Monthly Archives: January 2012

Love

A conversation from this morning:

 

Me: ‘ Blah blah blah…£10 a week food budget from now on so that we can afford to buy furniture for our house.’

Steve: ‘ We should have a £10 love budget too! I love you.’

Me: ‘um, okay…sure…’

Steve: ‘Love is free, we’re £10 under budget now. What shall we do?’

Me: ‘…I…’

Steve: ‘£20 food budget’

And that is why I can now afford cakes and a sofa.

In other news, if ANYONE has any free furniture we’d be happy to take it off your hands. In exchange you can come look at our stunning kitchen and weirdly attractive purple stairs.

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94%

Today, I lost three and a half hours of my life. To one single level of this:

Naa na na nana-na na na, na na na na-na naaaaaaaaaaaa

Specifically, the sprinkler level.

For anyone who has seen me trying to play games, you’ll know how painful it is to watch me fall off the same bridge ten times in a row, or grenade myself to death because it’s easier to respawn than work out how to turn around. But this? This I can DO. Despite my appalling aim and inability to remember the maps, I’ve made it to 100% on every other level at least a year ago, beating that smug king and that stupid robo-king and all their stupid friends.

The goal: Fill up the Katamari with water, roll around the desert and make all the grass and sunflowers appear in five minutes or less. It’s very very pretty until you’ve played the same five minute over and over. And over. And OVER. Then the novelty wears off and you start getting blinding rage at things like cartoon zebras and rainbow stripey palm trees.

I now have a new theory about why they make so many games that involve war and fighting: it’s not because people like killing, it’s to make them feel more justified and less guilty when they get this angry at having to do the same level repeatedly. For example if it was grenades that I wanted to avoid rolling over rather than cute little Snowmen-that-turn-into-Palm-Trees then I’d be okay with hating them when I hit them. If it was Nazi’s that I resented (so much that I wanted to punch them right through the screen) because they’re in my way, rather than a cartoon Kangaroo, I’d feel like a better person.

I would like to apologize to EVERYONE for drawing this

See how much I hate them? I don’t even enjoy playing any more. Every time that stupid king-face pops up WHILE I’M TRYING TO PLAY to tell me I can probably walk on that STUPID PALM TREE I want to punch him. Every single time I run out of water it shows me where the water-hole is. I KNOW where it is! I’ve been doing this every five minutes for the last THREE HOURS. Stop making me pause in my frantic rolling!

I lean backwards as though it’s going to help me see more of the screen because even now I keep getting lost because the view is so narrow. I still tend to get stuck in the corners facing the wall and I can only jump successfully 1 out of every 3 times I try. I still don’t know what I’m doing wrong with that one actually. But I’ve improved. I made it all the way from 2% (my record before today was 20%) to 94% in just three and a half hours.

I’ve been screaming two thing at the TV screen and Steve. Poor Steve.‘Why won’t you let me jump’ and ‘Why the fuck won’t you let me fucking jump you piece of arse.’

I made a strategy. Then I made a DIAGRAM of my strategy.

You can tell my hand are not back to their normal shape yet

If I didn’t get 300ml of water sprinkled in the first route, I quit and restarted. If I got less than 700ml by the end of the first two minutes, I quit and restarted. If I hit a lion, I restarted.

Then I had to stop and go outside. Partly because my hands were frozen in gaming claws and partly because Steve insisted that we went to the gym.

I spent an hour and a half running about and stuff and I feel better now.

More normal.

Naa-naa na na na na na naa naa, na na na na-na-naaa Naa-naa na na na na na naa naa, na na na na-na-na Naa-naa na na na na na naa naa, na na na na-na-naaa Naa-naa na na na na na naa naa, na na na na-na-naaa.

MANdelion plant

That's right, I need a real hobby.


Books

As a child I’m pretty sure I could Speed Read fairly well. Not one-eye-reading-each-page-at-the-same-time-book-in-20-minutes Speed Read but I’m sure I was far above what was normal. I applied for a GrownUps library card (six books vs. the childrens limit of 3 a week!) during primary school because no-one wanted to drive me four miles to the library more than once a week, and I’d use up my card, my mothers card and 2 out of the 3 books my brother could have on his card and I’d still be done four days early. I spent most of my time running around in the fields near my house climbing trees and making secret dens so it’s not as though all I did was read.

One day someone gave me the well-meaning advice of “when you read it in your head, say each word to yourself just a bit faster than the speed you would if you were reading out loud” and so I made myself do it that way and so COMPLETELY LOST this ability when I was about eleven. This makes me sad. Up until then I read every single thing available.

