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Earlier today, Terry blogged about footling around with the API on our Fronius inverter which is hooked up to our solar panels. For him, the ability to live tweet how our solar panels are doing was a massive plus when deciding which inverter to install.
I confess this was one of those occasions I admitted that his technical expertise & enthusiasm had vastly outstripped my own and so I just let him get on with it. So I had no idea that, as an extra marketing strategy, Fronius has a line of merchandise given away as a thank you to their customers. A couple of days after the install, the lovely Paul from Sims Solar popped round with the certificate for the Feed In Tariff, the instruction manual & some swag!
But this was no ordinary swag! This was actually useful. I got a mug, an in car phone charger & a metal disk the size of a pound coin which magnetically fits into a holder which fits on a key chain: the kind used for accessing supermarket trolleys so you don’t need to worry whether you have a pound coin in your purse or not.
The daft thing is that these things actually aren’t that useful to me. I don’t drink a lot of hot drinks, I don’t drive & I only rarely go to the supermarket as I now do virtually all my grocery shopping online for home delivery. But I can totally see how someone else might find this stuff useful.
I appreciate that a modicum of thought has gone into considering what Fronius’s customers might find useful. That rather than splashing their logo over any random object they have attempted to find items which will get frequent use & might, in some small way, make their customers’ lives a little easier. Fronius, I applaud you!
Sometimes when I get tipsy I @ the celebrities I follow on Twitter. I’m currently sat in a pub round the corner from the Oxford Playhouse (blogging from my phone using the WordPress app! Truly we are living in the future!) I will be shortly going to see one Marcus Brigstock. And so under the influence of a couple of beers I decided to reply to his tweet from a few hours ago:
@marcusbrig Glad to hear it! I'm missing a sceptics in the pub to come see you tonight!
— Liz Eden (@summerbeth) November 5, 2014
I’m not really one to get star struck, but, for instance, should Joss Whedon ever respond to anything I said, well that would just make my day! But I have a notion that the more famous of the twitterati probably have some kind of filter on their replies. Or maybe a PA to read them on their behalf.
But a few months ago Terry tweeted Shappi Khorsandi just before her show & she incorporated it into her set. So maybe the same thing will happen to me!
A few months ago I was delighted by a rather extravagant surprise present from Terry: a 2nd hand (but perfectly functioning) Wii U console. I had planned on getting one eventually, in readiness for the new Zelda game which is due out at some as yet unknown point next year. But one came up for sale on the AV forums and Terry snapped it up. Not only did we get the hardware; it came with an embarrassment of riches, content wise. I think we got well over a dozen games in disc format, and several more which had been installed into vacant slots on the hard drive.
I spent a thoroughly enjoyable week test driving most of the new stuff to get a feel for whether or not it would be my cup of tea. In the end I think we only took a few games down to our local Game store to trade in for store credit, and the rest were stacked neatly in the (newly built) AV centre awaiting their turn. I learned a lot about my gaming turn-offs and turn-ons from that exercise, which I will blog about in due course, but if there’s one thing I have learned from doing NaBloPoMo it’s to spread what little creativity you can muster around as thinly as possible if you want to last the whole month.
That was several weeks ago, and with 1 and a half exceptions I have barely touched the new stuff. Because, amongst the games which were pre-loaded onto the machine, was the HD version of Wind Waker. So I have spent most of my gaming time for the past month replaying it, for the 3rd time. The land of Hyrule, or in Wind Waker’s case the tops of the mountains which centuries later would form the tiny islands scattered across a vast open plan world, is my happy place. Despite its propensity to get taken over by the Forces of Evil, Hyrule is where I feel safe.
First and foremost, I game to relax and have fun. Sometimes that means trying new things, but sometimes it means immersing myself in a familiar world. Like re-watching a favourite film or re-reading a favourite book. The fact that I know the outcome isn’t important. The fact that I know the solutions to the puzzles isn’t important, although it’s an interesting reflective exercise to notice the difference between when I am remembering how to do something, and when I am actually re-solving the puzzle because I have forgotten the solution. I also found myself turning to my trusty walkthrough (thank you zeldadungeon.net) at exactly the same point in the trading sequence as when I last played this game about 4 years ago.
