New Year’s resolutions 2017: Part 2

I’ve decided to add another New Year’s resolution to the previous set. It’s simply to watch all of the films on the list below. The intention is to knock a number of “must see” films off my own “haven’t seen” list. The films are a mixture of all-time classics that I’ve somehow missed, cult films I’ve been wanting to watch for ages, and unwatched DVDs I have sitting on my shelf.

The original idea was to list 12 films, so that it would be easy to monitor progress: if I watch one a month, I’m on track. But since it’s 2017 and everything’s topsy-turvy, I’ve added a special choice for number 13.

  1. The Third Man
  2. Gone with the Wind
  3. Doctor Zhivago
  4. Where Eagles Dare
  5. North by Northwest
  6. A View to a Kill
  7. Gandahar
  8. Fucking Åmål / Show Me Love
  9. Grave of the Fireflies
  10. Once Upon a Time in America
  11. Mother India
  12. Suspiria
  13. The Manchurian Candidate

New Year’s resolutions 2017

Here are my resolutions for 2017:

1. Complete The Lords of Midnight.

God damn it, I’m going to do this.

2. Use DuckDuckGo at all times.

I’ve already switched from using Google search to DuckDuckGo, the privacy-oriented search engine which doesn’t track your searches. But DuckDuckGo is still developing, and its search results often aren’t as good, so I find myself drifting back to Google.

Everything is a trade-off. If I value privacy, if I don’t want to be monitored, tracked and analysed, then I have to put in the extra effort – which isn’t even very much – to spend more time looking through search results to find what I want.

And perhaps the serendipity of scrolling through more results, and finding things I wasn’t looking for or didn’t expect, will be a reward in itself.

3. Switch to a non-free private email provider.

If I’m avoiding Google for search, why the hell am I still letting them handle – and thereby read, monitor and analyse – all of my most private communications?

2017 is the year in which I put a value on my own privacy, by switching to a non-free email provider. One which, because I’m the paying customer, doesn’t treat me as the product.

4. Switch to safety razors, shaving soap and brush.

This continues the theme of switching to a superior tool despite the initial effort/cost hurdle. I’m going to abandon the ongoing scam of expensive disposable razors with ever more numerous blades, and switch to traditional safety razors. Out too goes the foam in a can, to be replaced by shaving cream, applied with a badger-hair brush.

5. Switch to a better solution than takeaway coffee cups.

Maybe I’ll buy a reusable cup. I’m not committing to the detail of the solution yet.

New Year’s resolutions 2016: end of year review

Time for my annual review of how well I did with the last year’s resolutions.

1. Complete The Lords of Midnight.

Status: failed.

Carried over from 2015, and I still didn’t manage it. I did have a go one Sunday, but Doomdark remains undefeated.

2.  Play the board games I already own until their purchases become cost-effective.

Status: good progress made.

I set myself the ambitious target of getting all games down to less than £5/play, and I didn’t manage that. But I did make significant headway, reducing the number of uneconomical games (over £5/play) from 24 to 19, and the number of super-uneconomical games (over £10/play) from 11 to 3. Of the 19, about 10 are only just over the target, and will be easy to convert.

More importantly, the resolution helped me to resist the temptation to buy new games, to put more effort into arranging gaming sessions, and to focus on playing the less-played games more. It meant that I finally got around to playing Tammany Hall, a game I’d had for over a year, and hadn’t played because I’d assumed it was too heavy for most of my casual-gaming friends. It turned out to be much simpler, rules-wise, than I’d thought, although tactically still very rewarding, and became one of my favourite games of the year.

In 2017, I’ll continue to chip away at those stats. I may even allow myself the luxury of buying some new games, but the cost/play tracking, which is now an established routine, will ensure that board game purchases are kept under control.

3. Never pay the included service charge on a restaurant bill; always leave the tip, if appropriate, in cash.

Status: mostly passed.

Almost as soon as I started doing this, I realised that the sort of big chain restaurants which tend to abuse the system aren’t the sort of restaurants we ever go to anyway. It turns out, being snobby middle-class metropolitan liberal elites, we only go to independent, family-run type places (the area of north London we lived in was particularly abundant with them), where there wasn’t any tip chicanery to fight against. But I insisted on cash tips anyway, because I feel there isn’t enough awkwardness in my personal interactions already.

4. Make more eye contact.

Status: unknown.

I’ve certainly been more aware of when I have and haven’t been making eye contact, but whether that means I’ve managed to alter the balance towards making it, I can’t tell.

Amazon’s tentacles are spreading

Two years ago, I made a resolution to boycott Amazon.

Yesterday, I received two parcels from Amazon. But as far as I knew, I hadn’t broken my resolution. I hadn’t ordered anything from Amazon.

What I had ordered was two items from Ebay, from two separate sellers. But both items arrived packaged in Amazon-style cardboard boxes, sealed with Amazon Prime tape and addressed with Amazon postage stickers.

So what’s happened? Are both the sellers actually Amazon in disguise? Is Amazon’s new strategy to set up front operations on Ebay to sell to boycotters like me?

Or is it something less conspiratorial? Large Ebay sellers running their operations through Amazon Web Services? Or is is a feasible business model just to pay for Amazon Prime and trade as a middleman, sending deliveries directly to your Ebay customers?

