Saturday, December 9, 2017

Shirt Buttons

Apart from food and a roof over our heads, money is an important factor in everyday life. Sometimes we don't realise this, as it is programmed automatically within us through a process. At the end of each week or month from a paid job or benefits, we pay our way, as we eat, breath and sleep. It isn't until the movement of the financial pendulum, suddenly turning into a chaotic motion, that brings us to understand that there is a problem.
Shirt Buttons - When it's all the money you have!
The glamour and enticement of obtaining credit through finance or retail outlets are all too easy and straightforward. Only the creditor can see the potential with ample amounts of an annual percentage rate, which can vary so much between banks and lenders. If we can't afford to pay off the full amount each month, we pay the minimum and get charged interest as a result. It's always been this way, especially with insurance policies. " You can't pay the full policy in advance? That's no problem, pay it over 11 months with a deposit we'll charge you extra! " - It's too late! They've stung you without even realising it!

And through desperation, we turn to credit when everyday bills rise and the rent or mortgage is due. Some say the saddest thing, is when credit is used to buy food or a food bank is relied upon just fill an empty stomach. We do what we need to do, in order just to survive!
  Debt is now all too common, it's ridiculous!

And so, for me, I fell into secondary debt through a loan and credits cards which had built up over many years! It bit me like a rabid Dog or a frenzied Shark swimming the perilous seas, as I drowned with no sign of surviving. But there is always hope and it starts with asking for help from one of the many debt advice charities and organisations. I took my first brave step and contacted Christians Against Poverty (CAP) in April 2017.

Throughout the duration of being in debt, the creditors wrote letters and phoned pretty much constantly. The phone calls must have been well over 200 times across several months, which seemed a real waste of energy and my circumstances hadn't changed at all. From day one, I suffered from crying, sleepless nights, stress, depression, lack of appetite and experienced scary types of anxiety attacks, which involved dizziness and vomiting! Each and every step has been taken seriously which is no wonder why I have felt so tired and exhausted. It really does hit you hard and to think there are some out there in the big wide world that commits suicide as a last resort to finding a way out. It is so sad, it's frightening for someone to follow that path! Life is so precious and a person with that frame of mind taking their final decision is very hard to comprehend. I did ironically attend a stress and anxiety course through Talking Space Plus in June 2017, which was very beneficial. Even though the accumulation of anxiety had been building up before and after the course.

During my amazing debt support with CAP, I attended a money course where I learned lots of new and useful ideas on how to budget and save. You then begin to realise that one of the bases of credit in some ways, is to get what you want quicker! Rather than taking the more sensible route of saving and waiting. We tend to live in a utopian world of credit which is sadly classed as the norm nowadays.

I have also learned that there are two main types of debt, primary and secondary. Primary covers; mortgages, rent, local taxes, utilities, cable, and satellite etc. Secondary covers, loan, credit cards etc. Although both types of debt aren't good to fall behind with. Primary carries the most serious consequences with secondary the lesser. So, it is very important to ask for help when the moment everything financially becomes difficult.

One of the most difficult things is to speak up about debt. It's far too easy for some to be judgemental and shame a person for their situation. The ignorance and reaction can be detrimental to persons well being and mental health. It is one thing being in debt, but to be mocked and ridiculed, is another thing altogether!

My end to debt has closed with going insolvent with my fee paid for by kind charities and donations known through CAP. It now means that I have a fresh start and even though my credit score will be affected for six years, I will no longer have to carry the weight of financial pressure and can live a normal life again.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Festive and Frosty

It's that time of year again! Yeah! The frosty mornings have returned and it is a strange treat to de-ice the car, scraping the windscreen whilst bundled up with a fleece, coat and gloves. For the moment, I haven't required a hat, only time will tell though. As per usual Mrs A and I celebrated our UK equivalent of Thanksgiving with all the food you can eat and very nice it was too. 😊

My anxiety levels have been fever pitch during this month and I have tried my best to manage the situation. Even though I have found it difficult at times, the relaxation through sleeping and a calming process has helped. I am certain to pass this phase by and look into the new year soon with a more positive frame of mind.