Starting with this one

Half-term came around once during year 4 and my parents asked if I could borrow a bunch of books from the school library just to keep me going for the week. I vividly remember a table heaped up with books that I couldn’t wait to start. Somewhere along the way there was a bout of miscommunication (as is prone to happen in Primary School politics at the end of term) and I ended up being given one single book out of my book-mountain. I finished it between leaving school at half past three and getting home. I was eight. It was ‘Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator’- far from the top of my list and not that great.

Via the library and the local Car Boot Sale I made it through everything ever written by Roald Dahl and Enid Blyton, then all the ‘Babysitters Club’ and ‘Saddle Club’ books (I’m proud of how little my brain retained of these long, monotonous series) Something about a Horse Sanctuary, all the Animal Ark books, The Mystery Club, Nancy Fucking Drew as my dad would call her, something called the ‘Night World’ series about demons and witches and vampires and the end of the world (that was rather good actually). Something called Deepwater Black that was about spaceships and cloning and the Future. I read a million more books that I can’t even name or think of a single storyline to but I know I would in a second if I saw them again. The best book I ever read was called Invitation To The Game and out of all of those millions of books, I can remember this one perfectly. It deserves it’s very own blog post.

I can't find the cover I had, but it was even duller than this one.

One warm sunny day in the middle of August I found my first Goosebumps book at a Car Boot Sale. It had three stories and once I was done reading them all I was pretty much scared of EVERYTHING but most of all that my neighbours were all actually dead or that my dad, via some freak genetic experiments, had swapped place with a plant in my garden. For anyone paying attention I just RUINED the ending of two books for you. Then I turned ten and they let me into the ‘teenage’ section of the library because by that point I was their only customer and they’d run out of things to let me borrow. I read every single X Files book that they had and another bunch of stuff I don’t remember. Once I’d read my way through everything in there whether I liked it or not; (Sweet Valley High? Anyone?) I moved onto the Adults section and read 2001 a Space Odyessy and all it’s sequels. Then I read something that relied heavily on reformed Heroin addicts as it’s sub-plot. I was still ten.

I got scared just using Google Image Search for this.

Then someone decided that it was a good idea to give me Pet Sematary to read.

And that was probably what stopped me.


Painting

A thing I painted using only the power of 'Mypaint'

Turns out prodding stuff through three different ubuntu drawing programmes makes it go all pixelley. Hmmm.


Blogging along to Fat Families

Today I’m going through Fat Familes LIVE as it’s on TV and awarding points for every thing I approve of, and taking one away for everything I disapprove of.

I missed the first ten minutes because I was busy cooking cheese-stuffed meatballs, but they all start the same: Look at this family, they look so Normal. Then they start to expand and we realise that it was simply computer-generated Normal. That presenter makes some comment involving the phase ‘massive fatties’. -1 point.  Then he goes ‘Look how our computers made them look Normal when really they are Fat.’ So the first impression, if nothing else, reminds people that airbrushing and computer manipulation affects what we see of Fatties. This is a good point but is accidental so no points gained.

OOOh, it’s Second Helpings, where they go back and see how they’ve done over the last several years. (six months, apparently.)

I left for a bit because my meatballs smelled like burning, but it’s that episode where they were feeding their children nothing but junk food. (as opposed to ‘That one where they drank a lot of wine’ ‘That one where they’re gay and live above a Subway’ and ‘That one where they’re all men who like curry’.

Giving children a shitty start in life because you’re too lazy to feed them anything but McDonalds is up there with Religion-based home-schooling for six year olds on my ‘but what chance do they possibly have…’ rant and DONT GET ME STARTED with american school dinners.*

* I know there are plenty of children out there who refuse to eat anything but potatoes etc but at least their parents TRY.

I instantly take a dislike to the main fatty because I hear him saying ‘You can have more chips once you’ve eaten a bit more bread’ to his five year old but he grows on me because I feel bad for him later when he see’s all the rubbish he’s been making the children eat and he goes ‘makes me ashamed to be a parent’. They seem to be tackling the fact that these poor children have never eaten anything but junk food so +1 point.

Lady fatty says she feels unattractive and seems to base a lot of it on looking ‘better’ rather than being healthier, so -1 point because she clearly has poor self-esteem that’s being picked on here.

At this point we start to get to know them and it turns out man fatty is absolutely lovely and looks like he’s really going to try hard with all this. He tells his wife that she’s still beautiful to him. +1 for positive body image of fatties. Presenter does not like this one bit. Presenter has his doubts that they’re going to bother, for no good reason than to say something on tv about how lazy all fat people are so -1 point. He said it in a particularly sneering voice so -1 point.

Of course they know they’re fat, they’ve SIGNED UP FOR A TV SHOW TO CHANGE THIS. So what is the point of having close up cameras pointing out all the bits they don’t like. Presenter guy tells them to look at all the fat bits that are normally  hidden under clothes. Hang on. Isn’t that true of EVERYONE? Does ANYONE feel comfortable mincing about without clothes? NO. Not one single person that I know would feel attractive being shown in close up from the angles he’s got his camera pointed. Lets give everyone watching the idea that we all have to look ‘perfect’ from every angle. You know, like models and AIRBRUSHING AGAIN. -1 point for the concept and -1 point for the presenters attitude throughout it.

