Gratefulness in Survival

I am 32.

Each day I awake feeling very grateful to have a caring wife, two healthy, bright, mischievious daughters, parents and in-laws that are wonderful and present, and dear friends to share food, drink and stories with.

There are many things in our lives we have no say in, or cannot change. These things; essentially, we can either learn to accept, or keep poisoning ourselves with in negative loops until death washes all away. (And I hope death will wait until I’ve had a long and healthy life first.)

I believe what we choose from the things we do have a say in—and how we react to situations and emotions presented to us—define who we are. Memory plays a part, but using naivety while being present in the here and now can break us from the wagon wheel ruts of autopilot decision making and judgement.

Aspirations amd challenges

My aspiration is to be a gentleman, to always be caring and kind to people, even those who oppose me or my plans, because revenge is immature and violence breeds violence. I’ve long since stopped spending considerable time trying to forcibly change people's opinions when they are out of kilter to what I wish.

Not everyone can understand you, or be understood by you. Some will despise you without knowing you, just because you remind them of someone else who hurt them in the past. Some will despise you for doing wrong by them, because you slipped up, or prioritised something above them.

We’re all walking wounded, some more wounded than others. Our psychic wounds leave scars, are reopened, infected, or healed over, depending on how we treat them, and how we eventually accept them or continue to deny them.

How to self-actualise

What I do, how I listen, how I speak, what I wear; these are all external demonstrations of the values I live by. I take care to set an example for me, my wife, my daughters, and my family, to better us all.

We live by three simple family rules, defined together a year ago to teach my eldest daughter (four years old at the time):

  1. Listen to each other.
  2. Look after each other.
  3. Spend time together.

The Pain Body of Youth

Digging around old files from almost twenty years ago, including some hand-coded HMTL sites for old bands and Windows wallpaper, short stories, and songs, I found this poem.

I wrote this poem in my early-teens. Bathed in acidic hormonal angst, simple prose and a clipped tempo, it expressed how I felt at the time, while I kept those feelings private.

When I look back to my younger self, I am glad to have suffered through all kinds of torment (mostly self-inflicted) at the time. I no longer can feel or identify with that pain in my current life, but am grateful to know what rock bottom is, how far I am from that now, and what do to when I feel myself slipping down that path before I gain too much negative momentum.

I am 14. Here is my poem.

Poem: A Thousand Shrapnel Fragments by Iain B. Simpson (1999)

I'm sitting here watching you, You lie to me, You lie to you, Why oh why do you,

You're hurting me, You're hurting you, I'm scarring now, But I'll still live, I can't see yours, what is it to give,

I've forgotten now, It's in my head, Was it fun, It hurt like lead,

You could've said, You felt disdain, All I felt was hurt and pain,

You didn't have to do this, Should've ended at the start,

Now it's too late, You can't take back, What you did, I've got the scars,

In my heart, It split in two, Because of you, And your ways,

You could've said, You could've told, But now it's too late, And I feel cold.


Download an eclectic assortment of desktop wallpapers I created between 2000 and 2004 (including the image associated with this post):


"Crackle" Iain B. Simpson (2003)

AuthorI.B. Simpson

This is a tale about how I received a 2007 Mac mini (1,1) from my closest and dearest friend, how I've fixed it up, and what I intend to use it for.


In Scottish schools, from Primary 1 (around age 5), the students learn to read and write. Every bedtime in our home consists of reading a few new books, thanks to regular use of the local public library.

As my eldest of two daughters nears her sixth year and started school last autumn, I thought it high time to introduce her to a traditional computer for her to develop mouse and keyboard skills, because I doubt these user interface technologies will go away anytime soon, so will prove useful to her.

Indeed, I am convinced mouse and keyboard will be around for many more years. Blade Runner came out almost forty years ago yet voice recognition still isn't reliable enough to manipulate an image based on commands from a surly, mumbling voice. I’m not familiar with Amazon’s Alexa but hear it’s another step closer to machines understanding human speech patterns. Siri is quite limited in parsing natural language, and modifying my own speech to (or teaching my daughter to) speak in command-line grammar does not seem intuitive.

My daughter is competent enough with my iPad. She can navigate the Operating System and controls, and surf YouTube Kids for awful toy unboxing videos conducted by adults with sparkily-painted nails, glittery hands, and faux-sincere excited accents. But she also plays a selection of excellent games by Toca Boca, and doodles using some BBC apps for children.


Initially, I pulled down two old iBooks from the loft (tangerine and blue), however the batteries were stone dead. One ran OS 9, and the other OS X 10.4. Both were incredibly noisy; a cacophony of chittering hard disks and leaf blower frequency fans.

It was then that I considered the mid '90s PowerBook that I received as a birthday present many years ago from the same friend mentioned in the introduction to this post, but I treasure that too much to give to my daughter, who is still learning mechanical sympathy.

Having exhausted the Apple options—I have a lot of love for nineties and aughties Apple products, not so much for '10s (except iPhones which peaked at 4S and 6Plus for me)—I found a couple of old laptops from the early aughties, which would be serviceable as linux machines, however could not find/rescue the power supplies from the Akira-like sprawl of decades of accumulated technology in my loft (ranging from Fostex four-track and Acorn Electron to PS4 Pro cardboard box).

Finally, my mind turned to the Raspberry Pi matchbox machines gathering dust in a drawer near my main PC. A pretty good option, but still a bit fiddly for a first computer.

It would have been easy at this point to bite the bullet and buy a secondhand machine. I'm quite fond of Lenovo ThinkPads and Windows 10, but it was at this stage that fortune smiled upon me.

My good friend came into a 2007 Mac mini (not literally) from an acquaintance via a niche internet user group (I think), and learning of my plight, found a good home for it with us.

Bring your own Mouse, Display and Keyboard

Knowing that I would soon have a Mac mini with a DVI connection, I set about researching monitors, as I quickly learned that you cannot buy a simple adapter to convert port and signal between 27" Apple Cinema Display with Mini DisplayPort into the Mac mini’s DVI.

Newer monitors were coming in at around £80 online, whereas an old HP, or Dell, etc. would have been around £20. But the older Apple Cinema Displays are very, very good screens. Searching eBay, the 20" model can be found for around £50 at time of writing, however this is without a crucial component (the power supply), with the fashion being to list this part separately for a further £28–50.

I wrestled with the decision for a day, but decided the aluminium frame would look better in my home sat next to the silver and white Mac mini, and it really does look quite beautiful. The 16:10 aspect is pleasing to the eye, the brightness is impressive, and the 1680 by 1050 pixels are very nice and not too demanding of the system to push around the screen.

