Sunday, 9 February 2014

Do something you’ve put off for over a year

You want to do these things. Or you know you ought to do these things. Yet you haven’t done these things. And they’ve been on your ‘to do’ list for over a year. Anything like this seem ripe territory for dicing. Just get one thing done in the next week and work on the others later.

I came up with the first four straight away, but as I want Sonia to feel well disposed to the dice I asked her for the last two suggestions. I agree that they can legitimately be added to the list although they are much less appealing than my own choices. Sonia has been brilliantly supportive while I have been dysfunctional during my depressed spells. Doing things that will please her is unambiguously a good thing.

  1. Go for a paddle on the River Medway with the kayak Andrew gave you that has languished outside the bathroom window for several years . You like gliding along quietly on the river. You know it is good for your upper body fitness, but you keep putting it off until you have someone to go with in a way that looks suspiciously like a stalling tactic. 
  2. Sort out that pile of your publications behind that even bigger pile of books just inside your office. You don’t even know what is there any more. Loads of them are duplicates that can be thrown away. They are an example of the intimidating hoards of clutter  that you want to remove from your life because you suspect that a clear desk policy has something to commend it.
  3. Dust off and check the functioning of your old Advent computer and the even older one behind it. In your mind, the Advent is a back up machine but does it even work any more? Admit it. You have no idea. As for the other one. Have you even got the leads and peripherals that go with it?
  4. Ebay that Commodore 64 and the big sack of games that you rescued before that stranger skipped it. Maybe it does include some highly sought after game that will be worth a fortune like you secretly hope. Probably it doesn't. But you can’t even work it and you need the space.
  5. Re-cement between those bricks in the living room floor.
  6. Re-grout the shower where it is getting a bit mildewy.

When I said ‘unambiguously a good thing’ I exaggerated. I meant to say ‘a good thing.’

Rolls <5>

Well Sonia will be pleased...

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Corrupting my children with the dice (Part 1)

Our daughter Sophie is trying to raise money to fund an overseas student nursing placement somewhere more exotic than Camberwell. 

Amy Winehouse
She is a talented artist with too much common sense to do her first choice Fine Art, what with the economy on its arse and fees of £27,000. Her muse is, however, undiminished. So she is selling new bespoke designs (canvas framed, with fabric and inked vellum).

Yet shouting ‘PLEASE BUY MY STUFF’ on Facebook invites scorn from assorted rich brats, talentless oiks and haters (who are nevertheless also 'friends').

Negotiating your image is now so much more complicated than when it simply depended on whether you could afford Levi Strauss jeans or did the sartorial walk of shame in Tesco Delamare... REJECTS!

These situations provide a rare and diminishing use for parents and on seeing a new Amy Winehouse-styled creation on her wall, I wrote:

"I'm glad to see you producing art again Sophie... technically, I really like what you've done with this and the pigeon.  Are they just for your wall or are you selling them? They're easily good enough IMO. On that point, do you take commissions? If so, I'd quite like a 'Dice Man' for my wall. If you wanted to play my current game, we could let the die decide the price. Say:
1=£0  2=£10  3=£20  4=£30  5=£40  6=£50"
Dice Man
As a naff ‘rent, I can gush over my progeny’s work and suggest its saleability, safe in the knowledge that any cool points I think I have are entirely illusory. Sure enough, within hours, I was looking at a photo of my personalised Dice Man. This  just left the die to value the latest addition to my art collection. We live 35 miles apart and this scenario was revealing about my perceived trustworthiness. I had thought that as a loving dad, I could simply be trusted to report the result of the throw. In the end, we settled on Skype, with the webcam orientated to prevent the shaker leaving Sophie’s view when the die was rolled.

To emphasise the seriousness of the occasion, I devised some impromptu ceremonial words for us to use:

Do you <insert name> submit to the will of the die completely and irrevocably, for richer, for poorer and promise not to whinge if you get bugger all?

Yes, I <insert name> submit to the will of the die etc.

As an aside, I now understand why Luke Rhinehart included all that liturgical claptrap in The Dice Man. Codswallop or not, such rituals seem to provide useful gravitas when you suspect your daughter might cry foul or your dad might try to shaft you.

Happily, we rolled a <4>. 

In case anyone reading this is now tempted to buy their own ‘Sophie Original’, I had thought £30 was actually about the right price. Alternatively, prospective buyers may find they have to submit themselves to the roll of the die. 

That would be a matter entirely for Sophie...and you.