Mrs A has been quite creative over the last few days and has crochet some marvellous festive decorations! πŸ˜ƒ She finds it easier to Crochet than Knit and that's alright with me. πŸ˜‰
An adorable Christmas Tree with Star
Kitchen Cupboard Wreath
Last month I mentioned that one of my front teeth had fallen out. Over the years, the work that I had been done involving a fixed brace on the upper set had finally shown wear. Part of the process involved removing one protruding tooth and wearing the brace for about three months. I mean, this was when I was 18 years old. Plenty of time has passed since then and from the dentist explanation, the root of the fallen tooth had been weakening over the years. For those that are really curious, here is a cropped photo of what I am having to bravely bear until the Tooth Fairy can help me.
Tooth lost in action
At first, I felt self-conscious about my appearance. Some people didn't even notice at first until I had mentioned it to them. So, for the time being, I soldier on. 😣

GameDev :: ( PC | Shooter - 16 Degrees )
I continue to faithfully design background tiles, even if part of the process is still in a draft phase. It won't be too long until I get to the final detailed version of each tile. 😎
The core elements of the game are working as expected with the appearance of some Drones to keep the player on their toes. As if trying to maintain the weapon temperature wasn't enough? 😁

And finally ...




Friday, October 27, 2017

Tiling and The Tooth is out!

The daily commute to work is now like night, even though it is stupid'o clock in the morning. That's fine however, I have always liked an early start to the working day. I don't think the weather can make it's mind up, as it is still relatively mild at the moment. The heating hasn't been switch on yet at Aris HQ, but there is going to be the big switch on at the end of October. Just in time for Autumn and Winter to really kick in! 😊

I think the change in season has made me feel more tired, I felt more alert during the Summer months, all I want to do now is hibernate. For some reason, I still feel anxious about certain things. I now find when I make a mistake, I can't forgive myself and stress over the matter. There seems to be more energy into the theory why a problem has occured, rather than just moving on and learning. I do however think that over analysis in trying to be too perfect with some tasks really doesn't help! πŸ˜• A more relaxed approach is probably better, life and situations aren't always perfect.

A few days ago, a troublesome tooth from a year ago finally fell out. Now, for several weeks, it had become quite loose and began to literally interfere whilst I was eating anything. There was no pain, just annoyance more than anything.
You may well be trying to work out what part of the mouth the tooth came from? Well, it is in fact the front left to the middle two front teeth. Cosmetically, it does look quite stark! 😨 All is not lost though, the Tooth Fairy  maybe able to help out and get me a bridge tooth. That will hopefully be sometime next month! πŸ˜ƒ

GameDev :: ( PC | Shooter - 16 Degrees )
Apart from some more tweaks to the player and enemy objects, I decided to design some basic background tiles. Without even realising, GameMaker Studio2 can now support animated tiles. This will prove very useful whilst designing levels with water based backgrounds or a simple attract mode. Each animation speed can be adjusted by frames per second ( FPS ), so it can be slow or fast by how you want it to be.
I have now added two addition power-up weapons for the player, forward multi-directional orbs and a homing missle. One of the enemy objects acts as a parent object with the rest of the enemies regarded as child object, so when a homing missle is fired it will follow any enemy and rotate to change course accordingly. Each power-up will have a timer for about 30 seconds and it will then reset to the default weapon. I think the game would be too easy if all the weapons were active, but there should be enough shooting to keep the player occupied! πŸ˜‰
There should hopefully be a more detailed background for next time. Perhaps some buildings, trees and water based features. I think I need to put in some bridges, even if a does give it a feel or hommage to River Raid. πŸ›© πŸ˜‰

And finally ...






Saturday, September 30, 2017

Who's the Boss?

So, it's here again ... Autumn! Although, it doesn't feel like it temperature wise. You could probably get away with wearing a t-shirt or light coat. For a about a week, we didn't use a fan during the night at Aris HQ, but now it's on set to night mode. This enables a gentle sweep of air to keep the room cool without adding too much disturbance to relaxation and sleep. πŸ’€

In preparation for the cold and flu season, I've started to stock up on the appropriate medication. 😷This should last for a while unless the heavy colds persist, then I'll get some more. The cold and flu relief are favoured more, as the hot drink really helps sooth a sore throat as well. 😊
There is no LEGO related section this month. I've been spending more time doing game development, if only in small sections over a weekend. So, it nothing has been abandoned and do expect some sections to be semi-regular at times. πŸ˜‰

GameDev :: ( PC | Shooter - 16 Degrees )
Over the last few weeks I have been working on the end of level enemy bosses. Each one looks different and is surrounded by enemy scout ships, which must be destroyed finally, before the boss. I am hoping to have each one moving in some way or another with a missile or orb homing in on the player.
Not only have I been working on the end of level bosses, but also little touches like enemy thrust trails like the players, but in blue. It looks much better than a static graphic behind the moving object and a bit more realistic.
I think over the next few months, the game is going to really pull together. The scrolling background will change, but only towards the end of the project. As with the current design and build, everything is subject to change. πŸ˜‰

And finally ...





