Saturday, June 16, 2007

That's what I go to school for...

Why does it seem that every time I write something on my blog, I always begin with an apology for the delay in between postings? It's fairly warranted this time though - it's pushing two months since I last logged in and posted up a few random bits and bobs. Still, I shouldn't be sorry - after all, this is me we're talking about, and I am really slack sometimes...

So. What has been happening in the wonderful world of idlemichael? Well, as always, my course is a dominant factor in my life - however, the good news is that it's drawing to a close. Come July 13th this year, I will officially be a Newly Qualified Teacher, with a certificate and everything. There's a graduation ceremony to attend, which will be... interesting. Despite going to university, I never went to the event there - I was in quite a pissed off place, my family was in the process of imploding, and I spent graduation day in the pub from 10am. My classmates found me sleeping under the pool table at around 2pm after they'd finished - I of course was a little drunk already, and decided that a nap was in order, and the landlord was so used to having me and my friends there that he let me be. I don't think the same will occur this time - after all, I am older and wiser this time. Apparently. There will be a going out session though, and Kate - my GTP colleague - has insisted that we will be drunker than ever before. I'm looking forward to it!

I finished my final Teaching Practice last week. Six weeks of having your every move scrutinised, every lesson plan graded, and everything you do questioned. Believe me - it's really annoying. "Why did you do this?" "What effect did that have?" "What were you trying to achieve?" GAAAAAAAAAH I DUNNO, I JUST WANT TO TEEEEEACH! Mercifully I didn't have a freakout of that nature with anyone, and the whole six weeks went well. No failed observations, and many good write ups from students and teachers alike. On top of that, somehow I managed to swing a job for the new school year as well... and it's in the school I'm training in, which means there'll be no horrible transition phase, no having to learn the ways of a new place (and all the children's names!) and - best of all - no vast array of new and disgusting illnesses. Brilliant.

Of course, life isn't all school (though reading this blog would probably convince you otherwise). Other exciting things have happened, including me having a reasonably nasty smash on my bike. Nothing major, just a bit of cosmetic damage on the front of The Pig and a rather impressive selection of bruises pretty much all over my body. In fact, I still have a few scars on my leg from where I scraped it along the road, and we're talking a good three weeks ago now. However, I believe that chicks dig scars, so it's alright ;)

The mighty Joypod has finished it's first series - I am seriously impressed that me and elmo managed to put a solid ten episodes together, to be honest. It's been very well recieved, and I'd like to thank anyone reading who listened. I had a lot of fun making it, and am looking forward to recording our second series. There are plans afoot to make the next one in front of a studio audience (!) - or in other words there'll be drunkeness in a pub somewhere in London as the pair of us mess about with microphones (so, the usual then). Looks like we'll be going for a more monthly recording plan instead of the fortnightly format of Series One - hopefully the listeners will be able to hold their anticipation.

I was going to write a bit about Perplex City and it's recent postponement, but figured I want to think about it a little more. I promise (if only to myself) I'll get my thoughts down on paper - or at least the interwebs - I just want to form them fully first. And with that, I'll bid you goodnight, for I am tired. Saturdays can take it out of a person...

Friday, April 20, 2007

Well, if you wanted honesty...

Good lord. Been ages since I posted anything. Not for the want of stuff to report and/or mouth off about, but sheer weight of work and time constraints led to a fair old bout of procrastination. Despite the fact that between my last post and now I have actually have two weeks off for the Easter Holidays, there hasn't been much in the way of free time in my world...

The Big Push has begun in earnest for my Final Teaching Practice, which begins properly on Monday. This is basically six weeks of me being Mr Fox 24 hours a day - I run the class, teaching how I want, setting the classroom as I like it, putting up whatever displays I choose... all that kind of stuff. It has taken an awful lot of preparation, but I finally think that I'm ready to go - instead of the minor fear that I'd normally expect to be feeling at this point, there's confidence. It's going to be a lot of work, but I am looking forward to it. Hopefully if there's a free second in the next 42 days, I'll get the chance to offload about it - but don't hold your breath.

