Online Dating Sellout

Okay, okay. I admit it. I sold out. I downloaded Tinder.

If you have read my previous online dating posts (here, here, here, here and here), you’ll know that I was vehemently opposed to Tinder because of the considerably biased rep the poor app, and its users, have (note how I am now sounding more sympathetic). I didn’t want to be seen as someone just looking to ‘hook up’, and being a Christian, it was doubly inappropriate.

Well, I have now tried the Tinder experience and I can say that my opinion is pleasantly changed (read: eat humble pie). I have been on a few online dating websites and they have been somewhat…disappointing. Women with photos that look nothing like them, crazy stalkers and scammers haunt my waking hours (okay, that’s a bit overly dramatic, but I’m a writer. Cut me some slack).

Within hours of being on Tinder (swipe left, swipe right – I feel like I’m in The Karate Kid and Mr Miyagi is abstractly teaching me some new defensive move), I had a few (admittedly vague) conversations.

Within a few days I had a date (yes, remarkable, given my jaded dating history). It was nice: a few drinks, dinner and a fun night. No, she wasn’t Christian, but we had a good time anyway. I have now had a few more decent conversations with other women and will try a few more dates. No, I’m not playing the field. I’m very upfront with my date that if we don’t think we are viable long-term prospects then we move on. Okay, maybe I do sound a little shallow (what does the guilty-looking emoji look like…).

Turns out Tinder is not so bad, after all.

Cheers

Steve 😊

Online Dating Scams – don’t be a target and a victim

Good lord, I can’t believe it. Me, a guy who is so security and privacy conscious, who is IT-literate and generally pretty smart, fell for one of the oldest scams in the book.

Well, not quite fell, but almost.

Scams are rife in the world of online dating. Lonely older people are easy to prey on. And having been lonely for a long time, and now in the mature (over 40) age bracket, it appears that I’m now a target.

So how did it happen? Loooong story. How about I try to move on from my embarrassment and just tell you what to look for:

  • Beware of attractive younger people sending you winks/messages. If the message indicates they want to talk via email, rather than the date site’s messaging system, be cautious, and recommend using the dating site until you know them better. If they suggest using a dedicated messaging app like Yahoo Messenger, be aware that this app has been hacked in the past and has security issues. Also, if their email address sounds strange, that’s potentially another warning.
  • If the person provides too much personal information about themselves, especially too early in the ongoing email conversation, be careful: they are trying to get you to provide your own personal details and earn your trust or sympathy. Scammers know that many people use their dates of birth in their passwords, so never give it out. Also, don’t send photos of yourself in emails, scammers can use you info to create false profiles to rip off other people.
  • If the person’s story seems too good to be true, or too tragic to be true, it’s probably not.
  • The scammers will be working on multiple people through that dating website at the same time, so be conscious of slips (i.e. they use the wrong name, or repeat several words several times as if they have inaccurately cut and pasted a response).
  • If the writing in a message has poor grammar (especially where a person has stated on their profile they have high level or University-level qualifications), be aware that scams are often conducted from other countries where English is not the first language. Additionally, look for syntax changes in messages that sound like a different person is writing from the person who wrote before – it could be a team of scammers, rather than a single person.
  • Be wary if the other party doesn’t want to talk with you on the phone or meet in person. If they are working from another country they know their accent will give them away and that there is no way they can meet, so they will put you off as long as they can.
  • The scammer will play on your loneliness by finding out about you and talking about high levels of love/commitment very early, to gauge how easy it may be to manipulate you. They may even indicate that they have plenty of money (e.g. an inheritance or good job) so as not to arouse your suspicions of a scam.
  • Be cautious if the person is overseas or says they are going to be travelling soon. Generally they will be going to a country where they will have a “mishap” (e.g. lose wallet/purse) and will then attempt to get money from you, based on whether they believe they have built enough trust to try it on. This may include bank account details. NEVER give your credit card or bank account details in an email.

Once the scammer is aware that you may be on to them, they will stop emailing you. Block their address so you don’t get anything from them again. Notify the dating website of the scam so they can remove the profile. It may be a good idea to change your passwords associated with the website and your email, especially if you use your name or date of birth in them.

There are lots of sites around that give out tips on how to avoid online scamming – I’ve added a few links below.

I’m glad I didn’t fall for it, but part of me wanted to, and that’s because lonely people make themselves easy targets, and thus, easy victims.

Don’t be a target, or a victim. There’s enough of those in the world already.

 

Australian Government Scam Watch – https://www.scamwatch.gov.au/types-of-scams/dating-romance

Wikihow – http://www.wikihow.com/Spot-an-Online-Dating-Scammer

Romance Scams – http://www.romancescams.org/

Independent – http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/love-sex/online-dating-fraud-how-to-identify-most-likely-scammer-profiles-scams-a7553616.html

Online Date Tragedy. A Haiku Trilogy.