Sunday, August 27, 2017

LED Bulbs, The Caterham and Triggers

This month has been much more settling and less of a roller coaster experience. Sleep is much more easier to get to grips with, staying up late like during my younger days is now a thing of the past. That's why most nights 10pm is the limit, unless it's New Years Eve. πŸ˜‰

The weekly grocery shop at Aldi is still proving to be a great money saving exercise. I have noticed that fruit, vegetables and meat can very in price a little, still better value than most of the other well known supermarkets. A continual win-win! 😊

LEGO :: ( 21307 | Caterham )
With no speed build for this month and as luck would have it ... πŸ˜‹ A colleague from work kindly offered to lend me one of his recent purchases to construct, due to him having to pack items up for a house move. So, I took up his offer and built the following ...
The building sensation is quite different when the set isn't from new and with LEGO pieces in one more press and seal bags, the time taken to complete is increased. It took two hours to build and 30 minutes to take apart. I really liked the techniques with the Caterham. You really don't expect after linking each section that you'd end up with the finest car and I could imagined a racing green colour. Just think as well, what it would been like if it was a Bentley? πŸ˜ƒ

GameDev :: ( PC | Shooter - 16 Degrees )
Throughout August, I have played around attack waves with the added option of random enemies just in case the player becomes used to game play. There will be standard enemy bullets and intercepting ones, rather like homing missiles. But for now, most of the basic mechanics is working and in place. Notice the trigger points during the game? They won't be visible, the lines act as point to launch the attack wave or another action. The player could well race to a specific point of the level or take longer if they wish. There won't be any overall time to complete each level, only a timer/temperature penalty if the player is fires too much.
The title and intermediate screens have a basic layout and are subject to change. For the moment there will be three levels with different degrees of difficulty. Once everything is in place with collision detection turned on, all will make perfect sense! πŸ˜€

LED Light Bulbs :: ( At Home )
For some weeks or even months, I have been mulling over the idea of getting some LED Light Bulbs for Aris HQ. Currently, we have energy savings ones which last up to five years. Each bulb could save over 85% according some technical specifications. I gather that would be verses a domestic bulb and not an energy saving one? Still, that's good in my books. πŸ˜‰
Just in case you are wondering, they are very bright! πŸ’‘πŸ˜

And finally ...





Saturday, July 22, 2017

Attack waves, a Car and the House !

I just about made it through July. Notably through surviving an anxiety attack which wasn't very pleasant at all. This all seems ironic after attending sessions through Talking Space Plus only just last month. Thankfully, my attack happened at home and for the first time in a couple of years, I took a few days off sick from work. I hadn't slept properly for over a week and my body clock was messed up to the point where I was forcing myself to eat. After about 48hrs with sleep and relaxation, I actually started to feel better. I purchased some natural aid sleeping tablets by Kalms with Valerian root extract. This has definitely helped and I will probably extend the course for another month. The recommended time take one tablet is before bedtime.

Time had come around again to renew my Driving Licence and I can't believe 10 years has passed. If you have a valid Passport, your photo can be used and processed online. However, I had to do things differently and visited the main Post Office in Oxford. Whilst there, your photo and signature are digitally taken with the rest of the application processed. I was expecting it to take up to two weeks, but I received mine within three working days. Excellent! 😊 

Lego :: ( MOCs | speed builds )
To my surprise, I managed to get two speed builds recorded and edited. Each build uses classic bricks which are pretty common in my collection at the moment. Apart from regular bricks, I also have what I call non-regular which are specific certain sets or builds. I initially would like to sort them into colours and types. Over time, this will probably happen, subject to space and costs. Keeping the bricks in two tubs at the moment is easy, but not so convenient when your trying to locate one for a build.
I really like the house build, but would of liked to have a window, door and sloped roof tiles. Using regular bricks doesn't necessarily have limitations, it's how you apply the design to make the subject stand out and be noticeable.
You really can't beat a cartoon character and especially one with big eyes and squishy tyres. I know the wheels aren't perfectly round, that's what makes this design so quirky. Keeping the imagination flowing helps. A few designs ago, I didn't actually use the Digital Designer from Lego. They were designed on what I call, the fly! For example, the Emoticons and Trees. When I computer isn't on and you have containers of Lego at hand, it's win, win regardless! πŸ˜‰

