Katherine Hayton | 2014 October
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October 2014

There’s a bit of a kerfluffle going on outside tonight. When we arrived home there was a roadsign face-down on the street by our house. There were orange cones lined up on the footpath like they were on sentry duty. And this is Christchurch man, it’s not like they just toss those things around willy-nilly you know.

I did vaguely recall that there have been road-signs either way on Greers Road. For a week or so. But who has time to read those things when they’re a passenger in a bus or car with nothing else to do?

So I wandered down the road to find out that for the rest of the week the main road next to our house is undergoing something that requires all traffic to cease between the hours of 7.00pm to 7.00am.

That means it will screw us up in the morning, but at least will be over by the time I return home from work each day. Unless I’m running super-late and that would cause me more concern than whether there’s a road block between my bus-stop and the house.

However, there is an unforeseen side-effect that the traffic signs couldn’t warn us about. Extra traffic.

The road they’re currently hard at work on (or moderately at work on at a minimum) is a main one. Not an arterial road perhaps, but certainly a major vein. Like the big squishy one in the side of your wrist that’ll bleed a whole lot if you cut it but not really ever pose a risk to life (unless you’re Doctor Kelly.) Or the one in your inner arm that the blood vampires pop a needle in before they drain a pint (BTW blood donors are urgently needed in Christchurch at the moment so please don’t let my description put you off a wonderful contribution to society that has the added benefit of 600g instant weight-loss!)

This means that it has a constant flow of traffic through it. Or it would have if it were open. Since it’s not, we now have a constant flow of very concerned drivers wondering how the hell they’re meant to get to their destination. They come barreling along Greers Road and then there’s the squeal of rubber as they brake, followed by a slow progression into our street.

As we’re only a few houses from the corner, we also have a lovely light display as they pull into our driveway only to reverse out again and turn back to wherever the hell they came from.

We did have a moment of consternation, and both stopped what we were doing, as a police car siren heralded from further down the road. We waited to see what would happen. Would it continue forward and bowl through the repair work (as they did appear to have left one lane open for emergency entrance and egress) or would it skid to a halt as the bad guys got away? It turned off the siren and crept around onto our street, exactly the same as every other driver. The siren never went back on so I presume it wasn’t that important after all.

Bring on the 16th. Or the 17th if they’re not quite running to schedule. Or sometime next week maybe.

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I have been hard at work gaming today. Far harder than I wanted to be. There are a few glitches with Alien: Isolation causing varying degrees of annoyance.

I’m not an expert gamer. When it gets to the options menu I choose the easiest setting immediately (in the memorable choice name from Wolfenstein “Can I play Daddy?”) because I’m under no impression that my temper can cope with my inadequacy. In other words, I play for the storyline.

I’m also firmly in the camp that believes that just because I’m useless at shooting things, that should be no reason to stop me from playing through to the end of the game. I paid the same amount of money for it that dextrous people did – I should also have the privilege of finding out what happens at the end. No one kicks you out of a movie theatre because you weren’t paying attention in the second quarter so now have no idea of what’s happening. No. You’re allowed to sit there until the end with no sense of continuity but still grooving on the cinematography.

Sadly the gaming community seems to disagree with me. I never did get the chance to find out what happened at the end of Dead Space because I got stuck on one of the subway scenes. It was near the end, I could guess how it ended, but I wasn’t allowed to experience it because apparently you have to be better than I was to get to the final cut-scenes.

Thinking back there are a trail of littered games behind me. And I’m not talking about the ones that legitimately bored the **** out of me so that I voluntarily stopped playing. There are far more of those tossed in disgust on the track. But there are also a lot of levels of Manic Miner that I never got to see, and far more rooms that Jet Set Willy never stepped or leapt or jetted into.

I never made it through to the end of The Hobbit. I never got to see the wonders of that Tolkien expected me to see. I even sucked at Washing Windows, but to be fair I saw far more of those than I wanted to.

I have been blocked from enjoyment my whole life. I accept this as part and parcel of belonging to the lower strata of the gaming community. Unless I put in some serious years of time studying, designing, and working on my own game with my own rules then I’m not going to be in a position to change it.

