Formula 1 2018: Season “Review”

…because previews are so overrated. Here I come, from the distant future of December 2018, with a bit of crystal balls for you about how this upcoming Formula 1 season will unfold. Hold on to your Halos, kids!


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The 2018 season gets off to a stunning start for the Antipodean crowd, as Danny Ricciardo takes a home victory he describes as “pretty cool, guys” between bouts of loud growling and teeth-gnashing. However, even this is overshadowed by Brendon Hartley’s Strawberry Jelly leading until running out of fuel shortly after half distance, the Toro Rosso team still unwilling to believe a Honda engine could last more than 30 laps tops in race trim. It’s also a banner day for Esteban Ocon, who secures his first podium for ₰ᾮאӜ҉ѾѬѮϠζ [a.k.a. The Racing Team Formerly Known As Force India].



A Safety Car start is needed in Sakhir, as an unseasonal snowstorm brings several inches of precipitate to lay on the racetrack (and loud contemptuous mockery from the Circuit de Catalunya owners). Being the only driver to have tested Pirelli’s recently-unveiled range of snow-chain tyres, Max Verstappen is a comfortable winner, though Kimi Raikkonen seemed to know what he was doing prior to over-egging a four-wheel slide, and barrel-rolling into a drift on the outside of Turn 4. With an excellent fourth-place finish in the increasingly impressive Toro Rosso, Pierre Gasly earns enough EXP points to evolve into Pierre Haunter.



Having tested it extensively, albeit surreptitiously, over the winter, Ferrari introduce their dastardly “smokescreen” exhaust, in a bid to offset the overtaking advantage gained from DRS down the Shanghai circuit’s long back straight. However, it makes little difference when racing in the smog of the Chinese city, and Lewis Hamilton wins, remarking on the podium that the dense choking air reminds him of childhood days playing outdoors in Stevenage.



Baku 2018 is a farce of a race; human rights protesters storm the castle keep at Turn 8, using crossbows at random to inflict punctures and pouring vats of oil onto the racetrack, which Charles LeClerc later claimed actually made his Sauber handle better. Ocon comes through the chaos to take a début win for himself and for the re-renamed Richmond & Twickenham Times and Surrey Comet Racing Team, having finally found a short-term buyer in the team’s local newspaper publishers.



Pundits note Fernando Alonso of “Jaffa Cakes McLaren-Renault” strutting around the paddock with a knowing grin throughout practice and qualifying, in spite of having retired from the opening four rounds and qualified well down the field in Barcelona. “Wait and see, wait and see!” is all the hometown hero has to say in response.

At the end of the warm-up lap Alonso unexpectedly dives into the pits, emerging in a spare car with new hypersoft tyres, and a 2004 Ferrari V10 engine jammed awkwardly into the airbox. Taking off from pit exit before the five red lights have come on, the papaya projectile rockets around the circuit, leading the race by over half a minute by the time the engine goes up like a grenade after three-and-a-half laps. Fernando leaps out of the burning car, sprints through the crowd whooping and cartwheeling and shedding his gloves, boots and helmet. He reaches his underpants just before divebombing with a triumphant shriek of GP2 CAAAAARRR!!!…” into the lake in the centre of the racetrack.

Someone else presumably wins the Spanish Grand Prix, but nobody notices.



Continuing with its tireless (HA!) pursuit of new and exciting compounds, Pirelli’s Paul Hembery announces, with a sinister giggle, a “giga-soft” option, which is essentially a bucket of molten rubber painted onto the rims; Sebastian Vettel sets a new track record for fastest first-50-metres of the Monte Carlo venue before his tyres meet “The Cliff”. After practice, Toro Rosso trade their Pierre Gengar for a Jean Squirtle with recently upgraded Special Defense stats and Surf ability; it proves to be a wise move, their new Water-Type driver winning after a freak tidal wave washes over Tabac corner on the second lap, sending the top ten qualifiers bobbing into the harbour.



Freshly inspired from their triumph at the previous round, Toro Rosso release Brendon Hartley’s Strawberry Jelly to go back to WEC and being a Hanson tribute band stand-in; he is replaced with up-and-coming star Bruce Original Thick-Cut Marmalade. Lance Stroll takes the chequered flag but the trophy is awarded to Marcus Ericsson as, unfortunately, race officials still can’t tell the Williams and Sauber cars apart, and the FIA are too embarrassed on their behalf to intervene.



