My dad lent me some money to buy an advanced Propellerhead Reason course for myself, which I’ll be getting into over the next 6 months. I might also be getting a new laptop. It will be a relief to be rid of the problems that this one currently has – like just being generally slow or completely incapable of even opening anything for stupid lengths of time… and while we’re trying to set up our live rig. 😡
I also got a little birthday gift from the City of Joondalup of sorts – a certificate of participation, an indication of us having taken part in the Battle of the Bands contest at the end of last month.
We had a meal at the local Stringy Bark. That was some damn good eatin’.
This day also marks a full year of our family living in Australia. Wheeee. I want to say that a shitload of life-changing stuff has transpired in that time that has reinvented and inspired us all, but to be honest we’re more or less just the same old bunch of grumpy Englishpeople. 😛
So you guys are probably wanting to know what crazy crud I’ve been up to. To be honest, I wish I could say that I’ve been really dynamic and awesome and I’ve been having a gay old time in the land down under enjoying endless success and self-satisfaction.
It’s kinda my fault. I’m just not exactly the outgoing type. I never have been.
Nevertheless, my time in Australia (which has, as of this posting, amounted to just over six months) has been fairly enjoyable, if not quite the thrill ride you may have expected it to be for me.
Lately I’ve decided to expand upon my love of acting and join my family in signing up to an amateur theater. We’ve been hard at work on the musical “The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas“. It is, to understate it slightly, a tad raunchier than a lot of the stuff I did in Drama at A-level. In fact, most if not all of the stuff I did at A-level was focused on little kids. Good old Bertolt Brecht and his “epic theatre” motif – his teachings still carry on to this day. And they basically boil down to “make the actors do really silly things because theatre isn’t real life and real life is serious”. I kinda wish I’d done something serious at A-level, but I’m not complaining. It was a really fun two years and I honestly wish it would’ve lasted longer.
I’ve never been too inclined towards watching musicals, let alone performing them, although I must admit it’s been pretty fun so far. Most musicals just seem downright cheesy to me, but the cheesiness is their selling point, really – the fact that all the actors burst into song every five minutes is what makes a musical. And the songs all have to be major earworms – once they’re in your head, not even repeated blasting of Metallica into the earholes can dislodge them. I still have no idea how it’s possible to make songs that “catchy”. In fact, they transcend “catchiness” – they’re “sticky”. Once you catch them, they stick. Like an unpleasantly persistent rash.
Talking of the songs, there has been a lot of dancing throughout this musical. I’ve only been called upon to learn one routine so far, and quite honestly, that’s enough for me. It’s not a case of me having two left feet. It’s a case of me having no legs at all – or at least, that’s what my brain is convinced of. For some reason, the connections between brain and leg all but cease whenever I command it to move in a way that synchronizes with the routine. It’s pretty simple stuff, too – stomp the feet, jog to the right, stomp again, jog to the left, spin, skip on the spot, etc. I can barely even manage that without beginning to look like a paraplegic penguin. And I haven’t even mentioned the part where my legs sort of just give up after a good while, anyway – at that point, using them just to stay upright feels like I have a couple of Slinkies for legs. I am completely out of shape. Or, if you like, I’m just in the shape of a morbidly overweight walrus with no sense of rhythm.
The singing is coming along nicely. Thanks entirely to our teacher’s methods and advice, there is definite improvement in my and my brother’s ability to control our voice. Although I probably still have a ways to go before I can confidently sing as loud and as high as Russell Allen. (Well, I can at the moment, but it would no doubt have all the musicality of a cat coughing up a hairball into a trumpet.)
Getting to that stage of vocal ability is probably going to take a bit of commitment. I’m rubbish at commitment, though. The truth is that I have numerous lists of all sorts of things that I should be doing, but I can never stay with them for too long before I distract myself with something else. Important stuff, too – like rehearsing properly for the singing lessons, and reading through the road safety manual I need to read cover-to-cover (and internalize!) so I can get my learner’s permit. I dare not think about how terrible I’d be in a relationship.
I mean, look at this blog. It went from one update a day (possibly more), to three months with only a handful of updates. Very quickly.