In total I played Twilight Princess through 3 times. I played Skyward Sword twice, and got half way through hero mode before realising that it really wasn’t adding any extra to it. I played about 75% of Phantom Hourglass, got distracted (by moving house and starting a new job, so a legitimate distraction) and then months later failed to pick up where I had left off, so I played it through from the beginning again. Similarly I rage quit Ocarina of Time and returned 3 years later, restarting from scratch. I have spent hundreds of hours roaming the hills, valleys, shores, clouds and villages of Hyrule. That’s pretty good value for the £300 the console cost.
Yesterday I blogged about my experience of overcoming my neuroses and successfully travelling to the US for work. As part of this trip, I also had an encounter with a lesser fear:
They have freakin’ MASSIVE spiders in Florida.
I have no objection in principle to the exciting plethora of other species which cohabit our planet. But I have by custom and habit somewhat limited my up close and personal interactions with them. I am fully aware that in the UK this is a rather overly cautious approach, as there are really not that many things which can kill you. Outside the green and pleasant land I call home however, all bets are off. Florida is basically a swamp, and swamps are full of terrifying creatures. Like frogs. I’m pretty sure the most venomous animal on the planet are frogs. I could google this to check but I’m tired and I want a bath so I can’t be arsed to do proper research right now, ok?
Alright, I just googled it. It may not be a frog. It may be a scorpion. Or possibly a snail, although that really is less threatening, and I would have thought, easier to evade than anything which can scuttle or hop. I’m getting off topic, and I really want a bath.
My point is that I didn’t used to be arachnophobic, although even in my more spider-tolerant days I like to think I would have had the sense to avoid something black & yellow. But, before I met Terry, I was pretty ok with our 8 legged friends. I’d could even pick up the smaller ones and remove them from my vicinity. Larger, hairier ones would get the glass and cardboard treatment, but that’s totally normal.
At the start of our relationship I kinda got a kick out of rescuing him from creepy crawlies. Prompting receipt of this lovely Edward Monk card early on:
As time went on though, I internalised his fear. I had heard that in long term relationship you sometimes start to share attributes. Ideally I would have got something a bit more useful, such as the ability to touch type, or something awesome like his flawless Chewbacca impression. But no, the main habit I picked up from Terry was the urge to run screaming from spiders.
Well, that and blogging.
In December 2013 I blogged about how I had spent most of that calendar year finding a new job. I actually posted that one on Christmas Day. I was obviously killing time before Doctor Who started.
When I handed my notice in at my old job, one of the reasons I gave was that the new job included the opportunity for international travel. In the 5 years of my previous role, I had one overnight trip to the National Science Learning Centre and the new job was dangling the tantalizing prospect of a trip to Florida. As it turns out, I ended up flying to New York first, prompting this Facebook status a couple of weeks ago:
Awesome right? I was now officially an international jet setter! I was getting paid to travel to New York, where I would co-deliver a couple of general graduate study recruitment sessions, then fly down to Florida where I would tour 4 of the universities with whom I have been working all year, promoting a specific scholarship & meeting with some (very) high ranking members of those institutions to discuss the strategies for raising awareness of this opportunity to their students.
As I posted the above update on Facebook, I remembered that conversation with my former employers about the opportunities this new role would afford me. Here I was, finally about to embark on this exciting experience which was the primary reason I had given for jacking in my old job.
There was just one problem. This was a complete lie. I wasn’t excited. I was terrified.
I didn’t take the job at Oxford because of the possibility for international travel. I took it in spite of that possibility. I very nearly didn’t apply for the job at all because the prospect of taking a trip like this was so scary. Eventually I reasoned that there was every chance that it simply wouldn’t happen. Business trips like this get cancelled all the time for a variety of reasons. I applied for the role as the rest of it sounded genuinely interesting to me, and I thought I could do it well, but I told myself that the line in the job description referencing overseas travel for recruitment purposes was probably only there to entice prospective employees. Even if a trip did take place, I reckoned that there were plenty of other far more senior people who would manoeuvre themselves to go in my stead.