Despite having served their two-race ban for Fernando’s Glorious Spanish Adventure as it is henceforth known, “Irn-Bru McLaren-Renault” have their cars seized at the Paul Ricard track entrance by the French food standards authority, impounding them over the team’s false advertising of a “drink” on their vehicles. Romain Grosjean wins on home soil, after a mysterious bout of food poisoning afflicts the rest of the paddock; in the following week, sales of his cookbook amongst pest controllers increase by 700%.



Paul Hembery announces, with an ominous chuckle, the introduction of a “micro-soft” tyre option, where the rubber will only be Photoshopped onto the wheels in post-production, but a writ from Bill Gates means the compound goes unused beyond first practice. Sebastian Vettel wins, as Ferrari choose to invoke the clause in a newly signed contract with Liberty Media stating “…it is agreed We [Scuderia Ferrari] shall take a Victory (1st-placed race finish) in no fewer than 1 (one) Formula One Grand Prix per calendar season, in respect of our outstanding historical importance and stuff, so there, nyah to stinky Mercedes bum-heads [sticking-out-tongue emoji]”.



Despite the venue being moved to a marina in the Cayman Islands (for “optimal rain-avoidance purposes”, according to a BRDC statement) Lewis Hamilton still errs on the side of caution and skips the race, just in case someone from Revenue & Customs decides to linger around his motorhome for too long. Raikkonen, Valtteri Bottas and Ricciardo complete the top 3, and Kimi is adopted as a dual-nationality Brit after an intense shoey-off with pints of John Smith’s instead of champagne (Brexit’s effect now in full swing).



A pan-global conglomerate of nostalgic ’80s and ’90s racing fans invest in Pérez and Ocon’s ailing team, and Jordan-Minardi-Lotus-March-Brabham-Benetton-Onyx-Toleman-Leyton House-Zakspeed-Andrea Moda Racing take their first start in Hockenheim. Unfortunately, they don’t fare so well, as their stakeholders insist on the drivers using the old track through the forest, and thus completing only 45 laps, not to mention producing a hellish storm of litigation from Greenpeace. A first win, and thus podium, for Nico Hulkenberg opens a rift in the space-time continuum on the rostrum that inadvertently sucks in several German dignitaries and driver interviewer Eddie Jordan, who is somehow nonetheless able to conduct shouty, banal proceedings from the other side of the eternal, abysmal void.



Lance Stroll is replaced with Robert Kubica before qualifying, as the Canadian accidentally left his credit card in a service station off the A43 and missed his next due payment. Alonso’s car breaks down while leading on the last lap, handing victory to Bottas, and he announces his immediate retirement before hiring a helicopter and air-dropping his chassis through the roof of McLaren’s Woking headquarters.



Over the summer break McLaren take Alonso to the European Court of Justice, citing breach of contract; Alonso responds by taking McLaren to the European Court of Human Rights, citing “cruel and unusual punishment”. The judge decides in the Spaniard’s favour, meaning he wins something for the first time in over five years. Jolyon Palmer signs as his replacement, and within seconds of driving the car finally understands what Alonso meant by “karma” all those months ago. Kevin Magnussen wins, to the delight of his merchandise team, who have struggled all year to shift punnets of his personally branded “Salted Caramel and Honey Chocolate Balls”.



Pirelli’s Paul Hembery announces, with undisguised maniacal laughter, a “massive-and-rock-hard” compound; Hamilton takes pole position, but parks up only a few laps in after the monster-truck-style tyres rattle the gold fillings out of his teeth, and he scrambles out to retrieve them as they jangle down the pit straight. As dentistry bills soar up and down the grid, Stoffel Vandoorne takes a shock victory for “Terry’s Chocolate Orange McLaren-Renault”; Fernando, watching from home, turns off his television and giggles quietly to himself for several hours, before buying and securing himself in a straitjacket, and hopping into his nearest psychiatric clinic, cheerfully whistling “La Marseillaise”.



With the fan conglomerate complaining that Formula 1 still “isn’t what it used to be” despite their best efforts, they hand the team over to a mysterious entity that re-re-renames it TerraVelocity Xtreme Team. The new car is built of solid gold and platinum, and is driven by the Sultan of Brunei and Elon Musk, who in turn powers it with a Tesla Roadster engine. The heavy chassis is hopelessly slow in corners, but proves difficult to lap due to its reasonable straightline speed, its wholly unreasonable drivers, and the blinding glare off its bodywork under the streetlights. Carlos Sainz wins, because Liberty Media feel fans aren’t getting their money’s worth out of him otherwise.