Preparations and first boot

The monitor and supply both arrived separately on 03 Jan 2018. I paired the monitor with a tangerine accented USB Apple roller mouse and a white Apple bluetooth keyboard, crossed my fingers and booted it up.

It booted, and I was grateful to be presented with the purple star field background and glass-shelf dock of OS X Snow Leopard (my personal favourite of all the variants of OS X, perhaps for nostalgic reasons of it being on my 2008 unibody MacBook when I said goodbye to Windows at home in the Vista-era, right up until building a gaming PC with Windows 8 during August 2013).

My daughter and I started downloading Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing from the Mac App Store (I bought it in 2012, also for nostalgic reasons). I went to create a new user for her and then…

…crash and do not burn

The machine froze up. I left it for a good twenty minutes and tried all the GUI and keyboard commands to force quit or restart, but to no avail. I killed it by smothering the power nubbin at the back of the machine with my index finger. When I restarted it, I was not greeted by the star field, but by a flashing folder with a question mark.

Oh, no. Recovery by holding Command-R on boot up didn't work. Holding the alt-key on boot up just brought up a grey screen. Thankfully, I had the original retail disc for Snow Leopard in my loft (along with iLife and iWork '09).

The Snow Leopard DVD was popped in and back to alt-key on boot up, but the mini wasn't recognising it, and ejected the disc in a worrying, stuttering manner. I also noted the sound of the hard disk was just the arm moving every few seconds but the disk failed to spool up.

So I opened the mini to dissemble it for clues, sadly breaking the interconnect board optical ribbon cable port by not having the right tools (being too rough). After cursing my stupidity for not reviewing the instructions on iFixIt first, and receiving a set of tools from Amazon, I reviewed iFixIt and completed disassembly.

Then I replaced the hard disk with the one from a dead 2009 MacBook Pro; one not so careful lady owner (my mother) had killed the trackpad and display, with numerous bashes and dents to the casing, and three of the four black feet missing. Miraculously, the hard disk works (though I may replace with an SSD in the near-future to be safe and for the speed boost).

Reassembly complete, I jumped onto my PC running Windows 10, ripped the discs using imgBurn and transferred the ISO images to my trusty old Western Digital MyBookLive 1TB NAS drive. I then used Disk Utility on my wife's 2012 MacBook Air to restore the Snow Leopard image onto a 16Gb USB.

Fingers were crossed once more and back to the Mac mini and alt-key on boot up.

It saw the USB as Snow Leopard install media and off we go!

Final Furlong

I completed the OS install, then installed iWork '09 and iLife '09 by mounting the ISOs from the Apple desktop. Finally, I updated via software update to 10.6.8 and once more downloaded Mavis Beacon via the Mac App Store.

The computer and monitor lack speakers. It is pleasantly surprising to note that this pre-2011 Mac mini supports digital audio output via a TOSLINK mini-plug adapter, but I'll need to do some more exploring. Ideally some cute little aluminium and white speakers would do the job, and 2.0 speakers will be more than enough.

The 2007 Mac Mini (1,1) can only support 2Gb RAM, which is enough for Snow Leopard. Web browsing is okay on Firefox 47, though it labours like a small-engined car up a steep hill if it encounters too many ads on a page (ad-blocker incoming).

I may put an SSD into it, but this is not essential, and I may reapply thermal paste, as smcFanControl is reporting 45-75 DegC typing this up in MultiMarkdown Composer with a single apple support page open in Firefox, and I think it could run even quieter than it already is with a thorough de-fluffing and blow through with condensed air and new paste.


And that pretty much wraps it up. I am delighted and must admit to being smitten by this tiny wee old machine and it's matching monitor. I need to resist the urge to perfect the machine as its main purpose is to serve my daughter, and once it’s in situ with speakers, I'll need to think of it as her PC.

Given that my wife has the 2012 MacBook Air, I have a five year old big rig gaming PC, as well as a family iPad Air and phones for grown-ups, we're more than set for general computing. But this compact, light and airy setup (with a full-size keyboard mind), might be the future of my own desktop setup.

I'm mulling over getting a 2011 Mac mini for myself and relegating the gaming machine to another room. Gaming, however, is a whole other story which I look forward to covering in my next post.

AuthorI.B. Simpson
2 CommentsPost a comment

A friend recently pointed out EDGE:the 100 greatest videogames (3rd edition, Aug 2017), and confessed to only having played seventeen of the games on the list.

Intrigued, I took a quick browse of the list, and thought it'd make an interesting exercise to review against my own three decades of gaming and that it would be a fitting follow-up to my recent post, One Solution to Game Selection Paralysis, and a 2015 to May 2017 Retrospective, along with my 2012 post on Choosing Games -Through the Ages.

The purpose of this post is not to decry or rally against EDGE's list, but to briefly comment on each game from my perspective. In time, I may follow-up with my own 100 greatest videogames post, and link back to this.

I've also attached the Excel file I used to create the table below in case you, dear reader, wish to make your own commentary.

EDGE 100 greatest games (2017 edition)

