Life Without Power

This past Sunday (the 5th of October) a power outage swept across large parts of East and South Auckland due to a fire at a substation. As a resident of Remuera/Meadowbank my flatmates and I were victims of a no-power weekend. This was irksome for several reasons – aside from the basic necessities of life like a cup of tea, and wi-fi – I had actually set aside the day for non-stop gaming (my version of relaxation).

The initial hour spent at home was full of interesting thought processes; when I first tried to turn the kettle on I thought “hmm that’s strange”, then when the lights refused to illuminate I thought “oh no we’ve been cut off by the power company” it wasn’t until my phone refused to ring the power company’s helpline for the third time in a row I realised “oh the cellphone tower reception’s out too” – this was both a relief and an emotional sandbag. I was glad that we hadn’t foolishly forgot some bill somehow, but equally I knew I was settling in for at least several hours without power.

Following this period of initial discovery I started to ponder my plan for the day, with no way to gather information I realised that there would be little point staying at home, as it would no doubt lead to a waiting game against an invisible enemy. I planned a scouting mission to the local cafe – I knew it was unlikely to produce results as power cuts rarely affect small target areas (such as the five houses I could see from ours) but I thought it would be worthwhile to see how in the dark (thank you very much) everyone else was.

Completely. Everyone else nearby was completely in the dark.

It was beginning to rain, and knowing that nothing but grey skies, and darkness awaited me at home I decided to head towards civilisation, or at least where I hoped civilisation would still exist.

Arriving in town with my laptop in hand I was glad to see that the mighty CBD had lived to see another day. I performed my usual city pondering, in which I idly navigated streets I’d walked a hundred times before – and as always I discovered half a dozen things about the CBD I had never known before. Two of my favourites this time were the fact that there’s Paintball and Crazy Golf in the CBD Metro (I freakin’ love Crazy Golf so I’ll definitely be utilising that in the future), however it was Wi-Fi which I sought so needily. The rest of my day was then spent sitting in the Library followed by Vulcan Cafe (decent coffee!) and do you know what thought inevitably crossed my mind?

Addiction to technology.
And the funny thing is, it wasn’t “we’re too dependant on technology, we spend too much time using it – boo technology!” – it was “holy crap, how awesome and invaluable are these items that most of us take for granted” – seriously I mean ALL pieces of technology. Lightbulbs to see what’s in my closet, power to charge my toothbrush, Wi-Fi to connect me to BILLIONS of devices around the world!

Of course we all should probably spent a little less time on facebook than we do, however after today I feel more assured of my technology consumption than ever before. It may not be great that we’re all so dependant on technology, but do you know what? If less general knowledge is a by-product of an overall more progressive culture via the enhancements that technology provides – then I think it’s a worthy trade.

1d20 reasons you should play D&D right now!

In this modern era where geek is chic (or at least Jason Schwartzman and sweaters), one area that hasn’t seen much daylight in popular culture is Dungeons and Dragons. I’m always surprised that this is the case as tabletop gaming in general allows such vivid use of your imagination. With the right mentality and rule set – literally anything is possible.

Perhaps it’s the notion that imagination should be limited to children and creative agency types, because D&D is so often viewed with the highest suspicion and disdain from the general public – it’s truly one of those areas where you expect to here someone yell “Neeeeeerd!” at you without irony.

I’ve been playing it once or twice a month with some friends for about six months now and after our first campaign in which I played a Gnomish Bard (who invented the now famous genre of Scream Flute) have now begun a new campaign.

So far I’ve been loving the new campaign as I’ve been playing a holier-than-thou Human Paladin who wants nothing more than to help those lowly in society while slaying any microbe of evil present around him. Unbeknownst to my character, he is actually journeying with an Evil Necromancer at the moment who is currently operating under the guise of being a cleric. I’ll be very interested to see how this plays out throughout our campaign – one of the hardest things about D&D is separating out player knowledge vs character knowledge. That is, I know my friend Tim is playing an evil character, and that my Paladin should slay him – however, within the world my character doesn’t know and so long as Ghurn (the cleric) is careful, he can hypothetically continue to grow in strength and perhaps attempt to kill me later down the line by raising dead to support him!

One facet of D&D I really enjoy is the social aspect – it’s a great excuse to hang out, have a couple of beers/glasses of wine and do stupid things, yet Dungeons & Dragons is open to all levels of immersion – if you want to you can ruthlessly roleplay. It’s really up to the group and Dungeon Master.

It’s a lot of fun, and is kind of a laugh, and it’s not too hard to pick up – I think the hardest aspects are the initial character building stages + the use of magic. However with an experienced player or two at hand you can get up and running with D&D in absolutely no time.

So next time you’re struggling to decide between Monopoly or Cluedo, why not try D&D?

Podcasts – Are you listening yet?

I’m not sure if it’s the same for everyone, but my passion for learning continually increases with the years – I like it, and hope that the feeling continues and grows. One avenue of education that I think is perfect for those with little time, is podcasts.

If you’ve never heard of the concept, it’s basically a radio episode recorded specifically for consumption by digital users, that is it’s not constrained to running ads every 5 minutes, or to be clean, correct, etc. basically it’s the wild west of audio broadcasts.

By no means are all podcasts that I listen to educational, but there’s an intellectual stimulation that is somehow consistently reached by the entire selection of podcasts I listen to.

Therefore if you’re interested in potential mind expansion (or even just some laughs) then I’d recommend checking out a few of the following:

 

99% Invisible

Do you remember being a kid, hearing a radio story about to start and just groaning “ughhh…. talk radio borrrrrring”? - I do, and I remember I was 22 when that stopped being the case. My friend Nick had mentioned 99% Invisible a couple of times a few years earlier while we were both at university, but I had never got around to it.

Boy was I foolish! 99% Invisible set me down the path of enjoying radio stories (maybe) more than any other storytelling medium.

99% Invisible in summary is a podcast about design, whether it be architecture, art, urban planning, product design – it investigates design in a very unique and compelling way. The audio production is phenomenal, and it’s a joy to listen to for that fact alone. If you like feeling deep, perceptive, and insightful then start listening to 99% Invisible right now – the episodes are basically light meal length, most often 10-15 minutes of weekly perfection.

Here’s a few to get you started:

Clean Trains – How the New York Subway system cleaned up it’s issue with graffiti with cunning and patience (also quite educational on early street art).

Heyoon – Did you ever have a special hiding place which was only yours? This will bring feelings back for you.

The Sound of Sport – We all watched the olympics, world cup, and commonwealth games right? Well what if you found out most of the sounds are fake?

 

 

Professor Blastoff

Have you ever found yourself on the bus, biting firmly down on your fist to stop yourself from bursting into laughter? Well Professor Blastoff does it to me on the daily – I can’t believe how funny this podcast is, it’s given me the highest frequency of tears streaming down face laughter since I first listened to the Ricky Gervais XFM radio series.

It’s basically three comedian friends who discuss a topic each week (mainly scientific or philosophical concepts) with no actual evidence, or insight to support their positions. But that’s why it’s great – they’re interested, passionate, and they’re willing to listen to the experts that come onto the show. I struggle to come up with any criticism for this show – give it a go!

I’d recommend starting from the beginning, however this episode is particularly brilliant. It’s both insightful around nutrition, and introduces the hilarious recurring joke – i.e. David’s cool beers.

 

Well there you are! I’d give you more, but I don’t want to scare you all off yet with too many options. I really hope you give 99% invisible a go in particular, it opened my eyes to Radiolab and This American Life which are again both phenomenal (and will be written about). So get out there (or stay indoors) and start listening!