Lewis Hamilton Sergey Sirotkin wins a processional thrilling race at the Sochi Autodrom, dominating from start to finish scything through from the back in his Mercedes-Petronas Lada-Williams. Controversial President Glorious leader Vladimir Putin met a somewhat hostile warmly friendly reception from the paddock and supporters as he presented the trophy to Hamilton Sirotkin. There was also a no cyber-attack foiled to immobilise the electronics of nineteen of the twenty cars on the grid, understandable given the reasonable chance absurd unlikelihood that Sirotkin would not have been victorious without it.



Having grown bored of cycling through hilarious Pokémon- and condiment-themed drivers over the European season, Toro Rosso replace Jean-Éric Bulbasaur and Brett Low-Sugar Blackcurrant Jam with 13-year-old local protegée Juju Noda and a newly-rehabilitated Fernando Alonso. With the Honda engine working superbly at the company’s home track, Alonso and Noda qualify 1-2, but the Spaniard fades in the closing laps with muscle fatigue, not having driven a race distance in so long. Noda dedicates her phenomenal victory to her parents, her thousands of Instagram followers, and her “#racinghero #absolutemadman #lol” Taki Inoue.



Alonso finally returns to the top step with a win in the States; he hugs his trophy in the foetal position on the podium, sobbing gently and cradling it like his newborn child. After a race-long battle, Hamilton and Vettel cross the line in a dead-heat finish, and while the FIA agree to split the points down the middle, there is still only one second-placed trophy available. Opening the rulebook, stewards are surprised to discover Liberty have included a rule stating that such scenarios are to be settled in a boxing ring. Hamilton has the initial upper hand as Sebastian complains of him “blocking” and “brake-testing” his attacks, before the German is disqualified for a below-the-belt punch with a raging cry of “Here’s a message for your Hodensack, Lewis!”.



In the wake of the “Crumple in the Jungle” in Austin, Hamilton is laid up in hospital sending out selfies like messages in bottles, and Vettel sits out a race ban by once again attempting to grow a convincing handlebar moustache. Meanwhile, in the wake of having collided one-hundred-and-thirty-seven times in the last five rounds, TVXT-Porsche Racing decide there is only one appropriate way to settle the ongoing differences between reinstated drivers Pérez and Ocon – in the Lucha Libre ring. Wearing a bubblegum-pink mask, Pérez overpowers his marshmallow-pink-masked rival in just three minutes, and it spurs him on to an emphatic victory in the race itself. Haas are a no-show at the Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez, being unable to afford the tariffs required to get their trucks past the border wall from Texas.



With Juju Noda grounded for having failed to finish her maths homework, Toro Rosso sign Felipe Massa for a third consecutive tear-jerking farewell tour of Interlagos, and he naturally dominates the race from lights to flag, knowing exactly where the suspension-shattering potholes are to be avoided. The Drivers’ Championship is delicately poised between the Red Bull drivers, and Max Verstappen’s pleas to have Daniil Kvyat reinstated for this race, so as to have him dropped and thus guarantee Max the win in Abu Dhabi, fall on deaf ears in Milton Keynes. After hiring a new copywriter to replace an aging employee, McLaren are mortified to discover they *have* been building GP2 chassis since 2014 – the retired colleague gripes that it wasn’t his fault the two rulebooks look so bloody similar!



Danny Ricciardo wins the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix – the only driver to take more than one win all season – and with it his first World Championship. It’s a bittersweet occasion for the Honey Badger; as he raises his winner’s trophy aloft, the wind changes direction, fixing his beaming face in a permanently etched grin, and he is rushed to A&E before his facial muscles can solidify into a horrifying rictus of mirthless toothsomeness. Toro Rosso-Honda win the Constructors’ Title, sharing the spoils evenly between all of their drivers throughout the year, though they have to appoint a careful system of checks to weed out fraudsters claiming to have done a practice session here, a tyre test there. Unimpressed by his defeat, Max Verstappen quits Red Bull to take a gap year around the Far East, though not before his frozen sperm is signed to a multi-year contract starting 2030; Nico Rosberg’s 3-year-old daughter Alaïa has already been signed as his interim replacement, in an Aston Martin-powered pushchair.


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Why I’m Becoming a Dutch Pancake

This is a love letter, a (hopefully) honest introspection, and a personal mission statement.