EDGE Order + Game Name Comments Possess? 12hrs+ or Completed?
100. Super Hexagon Ignorant of this at time of writing. No No
99. Her Story Meaning to play through eventually. Yes No
98. Super Monkey Ball GameCube version is amazing. Unparalleled precision of Nintendo controllers. Yes No
97. Final Fantasy XII Played at an awkward stage in early adulthood, and did not hook me at the time. Yes Yes
96. Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time Ignorant of this at time of writing. No No
95. Hyper Light Drifter Hard to fathom this was made in Game Maker Studio (as was Undertale). Have not played since 60fps update. Yes No
94. Katamari Damacy Always wanted to play this. Looks like great fun. No No
93. Animal Crossing: New Leaf Lovely. Played more than 100 hours Stardew Valley (spiritual successor) Yes Yes
92. Resogun Ignorant of this at time of writing. No No
91. Puzzle Bobble Along with Puyo Puyo, my favourite puzzle-em-up. Yes Yes
90. F-Zero GX Have not played any F-Zero games. No No
89. The Sims 3 Played the original to death. No No
88. R-Type Final C64 was the definitive edition for me (as it was what I had as a child). No No
87. Elite: Dangerous Under 5 hours. Was not fun enough for me, but appreciated the tight controls. Almost bought flight controllers but could not justify expense for something I probably would not use much. Happy with my decision. Yes No
86. Bomberman Great game but never had worthy challengers growing up, and it is only fun with other humans. Yes No
85. StarCraft II Ignorant of this at time of writing. No No
84. Pac-Man: Championship Edition Ignorant of this at time of writing. No No
83. BioShock Played at an awkward stage in early adulthood, and did not hook me at the time. The story far exceeds the controls and shooting across all Bioshock games. Yes No
82. Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare Enjoyed every minute of the campaign and spent a lot of time in multiplayer. Yes Yes
81. Puzzle & Dragons Ignorant of this at time of writing. No No
80. Tearaway Under 1 hour Yes No
79. League of Legends Ignorant of this at time of writing. No No
78. Super Meat Boy Under 1 hour Yes No
77. Xenoblade Chronicles One of my favourite games ever. Yes Yes
76. OutRun 2006: Coast to Coast Still beautiful and fun on PC, playing 1440p 60fps. Yes Yes
75. Counter-Strike: Global Offensive Played more than 10 hours original CS No No
74. Civilization IV Played this almost as much as original CIV. Yes Yes
73. Battlefield 4 Played more than 100 hours. Amazing fun playing on PC with a European clan 2013/2014. Yes Yes
72. Metroid Prime Bought trilogy via Wii U. Yet to get into it. Yes No
71. Hearthstone Would probably enjoy this. Played Magic:The Gathering when I was a young teenager. No No
70. Castlevania: Symphony of the Night One of my favourite games ever. Yes Yes
69. Limbo Fun and short in a good way. Yes Yes
68. Towerfall Ascension Fun little multiplayer. Yes No
67. EarthBound One of my favourite games ever. Yes Yes
66. Batman: Arkham Knight Bought, not played. Yes No
65. Transistor Ignorant of this at time of writing. No No
64. Puyo Puyo I knew this as "Qwirks" in the 1990s and it was my favourite puzzle game growing up. Yes Yes
63. FTL: Advanced Edition Addictive gameplay and great music. Yes Yes
62: Persona 4 Golden God knows, I tried to get into this on the PSVita. Yes No
61. Mass Effect 2 Meaning to play this through with partner someday. Really enjoyed ME1. Yes No
60. Okami Playe on Wii / ennui Yes No
59. The Stanley Parable Great take on Groundhog day mechanic. Yes Yes
58. XCOM: Enemy Unknown Loved this reinvention of the 1990s version. Yes Yes
57. Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate Did not enjoy this game, despite spending hours trying to. Yes No
56. The Witcher III: Wild Hunt Meaning to play this through with partner someday. Yes No
55. Far Cry 4 Barely played Far Cry 2 or 3 so left this one alone. No No
54. Titanfall 2 Currently playing through in small doses (Jun-Sep 2017) Yes No
53. Doom (2016) Currently playing through in small doses (2016-2017) Yes No
52. Trials Fusion Think I played a lot of predecessor on XBOX360. Neither are a patch on Elasto Mania with its ace level editor. No No
51. Nidhogg Fun little multiplayer. Yes No
50. Fez Great. Played several hours but no drive to finish. Yes No
49. Overwatch As fun as it looks, when I play games nowadays, I am usually sitting on the sofa with my wife beside me playing along, and single-screen multiplayer FPS games are not an intersting genre for that scenario. Might pick-up during a PS4 sale. Yes No
48. Super Mario 3D World Excellent and fun to play with family. Yes Yes
47. Journey Gorgeous game, but quite forgettable. Yes Yes
46. Dead Space Got a fair way through. Yes No.
45. Dota 2 Played a bit Yes No
44. Vanquish Ignorant of this at time of writing. No No
43. Super Mario Maker Enjoyed for a while, but have not got my teeth into it yet. My daughter has fun designing daft levels. Yes Yes
42. Fire Emblem Fates Ignorant of this at time of writing. No No
41. Inside Those death animations are brutal and chilling. Yes No
40. Shadow of the Colossus PS3 version, to play after ICO. Yes No
39. Halo 3 I found this quite boring. Yes No
38. The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask Love all the Zelda games on this list. Yes Yes
37. Spelunky Fun to play a little. Yes No
36. Destiny I am not a fan of Halo so never thought to try this. See Overwatch comments above. No No
35. The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past Love all the Zelda games on this list. Yes Yes
34. Kerbal Space Program Ignorant of this at time of writing. No No
33. Dishonored Meaning to play through someday… Yes No
32. Splatoon Tempted to get sequel for Switch. Looks like a lot of fun, and can play with daughter. No No
31. The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker Love all the Zelda games on this list. Yes Yes
30. Rock Band 3 Rocksmith is an amazing alternative, as you use a real guitar, and the difficulty varies each phrase of the song, depending on your skill. No No
29. The Last Guardian This was a wonderful and gripping experience from start to finish. Yes Yes
28. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim 70 hours XBOX360 version. Several bugs left three main quests unfinishable, and moved on to something else. Yes Yes
27. Ico PS3 version. Got a fair way through. Since completing Last Guardian, may go back to Ico Yes No
26. Super Metroid Castlevania:SOTN is in my top 10, not played through this one. Yes No
25. Demon’s Souls Missed this at time of release. No No
24. Horizon: Zero Dawn Not started. Bought in PSStore sale summer 2017. Yes No
23. Advance Wars Love this game but never finished it. Yes No
22. The Witness In the final area, no drive to go back to it though. Yes Yes
21. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe Own and love on Wii U. Not rebuying as I use Switch docked 99% of the time, next to Wii U. Yes Yes
20. Ultra Street Fighter IV Never been much of a Street Fighter fan. Soul Blade, OMF:2097 and Tekken are my favourites, in that order. Yes No
19. Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain Bored after 15-20 hours. Beautiful but not fun for me. Yes Yes
18. Rez Infinite Played original Rez a few years ago, possibly the XBOX360 port? No No
17. Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End Highly enjoyed, and my first Uncharted experience, but not a patch on The Last of Us. Yes Yes
16. Super Mario World Still play occassionally. Way higher on my unwritten top 100. Yes Yes
15. Red Dead Redemption Borrowed from a friend and had lots of potential but distracted by something else and never go into it. No No
14. Super Mario 64 I bought an N64 at end of its lifecycle but never owned SM64, and did not even play through Ocarina of Time until 2015 via the Wii U (Wii Virtual Console). Yes No
13. Portal Awesome game. For me, Portal 2 is far better due to split-screen co-op nature. Yes Yes
12. Bayonetta 2 Birthday or christmas present, not yet played through, but highly enjoyed few hours spent with it so far. Yes No
11. Minecraft Never got into Minecraft, WoW or EVE:online, depsite several attempts. Yes No
10. Resident Evil 4 Very scary. I have the GameCube version from a friend, and am too scared to play it very much. Yes No
9. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time Love all the Zelda games on this list. Yes Yes
8. Super Mario Galaxy 2 Playing through sporadically with daughter via Wii U Yes No
7. Tetris Gameboy green and unforgettable music. Yes Yes
6. Half-Life 2 Very fond memories of this and original Half-life. Yes Yes
5. Bloodborne Have not tried to get into this genre yet. No No
4. The Last of Us One of my favourite games ever. Yes Yes
3. Grand Theft Auto V Played though quite far on XBOX360. Played through not as far on PC. Have not tried online yet. Yes Yes
2. Dark Souls Have not tried to get into this genre yet. Yes No
1. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild One of my favourite games ever, however played Xenoblade Chronicles for the first time shortly after BoTW and it is better in almost every aspect. Yes Yes


List order (100–1) gleaned from Nintendoeverything - EDGE ranks the top 100 greatest games (2017 edition)

List order (alphabetically) taken from Table of Contents viewable within EDGE list purchase page (I have not purchased as £15.99 is a bit too rich for my blood, but I would have paid £5 for pdf if I had the option).

