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Category: Ramble (Page 2 of 39)

December 22: It begins …!

The last day of work: the official start of the Christmas break. It’s the moment we’ve spent the entire year waiting for!

As has become tradition, we were allowed to leave work shortly after midday. For once, I had no need to rush to the shops for last minute shopping, so I was able to just saunter home and enjoy the start of a #childfree weekend right before Christmas itself hits.

For Fridate Night Horror we watched Krampus, which has been on my radar for some time now and, to be honest, I can’t believe I waited so long to watch–it was great! But at least I got to enjoy it in an appropriately seasonal setting.

As the Elderbeast has asked to attend the traditional Christmas Eve viewing of Die Hard, we also wrapped all the presents tonight. Not quite the sprawling mass of giftage from previous years, but the task still took the best part of two hours to, er, wrap up.

A very fine start to the weekend.

December 21: Phones and plans

After a stupid amount of indecision, I finally set myself up with a new phone plan today.

My previous plan was costing me $40 per month, and gave me 3gb of data. Given that I hardly ever use the phone bit of my phone, and rarely even come close to using the 3gb of data, I’ve been trying to find a cheaper plan–especially since, for the first time ever, I’ve bought my new phone outright and don’t need to be tied to an expensive monthly plan.

A few weeks ago I found out about a company called Lebara. They use the Vodafone network, which has always worked pretty well for me, and offered a plan for $15 which came with 0.5gb of data. Not great, but there was a promotional offer to get another 2Gb added to that, plus I’d get my 3gb per month if I set up auto recharge. Seemed pretty good. However, the reviews weren’t great, and I couldn’t get comfortable going with a possibly crappy company.

Then Vodafone began offering some new deals. Stupid amounts of data for starters, and money off each month. I eventually found a plan that would offer me 20gb of data for $35–way more data for a slightly less money, which was better than a kick in the teeth. I nearly signed up over the weekend, but stopped at the last minute when it I couldn’t see anything to make it clear whether this would replace my current plan, or end up being added to it.

Then, at the start of this week, I read about some Virgin Mobile deals–20% off plans, plus bonus data. I found a plan that would give me 5gb of data for just $23 per month, which was the sort of saving (down from $40 per month) that I really liked. Even better, when I went to sign up online, I was thrown a code giving me another 1gb per month, bringing me up to 6gb. So, twice the data for nearly half the price. Done.

The only thing left was to transfer my number and cancel my Vodafone account–my month rolls over on the 25th, so I needed to get this sorted out asap if I didn’t want to end up paying another $40. This turned out to be ridiculously easy. I set up my number to be ported on the same evening that I unpacked my SIM card, and found that it had happened by the time I woke up the next day (following a brief period of wondering why my phone had switched to SOS mode!). I then dropped by the Vodafone shop today to cancel my account (because it was preferable to calling) and was told that my old account would have been automatically cancelled when the number was ported over. Win!

As an added bonus, my (ultimately unnecessary) trip to the Vodafone store also gave me the opportunity to do the very final bits of my Christmas shopping. I headed home that day with my fresh new phone plan all set up, and the knowledge that, for once, I’d bought all of my Christmas presents well before Christmas Eve.

So, yeah, reading about phone plans might not be the most riveting–but it was a good day 🙂

December 20: Bring a plate

Our extended Christmas celebrations at work continued today with a ‘bring a plate’ lunch. We’ve already had the University Christmas party (way back on December 1) and a team lunch outing, but there’s always time for one more seasonal eating event. Today, as both the title and the first sentence implied, everyone brought plate of food for lunch. We had meats, and fruits, and pies, followed by trifles, and cakes and more pies–more food, in short, than the eight or so of us could reasonably expect to eat.

In amidst the frantic present buying, the constant threat of bankruptcy, and the dwindling hours left in the year for getting everything done, there are times when we get to take our foot off the pedal and just kick back for a while. When this happens at work it’s especially rewarding.