As well as planning everything at school to within an inch of it's life, I did manage to do a couple of other things since I last posted. I finally managed to organise my Theory Test for my bike, and - shockingly - passed it first time! The questions were no worries, but the Hazard Perception Test was so poorly explained, I was actually a bit wary of it. For those who don't know, it's a touch-screen program where you have to spot developing problems on the road... Unfortunately, you don't know what hazards they're looking for, and if you press the screen too many times, you fail the question. Anyway, somehow I managed to get through it, and the next step is taking the actual driving test - booking it tomorrow, so hopefully I can burn the L plates soon. Who'd have thought that I'd be a biker?!

The new series of Doctor Who is living up to expectations and more. Martha the new companion is very good indeed, although I will always have a soft spot for Rose (and a huge crush on Billie Piper, of course). Sadly, having spoken to someone involved in the show I kind of know what happens in the series-encompassing story arc. Suffice to say, Mr Saxon is a very bad man... and it's going to be great. Plus - Daleks tomorrow! Woooooo!

There's also the small matter of me and the boy Elmo's podcast, which continues to roll on. We finally settled on a name too, kind of suggested by one of out hardcore band of listeners - "Joypod"! We're currently on Show 7, which you can download by right-clicking and Save Target-ing HERE if that's what you wish. So far we've been upstaged by a bee, managed to sell off Elmo as a gigolo, played some bloody good music, and (somehow) managed to talk a fair bit about games. Oh, I also managed to beat him at Wii Golf too, so yay for me. We still manage to squeeze out an episode every couple of weeks or so - you can subscribe on iTunes too, just tap "rllmuk" into the podcasts bit and you'll find us...

There's also been the odd bit of boardgaming (the new one from Days Of Wonder called Colosseum is aces, and I finally got round to having a session of Power Grid - I can see why it's well liked, but I found it a bit dry). I'm also planning on heading up to Birmingham in June for the UK Games Expo - need to save a bit of money to buy new stuff! - as a treat for completing my FTP. Just got to get through it first!

Ooh! Just remembered! Me and my boy Stan have been asked to reunite for another of our legendary DJ performances for a friend's wedding! Not til November, but I'm really quite excited already. We played together for years when I lived in Manchester and ran some pretty aces club nights - included the hallowed Loaded at Planet K and The Roadhouse - but now I live away, we don't see each other as much as I like, let alone dick about playing records. However, in a mere seven months (hah!) we shall rise again like a phoenix, get drunk and fall over while bellowing along to awful pop tunes. Fabulous, no?

Finally, the brain is... alright. Seems to be holding together, which is better than before. I get up in the morning with little or no problem now (again, an improvement on before!) but the meds I am on (a lot stronger than anything I've been prescribed before) seem to have two slightly meh effects: first, I now can only hit 5 or 6 hours sleep maximum a night, which necessitates a nap when I get in from work. Second, the appetite is shot; I can barely look at food most of the time, never mind inspire myself to go and rustle up a meal - which for someone who really enjoys cooking is a bit of a pain in the arse. I've spoken to my doctor about it, and they reckon though the food thing will subside eventually, the sleep (or lack of it) is pretty much here to stay. Bah say I - though I must secretly admit to rather enjoying the afternoon sleeps. It feels very decadent to me...

Monday, March 26, 2007

When love is gone, there's always justice

A while since the last post, since (as usual) life took over, things went ever-so-slightly to pot, and I went a leetle beet mental. Well, not mental, but a few things happened that made me feel rather uncomfortable with myself. Aside from going to school, I barely left the house, and would do little more than sleep when at home (still finding it hard to drag my bleary self out of bed in the mornings, but I put that down to laziness). However, the medication has kicked in properly now, and I actually feel quite stable and - dare I say it - chilled out.