  Edge: the 100 greatest videogames (3rd edition) - Table of Contents (C) Future Publishing 2017

Edge: the 100 greatest videogames (3rd edition) - Table of Contents (C) Future Publishing 2017

AuthorI.B. Simpson
2 CommentsPost a comment

So many games. It's cruel really. It hurts to think how many games I have bought but will barely or never play, as being a groan-up, there are only so many free hours in my week.

When I make the time to indulge in my lifelong obsession, by flopping onto the sofa and picking up a controller, or contorting my body back into the tortured shape of the workweek at my PC, I am often at a loss for what to load up.

My already exhausted mind tries to weigh-up what the most valuable return on my playtime would be. And so, I sit there; staring at my burgeoning Steam account, then at my new consoles, then at my old consoles and, sometimes, I just give up and zombify my night away on YouTube, Twitter, or go back to the seemingly endless but brilliantly strange book I've been reading since March 2016 (Infinite Jest by David Foster-Wallace)] [finished in December 2016, now ploughing through the Laundry Files by Charles Stross].

Steve Burns, previously of called this phenomenon "shit-muncher paralysis", which I feel is a more authentic title in this context than "decision fatigue" or "analysis paralysis".

I've had some success in combatting this by pre-selecting what to play and committing to it without experiencing the remorse of a poor choice:

On 1st January 2015, at around 2am, I completed Zelda: Windwaker (Wii U version), and resolved along with my wife to play the remainder of the 3D Zelda games that year. If not for her, I never would have made it through the first 10 hours of Majora's Mask (I kept feeling very tired and drifting off when playing it for some reason).

By setting that as our mission and sticking doggedly to it, these masterpieces were very much enjoyed without the distraction of choice over a period of 6 months or so, and I now have very fond memories of journeying through these games to the finish for the first time, and of sharing that experience with my wife.

Such was the success of this, that I proposed our next series would be Final Fantasy (starting with VII, as it was my first and the one which most deeply affected my early pubescent self).

With its beautifully hand-painted backgrounds and a soundtrack that more powerfully than any other game I've played provokes all kinds of emotions, Final Fantasy VII was another masterpiece which we played through. I secretly worried that it wouldn't have aged well, and was so delighted and relieved to relive this experience and share it with my wife, who had never seen a JRPG before, and enjoyed the story, graphics and music too. Years before, I repeatedly exposed our firstborn in utero to the soundtrack, so there was a familiar nostalgia for us all.

Interestingly for me, the next game, Final Fantasy VIII, had much better writing and localisation, while somewhat annoyingly pushing the teen angst and cauldron of emotion and morbid ennui of lead protagonist, Squall. The other characters are far more interesting. Their interactions and character development outshine Final Fantasy VII, and replaying in 2015, I can say that the maturity of the writing, story and world makes it a much more adult and deeper experience than VII, though it lacks the raw power of the music. It also took me a while to prefer the steal and craft magic system in VIII to the materia combinations and MP of VII.

Following this we tried Final Fantasy IX. Sadly, even after fifteen hours, I felt no attachment to the characters or story, and the loading times and delay in starting each random battle, which of course there are many, were utterly dreadful. The same happened with Final Fantasy X, so it was back to the drawing board for 2016.

Three massive games took care of most of last year: Fallout 4, Stardew Valley, and Final Fantasy XV, with Stardew Valley being ideal for our busy family and work lives. Such a charming, colourful, relaxed, and utterly stress-free world. Pick up and play for twenty minutes or two hours and family-friendly too. The variety of activities, soothing music and feeling of accomplishment in building your farm and relationships with the villagers was immensely satisfying.

Fallout 4 was a very fulfilling open-world-a-thon which felt as good as I remember 2008's Fallout 3 being. And Final Fantasy XV was an interesting mess of superficial beauty, and a handsome boyband group of friends, which while plagued with many years of development hell, would have benefited from a lot more dialogue and a more complex story character development to flesh out the best part of the game—the friendship between your characters. My biggest bugbear was the repeated dialogue, which broke immersion so much as to become laughable and quickly spawned memes all over the net. "I've come up with a new recipe!"

The big game of 2017 so far is Zelda: Breath of the Wild. As of May, we've completed the main story, all the shrines, all the memories, most of the armour sets are fully upgraded, and we're still playing to explore and collect Koroks, with 160 of 900 in the game found after 140+ hours. That's some serious value for money, even considering the eye-watering cost of the Nintendo Switch, Pro controller and game.

Alas, I now feel my gaming feet itching for pastures new. The dopamine tickle from Zelda is still there, reduced from a bonfire to a bright candle now, and when I look elsewhere, all I can see is the fiery cold abyss and cranial tension of thousands of choices clambering for my evaluation and commitment.

A close friend has come to the rescue with a solution he has catchily named "35 by 35". This is his title for a project encompassing 35 new gaming experiences by the time he reaches 35 years old. His conditions are that each game gets at least six hours play a week for two weeks, giving a minimum of 12 hours per game (or until the end if it's a shorter game). Then after playing each game, he'll write a short review, then collate and publish at the end of the project.

So now, I'm off to tailor this approach into my own project, which I'll share in my next post. I'd be interested to hear in the comments how you, dear reader, select which games you'll play, and your current backlog.

Note: This post is part of a consolidation exercise, and was originally published 16 September 2011 at

16 September 2011

Mulling over Hans Petter Eikemo's thoughts on iPhone photo lag. Echoing his sentiments; the problem occurs as I experience some fleeting event. I want to capture it. From my trouser pocket to taking the photo takes me about six seconds, three if was open and active before I locked my iPhone. I have missed the moment. No Henri Cartier-Bresson chance; the man has met the puddle.

Hans Petter Eikemo of Ideon proposes [for a future iPhone]:

  1. When the camera app is inactive, a press on the new [camera] button will launch it.
  2. Every press captures a photo, even outside the camera app. As a remedy for the most fleeting of photo ops; you shoot instantly from the hip, and when the app is ready, you may review the results or continue to shoot assisted by the viewfinder.
  3. Press and hold the button momentarily to record video. The subsequent press stops recording.

