Thursday, May 28, 2015

Alrightreads: May

Anyone who's commissioned repetitive corporate work from me knows that I'm a firm believer in doing things properly and by the book, though preferably with the minimal amount of time and effort expended.

It's satisfying to tick off a book a day and get this self-imposed task over with quicker, but those picture books and Choose Your Own Adventures have to be balanced out. And however much I might enjoy all those undemanding pick-'n'-mix short story anthologies, when this is over, it's the (necessarily longer) stories I've spent more time immersed in that are going to be the most memorable, for better or worse.

So this month, I restricted myself to books of at least 480 pages. It was supposed to be 500 pages, but then I saw that the bird book I'd been looking forward to was a bit shorter than that (including full-page title pages, and admittedly quite a lot of said pages were taken up by pretty pictures). What are you going to do, mark me down?

Monday, May 4, 2015

A weird tale

I may have given up on the dream of writing creatively for a living as soon as I left university and entered the real world (not going back there again), but I can only consume so much of other people's works before I feel guilty and need to give something back, however paltry. Maybe I'll write a story a month? Not going to happen.

I wanted to call this 'Gob of Death,' but feared that might compromise the tone somewhat. Then I resorted to silliness anyway, never mind.

Octopus photo credit, before I forget: Alexander Semenov.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Alrightreads: April

I hadn't intended to read a book a day this month, but when it got to about half-way through and I realised things were averaging out that way, I thought I might as well commit.

Admittedly, I didn't exactly tackle any whopping Dickenses or David Ickes this month. I've bought myself the time for those now.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Alrightreads: March

Having only decided half-way through February that I was going to try to read (and tediously catalogue) 100 books in 2015, I was fortunate to have another largely empty month that I could fill with digital sheaves and jarring LibriVox accents.

Ending Q1 in the black with 27/100 books read (however that works out as a percentage) was more important than earning money or going outside. One day they'll make books portable, I have to dream.

Friday, March 27, 2015


Whether you read a lot of books, pore over a newspaper or magazine every day, or you just waste a lot of time reading websites of no nutritional value such as this one, there's no doubt you will have read more open brackets in your life (and other types of punctuation marks than closed ones, due to the illiteracy or forgetfulness of the authors or copy editors involved.

As long as spelling and grammar checks remain passive rather than enforced, this is a problem that doesn't seem to be going away (if anything, advances in technology have made it worse. But I can at least reduce the burden of your open bracket debt by presenting a selection of closed brackets for you to read through at your leisure.

I haven't done any research or got any kind of reliable estimate of the type of figures involved, but here's a round 500 in a neat enough square sort of shape that should at least go some way towards helping:


If you have the nagging feeling that that wasn't enough, feel free to read through it again as many times as needed until that feeling goes away.

Don't worry if you think you might have accidentally read it too many times and have now read more closed brackets in your life than open ones, as that just means you'll have a handy stockpile to be getting on with. The open brackets will sort themselves out.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Is it worth it?: Groceries in the Philippines

I don't live in the Philippines to save money. That would be totally ridiculous, considering there are many countries in the region where the cost of living is cheaper or at least roughly equal, and that don't require the same level of compromise to my quality of life.

No, I'm here because it's where my wife's family lives, and not everybody can be as cold and ruthless as me when it comes to severing ties and living in self-imposed exile. At least let me be good at something.

But I'm not here to bash on the Philippines again. I got most of that out of my system in my first two years here, especially now we're living in a place where I'm isolated from the worst aspects of the country most of the time. Instead, I thought I'd use my experience and unbiased maths to illuminate some of the reasons why this is a confusing and frustrating place to live, and to better understand why someone on the average monthly income of 10,000 pesos (less than $8 per day) might be having a bit of a hard time not dying in a gutter.

This time: largely imported groceries mostly at more expensive prices than in the developed world.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Alrightreads: January & February

Last year, my friend/rival Oliver wrote a blog post about his failed attempt to read 100 books in a year that inspired me to try the same before pathetically failing myself.

This year he wrote about his more successful failed attempt that inspired me to try again and do it properly this time.