I’m lucky, as I often say, that I have a good job (that I enjoy) and get to work with people whose company I like. This was a chance to reflect on some of those things and, most importantly, stuff my face for an hour or so.

December 19: The Last Fanbaby

I have no idea what the history of fandom is. I like to imagine it was born with Star Trek, found its feet with Doctor Who, reached its teenage years with Star Wars, and achieved … well, something that’s not exactly maturity with the arrival of the internet. Where fandom came from isn’t really the point of this post: it’s where it is now. And where it is, is mired in an entitled state of toddlerdom, where people just can’t seem to grasp why they can’t have things exactly they way they want them.

Before I go on, in case you can see where this is heading, let me make something clear: anyone should be free to like or dislike anything they want without judgement. If I don’t like something, and you do, then in no way should it diminish or invalidate your enjoyment of that thing, nor should your taste or critical faculties be called into question. Equally, if I like something and you don’t, then it doesn’t mean the that thing I like is faulty or broken any more than it means that you are faulty or broken for not liking it.

Got that? Good.

So I went to see The Last Jedi tonight, and loved it. I walked out of the cinema imagining that the world of Star Wars fandom would be as delighted as I was that we had been given another solid entry in the series and our third good Star Wars movie in a row (I remember the dark times, you see: I remember the prequels).  I was so very wrong. Turns out that however whiny and entitled Doctor Who and Star Trek fans are, Star Wars fans are like: “Hold my beer…”

(Obligatory #notallStarWarsfans hashtag.)

At this point–and, yes, I’m cheating again and writing this post a few days after the fact–I still don’t really understand what the problem is. Doubtless some of it is inspired by this being the most diverse Star Wars movie to date, riddled with strong women and people of colour. That said, those complaints seem far more muted than they were when The Force Awakens came out. I know there is some grumbling about flaws in the storytelling–and The Last Jedi absolutely commits a couple of cardinal sins on that front–but these issues are not enough to undermine the other parts of the movie and, honestly, if you’re going to a Star Wars movie for solid storytelling, rather than for the characters, spectacle and myth-making, then you’re walking into the wrong cinema.

And I reckon it’s the mythical aspect of these films that’s the key here. People have grown up with Star Wars, whether it’s the original trilogy or the prequels. For most of us, these movies are entwined in the complex tapestry of story and culture that introduces and explains the world to us. And if that tapestry begins in to weave itself in a direction that we don’t understand, we start to feel nervous and insecure. I remember the reaction to the prequels, but for the most part that wasn’t because George Lucas did anything especially controversial with the mythology (*cough* midichlorians *cough*) but simply because they were so badly written. Riding in on our rose-tinted memories of the original trilogy, we were simply shocked that a Star Wars movie could be so disappointing.

The reaction to The Last Jedi is different, and it’s firmly wrapped up with the way we use the internet, and the way we react to any piece of culture (a Ghostbusters remake, a new Harry Potter story, etc) that ties into our childhood–especially when something comes along that reshapes or rebuilds the cultural artefacts that helped guide us through our impressionable years. With the internet we all have a platform for our opinions (I’m exploiting it right now!). We have the opportunity to present our opinions to an audience; often an audience of peers who share those same opinions, and are happy to have them repeated and validated. We have stopped becoming just the audience, and have become creators in our own right. This is where the line has blurred: we are no longer content to passively receive culture, we have come to believe that, as ‘creators’ ourselves, we have a right to play a role in its creation. And we are dead wrong.

We own what we create. Until we release it. Then no one truly owns it. It becomes an idea, free to roam in the imagination of anyone who receives it. At that point no one truly owns it anymore. This is why George Lucas was wrong to meddle with the original trilogy: once he released the films, they belonged as much to the fans as to him. But it’s also why we were wrong to despise him for creating the prequel trilogy: he released the films he wanted to make, and he had every right to make them the way he wanted to. It’s our right to like or dislike him, but it’s not our right to try an undo their creation.

