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Thursday 26 May 2016

Legs Eleven

WARNING: What follows is a one-man discussion of medical matters, pertaining to me. There are pictures and the pictures are kind of gross.

I'm ill.

I have several things wrong with me. One is a fairly early onset of rheumatoid arthritis, which is essentially one's own immune system attacking one's joint tissue, identifying the tissue as an invasive force. Another is idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, which is significant scarring of my lungs (in particular the left), which makes it hard to breathe at the best of times and leaves my heart working twice as hard.

These aren't really visible, per se. They're not what one would call visible illnesses. I do HAVE some visible conditions, mind - side effects of the other two.

This is the reason I don't wear shorts.

Those are my legs, clad in the compression bandages that I have on 7 days a week.

The reason they are in compression? Well, there's two reasons; Lefty and Sheldon.

This is Lefty. Lefty is a venous ulcer that sits on the outside of my left ankle. Lefty happened when I had pleurisy, around about 2010.

Leg ulcers like Lefty happen, often, due to high blood pressure. The vein wall gets stretched, allowing some degree of plasma into the tissue of the leg, which increases the chance of blisters, infections and all sorts of other nastiness. (It happens so much more in the lower parts of the leg because of gravity - the g-forces in a roller coaster really hit you as you reach the bottom of the slope and swing back up.)

Lefty has been my constant companion for six years, and he hurts. He hurts quite a lot. He's only exposed for about five minutes twice a week, when the dressing is changed. The picture was taken as aforementioned dressing-change was occuring. He hurts when I have been standing up long enough, when pressure has been put on him, when the air pressure is weird, when I have walked a lot, when I have been sat down too long, when I sneeze, when I crap, and sometimes for no apparent reason at all.

Lefty is a bastard. Lefty, however, looks a lot less problematic than Sheldon.

Sheldon looks like Patient Zero of a zombie outbreak. Sheldon looks like the land mass of the evil continent in a fantasy realm. Sheldon hurts even more than Lefty.

Sheldon has been with me for a lot less time than Lefty has; when you get one ulcer, there is perhaps an 80% chance that you will get another, in the same way as getting a chest infection will almost guarantee you will get another. I have had Sheldon for about six months. He's a lot more superficial than Lefty, which is why he hurts so damn much.

See, while Lefty hurts a lot of the time, it is a rather bearable pain, most of the time. It's a low pulsing throb, like the vague headache you have four days after going to see Slayer - unless agitated. Sheldon, however, still has all his nerve endings - and so Sheldon is a little ball of agony at the slightest provocation. I can take my blood pressure from Sheldon's pulsing, on a bad day.

Sheldon is healing faster, if only because he's more superficial. This contributes to the pain factor, as well. It looks grody, and that grodiness is overgranulation. The skin is healing a little too fast. That is both good and bad, because if it doesn't heal properly, it may lead to further ulcers in the future.

The compression bandages do several things. One is they keep the wounds covered and clean, so they don't get infected. They also provide a minor amount of bump and scrape protection. They absorb any moisture that the ulcers kick out. The primary thing they do, however, is force any plasma and such out of my tissue and back into my venal system, so it can be processed properly. (My piss smells a bit weird because of this.)

So if I grimace a bit, or shift my weight seemingly at random from foot to foot, or lean down to seemingly adjust my socks, then this is why. These two bastards, and the effect they have on my life.

They were dressed a little differently, recently; the dressing was a touch more loose than usual, and because of that, I have slept less in the past four days than most people have in the last 24 hours. I've seen the last three 3ams, and each of them has been a shitty time to be awake and alive.

Right now, though; right now I am feeling a lot better.

I am doing a lot better than I was, and that is down to the nurses, doctors and medical practicitioners that I've seen over the years. Their help has been beyond indispensible. They've been incredible.

The big question though...why Sheldon?

Well, he causes me discomfort; he's consistently not funny; he's abrasive; and he always seems to knock when not wanted. Also it complains when something is in its spot.

Treatment continues.

Saturday 21 May 2016

Dirty Casual, Filthy Tryhard

Remember when we used to play games for fun?

I'm not saying games aren't fun. They are. Well, some of them. Everyone finds fun in different places after all. It shows in how the games market has - in the past thirty years - broadened itself massively, and crept into every single aspect of life in some small way or other.

Remember when you could play Beehive Bedlam on your Sky box? Hell, maybe you still can. I burned literally hours on that game at my mate Josh's house. Imagine - I had my very own PC at home, a Sega Megadrive and - after a point - a Sony Playstation; and yet, we still ended up playing Beehive Bedlam.

I'm not sure how or if that ties into the point I am going on to make. It's just a memory I wanted to evoke. What it shows is this: games were already available in all sorts of places, in all sorts of shapes and sizes. Never has that been more true than today, this very moment.