My brother and I have had a ginormous fiction/cartoon project in the works for the last 9 months and we still have yet to get the plotline sorted out. The most painful part of this affair is how I (and also my brother) have so many ideas just waiting to be realized, but bringing them into the world nearly always proves to be impossible, or more work than we’re capable of doing within a reasonable timelimit.
Having noticed that something was wrong with my motivation (for my musical output had also been suffering as a result of this lapse), I listened to the first episode of Ill Gates’ “Ill Methodology” workshop, in which he went on at length about workflow and motivation. There was a lot of really insightful stuff which made me think about the way I do… well, everything. He talked about extrinsic motivation (doing things for material reward or recognition) and intrinsic motivation (doing things for the love of doing them), and presented quite a lot of evidence for why being extrinsically motivated sabotages the quality of your output. I agree with him wholeheartedly.
I think it’s safe to say that pretty much everything outside of school that I’ve done throughout my life has been intrinsically motivated – in other words, I’ve hardly earnt a penny through my own labour (with the exception of a school project that culminated in 14 sales of an album CD I threw together). I haven’t really seen as that much of a problem, though – heck, often I hardly mind if I don’t receive a word of praise. I’ve just always felt compelled to do things like music, and modding for Doom, purely for the love of doing them, and not asking for anything in return. That makes me a good person, I think. (Alright, not entirely good. I still have my flaws, like being an overweight walrus-penguin.)
But if everything I do has been motivated by my own love of doing it, why do I still go through these horrendous spells of inactivity?
Mr. Ill (am I allowed to call him that?) said a lot of good things about keeping a schedule and a journal. Well, I haven’t been able to make a schedule yet, on account how just how much crap I have to get through, and I kept a journal of my days before coming to realize that every day was exactly the same. I talked about my dreams a bit, and I had a couple of really wacko ones when I started, but then they got hazy and I remembered only tiny worthless scraps of them in the morning. “There was a plane and it crashed.” That’s it. (Honestly, I dream waytoo much about planes crashing. I’ve only flown about half a dozen times in my life and I never felt nervous throughout the trip.)
Of course, the whole point of keeping a journal is to do it every day, and write pretty much the same amount. I honestly struggled to fill a page most of the time. I like to think of myself as a creative person, but unfortunately it seems I can’t tap into my creativity at any time. It just… happens when it does. This is why I’m frightened to condense my various to-do lists for my endless array of personal projects into a single schedule. What if I get caught in another spell of creative decay while I’m in the middle of it? If I try and force the energy out I’ll come up with something terrible and lackluster.
I.G. also said something about ensuring to wake up early to maximize your creative flow throughout the day. If you’re unimpeded by mental (and/or physical) tiredness, you simply work a lot more efficiently. Unfortunately I’ve recently fallen into a slump regarding my sleep discipline – I’m once again waking up around noon. You’d think that if I kept going to sleep earlier and therefore waking up earlier, I’d eventually get to the point where I wouldn’t be able to stay up ludicrously late because my body would simply be unable to. But it seems that that part of the deal doesn’t come with the effort I make to wake up earlier, so I end up back where I started.
So, I need to figure a way out of this awful circle.
I need to get my brother in on devising a solution as well, since he seems to be suffering much the same thing. We need to find a way of managing our motivation, and controlling our creative flow, so we can get shit done when it needs to get done.
So, as of landing in Australia (30th November 2011), I decided to grow my hair long.
It is a nightmare.
Hair actually takes a long time to grow. Like, long. I was half-expecting to be sporting the Jesus look by now. Instead, I’m starting to look like the 2006 version of Mike Portnoy.
With the advent of the excess of curls clustering around my cranium, I have unfortunately developed a strange compulsion.
Every now and then, I have to… twiddle it.
There’s no other verb for it. I just take hold of a lock of hair, and… just twiddle it. Roll it around itself. Tie it into knots. Weave it into elaborate tufts.
I don’t know why I do it – it’s not like a perverse pleasure, or anything. I do it automatically while sitting at my desk, and while my right hand has no duties to perform with the mouse (like, while I’m listening to music or something).