School is going well, as I'm gearing up for the forthcoming Final Teaching Practice. This is basically 6 weeks of mayhem, where I am *officially* the class' teacher, doing 90% of the lessons from day one, while Jenny (the proper teacher, as it were) does the odd observation of my work and drinks a lot of tea. I need to keep my grades above an Ofsted Level 3 ("satisfactory") though I obviously aim for 1s - "Outstanding". It's going to be very hard work, but (and maybe it's the drukqs talking) I'm feeling confident in my abilities. It's just the paperwork that's spectacularly annoying. Still, that's what Easter holidays are for - in a mere four days, it's a secksy Two Whole Weeks Off. Can't wait.
I have recently been scaring the hell out of children at school by playing them "O Superman" by Laurie Anderson. If you've never heard it, you're missing out on the most avant-garde thing ever to nearly top the charts here in the UK (it got to #2 in 1981). Based on an aria from an 1885 opera by Jules Massenet called "Le Cid" - both are quite wonderful things. Anderson's version is essentially a spoken word cover - all vocoders, repetetive beats and curious imagery. Being a performance artist, the video is very odd, but strangely compelling. Song of the week, even though it's 26 years old.
I had my first proper hangover of the year last Saturday! There's only two things that will heal my self-induced pain - getting a coffee (or 'vanilla flavoured milky gunk' as one friend refers to it as) and buying books. Thankfully my local Borders can fulfill both elements, so I headed there. As usual, I got frustrated because there was so much there I wanted, and couldn't decide what to blow my limited budget on - so I walked out bookless (though I did have the coffee, and it was tasty). Got home, perused my heaving shelves of stuff, pulled out a pile of books I've not read... and again, couldn't decide. So I plumped onto the sofa, fired up the TV to watch the Ireland game (beat Wales 1-0 in the Euro2008 Qualifiers - good stuff) and fell asleep.

When I woke up, I fumbled about for my glasses, put them on, and the first thing that my now working eyes fell upon was "The Time Traveller's Wife" by Audrey Niffenegger. I forgot how much I loved this book when I first read it, so it's currently being read again - and it's still a beautiful thing. There's just something so unashamedly... lovely about it. The fact that the link between the characters is so strong, so incredibly powerful - it just brings out the insufferable romantic in me. Clare's tolerance of Henry's chrono-impaired state (if you've not read it, that sentence will make no sense, so just go get the book) is a continual act of love, even if it means not seeing him for long periods at a time. As with all the great romantic stories, it takes a tragic turn, but ultimately ends with a final shot of happiness. It's incredibly well written, even if it seems initially confusing - I'd even suggest reading with a pen and pad to put a timeline together the first time you read it, just to keep yourself on track. It nearly restores my faith in people. Nearly.

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Friday, March 02, 2007

It's OK, it's alright, nothing's wrong.

Many things to report. Some good, some not so good, but hey. This is going to be a bit stream of conciousness, I think, so brace yourself for tangents aplenty; that's kind of where my brain is at the moment. First off, in exciting swizzy news, the increasingly popular (for no reason at all I can think of bar an increase of drugs in the world's water supplies) Michael and Elmo Podcast has somehow stumbled into it's third episode, which you can listen to here if that is what you so desire. For the more masochistic amongst you perhaps the idea of subscribing appeals, in which case you may care to do the following:

- Open up your iTunes
- Go to Advanced
- Click "Subscribe to Podcast"
- Copy and Paste this into the space --> http://feeds.feedburner.com/blogspot/OXkB

...and that's it! We're having a lot of fun making it, even if the sound quality can be a bit bobbins. Bear with us - we've decided that if we ever get any money ever, we're going to buy some proper mics, not the SingStar ones we use at the moment. Personally, I'm drooling over a pair of SM58s, but that's just my suppressed inner sound geek crying out for attention.