Maybe when I try again next year they'll even be proper, adult books with hardly any drawings at all.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

A whole new level of self-indulgence

I've reached that stage in our life's journey when occasional Facebook searches to see what past acquaintances are up to have started to carry a reasonable risk of showing these people with babies in their arms.

So far, it's generally been the people I would have least expected or hoped to take on that sort of responsibility in their lives, but five years is a long time and people can change. Just because, when I knew him, he'd do things like leave a half-eaten chicken in a bag in the corner of his bedroom for a week or two, wonder why he could hear the sound of pattering rain on a clear day, eventually realise it was the sound of feasting maggots, take care of the problem with a vacuum cleaner, then wonder why his living room was hosting more flies than usual that summer, doesn't necessarily mean he shouldn't be trusted to look after a living, breathing human being.

Since I'm only marginally above that level of incompetence myself, I won't have any photos of mewling, puking offspring to share with you for a good while yet (if ever). But I do have some photos of myself as a young child, courtesy of my Mum who scanned and emailed them for my wife to have a laugh at. And you thought this blog couldn't possibly get more onanistic - don't underestimate me again!

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Davao: (My) life is here, so best get on with it

Travelling (some of) the world has taught me nothing. When I lived in Scotland for three years I lamented that I rarely bothered to see the country that was a damn sight more scenic than practically anywhere I've been since, and since I plonked myself in Davao City about two years ago I've similarly failed to do much in the way of sightseeing. I seem to mentally separate places I'm visiting from places I'm just living in, so don't need to bother.

But there have been certain weekends when I've been free from work obligations and felt the need to escape the flat, and have sought out some of what this place has to offer. There's really not much. Obviously there's plenty of surface area, and I see a lot of nice green from these vantage points, but as far as categorising and monetising this natural beauty with convenient package tours goes, this place is lagging behind its Southeast Asian neighbours. Then again, if I am going to be living here long term, I shouldn't use it up too fast.

After the last day out I finally have just about enough pictures to justify a blog post, so here are assorted Davao-based activities enjoyed over the last two years of my life. See me mildly age before your eyes like I'm in some kind of superficially intriguing Hollywood coming-of-age film.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Work in total lack of progress

I have tried to limit my thieving women reparations updates to the times I actually have news, and that hasn't been difficult when absolutely nothing is happening.

This weekend's efforts to get a word out of my Thai debtor (300,000 baht, about £6,500 at the time) felt like they were getting somewhere at the start. Dangerously free from work and willing to journey into that black hole again, I tracked down her new Facebook account and got a load of new contacts from her new job and new life to add to the old pile from the last time I was mad enough to do this. But by the end I was left back exactly where I was 18 months ago: blocked without a word of apology or explanation, despairing at the world and with no one to turn to but a small army of sympathetic souls in her sphere of influence who can at least type in passable English.

I'll try not to bother these innocent people too much, but they're the only resources I have. I'm not going to pay a demanding law firm or debt collector more than a third of the total owed, in a country where I get the feeling the justice system is less reliable and impartial than Korea's. Some people have blocked me already, I'm delighted to see - this is what they should all be doing, as well as reporting my borderline identity theft account to Facebook for good measure. This is insane behaviour. But I'm a man with a selfish mission and my quest for fair reparations won't be swayed by emotions like guilt, until I try to sleep at night and accidentally think about what I've done.

Do you think she's similarly troubled about what she's done? Don't be silly! She probably won't delete the account and run away from her old life this time, so you can pester her here if you want to be instantly blocked too, or just to advise her how to use privacy settings and not reveal everything about her life to people she might not want knowing these things. I would love to let her get on with her life and forget that aberration in my life ever happened, but forgetting about it isn't an option. This will relentlessly continue until I start to receive a trickle of the money back that paid off her family's urgent mortgage debts and children's appendectomies when they needed them (unless none of that was true), or until hired goons show up at my door to block me once and for all.

It's all been a bit morbidly depressing, so I was grateful to be lifted out of the darkness when I was shown a drawing my three-year-old niece had done featuring Tito Dave, Tita Jackie and herself. She hasn't even seen me for months, but I'm apparently still in her thoughts. That was nice. I think I've worked out which one is me.

Art by Eshen