GameDev :: ( PC | Shooter - 16 Degrees)
I've been concentrating on basic attack waves so far this month. Your general, left, right, up and down, but also sweeping movements from the left and right. It has been fun experimenting with different techniques as well.
The friction and speed code can be adjusted to give a more realistic sweeping motion. With the Path editor, you can be basic or elaborate as desired. 😎
I think I might start slowing preparing the intermediate screens soon, not forgetting the title screen. I have a basic idea on how I want the layout. The gameplay might appear simple and hopefully when everything is in place and tweaked, it will all become much clearer. πŸ˜‰

And finally ...


Saturday, June 24, 2017

Hot! Hot! Hot!

Wow! Temperatures rose to up 34cπŸ˜…degrees during June with not much rain to speak of. Although, we should be grateful for better weather, but when it is 20c during the night with windows open and just a fan blowing the air around, it gets uncomfortable.😳 It's also hayfever season, thankfully, Aldi had 14 day Loratadine for 89 pence. πŸ˜‚

Also, during this month I have been attending anxiety and depression therapy sessions through Talking Space Plus. For some time now, I have had a mixture of anxiety and stress issues which were first reported to my doctor. A suggestion was made to contact Talking Space Plus about how they maybe able to help, so I registered with them and have found the sessions very helpful and informative. I didn't want to go down the path of relying on any form of medication, but each person is different and also every level of anxiety and depression. Life sometimes puts us through a lot of scenarios or we become involved in them without choice. The most important thing to do, is to ask for help or talk to someone about your situation. This is always the first and brave step to take! People can sometimes be quite judgemental and ignorant about a subject or scenario, so I would recommend talking to a professional or charitable organisation, trusted confident or friend or your doctor. This should always be free and never a chargeable case in any sense of the word!

Lego :: ( MOCs )
I was hoping to get the House speedbuild mentioned last month with the photograph teaser from April done. However, I haven't had much time to prepare, record and edit a video. I usually use time during a weekend or on a day off, but as we all know life does sometimes get in the way. I'll try and allocate some time during July, as I have three days off around mid month. So, fingers crossed! πŸ˜‰

GameDev :: ( PC | Shooter - 16 Degrees)
A small amount of time was spent this month setting up some of the rules for the now named shooting game, 16 degrees. The name derives from a recommended minimal office / school temperature advisory. Of course when I was at school and earlier jobs, you just had to put a coat on and kind of get on with it. So far, I have a moving ship that fires with a timing frequency.
GameMaker Studio 2 is becoming more and more enjoyable everything time I use it. Moving from version 1.4 hasn't been as bad as I first thought. If projects from 1.x to 2 are imported, you will be expected to look over your code and check everything. To be honest, I would start new projects in 2 and finish off others 1.x. It is usually better to work this way and would prevent frustrations at a later date.
The plan is to get the basic rules layed down and working as a start. Then once this is acheived other features, effect and backgrounds etc will be added. Even though I do like space themed shooting games, I would like to try and add some mixed backdrops with animated attract modes or objects. Little touches like this will make it look better and more interesting!
As you can see from the animated GIF, it's just the basics. Temperature will have an effect on the game play as well, just to make things a bit more interesting. I plan on putting in a few power ups, this will no doubt invovle those loveable variables! 😁

Eee PC Project :: ( Bunsen Labs Debian )
Last month I managed to get the Asus Eee 4G 701 PC working with an installation of Lubuntu with a minimal installation. However, for whatever reason, there wasn't much disk storage space left at the end. I think there literally only 200-300 megabytes left. So, thanks to recommendation of Lee Hearne, I installed Bunsen Labs Debian. Not only was the installation a lot quicker, it also left stacks of disk storage space, about 1+ gigabyte I believe.πŸ˜„
Now, after the success I tried my hand at trying to install Emulation Station. After a few sudo updates via terminal, I had some results.
Part of the Nintendo NES Emulation partly launched, but failed at RetroArch. So, for the time being there is a little more work to get at least one system up and running. I guess this will be a semi-regular slot with progressive updates. The main goal with this, is to have a mini arcade retro gaming PC! πŸ˜‰

And finally ...