“Look upon my works, ye plumbers, and despair!”
This is Super Mario 64.
Over the last twenty-two years (good lord, is that the time already?) it has enthralled and entertained millions of players, including myself* – a pioneer of the 3D platformer genre, and one of the most popular video games ever made.

From his video on why the coin score can never be more than 255 on any given level, irrespective of how many you actually collect.
This is Sean Buchanan (or, rather, his YouTube profile picture): a 23-year-old Dutch-American computer science major, better known by his online moniker “pannenkoek2012”, or “Pannen” for short (pannenkoek is the Dutch word for pancake, hence my ingenious post title).
Pannen knows Super Mario 64 better than you know your own eyelids. In fact, he probably knows it more intimately, more comprehensively, more unnecessarily, than most people will ever know a single topic in their entire lives. He played it as a child and enjoyed it a great deal, but, unlike us mere mortals who leave “completing” the game at retrieving all of the collectibles, beating the big boss and rescuing the princess, Pannen decided one day that he wanted to go further. Since 2008 (not 2012, funnily enough) he has undertaken a series of challenges, some set by others and some for himself, in an effort to truly leave no stone unturned, no coin uncollected, no enemy unquashed, absolutely nothing yet to be discovered, explored, analysed and evaluated to exhaustion.
And there is far, FAR more to it than you’d think. (This does come back to something more generalised later, so bear with me, non-gamers out there. Or skip to just past the picture of the brown mushroom thingy, we’re cool.)
His most famous accomplishments (subjective use of “fame”, I know) are in working on the A-Button Challenge – to wit, collecting all 120 Power Stars and defeating Bowser in as few presses of the “A” button as possible. To clarify, this means overcoming all of the obstacles, enemies and puzzles in 100 or so levels of a platforming game whilst doing literally anything and everything possible NOT to push what functions as the primary “jump” button (the “B” button allows for a horizontal dive, but little in the way of height).
On his first challenge attempt, Pannen took a total of 232 A-presses to reach the end of the game; over the following decade, through a mind-boggling array of tricks, glitches, shortcuts, and several pages of actual kinematic physics equations, charts and diagrams, he has proven it can now be done, at last count, in either 28, 29 or 30 presses, depending on which localised version you’re playing (different glitches in each, y’see).
Some of these “saved” presses are quite straightforward, trivial even; some require a bit of forethought for planning routes through the levels, as well as a bit of knowledge of exactly where and when to exploit enemies and environmental features to catapult Mario onto platforms that would otherwise be an issue to reach without an “A”. Others, however, involve some truly astounding efforts in order to work around the lack of jumping as an option.
In this playlist, the first video is an updated record of the remaining A-presses that Pannen has yet to eradicate from his playthrough. The second video, Level 1-1 as it were, is one of the straightforward ones to do without jumping. Level 1-2 requires a moment of planning to clear the ledge after the see-saw bridge, but nothing that can’t be overcome with a bit of practice. But by Level 1-3… well, here is Pannen’s own description of how it’s done:

Diagram of how to bounce on a series of carefully-positioned enemies to reach a floating platform…

…and its accompanying equations. For science!

So, there you go.
A little further down the playlist, video #45 for Level 6-6 “Watch for Rolling Rocks – 0.5x A Presses (Commentated)” is the one that launched Pannen to internet superstardom, and first brought him to my attention. Without going into much detail on his achingly thorough 25-minute explanation of how he obtains this Star with half a push of the “A” button (don’t ask. NO, DON’T), let’s just say it introduced me to such concepts as Tool-Assisted Superplay, Scuttlebug Transportation, Scuttlebug Raising, Hyper-Speed Walking, and Quadruple-Parallel-Universe Alignment. And takes over 15 hours to pull off in real time.** “But first, we need to talk about parallel universes…” has become a joke in its own right, as has the phrase “Scuttlebug Jamboree” (which, if it isn’t already, I’m calling dibs on as my prog rock band name du jour).
And other than this A-press challenge, he has another 250 or so videos on his channel dedicated to exploring other SM64 phenomena. He completes various levels without pressing any buttons. He completes others without touching the joystick at all, thus relying solely on momentum from punches, kicks and jumps to move around, and bouncing off walls or sliding on slopes or being knocked about by enemies to change direction. He concludes that 81 Stars can be collected without picking up a single coin on route (considerably harder than it sounds) and all but one Star can be obtained without either utilising a power-up Cap, or blasting out of a cannon, complete with extensive spreadsheets detailing these.
There’s a video ranking every Star in the game in order of how many distance “units” it hovers above the ground. There’s a 37-minute pseudo-documentary detailing the differing behaviours of wall, floor, and ceiling surfaces. There’s an eight-minute video dedicated to how each character’s blinking animation is coded and synchronised.
In 2014, Pannen became the first player in history to obtain the “Impossible Coin” on Tiny-Huge Island, trapped behind a wall texture and unreached since its discovery in 2002 – the Fermat’s Last Theorem of gaming. He also discovered the “Mystery Goomba” enemy, that spawns for a single frame underneath the final level and is, as far as is known, impossible to reach. His hypothesis of the Goomba’s existence and why he believes it to be so, his discovery thereof via manipulating camera angles (a grainy snapshot that would make a Nessie-spotter baulk), an explanation of why it (dis)appears where and when it does, and a ten-minute video exploring everything he has tried to reach the Goomba without success, are all painstakingly chronicled.