But at least I know that thems the rules. Not being able to hit and kill all of the things that you need to in a reasonable amount of time even though you dedicate some serious time to it sucks hard, but can be explained.

But what the hell is the deal with making one choice that renders it impossible to move forward in a game? Yes, I’m looking at you Sega. What were you thinking?

It was perfectly reasonable for me to run out of the room when three people returned (and shot at me) after I picked up the hacker tool. I’d done exactly that the last time I walked in to find it populated with people who liked me for target practice. And that worked. Why would I do something different? It was also perfectly reasonable to save the game at that point because I had people on my tail and I’d just been through a cut-scene so I was guessing the tool was something important. Perfectly. Reasonable.

And more to the point, how was I to know that it rendered the room forever impossible to navigate through? Seriously, how was I meant to know? Was it spraypainted on the side of a locker that I slide quickly by with my arms flailing because even though I’m meant to be taken seriously as a space engineer I run like a girl? It’s like being back in the Jet Set mansion where one wrong move throws you all the way back to the start, but at least then I knew what I was signing up to. Where’s this in the fine print?

Not only is it cruel to regress someone to the previous level so they have to repeat all of the steps thus far taken to move them forward in the game, it’s also an opportunity for them to notice and grow increasingly annoyed by every little glitch which they’re now encountering for the second time.

Don’t know if companions blocking your exit is meant to be a fun feature, and I also don’t recall that on the ad Sega. I don’t recall you advertising their enoyable rotation of sayings either. You know, the one where you get told to be quiet when you’re not even capable of talking and you haven’t moved in half a minute. Or the one where the guy searching for you with his gun out says ‘Keep looking, she can’t have gone far,’ and then two seconds later says, ‘Maybe she’s gone – I haven’t found her yet.’ I’m serious. Two seconds – I haven’t found her yet. Does Sega also have the attention span of a teenager? Actually, wipe that – it’s an insult to teenagers. I’m sure most teenagers would hunt a woman with a gun for far longer than two seconds before deciding to throw in the towel. And I’m talking about New Zealand teenagers who don’t even view gunplay as a regular sporting activity.

I’m also fond of how when people run at you shooting and you stand in the corner because you haven’t got a weapon, you all become trapped together so you have to restart the game from the last save. Another sterling discover there in gameplay. Along with the way when you’re crouching at the level of the vent you have to stand up to climb back down into it. Or how your companions keep saying follow me and then stand still waiting for you to go ahead. Or how the enemy can stare you straight in the eye, and then decide to go and check the inventory because apparently the noise was nothing. And they don’t appear to be making the decision in a wink-wink got-your-back kind of way.

Don’t make me go back again Sega. You’ll make me angry. And trust me, you won’t like me when I’m angry.

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I’m sure I’ll wake up with more tomorrow morning, there are some muscles just starting to bunch into a deep-seated ache – but for the time being at least I have to be content with the far-more-obvious flesh wounds.

I always forget between bouts of gardening (possible something to do with them occurring a full year apart, but possibly not) that it usually involves a lot of physical pain on top of the actual energy required to do it in the first place.

To date, from one full half-hour of gardening duties, I have incurred light scratches on the inside of my right arm:

I also have a deep long scratch on the outside of said arm (which I’m unable to get a photograph of because I’m not a contortionist more’s the pity) and a collection of varying size scratches in a variety of patches on my left arm. I also removed a half-centimetre long splinter (or blackberry prickle) out of the knuckle of my left forefinger.

These are not life-threatening injuries by any stretch of the imagination, but that they occurred while I was wearing leather gloves and a long-sleeved top did surprise me. Those berries have tenacity. I’d admire them if I wasn’t still picking little bits of them out of my skin.

But at least that’s most of the back garden done. A quick tidy up around the half-dead orange and lemon plants and it’ll all be over for another year. Apart from picking the fruit, and I don’t consider that a gardening duty, I consider that dessert.

The front garden still needs to be weeded, hopefully at less risk of harm, and then I just need to dig a trench, pop in my pink fir seed potatoes, mound them up a couple of times and I’m done.