There's the very obvious Triple A market, with its third-person adventure-action style games and first-person shooter shennanigans. There's the race-driving market, the RPG market, and the strategy market, both of which are vaguely niche, both of which are absolutely huge and possess incredible amounts of variety in and of themselves. Then there's the smaller games, the more indie titles that run the gamut from fairly-short-visual-novel to lovingly-crafted-farm-simulator. Looking at games specifically for mobile phones, there's subgenres a-plenty. There's crossovers all over the place.

No wonder, then, that as a community - as gamers - we are internally divided.

I'm not very good at video games. There, I said it. I'm not. I am usually surrounded by people who are better than me. I mean, I have my talents; I like a good turtle in a strategy game, and I'm fairly convinced that my unholy lust for sniping has led to some practice (as a self-deprecating and yet vaguely honorific nickname I sometimes refer to myself as Sniper X, usually just before I miss three body shots in a row).

If a game is too hard, it will take something very special to make me come back to it time and again. Because of this, a lot of games that are classically considered hard - Binding of Isaac, Dark Souls - don't draw me in at all. I'll give them a run, find them very unforgiving, not have much fun, and put them down again. Also, my attention span isn't great; I'll often find myself playing three or four different games of an afternoon, unless I really sink my teeth into one of them.

I think that makes me a casual gamer - but then, honestly...where's the shame in that?

Then there's the tryhards. Oh yes. The tryhards. I have tryharded myself, more than once; often playing something I consider myself quite good at, let's say Supreme Commander or Civ. Running at the higher difficulties, throwing in additional challenges because something something challenge, discarding fun strategies for efficiency and lethality.

...but where's the shame in that?

Honestly it seems to come down to a damned-if-you-do damned-if-you-don't scenario. It's not like both echelons of gamer aren't catered to, in the wide world of video games.

You want to talk about division, though - what's your favourite shooting game?

I can predict some of the camps for this one. If I had to set up several different camping fields at FPS-Fest 2016, they'd probably be BattleField, CODField, HaloField, DoomQuakeUnrealField, OtherField and I Don't Play Shooters (parking only).

The savagery of the rivalry there is something to behold, which I think is summed up quite succinctly by this remarkable bit of roasting in regard to the COD Infinity / Battlefield One trailer piss-off. (In terms of the roast, this is actually fucking art. Like even if I was a COD fan I'd have to appreciate it.)


Boundaries everywhere,'s the thing. The way I see it, it works the same way with metal fans.

Now I'm not a HUGE Pantera fan. Nor am I massively enamoured with Megadeth. If I can't read the name of the band in the logo then I may make a noise through my teeth before giving them a listen. I'm no fan of Cradle Of Filth, Marilyn Manson post-Mechanical Animals leaves me cold, and I may get shot for this but I don't think Iron Maiden will ever top Flight Of Icarus.

However. If I see someone in the street wearing a Megadeth shirt, I know that - in one regard at least - we are on a level. We like different flavours of sonic apocalypse, but we like the apocalypse nonetheless.

Got a Green Lantern shirt on? I'm a Marvel man myself but - ay. We COMIC people. So you're more into Gundam SEED than, well, any OTHER Gundam. That's fine, cos we're Gundamaniacs or whatever the term is for us. Vampire the Masquerade? Roleplayer. Bard? Adventurer. Sebastian Vettel? F1.

I see you, Decepticon fans. I see you, Trekkies who are more into Voyager and Enterprise than DS9. I see you, Lexx lovers. I see you, folks who prefer Scotch to Bourbon. I see you, anyone who would pick a Pokemon that ISN'T Psyduck.

I see you, gamers.

There's a saying that I picked up an age ago. Nobody Beats Up My Brother But Me. I think it holds true. Like I'll lightly grill anyone that swears down that Call Of Duty is the pinnacle of gaming (and that you should only ever play it on a PS4), but I'll stand phalanx-fashion with them the moment the anti-gaming brigade roll out their lawsuits.

All too often we focus on that which makes us different. We dismiss people because we like to feel superior, we like to feel that the thing we are part of is exclusive, and that is a weakness; it's a hollow satisfaction that we gain from putting others down.

So the me that spent an entire afternoon playing Bee Bedlam rather than studying for his A-levels isn't that different to the me that was once called a "good shield guy" for sterling turtle play on SupCom, and the Terran in me isn't so different to the Protoss and Zerg in my buddies Tom and Chris. We're gamers. Different flavours, but gamers nonetheless - and if everybody looked the same, we'd get tired of looking at each other. if only we could get the industry to be more inclusive in and of itself...but that's for another blog.

Saturday 14 May 2016


So, at home, we don't have television.

I mean we have A television. We just can't get satellite signal or anything, so we just use it for streaming or gaming. It gets used, most of the time.

I don’t miss television.

I mean I miss some things. The chance of coming across something you weren't expecting. The shows that haven't made it onto youtube, netflix or some other online option.

The list of things I don't miss...

Well let's start with advertising. Commercials are 90% awful. Like genuinely terrible. There's several types of ad, but they broadly divide into the pretentious (cars and aftershave) and the insipid (most other shit). With the exception of standouts like the Guinness ads and the occasional rather funny Danepak piece, the rest drive me to distraction to the point of actual anger.