The frustration, and the exhilaration, are palpable.
Hypotheses, experiments, results and proofs – literal science. I am fairly serious when I say he could obtain an actual PhD for the sheer scope and meticulousness of his investigations. And it’s no longer a mere hobby for him – with over 100,000 YouTube subscribers, Pannen is now able to make a legitimate living from his SM64 escapades, and he is currently offering a $1,000 “bounty” to anyone who can replicate a particular teleport-like glitch that one player triggered once (inadvertently) during a recorded speedrun in 2015, but that nobody has ever been able to reproduce since. If you fancy a bash at getting that cash, looky here.
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Right, all very interesting (or not – your mileage may vary), but what has this got to do with me, your humble narrator? Good question, and I’ll tell you – I want to be like him.
His accomplishments in his particular field of research stand alongside Leibniz and Newton’s discoveries in calculus, albeit I doubt he’s going to become a household name like them (okay, bit of a stretch). Even after these triumphant milestones, he still returns to see where he can improve in every element of his runs in the vein of a world-class athlete. Or he pursues ever more unorthodox methods of splitting, splicing, dissecting, deconstructing and rearranging the game, like an artist finding new materials or techniques to paint, sculpt, film. Moreover, his love, passion and dedication to the craft is like that of Gomez and Morticia Addams for one another – a singular and undying adoration, a symbiotic relationship that blooms ever more over time. Super Mario 64 and pannenkoek2012 bring out more in one another than most couples do, and are wholly more than their individual selves.
There are plenty of comments under his videos deriding his efforts as a “waste of time” (as are games and art in general, if you want to reductio that absurdum), and that there’s no higher purpose to any of these restricted challenges, and best of all, that all the credit being given to him should go to the toolkits he uses to implement precision movements (by the same logic, all the credit given to Da Vinci should go to his paintbrushes). And maybe there won’t be some concrete, usable service gained from anything that he does, though some argue it may have implications for the mathematics and physics of games programming going forward, as well as exploring sociological questions like “Why do we so enjoy taking things apart / imposing constraints on ourselves / listening to complex theories being posited even when we often don’t fully understand the mechanics of them?”
But all of that misses the central point. Sean Buchanan has found, and dived headlong into, a subject of his interest, and dedicated himself to attaining the closest thing he can to perfection in his knowledge and understanding of it. He has poured hundreds, probably thousands of hours into his extremely specific skillset over ten years (you may have heard of the 10,000 hours it takes to achieve true mastery of something; it’s half-true), and has entertained tens of thousands of viewers in the process, many of whom have never even played SM64 themselves, but who simply enjoy seeing somebody so wholeheartedly laying bare its inner workings.
I don’t know how good he is at anything else in his life – like, I presume he can take care of himself in basic day-to-day life functions like cooking and cleaning, and he has other interests beyond cracking open video games (not to the same extent, but they’re there). But if my presumptions are correct, then he’s achieved the sort of vocational ideal that game developers Valve look for in their employees, as illustrated on page 46 of their magnificent company handbook – a “T-shaped” person, with a wide breadth of knowledge in a variety of areas (“computer science major” covers a lot of ground), and one specific, hardcore, deep-rooted area of expertise.
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So, this is where I want to get myself as well – “T-shaped”. I have the starting problem of not knowing what my area of expertise ought to be – I definitely have the breadth of knowledge to be a threat in any pub quiz you care to bring me to, and knowledge bases and skillsets that cover things such as linguistics, etymology, lexicology, and other language-based and writing-based fields of study; motor racing, especially Formula 1; Nintendo video games (shock horror); internet memetics; some degree of competency in music theory and practice… I’d say something relating to my undergrad studies in game development but I’ve forgotten/suppressed nearly all of it. I know, without resorting to self-aggrandisement, that I’m an intelligent guy with the privilege of time and freedom to pursue some highly dedicated self-teaching. The question, then, is where to focus all of this time and energy that, currently, I am putting to waste.
When I was at Abertay Uni, I came across a book in the library (quite unrelated to my course) by psychologist Mihály Csíkszentmihályi on his concept of “flow”, whereby a person reaches their greatest states of achievement, and of happiness and contentment, when they apply skills at which they excel to a challenge that is in need of such skills to overcome. Too little challenge for the skill, and the person will be bored or apathetic; too little skill for the challenge, and the person will be worried or anxious. How very much like Pannen’s adventures! A seemingly immovable (or unreachable) object, being met with his seemingly unstoppable force of will, is a case study in flow.