The peaches and nectarine trees take care of themselves, as does the quince tree and the Jerusalem artichokes. No doubt I’ll also end up with a courtesy crop of last year’s potatoes, as they seem to be the gift that keeps on giving.

Is there anything better than free food? My arms, hands and knees are bound to disagreed for the next couple of days, but then I’m sure they’ll be in agreement. It’s the bomb.

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About the 1st July (my birthday – why do I do these things to myself) I enthusiastically started writing the first draft of my latest novel. I was awesomely confident that I would have this finished by the end of July, or a few weeks after that at the latest.

After a few wrong turns and a lot of pauses to do things like design covers for the book I still haven’t written I’m pleased to announce that I’m almost pretty much nearly finished!

Wow. I thought this day would never almost very-close-to-being-here come.

A mere 10k to go-ish. Or 8-10 hours worth of full-on #1k1h sessions (which I always try to 1.2-1.5k because I’m competitive even when it’s just with me.) Unless something unexpected happens that elongates a few bits and pieces unexpectedly. Lord I hope that doesn’t happen, unless it’s in a sort of all enthusiastic get it all down before it disappears into the ether case of binge-writing. That’s okay because it takes about the same amount of time, give or take.

I’ve just got to get **** into the **** and cut off the **** so that the **** from **** can see the **** and make the connection with **** thereby tying up all the loose little strings into one large emotional **** of an ending.

Phew.

So that old saying about everyone has one novel in them but few have two might soon almost nearly not apply to me.

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09 Oct / Aliens and sweat

Today my copy of Alien: Isolation arrived. Lovely, dovely. There wasn’t quite the perfect set-up as there would’ve been if it had arrived – oh I don’t know – yesterday maybe. But I still managed to get a nice dose of ten minutes play-time. Well, not play-time because the vast majority of that was intro and cut-scene, but a good two minutes of play-time.

I haven’t actually found an alien yet. In fact the only activities I’ve performed so far are to get dressed and then have a shower. Yes you read that right. I don’t understand why I didn’t realise the button in the closet operated a shower-head either. For some reason it looked more like a door.

There’s a lovely old-style vibe to the game. It’s like playing on the Spectrum again, except the graphics are interactive and don’t take four minutes to load per page. You have to plug your hard-disk into an emergency wall slot in order to save. I’m not sure how well that’s going to play when I have alien(s) hunting me down, but I don’t have much choice.

There’s just one thing I’m a bit confused about.

Obviously I haven’t played through very much of the game yet, so it may be explained at some point down the track and if so I apologise Sega, but WHAT’S UP WITH THE SWEATING?

Yeah, okay. It may be HOT in space. What do I know? I’ve never been (although there’s a boarding pass with my name on it going out on Orion courtesy of NASA – thanks guys) and perhaps sweating is the norm.

And that’s all good. I don’t mind sweat. I even partake myself if the weather complies. But I wipe it off my forehead if it gets thick enough to form a drop and roll down my face. I don’t just let it pool on the surface of my skin without brushing an arm across so that it doesn’t start to drip off me.

You may be out in space people, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t exercise normal human standards.

Otherwise – all good. I’m looking forward to the weekend.

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08 Oct / Change of plan

Today I had a blog all planned. A rare thing indeed, but I’d actually thought ahead and intended to take a short break from playing Alien: Isolation for long enough to write up a quick note on how good/bad/no-opinion-yet it was.

It was the perfect set-up. My darling was going to be late home because he’s having some sort of snore torture device fitted (no longer will I need to poke him awake when his snoring becomes too loud – this thing will keep him awake long after I’ve dozed off) so I would be able to get in through the door, boot up the PS4, and search on the internet for the instructions on how to eject the CD that’s already in there because I always forget, and if I try to work it out intuitively I end up in downward spiral of turning it on and off, off and on.

That would give me a good twenty minutes playing time before he was due home. There’d be a pause while he listened to the end of the Panel, which meant I could have a bite to eat, and then I’d be able to take over the television again to my endless enjoyment until I grew tongue-tied with frustration at the failure of the PS4 controller to effectively transmit my intention to the game so some weird alien hell-bent on my destruction would succeed again and again and again, and the only cure would be to throw it against the wall and turn the system off to recover for a few hours.