Lucas famously/intriguingly/controversially applied the ring theory to the Star Wars films, which posits that the prequels mirrored and reflected the original trilogy in various ways. Given the reaction to The Last Jedi, it seems he might have been more prescient than he realised.

Final reminder: if you disliked, disagreed with, criticised, or plain hated The Last Jedi, this post isn’t about you. You are entitled to those opinions. This post is about all those people who think they’re entitled to a different version of the movie, one that accords with their own personal vision of the Star Wars universe. They. Are. Not.

December 18: Disaster

So today was one of those days where something little turned into something big. And not ‘good’ big.

One of our systems at work needed a security patch. As with any system update, we put a fair bit of planning into it, but since this was a mere patch rather than a major update I assumed this would be a relatively routine process.

I was wrong.

We started the update at about 5pm … and quickly managed to render my employer’s main website inaccessible for almost two hours. Clearly not the outcome we were aiming for. Nor did it make for a fun evening.

Fortunately I’d already headed home (we typically do these updates after working hours, so I coordinate them from home). Also, we had a third party managing the update for us, so there was minimal ‘hands-on’ support for me to provide. This meant, conveniently, that I was able to cook dinner for the Kinderbesten while the rest of the world was falling apart. I was also fortunate that they were able to keep themselves occupied when I needed them to, even if it meant a little more iPad time than I’d generally allow.

Eventually the website came back up, we ran a few tests and determined everything was fine, and called it a night–just in time for me to put the Kinderbesten to bed, in fact.

I was lucky, on this occasion, that the timing of the disaster happened to fit well with my domestic routine. However, the whole thing forced me to realise how lucky I am that I’m not in the sort of role where I’d be required to drop everything as soon as anything goes wrong: I simply wouldn’t be able to. I’m very lucky that I work in a job that allows for a certain amount of flexibility; because I have very little of it myself at this point in my life. Sure, I can do things like pop out to the shops and organise babysitting at short notice, but it’s pretty necessary for my to have a work day that ends at about 5pm and doesn’t start again until the next day. I get home and work is forgotten, and the Kinderbesten take priority. And, when they’ve gone to bed, I need those last few hours to unwind and reset, ready for the next day.

December 17: Quality time

One of the perils of writing a diary post for every day of the year, but not actually writing each diary post on that day of the year is that you don’t always remember what you were doing.

My sole note for today is “quality time”, which isn’t hugely revealing. Given that this day is a Sunday, it almost certainly means that I got to share a fair chunk of downtime with the Kinderbesten, probably either watching movies or playing board games.

Being the last Sunday before Christmas, this seems like a wise choice: it’s the choice to do nothing but relax in the company of your loved ones.

December 16: Christmas decorations

I’m not typically big on the Christmas decorations. I usually leave it until it’s as close to Christmas Eve as it can be, then begrudgingly get the tree out of the shed and throw some baubles on it.

Not this year.

This year I decided that the weekend just after the Kinderbesten broke up from school would be our scheduled slot for tinselling up the house and I was almost … excited? … about it too. I’ve got quite the stack of decorations, randomly gathered over the years, which meant virtually no expense or prep was required. I did, however, buy several more meters of tinsel (because I love tinsel) along with some cheap paper chains and bunting for the Kinderbesten to make.

So, the tree went up. The lights went on. The Kinderbeast helped me (sort of) put baubles on it in a suitably chaotic fashion. But there was something missing: I’d seen some kitty unicorn decorations in the shops earlier and had forgotten to pick them up. Despite my misgivings about shopping on a Saturday afternoon in the lead-up to Christmas, I had to have those unikitties, so we returned to the mall. I had a small heart attack when the decorations were no longer where I’d seen them in the shop earlier, but it turned out they’d just been moved. I did also succumb to the lure of another string of fairy lights (20m tho!), and some more (half price) tinsel, and some hooks to keep the fairly lights up.