It doesn’t help me concentrate. It doesn’t help me accomplish anything. My right hand, once it gets into a rhythm, will not be interrupted. It has to tie the captive strand of hair into a tight clump with an elaborate knot, then attempt to undo and flatten it to put everything back as it was before. This process is not always successful… or entirely free of pain. However, it always wastes several seconds… sometimes even minutes, of my own time. And since it often puts unnecessary strain on my arm reaching up like that anyway, it always turns out as a lose-lose situation.
If you look at me carefully, the left side of my head seems to have an unsightly mass of hair dangling over my neck where I appear to have stretched the strands past a reasonable length, or at least weakened them enough so that they just fall limp instead of spreading in a neat outward fashion like hair like mine should.
So yeah I think I need to see a psychologist about this.
…Yes I’ve tried wearing a hat. It does not quash the urge.
EDIT 28/04: I have discovered that it is a psychological condition. A mild form of a little something called trichotillomania. So, that’s awesome.
Apparently it can be severe enough that the sufferer will pull their own hair out voluntarily. I don’t think I’m quite as bad as that yet, but we’ll see if a collection of curls starts to accrue on the floor beneath my chair. Then something will probably need to be done.
The fact that my blog hasn’t updated in nearly a month is due in part to my slobbiness but it’s also thanks to a few ISP problems we’ve had in recent weeks.
A while ago our internet usage ran past the 16GB monthly limit, leaving us without internet until the end of the billing period. Our only phone was no longer registering its network (which is on the same telecommunications provider (OptusNet) but is entirely separate from our internet service) so we couldn’t renew it.
Needless to say we were feeling a bit unchuffed with OptusNet at this point. We didn’t really get the best possible usage out of the dinky little modem we received, anyway… it would run fine when it was not being used, but would cut out at ten-minute intervals in the evening time when all the daily activities had ceased and the family all wanted/needed to use the internet. It would then take about two and a half minutes to reboot the damn thing.
This is the second modem we’ve had from this company and it didn’t perform any better than the first, which was on a 6GB renewable limit rather than a 16GB-per-month basis. Stranded without internet, we bought 2 extra GB on the old modem… for $20.
Which turned out to expire in less than a 24-hour window.
This was where we started to get seriously flummoxed. None of us were using it for ludicrously bandwidth-consuming tasks – in fact, with the regularity of the modem dropping its signal for no apparent reason, there could hardly be any way at all we could possibly use up so much bandwidth in such a small period of time. Facebook was off-limits. YouTube streaming was cut to an absolute minimum, downloads were made in careful moderation, virtually no forum browsing or IRC surfing took place, Skype calls were stopped dead. We all made an effort to conserve our bandwidth… yes there were four computers all using the internet simultaneously but I definitely didn’t do anything stupidly consumptive with the limits that were in place.
Once that 2 GB limit was blasted into the stratosphere never to be heard from again, another $20 was splashed out on an extra GB of internet.
With me using it only to browse forums for help on my search for better alternatives to this desperate set of circumstances, and other web-related activities kept to virtually nil…
NetUsage is saying that we have less than 20MB left after just a day.
We wondered if there’d been some mistake. Was it possible that there was… a leak? That we had some kind of blood-sucking internet leech on our hands? That someone was tapping into our network and using it to download reams of animal porn or some other such filth?
To be perfectly honest, I see no other explanation unless one member of the family is doing some fiendish covert mass-downloading and eating up our allowance… it sure as hell ain’t me, though. I’ve been pretty much internet-abstinate for pretty much the last three days as of this post’s writing (23/03/12) – I’ve not been on Skype, checked my e-mail, blogs, webcomics or forums or anything like that. We’ve had to wait until today (March 25th) before the billing period expired and we can FINALLY go back to using the old (new) modem’s 16GB allowance. So we’re back online for the moment. But yeah, we could really do with a new ISP, stat.
It’s been mighty frustrating for all of us. Trying to transfer bank funds, or running an internet business, or maintaining credibility in a social circle of online pals (all of which are important… but not in any particular order of importance), turn out to be impeded somewhat when there’s some possible cyber-parasite eating away at your internet usage until you can barely fill up a readme file with what’s left.
