoy a cuddle upon my return home and despite my sweaty furred form wanted to still give him one. Naturally I picked him up and threw him on the big bed. Before he could roll over and escape I'd safely grappled him. He struggled as I tickled him and laughed at his imprisonment but didn't realise he was trying to yell that he had Lego in his hand. 

Lego is little. Lego gets lost. Easily lost. And if you're anal enough that you pack your Lego away in the original box it came in then losing a piece of Lego will irk you. So theWife has strict rules on Lego handling one of which is no running or mucking about when you're holding Lego. 

It's a fine, sensible rule. A rule I'd violated. 

'I had Lego!' denounced theBoy loudly so theWife would hear it as he slithered off the bed. 'I'm out of here!' he added after he got to his feet then ran through the open sliding door then closing it behind him. 

At that point he declared me banished. Banished to beyond the sliding door which he locked by shouting 'LockLockLockLockLock' at it.

Which is fair enough. He was, after-all, holding Lego. 

Later he returned to inform me that beyond the sliding door was 'a Lego zone' and that while the Lego was out I was forbidden from that zone. 

Okay, that's a tad harsh.

(1) Did that work? I was going for laconic mercenary. 
(2) I fouled the set up of myBeloved, my Toshiba tablet, before starting the ride and I eventually noticed my reflection the the screen. Marvellously it cut me off just under the arms but above the nipple. Which is about I think where you'd also find it in your classic no-clothes-made-do-with-a-barrel scenario. I took a three second pause, during which my bike likely passively-aggressively bleeped to remind me I'd stopped like a Butler ahem'ing Master's open fly situation, and popped out the tablet's fold-out stand and tilted the screen toward the roof. The glare from the semi-opaque roof panels was worth the quality loss to avoid seeing that sorry business.

Monday, January 07, 2013

A reflection on a reflection

My daily exercise poison consists of trying to ride for 40 minutes on SoTPC, or Son of TPC with TPC having been the previous eventually-paid-for exercise bike formerly owned by Casso (1) but which I destroyed through sheer dint of weight (2). SoTPC lives in the garden shed, a structure that legally does not exist.

To get through such a Herculean demand of exercise bike riding on my sad, damaged person I mung lots of meds and have as my distracting device myBeloved, a Toshiba AT100 tablet which I use to play TV and movies on. 

Only if I ride during the day, depending on where the tablet is placed, I can see my own reflection in the screen. It's because of the four semi-opaque panels in the shed's roof, which let in enough light that any reflective surface readily reflects what is around it. Which, alas, is me.

I use the tablet to escape reality. Having my visage or unbecoming parts of my body in view, the worst position being that of pumping thighs beneath cinched-in overhang, massively undercuts trying to escape reality, especially considering the reality I am trying to escape is my own failed person.

I tried numerous positions for the tablet so as to avoid seeing my gormless form staring back. At one point I had the tablet balanced with just had my head in view only that was no good as given my headband I fully looked like David Cross in the tennis photo from Tobias's headshots in Arrested Development. It was just too disconcerting. 

Finally I found a spot where I can barely see a hint of me, the tablet almost vertical in alignment, resting on the recently purchased CD (slash) Radio (slash) iPod docking port boom box I just bought to once and for all solve my speaker support in the shed dilemma (3). It's either that or have myBeloved on a slant, angled off the dead laptop that lives on top of the old white wooden bookshelf, and watch programs with my head tilted like Paris Hilton or the Road Runner.

Mirrors and other reflective surfaces; they're just not my friend.

(1) A mysterious storyteller of the north, she weaves fine tales of girls becoming women with a side-order of smackdown!
(2) I eventually buckled the frame, likely the result of mounting the bike from the same side each time. I finally realised there was an issue when I discovered I was riding at a slant, a sideways slant in fact.
(3) With the free-but-stuck-in-max-volume speaker from the box store proving to be too annoying I elected to drop $60 and get the boombox. It has an AUX plug in for my Toshiba but with the added benefit of a CD player and FM radio. Alas for me I discovered that if the sound track is bass-heavy then the sound from the boomdox distorts. Still, it's the best solution thus far. Though it's funny because the litany of previous failed speaker arrangement attempts are littered around it. Two different sets of portable speakers are behind it on one of the metal struts of the shed, the free-yet-faulty speaker is below the boombox on a shelf. The dead laptop, which I was using to power the USB speakers which didn't work properly is to the left. It's a bit like Rome built on Rome...