I am against a new button, because we don't need one. The shutter release (sic - pixel sensor ready and capture) could be initiated in different ways depending on the situation. Let's go through some [iPhone] scenarios.

The phone is asleep in your pocket. You want to take a photo. Quick! Take if out of your pocket and either:

  1. double-click volume-up button (hold for video)
  2. double-click volume-down button (hold for video)
  3. depress volume-up and volume-down button simultaneously (hold for video)
  4. depress-volume-up and home button simultaneously (hold for video)
  5. depress volume-down and home button simultaneously (hold for video)


  • A setting would allow you to enable the feature to capture photos and/or video from sleep mode. Thus, Private Percy's Privacy is Protected from Prankster Peter.
  • A setting would allow you to launch into (or not) after taking photos from sleep mode.
  • Initiating video capture from sleep mode would launch while you are shooting that video.

Any thoughts?

AuthorI.B. Simpson

I delight in watching the whole process.

It begins with weird and wonderful egos and the initial inability to work in a team. Disgusting caterpillars.

Slowly, for the more diligent competitors, repulsive behaviour and ego is moulded into decency and teamwork.

As the process continues, you begin to learn about the individuals, and want the good ones to prevail.

Finally, a winner emerges and they have over the course of 3 months (our watching time, not sure if it's filmed over 3 months) emerged into a beautiful butterfly, their life forever transformed.

AuthorI.B. Simpson

Human skills, as in skills relating to dealing with self and others, or as David Fraser puts it, Relationship Mastery, (named after his book on the subject), are a nebulous, tacit grouping of hard to define, hard to explain knowledge. Or are they?

I recently co-presented a PMI event regarding project management in schools. David Fraser was the keynote speaker, and below are the notes I took during his talk.

Being very interested in how to understand and develop myself and others, his talk struck a chord with me; and so I am currently reading his book to investigate further.

AuthorI.B. Simpson

“Depending on how you pay for it, you'll probably have to part with at least fifty quid for Windows 8, and double (or more) for OS X, and they come with almost no software compared to the average Linux distribution. Yet almost all Linux distributions are free as in zero-cost.”—TuxRadar, April 2013

The subject of an interesting open ballot by Tuxradar, “Would you pay for Linux?”, begins with a rather disingenuous poke at Apple and Microsoft.

Teasing this apart, we find that Apple’s operating system (Mac OS X) comes bundled with all their computers, at zero-cost. The current version (May 2013) is OS X 10.8 (Mountain Lion).

This is accepting however, that OS X is only designed to run on Apple hardware, and that the cost of a new computer with OS X starts from £499 (Mac Mini), or laptop (MacBook Air) £849.

Bear in mind though, that you can buy a second-hand 2006 MacBook for ~£200 which will comfortably run Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard, or a Core 2 Duo MacBook for ~£300 that’ll run OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion without issue.

The upgrade cost for new versions of Apple’s operating system is cheap and getting cheaper:

  • 2009, £25.00: Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard to Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard
  • 2011, £19.99: Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard to Max OS X 10.7 Lion
  • 2012, £13.99: Mac OS X 10.7 Lion to Mac OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion

Case Study for Personal Computing

I have been running the same laptop (13-inch MacBook 5,1) since Autumn 2008. I recently upgraded the RAM from 2Gb to 4Gb (~£40), and installed a 250Gb SSD (~£150). The battery capacity is still 80% vs. design, after 54 months and 831 loadcycles (thank you coconutBattery).

My laptop connects to a 27-inch display (Apple Cinema Display), is capable of running GNU/Linux programs —FOSS and non-FOSS— and can also run such software as Pages, Numbers, Keynote (an inexpensive £13.99 each). It has been stable and robust throughout it’s life, and hasn’t required any fiddling to work. No viruses, slow-down or gunk, and only a handful of crashes (in almost five years, that’s not too bad).

Benefits Comparison

Benefits of using Mac OS X instead of another GNU/Linux distribution:

  1. Stability. OS X is stable and functional, with free and paid applications that work really well.
  2. Freedom+. OS X can run everything that a GNU/Linux distribution can; either natively, in a virtual environment, or by dual-booting into a GNU/Linux distribution with Apple hardware.
  3. Design. Apple hardware is so well designed and constructed that is beautiful. The same detail, care and attention is brought to their operating system, which is equally functional and beautiful.

Benefits of using GNU/Linux distribution instead of Mac OS X:

  1. Hardware choice (power and/or economy). GNU/Linux can be combined with incredibly cheap hardware (such as the Raspberry Pi) or fancy hardware, whatever you choose.
  2. Price. GNU/Linux is free and hardware which is almost as good as Apple's (physically not as nice but with equivalent or better computing power), tends to be much cheaper.

Money = labour; Volunteering = play?

Money is not by nature dirty —well, except for physical money, which is disgustingly unclean—, but monetary transactions do change or define relationships, and more importantly; expectations. The motivation to contribute to the community for free is one of play and personal reward. What is the driver for people contributing their time and effort to the community for free, to enhance a paid piece of software? The motivation is gone. Free-as-in-speech software has to be free-as-in-beer if you expect unpaid volunteers to contribute, surely?

Trying to reconcile giving away your copyright and intellectual property rights to a charitable or not-for-profit organisation versus a corporation or commercial for-profit enterprise are very different propositions. In America, they have the phenomenon unpaid-internship, which as far as I can tell is free labour for companies, with the intern benefitting from “real-world experience”.

“By the people, for the people” is a world apart from “by paid employees, for the corporation”. I understand “by unpaid employees, for the corporation” even less.

AuthorI.B. Simpson
CategoriesWriting, Tech

CriticMarkup is a new toolkit for editors to mark-up documents. It’s syntax appears to be quite simple. There are five types of Critic marks:

  • Addition {++ ++}, e.g., App{++les++}
  • Deletion {-- --}, e.g., Orange{--s--}
  • Substitution {~~ ~> ~~}, e.g., {~~Tomato~>Tomatoes~~}
  • Comment {>> <<}, e.g., {>>Is a CriticMarkup’ed document going to be readable?<<}
  • Highlight & Comment_ {== ==}_, e.g., {==Will a CriticMarkup’ed document look like goobledygook?==}{>>Depends on what tool you’re going to view it with.<<}

The Gitosphere is already responding by integrating CriticMarkup into popular text-editors, such as MultiMarkdown Composer.