There's a band called The Horrors. I heard about them a few months ago in an Observer piece about underage clubs and (of course) the use of MySpace to promote music. Never actually heard any of their tunes until this week. Now I wish to stab the very drums out of my ears. They're shit... People should go listen to CSS or something. Or Devo. Devo are good. Me and Elmo are off to see Eagles Of Death Metal next weekend. Not only will that be good, that's going to be dirty in the extreme. Which is a Good Thing.


I'm back on the Drugs again - good ones, obviously, not nasty ones you get off a guy called "Biggsey" in a pub toilet. I've been having a few massive episodes over the last couple of weeks, and decided a few days ago that the middle of the most important year of my life (education wise) isn't the wisest place to have a full breakdown. Went back to The Nice Doctor (the Nasty one being the guy who took me off them last year!) who listened to everything I had to say and promptly put me on the strongest SSRIs I've ever been on (Escitalopram 20mg). While it may not be a huge amount, I'm hoping that it'll shock my system enough into helping me get through the next few months. I certainly need something, as I felt myself slipping a fair few times in the last month.

A horrible one was actually last weekend, where I was DJing for the first time in a few months (alongside my apprentice, the charming Coxtin) at the Perplex City End-of-Season-One Bash. What should have been a lovely evening (and for the vast majority, it was - drinks, dancing, puzzles, and silliness) turned into a really horrible experience for me, thanks to one small part of my brain deciding to take over the rest for no reason whatsoever. Sigh. Mercifully, there are several people who managed to talk me down off the ceiling, and I will be thankful to them for a long time for settling me, convincing me that I'd be OK, and telling me that walking halfway across London in order to go wait for a train that wouldn't be there for 5 hours was probably a stupid idea. I shan't say who they are, but they do read this, and they (hopefully) know how much I am grateful for them.

So yeah, back on the tablets. Not an admission of failure, more a desire to help me cope with stuff until I feel ready to sort myself out. At the moment I feel far from ready, but one day (soon, I hope) it'll happen. It's a necessary evil (because yes, I do get side effects - sleep and appetite are affected mainly) in order to stop the dischordant noise that I have in my head most of the time. Without the medication, it does clear once in a while, and I get to function normally for brief shining moments. With the meds... well - I'm hoping for longer periods of being able to deal with stuff. Reports as and when :D


Back to all things Perplex City-ish. The world's favourite ARG (kind of) kicked off it's second series yesterday with the release of the first wave of Season Two cards. If you're lucky enough to have got your hands on some, you may see my name on a few of them - they turned out just as I envisioned them all those months ago, so I'm pleased with them. I think my favourite of them all is "1,2,3,4" - basically an equation involving Beatles songs. A simple idea I had late one night that took AGES to actually put together. If you're a player, I hope you enjoy my contributions. And if you're not... why not? Go here and start investigating...


Guillemots are making me smile a bit. People should buy their CDs. Also, I think I'm now the oldest emo-boy on earth, as my iPod is currently listing Fall Out Boy in six of it's Top 25 Most Listened To Songs. All American Rejects are also making a show of it with three, Panic At The Disco! with two, and +44 (risen from the ashes of Blink 182) have two as well... I'm probably far too old for this stuff, but meh. It's getting me through some bad days. Nothing helps clear the mind better than shouting along to tales of suburban-American teen-angst - even if I'm twelve years late.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Podcasts and Puzzles

Me and my mate Elmo (both fine denizens of rllmukforum.com - link's over there on the right - have finally got ourselves together and done a podcast! It's about games and stuff, and really should carry some sort of language warning. Lots of people seem to like it - perhaps you will too. Download the new episode at http://perplexorum.com/tpwnn/Episode2.mp3. And cheers to the mighty skenmy for doing the hosting thing - next one should be up and about in a couple of weeks .

As for the puzzle in my last post, a couple of people managed to solve it (after a couple of hints!). One fine poster on Perplexorum even did a shiny multi-coloured picture to show his workings (cheers Rob) which you can see below...