I contacted both sellers and asked. Apparently, Amazon’s nationwide warehouse operations are so extensive, they have huge unused capacity which they rent out to other businesses. Both of the Ebay sellers were running sizeable businesses on top of the Amazon platform, using it as a managed service providing storage, packaging and distribution for their products.

Through its warehouse network and AWS, Amazon is turning itself into a foundational component of our economic infrastructure.

Boycotting it is becoming harder.

I am undeterred.

New Year’s resolutions 2016

Here are my resolutions for 2016:

1. Complete The Lords of Midnight.

Carried over from 2015. The ZX Spectrum is in fully working order, so it’s time for Doomdark to meet his fate.

2.  Play the board games I already own until their purchases become cost-effective.

I’m a board game geek. After a few years of collecting games, I’ve ended up with more than I’ve had time to play properly. My aim in 2016 is to rectify that by focusing more on playing the ones I already own.

I’m going to be systematic about it. I’ve created a spreadsheet of the games I own, and a log to track the times I play them. Using this to calculate a cost-per-play (purchase price / number of plays) for each game, my aim is to get all my currently-owned games down to £5/play or less by the end of the year.

3. Never pay the included service charge on a restaurant bill; always leave the tip, if appropriate, in cash.

It’s become apparent over the last year that restaurants, especially the big chains, are grossly exploitative of their staff, and the service charges they add to bills are one example. In many cases, it’s been restaurant policy to keep all or some of the charge, and distribute little or none of it to the actual serving staff. Even when they do give most back to the staff, there’ll usually be an admin fee deducted if it’s been paid by card. So rather than take the lazy option of just paying the charge on the bill and thinking, “well, that’s the tip covered”, I’m always going to ask for it to be taken off, and then leave a suitable tip in cash instead.

4. Make more eye contact.

I’ve realised that I’m pretty bad at making eye contact while talking to people. I’m fine when they’re talking, but as soon as I start talking, I almost always look away. It’s difficult to concentrate on both things at once – thinking about what I’m saying, and watching the other person’s face – so I unconsciously reduce the complication by looking away. But I guess it could be interpreted as rude or cold. So I’m going to make a definite effort to do better.

New Year’s resolutions 2015: end of year review

Let’s review how I did on my 2015 New Year’s resolutions.

1. Read and see six Shakespeare plays.

Status: nearly passed.

I did five:

Although I failed to reach the official target of six, I’m still pleased with the result. All the plays were immensely enjoyable to read, and the performances I saw were terrific. Combined with the six plays from 2014, my higher-level goal of rapidly improving my Shakespeare knowledge has been achieved.

I’m not going to repeat this as a formal resolution for 2016, but I will keep an eye out for productions of other plays I haven’t read yet, and try to bag a couple more at least.

2. Repair my ZX Spectrum and complete The Lords of Midnight.

Status: partly passed.

I successfully repaired the ZX Spectrum, with the help of a new keyboard membrane and instructions from Dataserve Retro, and a SPECTRA interface (a custom-built electronic circuit which converts the Speccy’s output to SCART) from the ZX Spectrum Resource Centre.

I haven’t yet fired up Lords of Midnight, but the second half of this resolution will carry over to 2016.

3. Crawl through the ventilation shafts of a large building.

Status: failed.

A total disappointment, this one. I wasn’t even close: I didn’t identify any suitable ventilation shafts or get intelligence on any promising buildings. To be honest, I didn’t put much effort in at all.

New Year’s resolutions 2015

Here are my resolutions for 2015:

1. Read and see six Shakespeare plays.

I’m going to repeat my successful 2014 resolution and see six more. Again, the focus will be on comedies. Shakespeare’s Globe, which I love, is doing Measure for Measure and As You Like It. The Lion and Unicorn is doing The Taming of the Shrew. I’d still like to see an RSC production in Stratford, but their summer 2015 programme is no good to me. Others I’m interested in include: All’s Well That Ends Well, The Merry Wives of Windsor, Love’s Labour’s Lost, The Two Gentlemen of Verona and The Two Noble Kinsmen.

2. Repair my ZX Spectrum and complete The Lords of Midnight.

Having failed to do this in 2014, I’m having another go.

3. Crawl through the ventilation shafts of a large building.

This has been one of my life’s ambitions for many years. In 2015 I’m going to make a definite effort to achieve it.

New Year’s resolutions 2014: end of year review

Let’s review how I did on my 2014 New Year’s resolutions.

Continue reading

New Year’s resolutions 2014: mid-period review

I announced four New Year’s resolutions for 2014 on this blog at the start of the year. Now we’ve reached the halfway point of the year, I thought I’d review how they’re going.

Continue reading

New Year’s resolutions 2014

I didn’t really have any resolutions for 2013, because I was going to be making enough big changes in my life as it was – leaving the Army, travelling to India. I’m making several for 2014 though, and this is what they are:

1. Read and see six Shakespeare plays.

I’m OK with all the big names, like Hamlet, Macbeth and Romeo and Juliet, but beyond that my knowledge of Shakespeare is woeful. I need an intensive familiarisation programme, so I’ve decided to challenge myself to learn six more plays in a year, by both reading them, then seeing them performed.

Continue reading