In contrast to CriticMarkup, Aza Raskin’s Bracket Notation is an even more elegant and simple method, which makes a lot of sense and doesn’t require jazz-trumpet Vimeo tutorials to fully appreciate. The only deviation I make from Raskin’s method is, as suggested by Koralatov, to use curly brackets instead of square brackets which ensures it doesn't conflict with Markdown's link syntax..

“The solution is simply three sets of square brackets and some customs: the first set of brackets denotes deletion, the second set denotes addition, and the third set denotes a comment. Apparently, a similar model is used to keep track of edits in the United Nations.”

Examples of Bracket Notation:

  • Delete {}, e.g., I like green {oranges}. becomes I like green.
  • Add {}{}, e.g., I like green {}{apples}. becomes I like green apples. (because nothing is deleted and apples is added).
  • Substitute (Delete & Add) {}{}, e.g., I like green {oranges}{apples}. becomes I like green apples. (because “oranges” is deleted and “apples” is added).
  • Editorial Comment {}{}{}, e.g., Cats are evil. {}{}{Ed - You are a mean and likely unattractive cat-hater.} (no changes are made but the editor has been offended by the author and left an unconstructive comment in response).
  • Substitution with Editorial Comment {}{}{}, e.g., I like green {oranges}{steak}.{Paleo sense is tingling. Need more fresh meat.} becomes I like green steak. (with an editors comment about paleo).

Not to knock CriticMarkup too hard (I do think it’s neat and visually arresting), the beautiful, mathematic simplicity of bracket notation is hard to beat. As Raskin concludes:

“It’s a simple solution to a possibly complex problem. It shows that sometimes the solution to an interface problem doesn’t involve inventing something brand new, but reusing something old.”

AuthorI.B. Simpson
CategoriesTech, Writing

—Robocop [1987, Film] & Starship Troopers [1997, Film] (both directed by Paul Verhoeven), and now Eve: Dust 514 [2011-2013 PS3 game], (in reference to interactive news feeds and tutorial videos respectively)

Whenever this memorable quote pops up I am simultaneously perplexed by it’s awkward phrasing and intrigued by the broadness of the question out-of-context.

Entering the world EVE: Dust 514 for the first time tonight, I was pleasantly surprised by this nod to two of my favourite sci-fi films.

This piece is intended as a homage to games in general, a discussion of my experiences with gaming platforms, and a proclamation of my love for gaming, speaking as a rapacious appreciator of this wonderful interactive art form. This is not a controversial PC Vs. Consoles opinion piece. That would be an utter waste of time and energy. The main points I shall put forward are:

  • The best single-player games are timeless and yield inestimable value to appreciative gamers.
  • To enjoy today’s cutting-edge PC games as their designers intended is expensive.
  • Delaying your gratification a few years could save you a fortune. Patience is also, I’m reliably informed, a heavenly virtue. Of course, there is nothing wrong with having the money to spend on a killer gaming rig now…
  • Though you can enjoy PC gaming masterpieces such as Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth [2006] or Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines [2004] today with a relatively inexpensive gaming machine.

It has been seven years since I owned a capable beast; that story is told elsewhere. High-end gaming PCs are like racehorses: even the finest are retired after only a handful of years. In the aughties, they were incredibly expensive both to buy and to maintain.

Costly, not just in money, but in time. You could spend £1,000 and a year later, your machine would struggle to play the latest games as they were intended to be seen. A three year-old powerhouse from 2003 would struggle to keep up with the games of 2006. Some expensive transplant surgery would be needed:

‘Let’s see. We’ll need a new Graphics Card, and ooo… a bit more RAM. Oh, that graphics card is going to need a bigger power supply, and then your motherboard will be the bottleneck. Hmm, the CPU you currently have is a different socket from the motherboard you plan on getting. The case is nice though; you can keep that.’

With consoles, like the Sony PlayStation 3 or the Microsoft Xbox 360, we have a platform that has a longer modern life, with the most recent (seventh) console generation set to last at least eight years with no mandatory hardware upgrades required. Excepting replacement of the whole console due to unfortunate but not uncommon catastrophic failure, the cost of maintenance in pounds and hours is negligible.

For me, this isn’t a case of owning a PC or a console. You can have a horse and pony, donkeys, chickens, turtles, and any other animal or beast. If you have the room for it, can afford it, and will give it the love, care and attention it deserves, then you should have it, else you should set it free. Having a loft full of aged animals [read - decrepit computer hardware] is maybe not good for you, or for them. Minimalism be damned; for posterity these cherished pieces still hold personal, sentimental value to the geeks who grew up with them. It is a love that cannot be emulated.

Albeit it can be emulated, some of the time. Getting a hold of the original joypad and via a USB adapter, most Windows and *nix systems support programs that allow nostalgic trips to the best old games, and classics missed first-time round.

A computer is required then, but how expensive does it need to be? Well, what are you going to use it for? Today’s cutting-edge games require today’s cutting-edge hardware (to be played as intended). Whereas games of five, ten, fifteen, twenty years ago don’t. Highly capable hardware will set you back £700 to £3,000 (you could probably get something pretty amazing on the price/performance curve somewhere in-between).

Older games and games consoles can be had for a fraction of the price at wondrous flea markets like eBay. The point I’m getting to is this: what do today’s cutting-edge games offer that games of yesteryear do not? Apart from the obvious improved graphics, sound and scope, the main difference I feel in today’s best games is the influence and refinement from past effort. They are informed by their forebears. Only in the best examples the gameplay has evolved and past foibles and poor decisions mitigated; by standing on the shoulders of giants.

However, the excellence of new games does not preclude the timelessness of any past treasures. There are lifetimes of sublime gaming experiences to be had from the body of games that have already been released. Like other forms of entertainment, you will never have the time to enjoy them all. To pick wisely, there is a world of enlightened people who have enjoyed certain games a great deal, and felt compelled to reach out and tell others. For this Retro Gamer magazine is an ideal source of nostalgic ambience to read as you comb eBay and the like for old computer games and systems.

There are plenty of standalone masterpieces, and the timeless ones will always be available to us in the future. I knew this when I ducked out of the PC arms race in 2006, just as MMORPGs like EVE: Online and World of Warcraft were coming to the fore. Social online games such as these are outwith the scope of this piece though. Here I am a proponent only of offline gems such as the life-changing Final Fantasy VII.

Moving forward with this logic, spending a modest amount on a gaming PC, a current generation console, and older consoles today would allow all the treasures of the recent era all the way back to the dawn of the computing age to be played. This logic further permits that around £500 every four years would allow you to have amazing gaming experiences now, equivalent to spending £2,000 every year or two to stay on the bleeding edge of technology.

Most modern games are multi-platform and though the graphics may not be as good on the Xbox 360 as they are on a Water-cooled GTX 51200 3570k blue-LED Horsey i9, the experience and gameplay may be not be diminished at all by the inferior graphics. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Happy gaming.