That's the first step. I'll post the answer in whited-out text so you can keep trying if you wish... ready?
-> If you read the words on the board, you should see the instruction to "find question, need discover missing tiles". The missing ones are scribbled up there in the top corner of the image. Anagram them up and you'll (hopefully) get MY CREATOR. And who was the creator of Scrabble? Why... Alfred Mosher Butts, of course! <-

Well done Typhin on solving it first. A pint is yours!

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

The Slaying of the Boredom Monsters

Half term, day two - and I'm bored already. That's probably a good sign, means I want to get back to school and do more teaching. Anyhow, to kill some time, I've been designing some new puzzles. I'll fire them up here over the next few days... if I remember, of course.

Here's your first one! First correct solve wins a pint! You can give me your answer (do) in the comments, by email (idlemichael@gmail.com), or harrassment in #perplexorum on IRC.

Good luck - I think it's a stinker!

Sunday, February 11, 2007

It All Ovah!

Two big things in my life have ended over the last week or so, which make me feel a bit odd. It's a nice odd feeling though, because it means that even though they are now a thing of the past, they've been two major contributing factors to Who I Am. Let me babble on about them for a bit, then I'll shut up.

First off, the school thing. I've spent the last six weeks working in my Cross-phase School - basically experiencing life in a different Key Stage (in my case, I'm usually in KS2, though since January I've been in Foundation and KS1). Initially I found it *incredibly* difficult, completely out of my comfort zone; after all, controlling a group of 26 six- and seven-year-olds is a whole different barrel of monkeys to a similar sized group of children even a couple of years older. They're much more dependent on you. Every single point that you try to teach them has to be spelled out in baby-steps - as a teacher, you cannot assume that they know even the most basic things. Hell, the Lower Ability group I was working with struggled with reading even basic sentences and doing simple addition. And because of that, for the first couple of weeks, I felt really out of my depth.

This was not an easy few weeks. Hitting the ground running was tricky, trying not to step on any of the established staff's toes, learning all the children's names... and then trying to plan lessons (and teach them while under constant scrutiny!) on top of that. However, about halfway through the second week, it all just seemed to click - somehow, I became organised... my lessons seemed to be getting through to the kids... my observation scores rose from mediocre 4s to actually pretty good 2s (even a couple of godlike 1s crept in there towards the end!). And for the first time since I started this course, I finally feel like a proper teacher. Last Friday was my final day with them, and (for once) I even got a bit emotional; the whole class made me a fantastic card - with a picture of each one of them inside. I'm going to miss those little buggers... though I have promised I'll go back and visit :D

The other big thing that has concluded is (if you've been following) the first season of Perplex City. Those who have no idea who Scarlett, Violet, Sente and company are, I'd suggest skipping to the next bit... Anyway, the missing Receda Cube was retrieved from a forest just outside Corby, here in the UK (which I happened to have been in the day before after recieving a 7am alarm call last Saturday!). One very lucky player will be presented with a rather splendid £100,000 at a party in That London on the 24th, at which - of course - I shall be in attendance. Of course, now that the whole thing is over (for a couple of weeks, anyway, until Season Two kicks in), it seemed like a perfect time to think back on the whole thing and how much impact it's had on my life over the last two years...

It's not the cards. It's not the fact that I *nearly* got a completely insane job at the company behind the whole shebang (in fact, I think if I did get that job, I wouldn't be the same person I am now). It's not the story, even... the best thing I've got out of the whole Perplex City thing is the people I've met through it. The live events are obviously a lot of fun, but there's also the online stuff too. The fact that a whole bunch of us talk for hours on the interwebs all night makes me happy - even if there's bugger all happening in the story - and I'm proud and happy to call these people my friends. Some I may never even meet in Real Life, and obviously there are a few people to whom I am closer than others, but we're still a team, and I would like to say thank you to them all. Cheers guys. Roll on Season Two!

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