Skill along the X-axis; Challenge up the Y-axis. His name’s pronounced “ME-high CHEEK-sent-me-high”, by the by.
A related area of Csíkszentmihályi’s studies is intrinsic motivation, and I think this is where the light is slowly starting to come on in my head (this bit is taking an age to write compared to the earlier paragraphs – introspection is tricky). Certain phrases come back to me time and again from popular culture – my fridge magnet that says “I would be unstoppable, if I could just get started”; a simple lyric from You’re The Best Thing by The Style Council – “I could be a lot / But I know I’m not”; a three-panel web comic by the hauntingly brilliant A Softer World that reads “If you put your mind to it / you can do anything. / But you won’t”. Juxtaposing them like this, it can’t be coincidence that I’ve held onto these particular phrases in my mind.
Man, writing is therapeutic.
Pannen, until recently, didn’t get any recompense for doing what he did, and he still doesn’t do it for the adulation, nor the money, nor even really for the achievements themselves. He does it because the doing thrills him, fills him with fantastic feelings ne’er felt before. I need something intrinsic like this. I still submit to writing contests, but that seems to be the primary source of motivation for writing most things nowadays, and that’s no way to go on in a creative endeavour. It doesn’t have to be done without an external end to the means, but it probably should.
That ought to change.
But it’s not just in terms of my occupation that I’m trying to view things in terms of Pannen. I believe, to an extent, that this can be applied to relationships too. I don’t mean in the Groundhog Day sense of finding out every one of her favourite drinks, restaurants, poets et cetera and trying to woo her with those – I mean in knowing what makes your partner(s) laugh, what habits tick them off, whether they’d appreciate a surprise trip to the Caribbean or whether they’re the sort of person to freak out even at nice surprises on that scale. Knowing, and adapting, and relating to the challenge that is a relationship, or a friendship, or a business or workplace partnership – these are all skills too, and I reckon a sort of social flow comes with maintaining such interactions well.
I can probably get better at those, too.
And, I hypothesise, this can be scaled upwards to a five-year plan of where I want to be living and what I’m doing and who I’m doing it with and so forth, or it can be scaled down to washing dishes regularly, or cleaning some gorram space on my bedroom floor, or taking less than two days, on and off, to finish a blog post.
So. Mission statement. Flow. Focus. Choose life. Choose finishing and posting this blurb. Choose getting to bed not long after and setting an alarm even though it’s a Sunday. Apply for jobs slightly better than I think I can do, because I might just surprise myself – I know more than I think I know. Apply myself to writing things for the sake of writing them – I know I enjoy it, and that it’s a matter of shutting the distractions out for however long it takes – 15 or 20 minutes or so – for that bit of my creative self to unfurl like a flower blooming, and for the words to start coming in a stream, a flow instead of a drip or a trickle, as they’re doing now at last after hours of frustrating stop-start half-sentence-at-a-time tomfoolery.
Learn a bit of Gaelic every day – I made a start last month but trailed off, but a dozen or so new words a day is totally feasible, and the great thing is that I’m not doing this with an end goal in mind (though it may be useful should I ever get a civil service job or the like) – I simply want to speak and write a bit of Gaelic. Cook for myself, and my mum, more often – she deserves it. Insist on doing more around the place in general for both our sakes. A weird and highly unromantic one, but I gotta be brutally honest with myself: brush my teeth twice a day every day, not once a day most days – it’s kind of the opposite of flow, but my mouth, and dentistry bills, will thank me later in life.
Uh… this went off somewhere else, I guess. But this is part of the learning process – I haven’t written something like this in a while, so I’ll need to relearn the discipline of reining in tangential thoughts and keeping my writing taut (and using less of these parenthetical asides; I’m sure they disrupt the flow of the piece).
To tomorrow. To flow. To pannenkoek.
*Near the end of writing this, I realised that, by sheer coincidence, tomorrow – February 18th – will mark the 20th anniversary of my first rescue of Princess Peach in SM64. I remember the date because six-year-old me wrote it in a diary. As time goes by-y-y…
**A couple of months ago, Pannen uploaded an updated version that, while still requiring half an A-press, slashes his previous completion time to a mere five and a half hours. Jamboree!