AuthorI.B. Simpson

The Elcor (an elephant-like monotone talking species from the videogame series Mass Effect) prefix all verbal communications with an implied emotional tone, or a pseudo-emotive statement. This, @cactopops (on pointed out, is an incredibly effective way of conveying tone in text-based communication (without simplifying to emoji I might add). Prefixing tweets and posts with an emotional perspective or statement hashtag would allow our tone to be more clearly encoded in our message.

There are further upsides to communicating this way. My favourite example is this. If you do not know what tone you are trying to encode, then what value does your message have? Do the words alone convey the tone (especially given the contraints of short-form writing)? As an excercise in emotional self-awareness, if you write the tone of your message first, that allows you to check yourself before you wreck yourself before you hit send or publish. Is emotion required? And will your message be positively or negatively charged?

Also, think of the trending and stats possibilities if there is a large uptake in communicating this way. Picture this…

  • #FishingForLuls (Moral Trolling)
  • #ProvokingForAngryReaction (Immoral Trolling)
  • #PointlessMiniPublicDiarising
  • #WithMuchAnger
  • #Thankfully
  • #Sincerely
  • #Cautiously
  • #Apologising
  • #Humbly

While researching this post (to see if this was an isolated phenomenon), I found another post, by Nick Sheridan: “Talk like an Elcor day: Walk with the aliens! Talk with the aliens! Grunt and squeak and squawk with the aliens!”, and many forums which have experimented with speaking like an Elcor.

In very short-form communication (think 140 – 265 characters) with strangers and accquaintances, what better way to communicate than like an Elcor?

(Please feel free to share yours in the comments section of this post.)

It’s getting to that time of year where many of us will be in a post-Christmas, post-gluttonous, dazed shellshock. Where we turn our greedy eye from the pickings of Christmas’ carcass for a brief, weary stare into the near-future. For this post I give a tip of the Santa hat to Koralatov who led me to the Hacker News post on 2013 Learning that inspired me to write this.

These resolutions I am about to make; how can I stop myself forsaking them? How can they be achieved? Let’s move forward with the mindset that these resolutions are all centred around learning and developing new skills.

Forming a resolution

When setting any learning objectives I would recommend putting them to the test:

  1. Why do you want to learn it? How will it benefit you, and what will you use your new skill for, e.g., to write a book, communicate with foreign friends, or type super-fast without having to backspace every few words to correct a spelling mistake.
  2. How long will it take to learn?
  3. When will you make the time to learn it?
  4. These (one, two, and three) can be consolidated into the following question: Are your learning objectives all SMART, i.e., specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound [or variations thereof]?

If your early learning objectives can’t be made to at least survive the above probing, I would suggest they be reworked or binned. The fact that every resolution you publicly announce will remain a fairly permanent testament to your future integrity invites a haunting guilt (or potentially valuable lesson) if you fail; and a prideful joy if you succeed.

My 2013 Resolutions

As an example, my 2013 personal resolutions are published below, and I invite you to do the same in the comments of this post, bookmark it and visit any time to share your progress/completion. I will be posting my updates and linking back to this post.

  1. For fun and to improve my computing skills: Learn how to use my Raspberry Pi effectively (learn linux), and put it to use at least once a month.
  2. To communicate with my in-laws better: Learn enough Farsi (Modern Persian) to have a conversation and understand the meaning of overheard conversation.
  3. To become a more effective typist: Learn to touch-type (for real) at least 70wpm with >95% accuracy by July 2013.
  4. Become a better cook: Write down, practice and commit to memory at least 20 recipes that can make-up a staple repetoir.
  5. To ultimately design and knit my own jumper: Learn the basics of knitting and knit at least five different items by June.
  6. To ultimately make my own stoneware: Learn and practice ceramics. Buy all equipment by June to begin after knitting and finishing Project Management degree.
 2013 Resolutions Gantt Chart (Milestone and Summary View)

2013 Resolutions Gantt Chart (Milestone and Summary View)

Actually, an iPad mini would fit quite well into my life.

Case Study: Bed, lying down. My iPhone 5 is a tad small and tall for Comixology (currently entombing Terry Moore’s Echo). Reading in bed —lying down— the iPad 2 is a bit unwieldy and the MacBook, while it is by no means a scorching hot, nor does it sound like a cheap and nasty leaf blower coughing up a reeking oily lung; it does get heavy. I would worry about dropping it on myself as I fall asleep, or worse; it sliding off my corporeal lassitude, over a teflonic cotton sea, and Baam! Onto the floor. Hurruck, churns a great few empathic readers’ stomachs.

It is hard to subscribe rigidly to only one philosophy when you read into ontology, epistemology, axiology and consider the different stances and branches you can grip. Stepping outside your comfort zone and the seemingly frictionless network of deeply carved, raw and tender pathways in your mind.

Instead, give these bleeding, searing trails a rest. Let healing take place from a remove. Enlarging the horizon of possible, allowable thoughts from new and alien perspectives is uncomfortable. You hate something because you cannot access it in your mind, and you cannot make the journey to reconcile this. You have no capacity to even release that there exists another way. Or do you? Screeching in.

Scar tissue forms when tender roots are spreading beyond a link to the past. Tender roots are fragile. Nurtured by a thirst for knowledge, an open-minded curiosity towards appraising many approaches, and the will to suffer the fresh pain of living in these roots as they die or thrive in the battle against the concrete that is our own stubborn preconceptions and limitations; breaking through a new plane to breed seeds of hope. Pollinating, only then, gnarled trees of hard-won experiences; together, not alone. Vulnerable still to diseases and abuses from proximal beings and poisonous feedings.

Now I think about it again. An iPhone is just dandy dander. Compressed like carbon in the fabrication of artificial diamonds. No, that’s not right. Dander with a latent film of smug yuppie pore excreta, smearing and swirling invisible, till the lights go down.

But in fact, I wrote and edited (thirty/seventy split) all this while lying in bed, tapping my thumbs onto a foil of glass, the busiest section four postage stamps wide, two tall, and promising to realise all dreams, with so much potential, until next year’s new model steals eyeballs and bile again.

I like Field Notes writing materials. This Chicago based company manufacture excellent pocket-size notepads (memo books). I have subscribed to their quarterly colors series for 2012, which promises unique, limited-edition variations of their classic 3½ × 5½ memo books.

And I certainly haven’t been disappointed in that regard. But what I saw when I opened my latest delivery got me unduly excited. What I thought was a larger notebook bundled with six green, brown, and white memo books; well, it was not a larger notebook.

It was a book, already filled with words inside. A book for reading; not for writing. A book to be consumed, not to be used for creation. Imagine the disappointment and confusion. Why?

