Shortly after setting off for my parents’ house at Christmas I absentmindedly took a wrong turn and had to wind through a few unfamiliar London streets to get back onto my usual route.
If you live in London you probably already know where this is going.
This week I got a letter from the car rental company saying I’d strayed momentarily into the Congestion Charge zone and owed them the £80 they’d been fined plus another £40 for the inconvenience.
I think the Congestion Charge is good and I’d gladly have paid £15 to enter the busy part of London, but I was flustered enough at the time to not realise I’d crossed into the charging zone so I had no idea I needed to. Unfortunately Transport for London have no incentive to proactively tell people to pay the charge when they can just as easily wait and fine them instead.
So I’m annoyed at myself and TfL in roughly equal measure. I’ll treat this as an expensive lesson to be more careful next time.
I got a mouse man round as a result of a couple of undocumented yet harrowing incidents involving mice in my kitchen. The mouse man scrabbled around on the kitchen floor for hours, moving appliances and taking photos and poking wire wool & expanding foam into every perceptible crevice with his special bent piece of copper pipe.
He charged me a lot of money for this service but it was a lengthy and unpleasant job so I was happy to pay in exchange for no more mice. I should’ve done it three years ago really.
Thank you mouse man. I hope the mice don’t come back.
All told, I’ve unexpectedly spent a lot of money on cars and mice.
In addition to the war on mice I’m waging a war on beeps. The appliances in my kitchen beep to indicate they’ve finished their job, which is fine, but most of them continue beeping long beyond the point where it’s helpful, which is not fine. I’d accepted this as an inevitable horror of modern life but realised this week in a flash of insight that I could probably, as with the mice, do something about it.
Sure enough, a bit of squinting at stickers and googling model numbers led me to several sections of manuals which explained how to either shorten or entirely deactivate the “acoustic signals”, as they invariably called them. So now I can wash clothes or microwave food without being inundated with beeps, which feels like a pathetic yet legitimate triumph of human over machine.
My mobile phone network emailed to say they’re finally kicking me off my ancient grandfathered monthly plan and moving me onto something pricier and worse.
By forcing me to actually think about it for more than two seconds, this made me realise I’ve been paying for a service I no longer need: it’s unusual for my phone to be away from home wifi for more than a few minutes, so unlimited data is complete overkill, and it’s been years since I got any use out of the free international roaming (imagine!) that attracted me to this plan in the first place.
So thanks for the reminder, Three, that I don’t need your bad reception and unusable web site any more. I ordered a free SIM from giffgaff, it arrived the next day, and I signed up for their cheapest plan, which is still likely to give me more data than I need right now.
This probably means I’ll need to be more organised about ordering a foreign SIM in advance next time I travel, but that feels like a very distant concern.
The reception and web site are much better.
There always has to be an annoyance, of course, so the annoyance this time was that I couldn’t reactivate iMessage with my phone number after it transferred over. I think this must be a common problem because the forums are full of exasperated people who always receive the same useless scorched-earth advice and never come back to report any success. Apple’s error message is characteristically unhelpful (“Activation unsuccessful”) so there’s no way to understand the cause of the problem or make informed progress on solving it.
(This is exactly the sort of baseless superstition that inscrutable technology foments in our minds, but it’s possible the situation was “my fault” because I eagerly put the new SIM into my phone when I got the email saying my number was being ported over, rather than waiting until the old SIM completely stopped working. But in what world is that something you’re supposed to know or worry about? I reject the blame.)
I’d started to get a sinking feeling when it still wasn’t working after a couple of days of trying even the stupidest ideas I could find online, but yesterday I turned off iMessage entirely in a fit of despair and when I re-enabled it 24 hours later my number suddenly activated and everything was back to normal. What caused this problem? What, dear internet stranger who arrived here from a desperate Google search, actually fixed it? I and you and we will never know.
I’m still enjoying working through the back catalogue of GAS puzzles, especially now that Nat’s started joining in with them sometimes. They’re a gentle, methodical and crucially finite way to unwind at the end of the day, and it always feels satisfying to complete one regardless of how unimpressive my speed is.
I’m gradually learning more about the different types of constraint — how many ways are there to make 21 in three cells?, etc — and that’s helping me to be a bit more insightful in my solutions rather than brute-forcing everything from scratch, which in turn adds to the satisfaction of solving.
I didn’t play Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order when it came out in 2019 because I’m not particularly interested in Star Wars games, but I picked it up this week because the PS5 version had a big discount in Sony’s January sale and I remember it being well-reviewed at the time.
So far it’s like a game made by someone who’s seen Uncharted but never played it: the controls are wonky, the graphics are glitchy, the dialogue’s clunky, and overall it just doesn’t feel like a high-quality product. It’s fun hitting stormtroopers with a lightsaber but I don’t think it’s going to hold my attention for much longer unless something else happens to make up for the lack of fit and finish. So probably another bust, but at least this one was cheap.
I sort of miss streaming games. Lately I haven’t been playing anything interesting enough to stream, but Horizon Forbidden West is out in a few weeks so maybe I’ll stream that.
We watched Eternals on Disney+. It isn’t good. I found it hard to give it my full attention because I was always being distracted: by their bizarre cartoon version of Camden like something out of Watch Dogs: Legion, or the car crash of (sometimes unconvincing) accents, or the actors and character names from Game of Thrones, or the unnecessary references to DC properties, or the unknowable stakes which make it unclear who is able to die in any given situation.
It’s a shame because it’s visually impressive and well-made in some respects, but it’s just too long and boring and ultimately not well-written enough to hold the whole mess together. It’s an interesting contrast with Shang-Chi because that film is less ambitious and epic but manages to be way more engaging on the basis of its writing and performances. Plus it has, you know, likeable people in it, and action sequences that deliver something other than generic previs mayhem.
We went for coffee and lunch at Look mum no hands! today, which was different and nice. It felt good to be out in the world.