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December 28: New phone day

My new phone arrived today!

I have been an iPhone user since the release of the 3G model, upgrading in turn to the iPhone 4s and then iPhone 5s. With no real need to upgrade beyond the 5s, I skipped the 6, 7 and 8 altogether. I was further put off by the price of the iPhone X (and didn’t want to add expensive phone instalments to my monthly contract) so I made the decision to jump ship to Android. I’d had my eye on the OnePlus 5 for some time, but decided to hold off when the 5t model was announced. Just before Christmas I saw a reasonable deal online (on the 5t) and snapped it up.

I could have probably gone another year with my iPhone 5s: it was still working perfectly well after 4 years. The only negatives were that it was getting a teeny bit slow and the camera wasn’t really up to scratch any more. However, I’d decided that a new phone would be The Big Treat I’d allow myself for 2017. Sure, there was some lingering panic over shelling out nearly $700 in one go on something I didn’t really, truly, honestly need … but it was comfortably overshadowed by the simple excitement of having a new phone.

So, let’s run through some first impressions.

Firstly the size. It’s up there with the plus sized iPhones, so it’s a LOT bigger than my old phone. One of the reasons I held off upgrading my phone for so long was that I was happy with the size of the 5s and didn’t want a bigger phone sticking out of my pocket. However, it’s taken almost no time to get used to the size. Fun side note: my dad has an iPhone 4, which now looks ludicrously tiny to me!

The main improvement I was looking for was with the camera. It’s true that the Google Pixel 2 and the iPhone X are getting all the attention for their cameras, but the OnePlus has gotten pretty good reviews in that area too. My iPhone 5s was sorely lacking when it came to low-light photos (making it almost impossible to take photos of my [black] cats indoors) and the selfie camera wasn’t great either. Luckily the camera on the OnePlus 5t is excellent. I took some test shots of the cats and the Kinderbesten almost as soon as I switched it on and am very happy indeed with the results. The selfie camera almost makes me look like a different person and the low light performance is phenomenal. It may well not be the best phone camera on the market, but it’s more than good enough for me.

Performance, in general, is also much better. My old phone was starting to struggle, especially under iOS 11, but this one zips along with barely a second thought. It’s surprisingly refreshing being able to slide from screen to screen instantly, and know that your apps will all load without the need to think about it for half a second first.

Finally, the most significant change is jumping from iOS to Android. I’m not too heavily invested in the Apple ecosystem, so the only prep required was to add all my existing phone contacts to Google (which was not anywhere as easy as it should be!) and back up my photos. I was pretty excited about this shift to be honest: one of the fun bits about getting a new phone is getting to play with all the new stuff, but Apple have’t really been adding any fun, new stuff to their phones lately. Also, as a proud owner of a Chromecast and a Google Home mini, I figure an Android phone will work much better with all of that.

So far I’m loving Android. While I understand the benefits of iOS being relatively locked down (easy to manage, easy to use) I’m relishing the flexibility that I now have with the OnePlus. I’ve taken it slow, not wanting to make too many changes and forget how I did them, but I’ve already downloaded a new icon pack and set up some gestures. One of my favourite, albeit tiny, things is being able to place my icons and folders in any arrangement I want (unlike iOS, which automatically stacks your icons to the top left. I’m also able to place widgets on my screens (although the only one Ive found so far that doesn’t look like a complete dog is the clock. Another major improvement is the ability to swipe down and get media player controls: no more having to open Plex, Netflix, etc to pause whatever I’m watching.

In summary: no regrets.

December 27: Boxing Day sales

I finally made it to the Boxing Day sales today. Nice and early. My main goal was to get a 2018 wall calendar. For the last many years I’ve had a Doctor Who calendar no surprises there). In recent years they’ve produced some really nice comic art style calendars, and I was hoping to get one of these. No dice this year: all the Doctor Who calendars were boring Photoshop jobs. I ended up with a really nicely design Nightmare Before Christmas one instead.

Over the last year, the wall calendar has become particularly important for me, serving as a visual reminder for key dates (such as when we have late start days at school, when the kids are at their Mum’s for the weekend, etc). Without it I doubt I’d have much clue what was going on week to week. Yeah, sure I could use my phone, but it’s that at-a-glance thing that I really need going on. And something pretty to stick on the wall.

I had a few other things on my list, which I failed to get. But I did take the opportunity to pick up a few more classic Doctor Who DVDs while they’re on sale. I suspect, given the way the market’s going, that these DVDs won’t be on sale much longer so I’m slowly, casually, and cheaply picking up the ones I want while I still can. It may turn out that the ‘ones I want’ are all of them, but we’ll see.