Sure they must have known what to expect when they signed up for the programme but they signed up because they genuinely want help and just put up with these bits (crying all the time by the way) because apparently they’ve concluded that it’s worth it.

Health test bit- great. Showing some genuine health based reasons for losing weight after listening to lady fatty talk about feeling unattractive. +1 point. They’d get another point if at any point they showed someone who had some sort of problem that would stop them exercising. It’s all very well saying ‘excercise and you’ll get thin’ – what if you cant? More on this later as it turns out.

Then we go outside and kick over a block of lard that represents the amount of fat she has on her. -1 point for the analogy of physical violence towards fatties. -1 point for not bothering to point out that she actually needs 20-30% of her body weight to be fat because it does all kinds of silly things like protect your kidneys and keep you warm.

Next section she’s in the kitchen cooking for her children and it’s about time too. + 1 point.

She’s cooking them fish pie though so -1 point. Sure it’s fairly healthy compared to McDonalds and Pizza but can you imagine being five years old and switching from sweet tomatoey bready foods straight to Fish Pie? Children are notorious fish-haters. This family does NOT  like Fish Pie. If the first thing they experience after they hear about eating ‘healthy food’ is something they HATE then their little brains will associate healthy with hated for a good long time.

I’m sure the massive team working on the programme could think of something more child-friendly. Make them a spaghetti bolognese for example: Lean meat! carrots! tomatoes! onion! peppers! Success.

Have you noticed yet that I keep calling them ‘male fatty’ and ‘female fatty’? It’s rather offensive isn’t it? I bet you’ve been thinking ‘Hang on- didn’t you learn their names? Have some respect.’ So why is the presenter allowed to talk about them like that on TV?

-1 point for sniffing the week-old curry he’s making her keep in a cupboard because compare that for a moment with the smell of even day-old fish pie in the bin.

This family is growing on me because they genuinely do seem to be making an effort. Presenter guy takes them for a bike ride and they seem to be having a fantastic time with it. +1 point for useful real-world exercise that people actually want to do.

-1 point for ‘sneaking’ a treadmill into their house. Patronising. They WANT to lose weight, remember.-1 point for sticking it in a corner where there’s a nice view of a wall.

Then he hangs up a dress the lady fatty can’t fit into any more as inspiration for losing weight. She gets all excited and really seems determined to fit in it. Presenter actually says ‘I hope you don’t EAT the dress’. -1 point. Another -1 point for the phrase ‘massive fatty habits’ though I don’t now remember the exact context. There is never an APPROPRIATE context for that.

It occurs to me that half the things he says are on a voice over or behind their back. If you cant say it to the persons face then WHY do you dare sneer about them behind their back. Go on, say that to her face and watch her punch you. -1 point for having no spine.

They exercise, he starts running. He’s really getting into it and doing above and beyond what they were expected to. + 1 point because something must have actually inspired them and it showed him wanting to be good at running rather than the old stereotype of ‘look how lazy they are’ like on most weeks.

But then disaster hits. He’s got an ACTUAL INJURY AND HAS BEEN TOLD NOT TO RUN by a HEALTH PROFESSIONAL. Poor guy really wanted to run but he cant. +1 for showing this side of things. However all that presenter guy can say is ‘IM REALLY WORRIED ABOUT HIS FINAL WEIGH IN. More than you’re worried about his future ankle problems? More than you worry that he might damage it further by trying to run because he doens’t want to hear your bullying sneer? -2 points.

-1 point for those bits where stereotypical fat people have boxes of chocolate snatched off them when we move to another segment of the show. There’s at least one per section, 4 sections so another -3.

At the dress-them-up stage she looks like a normal person. Sure she’s lost some weight but also she’s not forced to wear a bra and pants, or baggy exercise clothes. Of course she looks good. Many fatties look good every day. Direct quote by presenter about male fatty ‘HES GOT A CHIN AND ONLY ONE AT THAT!’. -1 point.

The next bit involved ‘Fat Traps’ and I’d missed a lot of it because I was busy making soup but I like the concept so +1 point. Sure you can eat healthy at home but get stuck in an All You Can Eat Buffet and well, the problems in the name. Fair point. However – 1 point for not following it up with ‘hey, here’s how you eat out healthily’. They came to you for help, remember?

And now we’re six months later. They did a race, and finished a long way behind everyone else so +1 for realism. They’ve got fitter but didn’t have to become super-athletes in order to be happy and healthy. I’m rather happy for them because they genuinely do look happier than they did at the start and this programme; over all it seems to have actually helped them.