I got home and duly stuck up the fairy lights, which were more than long enough to string around the entire room–and it looked awesome! I then cut the tinsel into strips and used it to decorate all the posters that I’ve put up on the walls this year. As a finishing touch, the kids managed to make some progress on their paper decorations.

Yep – it’s starting to look a lot like Nakatomi Plaza around here!

December 15: Black Christmas

For today’s Horror Friday we went with the seasonal theme and decided to watch Black Christmas. It’s a film I’ve seen maybe once or twice before, and had mostly lumped it in the ‘Vintage Slashers’ bucket. This time, I was able to get a bit of a fresh perspective on it–possibly because I’ve watched so much horror this year, including revisits of two of the other ‘original slasher films’: Halloween and Friday the 13th.

One of the first things that struck me this time around is that Black Christmas predates both of those movies by several years, which makes it a significant precursor to the genre. As a consequence, it’s far less concerned with the trappings of the genre and able to set its own rules. It’s interesting to try and pick out where it’s playing with the tropes of 1970’s psychological thrillers, and where it’s dabbling with the groundwork that we’d eventually see repeated in dozens of future chillers.

Having enjoyed it so much this time around, it may have to become part of my standard Christmas viewing in the years to come …


December 14: Present fatigue

Most Christmases end up with me buying presents at almost the last minute and paying little attention to how much it all costs me. Not this year!

This year, partly through necessity, and partly through the magic of #childfree weekends, I’ve been far more on the ball. I sorted out presents for the Kinderbesten back in November, maybe even earlier. After some crises of indecision, I’ve managed to choose and purchase presents for my friends. Over the last week, as you’ll have read, I organised presents for the rest of the family too. I don’t want to even think about how much it all cost, but I’m pretty happy with what everyone’s getting and I’m really happy that there will be no panicked, last-minute Christmas Eve shopping trips.

However, there is a flip side. I’m suffering from present fatigue, which is likely more a symptom of taking a leisurely approach to buying presents this year, than due to the number of presents purchased. It seems that each time I allowed myself a minor celebration at having successfully bought a bunch of presents, I would remember a whole other bunch of people that I needed to buy presents for. It sometimes feels like the last two months have been an endless procession of gift purchases. Don’t get me wrong: I’m happy with everything I’ve bought, and I’m happy that I’m in the financial position this year where I can buy everyone presents without worrying too much about the cost. It’s just felt a bit like a marathon.

Next year (I kid myself) I might try that idea of buying one or two presents each month and spreading the load over the year. I gift even wrap the presents up as I get them, so everyone gets a mystery gift for Christmas 2018. Because I sure as hell won’t remember what’s in there …

December 13: Alabama

Today we found out the results of the Alabama Special Senate Election over in the USA–the election where the choice was between someone who is a paedophile, and various other appalling things, and someone who is not.

Fortunately the not-paedophile won. Not by much. But by enough.

I’m only really writing this post to mark the fact that I will never quite grasp how far politics has (visibly) fallen in my lifetime, and that there are people who will look past someone being a paedophile and consider that person suitable to occupy one of the most influential positions in the country.

It doesn’t seem that long ago that the right-wing press was screaming hysterically about paedophiles, and that politicians would be forced to resign following the barest whiff of infidelity. Now we’ve reached the point where Donald Trump has sunk the bar so very low that it’s hard to imagine a crime that his supporters wouldn’t forgive.

The ray of hope here is that the people of Alabama got off their arses and resisted. Black voters, in particular, told the Republican party to shove their continuing efforts to take their voting rights away and played the major role in electing a Democrat to serve in the senate. At this point it doesn’t even matter that he was a Democrat; it only matters that he wasn’t a putrid waste of a person. What a choice, eh? Do we vote for absolute garbage? Or do we vote for a regular person? Let. Me. Think.

Anyway, time to go and eat mince pies …

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