Grenfell Action Group

Watching breaking news about the Grenfell Tower fire catastrophe. Too soon (5am) to even guess at numbers of casualties and fatalities. Our heartfelt and sincere condolences to all who have perished, to the injured, to those who are bereaved or are still searching for missing loved ones.

Regular readers of this blog will know that we have posted numerous warnings in recent years about the very poor fire safety standards at Grenfell Tower and elsewhere in RBKC.

ALL OUR WARNINGS FELL ON DEAF EARS and we predicted that a catastrophe like this was inevitable and just a matter of time. Below is a list of links to previous blogs we posted on this site trying to warn the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, who own this property, and the Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation who supposedly manage all social housing in RBKC on the Council’s behalf:

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This is a festive gift from me to you, dear readers, to be sung to the tune (or at least read to the rhythm) of “Mr Brightside” by The Killers – credit to my friend Imogen for sparking this splendid idea. Share away if you like!



Christmas lights are ablaze
It smells of chestnuts and pine
Gotta gotta get out
Deliver gifts to all
I’d started making a list
How did it end up like this?
It was only a list

Now I’ve schedules to keep
But the weather looks bad
Chimneys filling with smoke
Sack’s becoming a drag
Now I’m boarding the sled
And my reindeer are sick
Got a full night ahead
But I’m needing a

Rest now
Beard down to my chest now
Starting to snow

And I just can’t look
It seems to me
A freezing hellhole

Skimming trees
Whiteout, I can barely see
Sleet and hailstones in my eyes
Can’t eat any more mince pies
But it’s just the price I pay
Christmas Eve is calling me
Boy, I hope my sleigh still flies…


[repeat lyrics above]

(Ode to Joy-esque solo)




Season’s Greetings, y’all.




An open letter to the asshole who thought it was a good idea to make art about my self harm and put it on the internet.

I’ve never reblogged before. I had promised myself I never would. But this needs shared as widely as possible. It is so important, to me and to one of my dearest friends. Please read this when you can.


The Vow

Not, in case you’re trying to anticipate me, a post relating to anything at all regarding indyref. Instead, it’s the title bestowed upon a short story of mine, lovingly recorded and sent by a dear friend all the way from Finland as part of a Yuletide story project. Links to her channel(s) can be found “below the jump”, as they say (whoever they are).

Happy 2015!



Formula 1: End of Sector Two

Long story short, most of the trends I had spotted back in June have continued.

I suggested in the first report that Lewis Hamilton was his own worst enemy in his quest for the 2014 title, but now it seems his own Mercedes team are most likely to deny him the title now. He hasn’t had a sound qualifying since the Spanish Grand Prix, which he won. To recap – first there was “Mirabeau-gate” in Monaco, which cannot be proven as intentional by Nico Rosberg, but meant that Hamilton could not challenge him for pole either way. He made an error on his best lap in Canada and had to settle for second again. A spin on his last attempt in Austria, which may have been a brake bias problem or his own undoing, left him ninth. A misjudgement of weather conditions in Britain left him sixth. Brake failure resulted in a crash and starting at the back in Germany. And a catastrophic engine meltdown in Hungary resulted in a fire so severe that literally everything behind the front axle had to be rebuilt or replaced, not to mention a pitlane start.

Yet from those lowly starting positions in the last four rounds, he has clawed his way back to second, first, third and third respectively. True, Rosberg did have his own mechanical woes that led to his retirement from the British event, but it’s not too much of a stretch to suggest that Hamilton would have clear air between himself and his teammate in the title race without these mishaps.

Red Bull’s Daniel “The Teeth” Ricciardo remains best of the rest, and a Pretty Cool Guy; he wears a honey badger on his helmet and doesn’t afraid of anything. Both his Canadian and Hungarian GP wins only came after daring overtaking manoeuvres in the dying laps, so you can never say he hasn’t worked for either. He also continues to be the most universally likeable bloke on the grid, which is perhaps even more remarkable than his winning ways alone – usually the two are mutually exclusive features. Sebastian Vettel (that’s quadruple reigning world champ Sebastian Vettel) remains winless, and more significantly, can’t seem to hold a candle to his new rival either in qualifying or in race craft.