Guess what; I didn’t ask Field Notes Brand to curate for me. I do not wish them to consider my taste in reading material. I have not given my permission or requested to be part of a machine marketing and promoting their new publishing arm.

What I am interested in, and definitely signed up for, is themed varations of their classic memo books. What I do expect is their craftsmanship and taste to go into making exquisitely American notepads.

Don’t send me books to read. For me, that is a waste of so much good paper, dispatched to an audience who did not expect and will likely not appreciate that you have pre-filled their notebooks with words, leaving no space for theirs. You are more than welcome to send an email about your new publishing arm, even a slip of paper with my latest package wouldn’t have gone amiss. But a whole book? Why?

Please Field Notes Brand, stick to sending your excellent memo books for me to scribble in, take notes with, and write in.

AuthorI.B. Simpson

This isn’t Stand By Me, and I don’t want to split-up a fight by dying of a wound from a stray knife. But I do want to talk about piracy and lean on a couple of pieces published by Matt Gemmell and Harry Marks.

Matt Gemmell wrote about how it’s better to develop for iOS because piracy isn’t an issue, as it is for Android. Harry Marks agreed, but picked up on a previous piece by Matt Gemmell advocating music and movie piracy.

After you filter through the emotional charge, cancel out any conflicting hypocritical statements, you can pare away the arguments presented in both pieces by Gemmell. They make an interesting and thought-provoking read.

Marks concluded from Gemmel’s posts:

Here’s what I’ve gathered:

  1. If you’re a software developer trying to make money, locking things down means you get paid and you don’t have to live out of dumpsters for the rest of your life.

  2. If you make movies, TV shows, or music, piracy is okay because we’re the ones getting dicked over by a locked-down system designed to put food on the tables of content creators.

That’s not what I gathered from Gemmel at all. But his aggressive writing doesn’t win him any favours and can easily lead to being misinterpreted. Write angry; read angry. Are all producers equal, or are some (software developers) more equal than others?

The key message, Gemmell did make:

We’ll buy stuff if it’s convenient to do so, and if the price is reasonable. Any sensible business would thus have as its goal “make our stuff convenient to buy, and price it reasonably”.

Piracy might be driven by horrible Digital Rights Management (DRM) for purchased (not rented) content; perceived high pricing; inconvenience of purchase & delivery process; and exclusive access, e.g., Game of Thrones cannot be bought by everyone. I assume —and please correct me if I am wrong— that you must live in America and have a TV subscription that includes HBO to access Game of Thrones.

I live in the UK and subscribe to Spotify, Netflix, and LoveFilm. These services let me listen to and view an unlimited amount (from limited catalogues) of music, TV series, and films. Good enough, cheap enough, and with plenty enough choice for me. Renting rather than owning. Existing in the cloud, where DRM is not a concern.

I wonder how much piracy has been mitigated by these services? I wonder how fair a deal content creators are getting, and if new business models are able to support great new music, TV, films and books.

I’ll save discussion of Abandonware (primarily old games that are no longer for sale and no longer supported by their original creators and copyright holders) for a future post.

Ultimately the way to mitigate piracy is:

  • make it reasonably priced
  • make it easy to buy and download
  • allow anyone to buy it (never turn down people who want to give you their money)

And bonus points for purchased content (not rented content):

  • allow people to download and keep it offline
  • no DRM

Since when did we benefit from wrapping our lives in anchors and chains? The effort required to start something new, really, is minuscule.

The determination and perserverance required to see it through to a hard-won success or failure is so much greater than the effort it takes to start something.

Is it the worrying about being able to commit that stops you from starting? Your perceived lack of competency, time or distractions? Excuses for others; guilt for yourself: a death spiral.

A recipe for success? Do it. Fail or succeed, learn, and move on.

“Daddy, what does regret mean?
Well son, the funny thing about regret is, it’s better to regret something you have done, than to regret something you haven’t done.” — Famous Band, name ending in Surfers

AuthorI.B. Simpson

Me [Referring to a recent picture post on]: You’re texturising Koralatov. I guess I like that.
Koralatov: Texturising?
Me: It’s artistic. Be thankful I didn’t spell it with a zed.
Koralatov: I would have wept.
Koralatov: I suppose all blogs should reflect their writer’s surroundings at least a little.
Me: They certainly shouldn’t be prepared in a vacuum. Maybe you were contexturalising [sic].
Koralatov: A blog isn’t written in a vacuum, but it can be easy to forget to contexturalise it with the little details of your surroundings.
Koralatov: Your next post: contexturalisation
Koralatov: You may have just coined a new term. I’ve never come across it before.
Me: Challenge accepted.

Writing can be charged with the writer’s personality. The phrasing. The words. It can be so recognisable, sometimes easily so. Also, take eloquence: there are a gifted few who can write prose with such beauty and conciseness that only a few sentences can extrude from abstract a world that is alive to all our senses, and bonded to our emotions; inviting us to compare what is read, with what we have known.

With context, we can better understand the source of the writer; their writings, state of mind, how they have developed; and are able to build a deeper appreciation from this place. Introducing texture via mixed media and unexpected or hitherto tangential [to published] subjects, the reader is also given additional perspective; able to perch on a higher vantage point. But for the texture added to be worthwhile, it must be applicable. It must contribute towards the contextual dimension of the writing. Riffing can work; regurgitating already-recycled goods does not.

Contexturalising, then, is not about adding junk to your stream. It is about applying layers of context and texture to affect the atmosphere, personality or mood. It can be applied to anything to enhance it, or to invalidate it.

AuthorI.B. Simpson

The Bene Gesserit Litany Against Fear from Dune, by Frank Herbert, via Dawn Ardent:

I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.

Fear is an internal force that acts against your best intentions. It cannot be killed, but it can be fought, on a daily basis. Fear wields arms such as procrastination, laziness and depression that will thrash wildly to stop you from doing what you know to be necessary, or what you truly love. Fear is out to get you; to dominate and suppress you; to break your commitments and promises.

But fear comes from within. So why is it part of us? A scum that cannot be skimmed or conquered. It is perhaps a necessary byproduct of our perception, critical thinking and decision making functions. Fear may be a basic and primal survival mechanism. Definitely, it has borne me through some difficult times (via a state of unthinking autopilot).

Surviving and living are very different. The former requires submission to fear and a miserable, hollow life. The latter requires a control of fear, and —I think— a curiosity and thirst for new experiences and challenges. Living is growing. Surviving is entropy and death.

When you feel the desperate, smothering blackness of fear all around you, recall the Bene Gesserit Litany Against Fear. Think it, say it, shout it, scream it out. Whatever it takes. Then do something about it.

AuthorI.B. Simpson