Then there's the network advertising itself. If two thirds of the commercials you see are for products you don't want, the last third is to try and make you either buy subscriptions to another TV service that funds the channel you were originally watching, or for other shows on partner channels. Get a Sky subscription! Watch other episodes of that show that you kind of don't care about! Clips of sports!

And then we come to the core of it: the actual programming.

When I used to have a TV, it was almost always stuck on a rock music channel, the cooking channel, or a gameshow channel. All of these things can just be watched pn and off, and don't require continuity. Perhaps it is personal, but if I was to watch a TV drama or similar, I would want to watch it on my schedule - not at the whim of The Channel Network or whatever.

Also - paying a significant amount of cash per month to watch ten different shows dressed up into four hundred different titles is a bit of a joke. Ever noticed that all the historical dramas look the same? Shot the same way, same beats, same intro... same with cop shows. Same with what I call the Right-Wing Loyalty Shows - reality police shows, border control, debt collectors, everything that follows authority around and shows you that they're the good guys, really.

Skim through the channels. See if there's anything you REALLY want to watch, or if it's just something that will "do".

So on the rare occcasion that I miss having a TV, I just boot up YouTube...

Friday 6 May 2016

You Choose, I Muse

So I asked you folks what I should blog about on my facebook. I got a bevy of interesting answers, including some very kind words - so by way of anouncing which topic I have picked...

...I'm going to do ALL of them!

1) SQUIRRELS. Nutty bastards. But funny. Living in a place with a protected red squirrel population, it was very interesting for me to be in Washington DC and to have a red squirrel casually have a crack at the stitching of my jeans while sat in a park. I know a few people that remind me of squirrels. It's a charming personality, if not a little tiring - I find it hard to keep up with...well most things really.

2) REMAKES. Now I don't think that every remake - whatever the media - is bad. I have, however, seen enough remakes that are absolute trash to know that it is something of a warning sign. Like the number of good remakes is pretty low. In that number I would count Gone In Sixty Seconds (though the original is still better). Re-imaginings...that's a different thing. I'm a fan of remix culture. Modern interpretations of Shakespeare, the gap between Hidden Fortress and Star Wars, samples in hip hop. A prime example of goodness is Kung Faux - a show wherein old kung fu movies are redubbed, given wicked soundtrack backing, and overlaid with classic video game special effects. It isn't the act of remake or remix in itself which makes something better or worse. It is the direction the vision takes us in. Sometimes...that direction just plain sucks, pure and simple.

3) BLACK BINS. A one-size-fits-all approach is a bad approach. I live in a house with four other grown adults (mostly) and the amount of rubbish we generate isn't insignificant. If we had one other person in the house we'd be entitled to a marginally larger bin. Now...I agree with recycling. Better to recycle than to dump. Slapping a big restriction on waste collection, however...that's going to cause problems. I guarantee there will be a significant amount of angry people and uncollected rubbish the moment the new refuse collection laws

4) POWER RANGERS OUTFITS - DRAGONBALL EVOLUTION APOLOGY. This kind of ties into the remake thing. The new Power Rangers costumes look awesome. Halfway between the originals and Iron Man. I like that. In terms of the writer of Dragonball Evolution, Ben Ramsey, apologising for it? ...well in his letter talking about it, he hits the nail on the head. It's not often that the people who get the paychecks actually express remorse for trashing things that other people are fans of. I mean Michael Bay hasn't said shit about Transformers and he's made FOUR of the fucking things. So you know what, Ramsey? You fucked up seven years ago but big up your bad self for taking responsibility for it. (I didn't give a damn about it, it bears mention. I hate Dragonball.)

5) THE RISE OF THE FAR RIGHT IN SWEDEN. So apparently a full fifth of the Swedish population support the Swedish Democrat party (SD), which are troublingly right-wing and anti-immigrant. Almost thirty years old, and formed out of nationalists and racists, I must admit that until writing this blog I wasn't much aware of them. I suppose this is what happens - if your government does the right thing, there's always the bunch of thugs lurking in the bottom of the barrel that wants to spoil things - and sometimes that bunch of thugs will be unified enough to vote for a bunch of political thugs. This is why we need to make it to the polls, people like you and I - because the thugs always will, if they smell blood in the water.

6) TEA BAGS. I don't drink tea. I know. However, I fully believe that tea bags are a wonderful invention that makes the lives of millions easier every day, and we don't give their inventor (the Tang Dynasty in the 7th Century, though it was widely popularised and marketed by Thomas Sullivan in the early 1900s) anywhere near enough credit.

7) PIERS YOUNG. This guy. This fucking guy. I swear down. This fucking guy.

...there you have it! Everyone is a winner. This was actually a lot of fun, I think I should ask for blog prompts more often... I hope you have as much fun reading as I did writing!

Tune in next week for a return to our usual programming!