Fernando Alonso is now the only driver maintaining a 100% pointscoring record in 2014, after Nico Hülkenberg’s run came to an end in the tyre wall at Hungary. Alonso came agonisingly close to a heroic win at the Hungaroring, and the fact that sixth place at the same event for Kimi Räikkönen was the Finn’s best result of the entire year speaks volumes for the chasm between the two Ferrari men in the drivers’ standings. Räikkönen is lucky still to be driving for the Prancing Horse for another reason – his 150mph spear into a bridge support on the opening lap at Silverstone measured a wincing 50g impact, enough to puncture through the Armco barrier and require the race to stop for an hour to repair it (the right call, whatever nonsense Niki Lauda cares to spout otherwise).

Williams still have the uncanny ability to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas were the first and thus far only drivers to break Mercedes’ stranglehold on qualifying when they locked out the front row in Austria, yet they still ended up fourth and third at the flag without having looked like trying to take the fight to the Silver Arrows. Massa has also shown an unfortunate propensity for being involved in blameless collisions with other drivers, whether on the last lap in Canada with Sergio Pérez, or on the first laps in Britain and Germany with Räikkönen and Kevin Magnussen respectively. The car is clearly very, very good indeed, but it seems to be in the hands of a team who are so used to being backmarkers that they don’t know quite how to handle their sudden return to success.

Force India have made significant strides in the wrong direction over the summer months. From being podium finishers in Bahrain, they now struggle for top-10 results; things hit a nadir in Hungary as Hülkenberg and Pérez collided on track, before ending their races in separate accidents. Happily for fans of McLaren, meanwhile, they have gone on an upward trend, to the stage where they sit a single point behind Force India in the standings, and look set to surpass them at the next race. Magnussen and Jenson Button seem fairly evenly matched, which doesn’t bode well for the Englishman, given the vast difference in their levels of experience at the top of the sport.

Jean-Éric Vergne hasn’t exactly been awful this year – it’s just that Daniil Kvyat has been marginally better, and with two years’ less running than the Frenchman. Both, however, have been frustrated by chronic reliability issues with their cars. It might be a sign of my own growing old, but my initial reaction to the news of Toro Rosso signing nappy-dweller Max Emilian Verstappen (his full name, no joke) to replace Vergne for the 2015 campaign was one of jaw dropping and guttural choking. The day I became older than a current driver on the starting grid (to wit, when Sauber signed Esteban Gutiérrez at the start of 2013) was bad enough, but Verstappen is 16 years old. Sixteen! He can’t even legally drive a road car in the UK and he’s a frickin’ F1 driver! For his sake I hope he doesn’t score a podium finish in the first year, because it’ll just be embarrassing for all when the police confiscate his champagne on the rostrum and slap him with an ASBO.

Closer to the present day, two abrupt driver replacements at the back end of the grid have left everyone scratching their heads. Max Chilton vacated his Marussia seat over “contractual issues” for American racer Alexander Rossi to make his début, only for the team to reverse their decision a few hours later. Chilton’s accountant later apologised for being late to write this month’s cheque. Kamui Kobayashi, meanwhile, has made way for Germany’s Andre Lotterer – a 32-year-old former Le Mans winner with precisely zero F1 experience. Quite where the demand for Lotterer’s presence in the team came from is a bit of a mystery, though his manager did recently adopt a position as an “adviser” to the Caterham executive board…

Still, anything could be worth giving Caterham the surprisingly realistic chance to catch any of the three teams immediately above them in the championship table. Lotus’s woeful season continues to be an unfunny joke for Romain Grosjean’s frittering talent, while Pastor Maldonado continues to be an unfunny joke to the entire paddock – I’ve seen the crash he had in Belgian third practice three times, and short of actually having his eyes closed coming towards the Pouhon corner, I can’t work out how he managed to screw up so badly. Erstwhile respectably mid-grid Sauber are having a quieter, yet equally desperate year – still planted on nul points after eleven rounds, they face their worst showing in over two decades as a constructor, unless Gutiérrez or Adrian Sutil can better one of their many 11th or 12th places into the top-10 result they so desperately need.

Right, Spa kicks off in under half an hour. Once more unto the breach!