Anyway, there’s a big ol’ post coming up soon which should hopefully entertain you guys enough to think about maybe starting to come back to this old place… if you hadn’t thought I’d died. :S
I woke up at about 4:30am for some reason or another last night, and for some reason found it impossible to fall back asleep. I didn’t feel particularly tired, but I knew that that bastard bird was out there (whatever he’s supposed to be) – I couldn’t hear him yet but I knew full well that he’d start his onslaught of squawks and keep me awake for the best part of the early morning if I didn’t fall asleep soon.
Unfortunately, no amount of pulling the blanket over myself to cover my entire body, repositioning the pillows to allow for maximum comfort, or adjusting my posture, would permit my body the winks of sleep that it deserved.
Already I could feel my sanity slipping away. That squawk could shatter souls. And that is basically all that it does, because there is nothing, at least in earshot, to hear it. That obnoxious attention-whore of a bird just does that for no other purpose than to annoy me.
Of course, I can close my window and put my earplugs in but I find it so much more self-satisfying to attempt to tackle the problem at its source, rather than pretending it’s just not happening – if you’re being repeatedly punched in the face, you don’t put on a blindfold and hope that the pain will go away if you just ignore it – no, you kick that bastard right in the knackers.
So, not for the first time, I decided to attempt to confront him. I got out of bed, slipped on my sandals, put on a T-shirt (the wrong way round, of course, but I was in no mood for fussing over details), and armed myself with a small but powerful torchlight.
I wandered into the kitchen towards the patio door and… couldn’t get it open. Bastard thing hardly ever cooperates with me when I need it to.
I was as though he was actually mocking me.
So I decided I’d try the other patio door in the laundry room. On my way there I blundered into a cardboard box and nearly fell over, with enough noise that it should’ve woken the whole household but miraculously didn’t. I carried on towards the laundry room, and got the slidy door open in a near-instant.
I trudged through the little passageway leading to the back lawn.
My goal with this little expedition wasn’t exactly unreachable – I’d shine the torchlight onto him to give him some indication that he was being sought out. Last time I tried this, I actually got him to shut up. (Until I walked back inside again, of course, which pointed out the futility of the whole exercise – if you’re not a cat or a game hunter, name a battle of wits against a bird that you can feasibly win.)
Unfortunately, this bird is a master of stealth. He places himself in the tree strategically so that you can’t actually see him even with a set of X-ray binoculars. But he is absolutely definitely in this particular tree.
I shone the torchlight up into its branches, and tried to pinpoint exactly where the obnoxious avian caterwauler was perched. I shook it back and forth to try and a more obvious and intrusive signal. (Maybe I should’ve tried spelling out “SHUT YOUR PIEHOLE” in Morse Code with it.)
Sonuvabitch. GET THE HINT YOU STUPID BIRD.
He gave a grand total of zero shits that he was being blinded by a sort of miniature floodlight. He must have known I was down there, I could hear him virtually right above my head – but could I see him? Oh, if only.
I searched for something to throw at him. But there’s like nothing in the back garden – only a few small bushes, a bunch of spiky, malnourished grass and a lemon tree. Certainly not a pool, or any kind of rockery full of potential bird-killing stones. I found a couple of large rocks but they looked a bit too heavy to fling the distance required for me to get anywhere near where the bird was in the tree – and they looked like they might cause a substantial bit of property damage if I were to overegg the throw.
Wait, what’s that whooshing sound, and why do I suddenly feel like I’m getting wet?
…The friggin’ retic had come on.
I had picked the one night of the week that those things were scheduled to come on, and now the sprinklers all around the garden started spraying water liberally over the lawn. I only got marginally soaked, but even so my wits were drawing closer to their demise. I had traversed the full length of my tether. The color I was seeing was by now a violent shade of crimson.
Of course, I’m not a violent or loud individual, so instead of swearing and potentially waking the whole suburb with my seething rage, I opted to just throw a twig into the tree as hard as I could in disgust at how horribly I’d failed my mission. Completely missed, obviously, and wouldn’t you know, he just kept on going.