As you do.

(and yes that is my idea of fun thank you very much for asking you non-game playing life-form)

You may’ve been able to work out by now that things haven’t quite gone to plan.

I’ll give you a hint – it’s something to do with the thing I was going to put into the console. Something shiny and round and which if you hung it from the rafters outside would keep birds away from your verandah (in theory.)

My joyful gaming experience has been brought to a sudden and inhumane halt by the positioning of a certain game CD in a certain postal service depot awaiting a certain courier driver’s return to my certain address because a certain plane didn’t make it down from Auckland in a certain time-frame.

And a certain person doesn’t need a certain inability to get out of the way of certain death to be certainly hacked off right now.

On the bright side I did take delivery today of three loaves of joy-inducing pumpernickel bread from the wonderful Breadman of Christchurch. For those of you who live in other cities I pity you (or I add this to the existing list of things I pity you for) and for those of you in Christchurch you should look him up online and immediately order some today. Right now. It’s worth it. It tastes like a heavy sourdough bread that comes conveniently malted up so you don’t even need to worry about putting on the marmite. And for those of you who are looking at me funny right about now, that really is a description of a fine-tasting bread. Trust me.

Also note that the above message is a free public service announcement. I have never accepted money from anyone to advertise their products on this blog, and I never will would in a heartbeat.

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07 Oct / The wrong speed

I have been set on the wrong speed all day today. I woke up before 4.00am but convinced myself that if I stayed in bed I would surely fall asleep again. After all, I’m absolutely buggered exhausted. If I just lay there with my eyes tightly shut I would definitely get at least another hour’s snooze before I need even think of getting out of bed.

So after lying in bed not doing anything, and definitely not sleeping, for another half an hour I called it quits and got up to face the world. I had the joy of trawling across the web looking at my analytics while my mind went, you should have tried harder, you should have tried harder, and nothing made a lot of sense. I finally quit it and started to write instead, and then my darling decided to get out of bed early as well thus giving me the perfect excuse to immediately stop.

Usually I take a few hours to get revved up enough to even think of eating anything (unless there is ice cream around whereupon I am immediately hungry upon waking) but this morning I was starving by the time I sat down at my desk, so I ate my breakfast bar before 6.30 where I would usually eat at 8.30am.

I don’t mind a change in routine (I do, I do) but it left me with a slight problem at 8.30am when my stomach once again decided it was breakfast. No matter that I’d already eaten, breakfast was due and breakfast would be had.

It doesn’t help that my ulcers are back so if I don’t have something to eat not only am I hungry but I start to experience actual pain.

There was no help for it. Everything was stacked against me. I gave in and ate my morning tea for my second breakfast.

Well, that shut my stomach up. All good. I went back to my day.

All good until 10.30am which is – you guessed it – when I normally have morning tea. Morning tea already consumed, it was only sensible to move onto lunch.

I’m sad to say that my stomach didn’t even have the common decency to wait until lunchtime. I generally eat my lunch at 12.00pm during the week (the week-end is a structurally different day so doesn’t count) but I needed something to eat by 11.30am. Don’t be stupid, I told my intestines, it’s too early and you can easily wait another half an hour.

5 minutes later I was downstairs in the cafeteria buying lunch. Spag Boll since you ask. Very nice indeed.

I don’t usually require an afternoon tea, but today is just sailing off the horizon as far as normal goes. And then I also required an extra can of coke zero because they got out of sequence with my meals – or my meals got out of sequence with them? Who knows? I needed another one.

I started to walk home like a good girl, but then gave up and got on the bus because my stomach was growling like a monster and I needed to get myself home and next to a fridge and I couldn’t wait an extra 45 minutes just to get a bit of much needed exercise in.

And now it’s 7.30pm. I’ve had my evening cups of tea at 5.30pm so now have another one drawing in the pot. I’m also about to start on my second tea/dinner/supper of the evening, my first having been served at 4.25 and eaten by 4.30pm.

