On green cards, chocolate and a small flashing light

That very short list just about covers the things I’m living for at the moment.

The stacks of carefully written green and blue cards prove I’m revising, the chocolate provides motivation to carry on writing, and the small flashing light makes me smile as it blinks to tell me someone’s written to me.

On why I think life is more like a pinball machine than a roller coaster

Choice.
Decisions. 
Ability to choose. 
At least some things. 
Sometimes.

***

As much as I hate to admit it, I quite like Ronan Keating’s “Life is a roller coaster” song. I don’t agree with him though. I think it’s more like a pinball machine.

***

Until a couple of weeks ago, I’d only ever played pinball on the computer, or on a board so old it actually had pins (=nails) in.

Then I went to a national pinball convention. I lost track of how many different machines I played on/with, but it was “many”.

I even had a go at the “classic” tournament. Classic because it features older machines. I wasn’t very good, but I also wasn’t the very worst (by quite a long way), so I was chuffed, considering that it was my very tournament on my very first day of practise.

Anyway.

On a roller coaster, you get into your seat at the beginning and “just have to ride it” until you get off at the other end. You have absolutely no control over what happens in between. Okay, you can control some of your reaction. You can probably choose to scream or throw your hands in the air or close your eyes….or not. You probably can’t choose whether or not to throw up afterwards. You certainly can’t choose the direction or when to stop or change speed.

Pinball is different.

Granted, there is a lot of chance involved, (pinball machines were even banned in the past because they were considered purely based on luck), and there are things you can’t control, like what the bumpers do when you hit them, what lights up when you go past, what the noises sound like, how many points you get for various sequences.

On the other hand, because you control the flippers, there’s also a lot of input potential. You have to choose to do something with that potential, and it helps to have the skill to achieve the desired effect (like getting the ball to go up the ramp or into one of the holes), but it’s there. If you don’t do anything, the ball does its thing briefly, then falls through the gap between the flippers and you die.
If you do manage to catch/hit the ball, you prolong that life. That gives you the next chance and the next and the next.

Sometimes, reaching a certain number of points, or activating certain areas creates something like a safety net. Even if you would normally die, you don’t, you get a new ball instead and can carry on playing. Even if you don’t achieve those bonus lives, you still have 2 further chances, or 4 depending on the machine. You can aim for things, learn what happens if you hit and if you miss. Sometimes you aim for the ramp and land in a hole. Sometimes landing in the hole is bad, sometimes it takes you to a different level where you unlock new possibilities. Sometimes you can die on that level, sometimes it catapults you back onto the first level with new energy and extra points, lives or abilities. Sometimes, regardless of skill and determination, the ball will suddenly take up nosediving and head down between the flippers without any warning, and with no chance to stop it.

Occasionally you get into a ‘Dauerschleife’, a routine of going round and round and round the same route: Flipper, bumper, bumper, light, flipper, bumper, bumper, light. To get out, you have to change something. Anything. Different angle, different strength, different timing. Sometimes that’s risky, sometimes it just feels risky. Sometimes the new ‘route’ is chaotic, sometimes it leads to a new Dauerschleife, sometimes it’s not exactly chaotic, but is continuously changing. That’s the most common. Change.

Occasionally, doing the same thing twice results in different outcomes, depending on what you did previously.

Occasionally you get bonus balls to be played at the same time, each whizzing round the board on its own mission, forcing you to split your concentration or risk losing both.

Talking of missions, some boards have a story line, a list of things to do, or collect, or hit. Some are less structured, preferring to offer differing musical notes, like a bell tower, or multiple colours – a kaleidoscope* of rainbow lights.

If you watch other people playing, you see an array of different styles and attitudes. Some tighten their muscles, stand gripping the edges of the machine, hoping somehow they can influence the course of the ball, or the reaction of the bumpers, with their tension. Others are relaxed, hardly concentrating, at least not noticeably. Some players laugh with the players next to them, some ignore everything around them. Some try to rock the machine, nudging it just enough to minimally change the angles of the board, the bumpers, the rebound, and steer the ball where they want it to go. Ohers go crazy, yelling and screaming and whooping and jumping…or kicking the machine.

In the end, no matter how you play, every ball ends up back in the box. Some live short intensive lives, some live long boring lives. The rest lead their lives somewhere in between. 

Every player dies eventually. Some just live longer, or more happily, or more excitingly than others.

***

I figure life is more like a pinball machine than a roller coaster. What do you think? What would you compare life to instead?

*collide-oscope?

On mournings

Sometimes the world is so grey and bleugh, that I don’t care about going to work. 

Sometimes it looks like this:


​and I’d rather find somewhere to sit and bask in the sunshine…

On planting my lunch

A seed fell out of my lunch yesterday:

It had already started growing, so I planted it. (People without access to compost and plant pots in their lunch break are obviously missing out 😉 *)

Even if I don’t really have room for an apple tree in my garden, I figured it should have a chance to do its thing. And there are always other people with bigger gardens if it ever gets too big for a tub.

Then I opened the other seed cavities and found two more ready-germinated seeds, so I planted them too.

In a couple of years I’ll need a volunteer who’s willing to host my orchard :).
* I only do as of yesterday morning – my tomato plants were shooting up without enough light to make them strong. The office at work faces mostly south, which is often a pain, but is probably good for the tomatoes…

On rounding off a day

The very best way to round off a day which involved learning, aged 30, that not only does potato soup go mouldy over the course of 18 hours, but also that you’re apparently incapable of closing the curtains correctly, has to include tipping 4 litres of said mouldy soup into the toilet and momentarily blocking it.

(As learned on Saturday)

On manflu and my inability to concentrate (although they’re probably not at all connected)

Hello people,

I’m still alive, but I might not write for a while. Not that I’ve written in ages anyway.

I can’t concentrate on anything long enough to write a post that makes sense. My mind jumps continuously from project to project to project: the garden, my work, school, the house, the committee I’m on, the committee I’m almost on, revsion, the company I almost no longer work for, the dog, the aquariums, the plans for the new pond, the plans for a porch, catching trains, eating, cleaning up, tidying up, going out, (not) going swimming, getting home in the dark, spring, bulbs which need planting yesterday, garden, …

On top of, or maybe next to, all those thoughts, I have manflu*, for the second time this year. The first time, I was off work for almost a month. This time I’m working through it, at least so far, which I suppose makes it less manflu-y, and more normal cold. Much as I would love to hide under the duvet, I can hardly phone in sick again! I’ve only been back at work for, what, 5 weeks? 6 weeks? Especially when a colleague is already off work with his own manflu. Maybe someone will send me home if I cough at them long enough.

I’ll leave you with a picture of spring:

* legitimately, if my latest hormone test is anything to go by. I figure if I have to have crazily high levels of testosterone, I might as well be entitled to manflu instead of normal colds…

On stepping stones

Stepping stones.

Millions of stepping stones.

And even more millions of litres of river.

Some of the stones aren’t really stones at all. Some are slippery. Some are tiny, some are close together but most aren’t. The ones that are, generally don’t lead across the river, just along the middle.

It might be deep, it might not be, it’s too frothy to tell.
(Wrote this last week. I’m pretty sure I wasn’t finished, but I’m not sure where I wanted to go with it, so I’m posting it as is.)