I must’ve been out there for about 20 minutes and it was already getting lighter. I considered myself defeated. You win this round, squawky. FOR NOW.
My head hung low, I started walking back towards– ABBLGPBLPH WATER IN MY FACE AAALFLFGPFLPBLH
I hadn’t even noticed the two sprinklers in that little passage leading back to the laundry room. I was effectively trapped outside unless I wanted to get soaking wet.
I must have stood there, with my wet, back-to-front T-shirt on, for about 10 minutes waiting for the things to go off, but they didn’t. Eventually I decided that I had two options: (1) stand outside indefinitely and wait for the sprinklers to turn off, all the while hearing smeg-for-brains screaming and hollering behind me, or (2) use my amazing ninja powers to make my way stealthily back into the house and evade getting water on (and in) every bit of my body.
I chose the second option, after some deliberation – although I had to improvise somewhat due to my severe lack of any sort of physical prowess, let alone “amazing ninja powers”. I hugged the wall of the house as I passed by them (since they were turned the other way towards the flower beds laid parallel to it) and actually stayed fairly dry… until I had to walk over one of them, which got my leg and my sandal thoroughly drenched.
I dried my feet, left my sandals just inside the patio door, locked up, and then went back to bed. No sooner had my head hit the pillow, than…
Oh, now that’s just insulting. Trust him to shut up now. If I had my way, that bird would have little going through his mind right now, other than a large, blunt rock.
As a result of all this I woke up close to 1pm this morning and felt like shit. Predictable. I can see that this battle of wits might go on for some time, as long as that tree he loves so much isn’t felled or something.
(As a matter of fact, the tree directly next to this one was cut down with a chainsaw the day before. It’d be nice to think that it was a kind of “word of warning” to the bird, but even if it was, he didn’t take the hint.)
I could really use someone in the know of Western Australian birds, by the way – that is, someone who could identify species just by approximate textual transcriptions of its “call”. I pose the question to you, fellow bloggers, what might this narcissistic numbskull of a night-terror go by the name of? 🙁
As the title may (loosely) imply, today was full of unexpected surprises. Three of them, to be accurate – all of which are listed below, in chronological order (which also happens to be the order when you list them in order of undesirability).
Surprise #1: Was woken up an hour earlier than usual.
This might not seem like that much of a surprise to the rest of you normal human beings with your healthy sleep patterns (you lucky, lucky bastards), but to my body with its messed up Circadian rhythms and its general lack of grasp on the Earth’s rotation and the fairly consistent timings of the daylight hours, this is the sensory equivalent of being woken up after sleeping for three days on a mound of jagged rocks, and then realizing that you have no food or water. Soreness, grogginess, headache, dehydration/malnourishment. And pissy attitude – that just comes with waking me up before noon by default, unfortunately.
The reason for this early(-ish) awakening was that we apparently still weren’t/aren’t through with all of the bureaucratic nonsense you have to go through when you emmigrate. We had to go and apply for our new Australian driver’s licenses in Joondalup. My bro and I had to apply for learner’s permits, and my parents needed to renew their UK ones.
It was a fairly simple undertaking, but it prompted to think that this would just be another of those pointless and futile outings to, ostensibly, sort something out “officially” with the state, but in reality, to piss off and confuse everyone involved and achieve essentially nothing. It really makes me wonder why Australia can’t just recognize you as an Australian citizen when you… turn up.
“G’day mate! Welcome to our beautiful country! Just a quick question, what’s this country’s name?” “Uhhh… ‘Australia’?”
“Correct and congratulations! Here’s your citizenship. The celebratory barbie’s just over there – mind the roos.”
When we got to the place where we needed to do all this, in Joondalup, we had to wait about half an hour or so to actually be called up to one of the counters. It had one of those systems where you walked in, got a ticket with a letter and number on it (like B145) and then whenever one counter was finished with a customer, the next ticket got called up. The previous time we’d encountered such a system was a week or two ago when we went to apply for Medicare – we got the ticket and had no sooner sat down than we got called up. Unfortunately, we were having no such luck today.