December 26: Boxing Day (aka Christmas recovery)

I briefly considered checking out the Boxing Day sales today, but sanity prevailed and left us all to enjoy a traditional day of post-Christmas recovery. The Elderbeast went off for the afternoon to see the first Scorchers game of the season, while I baked my Christmas Ham and watched movies with the Kinderbeast.

The Elderbeast came home in time for us to watch the Doctor Who Christmas special together, which is always a seasonal highlight. We were both pretty excited about this one, as it gave us our first chance to see Jodie Whittaker in action and I was pretty stoked about seeing David Bradley as the first Doctor. That said, as fun as they are, these Christmas episodes are typically a bit of a curiosity: never not entertaining, but almost always eminently forgettable … which makes it baffling that they tend to use these episodes for their tentpole moments (such as Peter Capaldi leaving).

Ultimately, it was a perfectly good episode, solidly made with many highlights, but once again little more than a romp. The problem with the regeneration episodes, is that part of you is always just waiting for episode to be over so you can get to the last ten minutes. The problem with our episode is that the sound on the last ten minutes went completely out of sync, which pretty much took us out of the whole thing.

Whatever. I’m still excited about Jodie Whittaker 🙂

December 25: Christmas

I wasn’t entirely sure how Christmas Day was going to go this year, given the change in the family situation. We’d long ago, as part of our Parenting Plan, agreed to continue doing exactly the same thing for Christmas Day that we’d done for the past few years: namely go to my in-laws for the day. It’s the perfect compromise: it means the Kinderbesten get to spend the day with both parents, without being shuttled around from place to place; it’s still a proper family Christmas; and we celebrate on what is effectively ‘neutral territory’. It also means I don’t have to cook, which is a bonus.

As has been going on for the past few weeks, I was woken up early by the morning sun pounding through my sorry excuses for bedroom curtains. The Kinderbesten, bless them, awoke a little later. The Elderbeast ploughed directly into his stocking. Meanwhile, in a turn of events that I will find forever amusing, the Kinderbeast insisted on having some iPad time first (“I’ll open them later” he said casually, when I asked about the stocking full of presents sitting in his bedroom).

Main present opening happened a few hours later, after breakfast, once the Kinderbesten’s mother joined us. A little while after that, we headed to the in-laws for yet more present opening (during which I was delighted to acquire a fresh bottle of Grey Goose). Much fun was had with the Kinderbesten’s new Cozmo robot, and a very delicious Christmas dinner was consumed. Overall a perfectly pleasant family Christmas.

The Kinderbesten and I headed home at about 7pm. I had determined to end the day with a viewing of Gremlins, even though I was convinced I’d only make it about half an hour before falling asleep. In the end, I managed to get through the whole film (with a glass of wine in hand), which proved a most excellent end to the day.

Christmas: survived!

December 24: Die Hardmas

For the last several years (I can’t honestly remember how many it’s been) my Christmas Eve has more or less accidentally slipped into the following tradition: watch Die Hard; wrap the Kinderbesten’s presents; finish the evening with a ghost story.

This year, I’m pleased to say we continued that tradition with one major change: the Elderbeast requested to join me and my friend for Die Hard. Talk about your rites of passage. This necessitated wrapping the presents a few days earlier (the benefits of a #childfree weekend), but we were more than happy to oblige. With the presents out of the way, this meant we were able to devote our full attention to Die Hard, instead of the 20% or so that isn’t occupied trying keep two bits of wrapping paper together while you hunt for the tape.

It’s a nice development: your kids growing up to share and participate in your traditions (no matter how ridiculous they are). And Die Hard, as always, was awesome. Perhaps even more so, given we were able to watch it rather than just have it on in the background.

Having sent the Elderbeast to bed, we followed up with A Warning To The Curious, the second story adapted for the BBC’s Christmas Ghost Story strand (all the way back in 1972). The strand was revived a few years ago, but I was sad to see that there wasn’t to be a new ghost story this year. Never mind, I have a DVD set of the lot and am always happy to pick through the oldies. There’s something about the blend of M.R.James’s stories and that old 1970s BBC style that really pulls every scrap of creepiness to the screen.

Overall, a perfect Christmas Eve. The only thing I got wrong was filling the Kinderbesten’s stockings with presents before placing them in their rooms–turns out they were both expecting empty stockings to be hung on the bed (which would, of course, be magically filled with presents by the time they woke up). Noted for next year …

December 23: Friendmas

Today saw the debut of a new tradition: Friendmas.

One of my friends has a birthday on Christmas Eve, and has always held a low-key event in the days before Christmas. This year, things went the other way with a full dinner, much decorations, present-giving and general splendidness. It was pretty much Christmas Day before Christmas, but with friends … which I guess is the point of the title.

Let’s do it again next year!

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.

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