I keep telling myself it doesn’t matter, I’ll probably wake up tomorrow and everything will be back in sync or out the other way, but it’s not working. Worst of all I can hear the evil clothing elves stirring in the skirting boards again. I’d better hide the thread or they’ll be out in force tonight!

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Don’t tell me they don’t exist. I have proof of it.

Sure there have been a couple of times when I’ve returned from a holiday and thought, that’s fair. I ate a lot of ice-cream, of course my clothing will be a little bit tighter. I stuck to my fried foods only diet – to make sure that all the bugs died screaming in agony before I consumed their little dead carcasses – it’s a matter of safety. Yes, sometimes I’ve taken the blame and admitted that there’s been an expanding waistline in the picture somewhere.

But come on. This is going too far!

I order clothing a full size up when I returned from my holiday – I’m not the sort of girl to postpone happiness until I lose weight, or I would be naked by now. No – I buy clothes in the size that my body is. No false hope – no false promises – no crying jags.

Except the clothing doesn’t seem to be the size that my body is, at all. And it’s not like I gained a massive amount of weight. I expected a few spongy bits to be rolling out the tops of things, I like a nice muffin as much as the next girl, but really? To not be able to fit anything? That seems a tiny bit excessive.

Of course, there are those who tell you that the reason you don’t lose weight is because muscle weighs more than fat, and so you’re getting smaller by exercising while staying the same weight. If that works in reverse then I no longer have a shred of muscle left anywhere in my body. No – it’s all been converted into larger-sized-but-same-weight fat.

Not believable, is it? Either way you spin that sentence out you’re bound to see a rolling eye in your periphery.

So, I don’t weight much more but my body is bigger. Perhaps I’ve filled up with air? Come to think of it that may be a bit closer to the truth. Certainly when I tried to swim a length of the pool underwater I had quite a struggle to get down to the bottom. Is it conceivable that I’ve somehow managed to self-inflate?

Nah. First of all I don’t have any puncture marks, and second of all you may be able to inflate a stomach quite easily, maybe even the entire digestive tract, but how on earth would you inflate a thigh? Or a knee?

Yes, that’s right. You heard it here first. My knees are bigger.

Or, are they? Today at work as I unzipped my fly so that I could actually sit down, I came up with the only theory that logically covers everything and makes sense.

Clothing elves.

Evil little clothing elves.

The little buggers have been beavering (or elvering) away while I’ve been sunning myself on foreign beaches, all in order to have a good laugh when I come home and try to dress up in my work uniform.

I bet they’re having a great time. Rolling around on the floor, waving their nimble little evil-elf hands in glee.

They’ve probably made their homes in the skirting boards, and now I’ll never be able to get rid of them. They’ll come out whenever I’m away for a night or two, make themselves busy, and then scuttle back into their lairs to wait for my reaction.

Well I’m not falling for it Elf-Men! I survived teenage girls in high-school, I can survive you.

First thing on the weekend I’m donating all of my clothing to charity, and I’ll going to start to dress entirely in Lycra.

Then we’ll see who’s laughing.

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Today I hit the refresh button on my permanently pinned Amazon book page (which is next to my blog visits summary, my twitter analytics, my facebook insights, my google analytics and my tweetdeck – also all permanently pinned) and saw something wonderful.

Oh yeah – you read that right. #63 in Mystery – the second largest genre section on Amazon. Oh wait… I think I cropped that wrong. Just a moment, try this one!

You saw it here first. #63 out of how many, you ask? 38k or more. Oh yeah, alright, oh yeah, alright. Oh. Wait a moment, just a slight change…

Definitely right this time! (You can trust me)

Number #63 out of how many, you ask? (again)

I choose not to answer that question on the grounds that it may invalidate my victory.

And I also shouldn’t mention how the time elapsed since the last sale has already made inroads into my number placement. I’m afraid to look because the last time I was getting dangerously close to slipping into the 90s and that’s the Amazon equivalent of hitting your 40s – the edge of irrelevance.

So I’ll just leave these pictures here, and maybe when refresh gets the better of me later tonight I’ll visit my own blog (don’t judge – I bet you do it too) and see my immortalised victory.

Bestseller status. Forever.

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