So when the preliminary meetings started being held in early 2014 I made a point of saying that if it all fell through (as I expected that it would – although I kept that part to myself) I wouldn’t be too cut up about it. I contributed my expertise, talking about which universities had been particularly engaged and figuring out which ones to visit. I researched flights and dates and hotels. And somewhere along the line I started to envisage what it would be like to actually do this.
It was probably around early Spring I realised that if I really didn’t think I could cope with this trip I had to speak up before we got too far into the arrangements. Which would mean admitting that I had never wanted to go in the first place. It would mean betraying the trust my new employers had placed in me when they offered me the job. And, more than that, it would mean knowing that I had let my nerves and neuroses get the better of me and actually stopped me from doing something.
And so I made a decision that, even though I had been lying through my teeth when I told my previous boss I wanted to travel, even though I had almost convinced myself that the trip would never come to fruition, and even though the thought of boarding a plane was still making me break out in a nervous sweat, I was going to go on this trip. It would be hard, it would be scary, it would be tiring but I was going to do it. I wasn’t going to let my fear get in my way.
Bravery is sometimes described as the capacity to ‘feel the fear but do it anyway’. As the Doctor puts it during a recent episode, humans have a superpower-esque ability to forget their feelings. I don’t think that’s always a bad thing. The feeling of fear was transitory, but the fact that I took the trip anyway is an achievement that will be with me for the rest of my life.
I flew back from Tampa, Florida yesterday morning after spending just over a week in the US on business. I had woken up at 05.30 Eastern Time the previous morning in an attempt to maximise my chances of catching some zees on the plane. In an unexpected act of financial generosity my workplace had sprung for premium economy seating for my overnight return flight (actual business class was out of the question – I work in the public sector) and I had selected my bulkhead seat on the BA app a week earlier so I had all the legroom necessary for my 5’4” frame.
Thanks to the combination of my trusty neck pillow, the foot rest, a gin & tonic followed by a perfectably acceptable red with dinner, and my sheer exhaustion from the trip, I actually managed to lose consciousness for a good couple of hours somewhere over the Atlantic. My plane landed early, border control was well staffed – so no queueing, and I collected my suitcase in record time. These minor miracles all resulted in catching the coach from Gatwick to Oxford an hour earlier than the one I had expected to be on. In a final confluence of serendipity the clocks went back in the UK while I was away, meaning that the time difference shrank for 5 hours to 4, thus making it 20% easier to adjust back to GMT on arrival. Never before have the deities of international travel made it so very easy on me.
I hadn’t counted on doing anything this weekend. The whole 48 hours had already been written off to allow for the symptoms which normally accompany my jet lag; alternating between shaking, weeping and swearing at anyone (usually Terry) who, with my best interests at heart, refuses to allow me to go to bed at 5.30 in the evening. Instead, I stayed up last night until 10pm (which is pretty close to my normal bed time – night owl I am not) and slept more or less solidly until 8.15 this morning. I now have a free weekend stretching out in front of me, unstructured and free of obligations, with which I can do anything, as long as I stay awake until tonight.
So, perhaps rashly, I am going to take a shot at NaBloPoMo again. I did this 2 years ago, and found it to be difficult but very rewarding. Since moving to Oxford my blogging output has diminished to almost nothing, although ideas continue to percolate. So for the next month I will, attempt at least, to publish a blog post each day. The majority of these will be written on the fly, although I have several drafts saved from the past year or so, which will get roughly kneaded into some kind of shape and then offered up at the alter of micro self publishing.
At best, I hope this will rekindle my enjoyment of writing, and of sharing my ideas. Too often I let the maxim “better to be thought a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt” prevent me from sharing my views. It’s still something I find scary, but I have spent the past week living a rather different maxim, “feel the fear but do it anyway” and I want to continue in that vein.
And at worst? At least it might help me stay awake.