Presenter guy doesn’t seem happy though. He gets invited to their wedding-vow renewal service (would  you? After watching the show you were on and hearing the things he’d said in voiceover about YOU?) He can’t just celebrate with them, he has to use the phrase ‘waving goodbye to Mr and Mrs Massive Fatty’. -1 point.

STOP SAYING THAT. He’s said it at least twice now just in case the audience didn’t notice that they used to be fat. -1 point.

As Steve points out, they’re not exactly Mr and Mrs Slim though are they? They’re just normal people now. Well done. +1 point for not having them lurch from one extreme to the other.

Back on the scales. She’s still technically obese if she’s the same height as me at  14 stone 9lbs. But she’s just run a fairly long race so she’s rather healthy. Hang on? Did this programme just prove that you can be Overweight AND Healthy? Surely not?! They don’t bother mentioning that because they’re too busy talking about how much Weight she lost. -1 point.

Our charming friend the presenter ends the programme with the suggestion that if they ‘got off their wobbly bums’ then so could we. You’d better hope not dear because if we were all out there jogging right now there’d be no-one left at home to watch your TV show.  -1 point for ‘their wobbly bums’ and -1 point for mine.

So far I think this episode scored -15 overall. I’d say that was medium, and by far one of the least offensive Fat Families I’ve seen.


Depressing Caterpillar

There is a caterpillar in the Arctic that is at the same time the most inspirational, and the most depressing, creature I know of.

Hello little dude

He lives in one of the coldest places on Earth. Every spring he wakes up and eats as much as he can for month after month until it’s too cold to function. Then he crawls into a hole in the ground away from the worst of the cold. His little heart stops and then he freezes solid, as the TV said: ‘first his gut, then his blood’ and then the rest of him until he’s turned into a furry little ball of ice.

The next spring he wakes up and does it all over again, eating and eating until it’s time to hibernate. He’s still not managed to eat enough so until he has he’s got to freeze himself to death each year.

For fourteen years.

After these fourteen years he wakes up, spins himself a little cocoon and goes about his business turning into a moth, all the while trying not to get eaten by something larger and hairier than himself. This poor little guy has no poison or spikes like other caterpillars, his only defense is to play dead if something happens to try to swallow him.

Once the moth emerges it lives for a few days, all the while trying to find a mate so that this whole 14 year process can start again for the next generation.  The whole point of it’s entire existence is pass on its little moth genes.

I feel like there should be a moral to this story but it’s too complex for that.

That this little creature bothers to survive is an amazing demonstration of Evolution; the survival instinct needed on some level in its tiny furry brain just to keep bothering, and the fact that it even manages to successfully thaw itself out enough times.

My first reaction when I saw this was ‘Why ARE you bothering?’ I was amazed that it was bothering, but also really rather annoyed at Evolution for putting it through this. I know I’m anthropomorphizing this little caterpillar but I’m anthropomorphizing Evolution now too, sorry.  It’s sole purpose for those 14 miserable years (are they miserable? Is there a sense of joy when it reaches the top of a plant stalk and there is a delicious leaf there to eat?) is to make another generation of tiny frozen caterpillars. There’s no end game, no final plan, no goal that they are working towards. Just generation after generation of tiny caterpillars being rather cold. Evolution is MEAN.

If someone asked me what the meaning of life is, I’d say ‘Staying alive long enough to pass on my genes to the next lot’ because if that is true of giraffes and cats and earwigs, then why not people?

Seriously? YOU survived long enough to not get eaten?

Yet the more we stray from the things evolutionarily appropriate for us (with cheeseburgers, for example. Computers and spine-ache from sitting in a chair all day, thermal underwear and drugs to make us live to 100 whether our organs want to or not) the further away from  being like this caterpillar we are. Is this a good thing? Sure we’re escaping but there’s only so far we can go. We’re still making generation after generation of people, like we’re supposed to, but each generation is less equipped to cope with their natural environment than the last because we built heaters and cars and don’t expect everyone to learn how to grow vegetables or raise cows. Sure we can survive in modern society but take that away and we’ve got few of the basics left, especially if we’re stuck on our own. There’s no ultimate goal here, either, so we’re still not much better off than the caterpillar following it’s little biological urges.

But then we get into Evolutionary Psychology and I really need to buy a book about this because it’s driving me mad. Evolution seems to suck but its working. Or we get into Religion and start believing in an afterlife because we’ve worked out that everything this far, though far from pointless, doesn’t have meaning ENOUGH.

Blah. I thought I’d reach a sensible conclusion of my thoughts if I left this overnight but I don’t think there is one.

All because of one depressing caterpillar.

For now I’m going to take inspiration both from the fact that this if this little guy keeps on for fourteen years in the freezing cold, I can probably survive winter too. I’m also going to be really REALLY pleased that I am not a caterpillar.