Monday, 3 February 2014

Exorcising Facebook

Exercise this week

<1> Just squash and boxing training
<2> Squash, boxing training and 3 x 3 minute skipping sessions Mon-Fri
<3> Squash, boxing training, 3 x 3 minute skipping sessions Mon/Wed/Fri & 5 x 10 of Jaye’s training exercises Tues/Thurs
<4> Squash, boxing training and 3 x 3 minute skipping sessions Mon-Fri & 5 x 10 of Jaye’s training exercises Mon-Fri
<5> Squash, boxing training and 3 x 3 minute skipping sessions Mon-Fri, 5 x 10 of Jaye’s training exercises Mon-Fri & 2 runs to Aylesford
<6> Squash, boxing training and 3 x 3 minute skipping sessions Mon-Fri, 5 x 10 of Jaye’s training exercises Mon-Fri, 2 runs to Aylesford & a slow 10K to Ditton

Throws <2> I can’t lie. I really didn’t want that <6>


<Evens> Not on from 0900-1800 today
<Odds> Not on again until 1800 tomorrow
<Double 2-6> Not on again until 1800 on Friday
<Double 1> Unrestricted Facebook use until tomorrow when I must throw again

Throws <4 & 2> Sonia says “Why don’t you just decide not to waste too much time on Facebook  and do it? Why do you need the dice?” I know now that it's pointless to even try to explain the answer to this sort of question in the same way I no longer try to explain why just having one glass of wine out of the bottle is more unsatisfactory than not drinking at all.

Even when you’ve lived with someone for decades, it’s weird how bits of each other can remain entirely unintelligible. I’m undecided whether I think this is a good thing or not. In some ways it sustains a bit of mystique in our relationship, but in other ways I know we each think “Why the fuck do I still have to explain this about myself to you, you dummy? Haven’t you been paying any attention to what I’m like in all these years!”

Saturday, 1 February 2014

I'm annoyed

‘I want you to help me escape,’ Eric said quietly, holding the tuna-fish-salad sandwich in his hands lightly, as if were delicate.

Surely this opening sentence of chapter fifty-two in the 1994 Harper Collins paperback edition should say ‘as if it were delicate’?

Strangely, such careless proof-checking is not the most annoying thing about The Dice Man. The most annoying thing is that, thus far, he seems to me to be a great big childish bell-end. I don’t use the word childish here in the sense of ‘open to the wonder of everything that surrounds us and exquisitely devoid of the neuroses and inhibitions that tend to accumulate with age.’ I use it in the sense of ‘does really fucking dumb things.’ Bell-end is a less ambiguous term, which I have never knowingly used as a compliment.

Maybe I’ll feel differently when I’ve finished the book, but if I met Luke Rhinehart in real life I would just think he’s an incredible arse.  He seems led by his cock like some shallow cliché of masculinity and some of the options he gives the dice are the sort of thing you might only come up with at the messy end of a drinking game. I say this as a largely post-sex old git. Maybe my younger would have viewed him more positively? If so, that is just one more thing about my younger self that, with hindsight, seems a little embarrassing.

I’ve got rather more time for LR as a fictional character. I’m being entertained enjoyably by the story (though it’s less of a page-turner than plenty of other books I’ve read), my curiosity about his fate has been piqued, and I certainly owe him a debt of gratitude for invigorating my urge to write.

Seriously though, I don’t know much about the mechanics of publishing, but the book was first published in 1971. If that proofing error was in the first edition, they had 23 years to spot it before publishing my copy of the book. And if it wasn’t, well how hard can it be to copy text from an earlier edition and paste it into a later one?


Provisional rules for a Dice Man

I am not The Dice Man, I am A Dice Man; someone inspired by Rhinehart but, nevertheless, using them with my own code. As I experiment with their use, I have started to articulate a set of rules for myself that aim to make the dice serve my primary goal – to reduce or avoid my depression. I don’t view them as a panacea, but as an adjunct to other things I’m doing such as: 

  • Talking with my wife Sonia and the numerous good friends who populate my physical and silicon world
  • Trying to make good use of the advice from my family and friends, even when I think I know better
  • Taking my daily citalopram (20mg)
  • Looking for work that I can do, which will pay the bills and, ideally, enjoy as much as possible
  • Exercising and looking after my body to try to remedy the combined effects of not giving a fuck about it for most of the last year or so (in a self-loathing way) and being fifty five with what seems to me to be some sort of ‘male menopause’, in the sense that my body seems to have shifted into a markedly different phase to the one I occupied between my twenties and turning fifty

It would be naive to think that something like depression can be solved by one thing, and I don’t. But*, in my own case, I do think that being A Dice Man is one thing that could help. Blogging is a public endeavour and it would be disingenuous to pretend that it does not address an imagined audience. So to my imagined audience I would like to say this. 

If you experience depression, I have no idea what that is like for you, why it occurs, what might make it better, or what you should do about it. This blog is a selfish activity that primarily aims to help me. Nevertheless, if it helps anyone else in any way, that would be a bonus that would please me. Because* I’m like that.

Anyway, here are my rules...for the time being.
  • Rule 1 – Only nominate choices you genuinely wish for
  • Rule 2 – Do not use the dice to make choices where you are already clear about your preference or the right decision, because that would be stupid
  • Rule 3 – Use the dice creatively, wherever you notice an opportunity for them to make life more interesting, exciting or fulfilling
  • Rule 4 – Where the dice directly involve other people, this should be consensual
  • Rule 5 – Don’t become a slave to the dice, or blogging about the dice because you think other people read this stuff. Just use them when it suits you, and write about it when you have something to write that you think you would like to read yourself

*Ordinarily I would never start a sentence with a conjunction. These are examples of me doing edgy grammatical stuff that I don’t do in reports.