Eventually we got called up to deal with our applications. I was asked to fill out a form, which I did, and then to pay $17 for the application, which I did. Then this happened:
Surprise #2: On paying for my learner’s permit, I was told to go into the “test room”, complete my theory test and then return to the inquiries desk for my results.
So here’s where Australia truly shows how differently it handles things to the UK.
It begs the question: why does the theory test come before everything else? How can anyone, if they’re only applying for their learner’s permit, answer the questions to such an impromptu test in a reliable/sensible manner? What if that person’s never been in a car their whole life? (It’s unlikely, of course – but say you cycled to and from wherever you needed to go to since you were a youth, only travelling as a passenger in a car in emergency/cross-country outings, and certainly not paying much mind to the rules of the road. See what I’m getting at?)
What if they’re an idiot like me who can’t be trusted to do anything right?
Now, like any theory test, it required one to recap the knowledge previously learnt and think logically in order to apply it. Unfortunately, it turns out that I’m crap at thinking logically. On the test itself there were several questions pertaining to “which car should give way” and I’m sure that if I had some degree of logical thinking ability I would’ve aced them. It seems that a bunch of diagrams containing simple road layouts, clearly positioned cars and arrows indicating which direction they’re travelling in, gets translated in my head into a whole-page spread of that Alienese language from Futurama.
This is awfully weird for me – I’m a creative kinda dude and I’m usually one to think with imagery. And it wasn’t as though I was under a tremendous amount of pressure to complete the test – there was a 35 minute time-limit but there were only 30 multiple-choice questions. Some of the questions were also piss-easy, like “should you always wear a seat belt” and “what should you do when you see a STOP CHILDREN sign”. It should’ve been a breeze because I’d taken lessons – but the knowledge had just evaporated, which sort of confirms the belief I have that I’m finding it incredibly difficult to learn anything now. I honestly wonder if it’s a disability.
When I got the results back I wasn’t expecting anything stellar – far from it. 16/30 – a fail (the pass mark is 24). Oh well, at least I scored more than fifty perc-
HOW DID MY BROTHER SCORE TWENTY. WHAT THE SHITTING HELL.
So we all left a bit bemused – not one of us had been aware that my brother and I had to take tests. I kinda felt disheartened about the whole thing – I was pretty sure I’d be getting my learner’s permit and at the end of the wretched hour-and-three-quarters that we spent in that building, I’d left short of $17 and my self-confidence. My brother, who had not taken a driving lesson in his life, scored four more points than me. Just went some way to proving even more unquestionably that somewhere deep inside… I’m an idiot.
We got home and had some lunch, because I hadn’t had anything all day. When you stay in bed for so long that you have all of 10 minutes to get dressed, gather up a load of paperwork and get out the door, feeding oneself becomes a somewhat lower priority.
So I settled down at my computer to chew over the events of the day. Then instead I opened up Reason and started doing some more productive stuff. Because today was pretty dumb, let’s face it.
Surprise #3: We received a call from the moving company, telling us that our furniture would be arriving tomorrow.
For those of you who’ve been keeping track of my blog, this is the same furniture that took four men four days to pack into a gigantic lorry, which was then transported to a container ship which spent about 7 or 8 weeks travelling the ocean to Perth.
There is… to put it mildly, a lot of stuff there.
So, we’re expecting some absolute chaos tomorrow. They’ll be around as early as 8:30am, so I’m told. At that point I’ll probably still be comatose, and everybody else will just be angry and stressed out for legitimate reasons. Oh, what fun. 🙁
Saw him squatting on the floor in the corridor and couldn’t quite make out what he was at first, perhaps a peanut or something else that had fallen? Leant down and immediately recognised his distinctly frog-like demeanour.
After a few attempts to get him to climb onto a piece of paper (at which point he started running, er… hopping away), mum got an empty tin can and coaxed him into it, then released him into the garden.
My dad then took this awesome picture.
So, today I learned that my dad is a much better photographer than me, and my mum is the frog whisperer.