Online Date Tragedy

Profile

Look at her profile
Magic encapsulated
Is that photo real?
 
Meeting

Nervously waiting
Looks nothing like her photo
Not much in common
 
Failing

Apologetic
And good luck with your soul search
A face palm moment

 

Okay, so I got tired of writing dark poetry. This one’s a little amusing. And 5/7/5 syllable Haiku’s are entirely appropriate for short-lived non-romances.

This is based on my own experiences, of course. I’m sure other people have a great time on their online dates.

Online Dating Fail – Strike 3!

(I walk in the door, despondent after my latest online date.

“So, what was she like?” says Beta Max, reclining on the lounge with Xbox controller in one hand and beer can in the other.

“She looked like my ex-wife,” I say. “And was just as opinionated.”

He purses his lips. “Ooh, not good.”

“No. I’m a bit over it, actually.” I plonk on the lounge next to him, watch Beta Max despatch a few enemy soldiers in the latest Call of Duty game. Engrossed in the on-screen carnage, fingers and thumbs tapping away on the controller buttons, he doesn’t take his eyes off the TV screen. “What is it I always say?”

We speak simultaneously: “Plenty more fish in the sea.”

Alpha Girl enters at that moment. “Blew it again, did you?” she says.

I look back, resignedly, at her. “No, not this time.”

“Well, you know what Beta Max says…”

“Don’t say it-”

Beta Max and Alpha Girl in tandem this time, a huge and devious smile on Beta Max’s face: “Plenty more fish in the sea.”)

 

My second face-to-face date (and third woman I’ve spoken to*). Not so bad. Had a nice meal. Company was okay. Looking like my ex-wife was not a positive point.

Why is it that people don’t look like the photos they put online? Is it because they use old photos, when they were better looking, thinner, had different hair, before they got old and before they got the skin grafts? Yes, my photos are a few years old, but I still look basically the same (except for a few more grey hairs in my goatee and my hairline receding slightly…okay, maybe I shouldn’t be complaining about anyone else).

It is a bit unfair though. I know we shouldn’t judge people based on their looks alone, but isn’t that what first impressions are all about? If the datee puts a misleading photo (or photos) on their online dating profile, aren’t they enticing the unwary would-be dater into a trap, of sorts? The meeting is going to be a surprise, if the dater recognises them at all. Maybe they’re hoping their sterling conversational skills will save the day. After all, looks aren’t everything, right?

Maybe I’m complaining for the sake of complaining. I’m disillusioned and I’ve only met three women so far. I’m sure there will be more. Hopefully not as misleading as the first few.

Back to the coal face. Once more unto the breach. Plenty more fish in the sea (Ugh!).

 

(“Maybe you should hang out at the supermarket,” says Alpha Girl.

“You think I’ll be more successful at meeting women there?” I say.

“No, but I’d see a lot less of you.”)

 

*To find out how that one went, click here. To find out how the second one went, click here. To avoid my whinging altogether, click here for some poetry.      

That’s an Online Dating Fail! (Or, Strike One)

I joined a Christian online dating service a week or so back (get the lowdown on why, here). I was contacted by a lovely lady; we emailed back and forth, then texted, then spoke on the phone, and texted some more. We set up our first face-to-face meeting, to have coffee and see a movie together.

Then she went away for the weekend and went silent. I thought I had done something wrong and so I sent an apologetic text (I had no idea what I was apologising for), and she replied with a very nice “it’s not you it’s me” text, advising that she was going through a lot of heavy issues and didn’t want to bother me with them. See you round, and good luck with your ongoing search. I’m trusting she was telling the truth, but maybe I‘m just naïve. We never even got to meet.

 

(“Hah!” says Alpha Girl. “I knew you would bomb! Can I say ‘I told you so’?”

Beta Max shrugs. “Don’t worry, man. There’s plenty more fish in the online sea.”)

 

I’ve read a bit about online dating. I know that on apps like Tinder and sites like Match, some people play the field. I chose a Christian dating site because I’m Christian, and hopefully would avoid that sort of thing.

Being a nest of buzzing insecurities, I can’t help but wonder what went wrong. I was charming, funny, and honest. I’m a fit, late forties student with no job, a blog, and a dream that I can one day write for a living (okay, now I’m starting to see what’s not so appealing about me…). Maybe the age thing and the lack of employment made a difference. I’d like to think that my potential future dream girl would be honest enough to tell me if that were it.

 

(“I’ll tell you,” says Alpha Girl. “People don’t like you because you’re a boring, know-it-all, nerd. I don’t like you. You must have picked up on that by now.”

“Beta Max likes me,” I say.

“He’s an idiot, like you,” says Alpha Girl, smiling.

“Thanks a lot,” says Beta Max, slumping dejectedly.)

 

The Christian dating site I’ve joined is “slim pickings”, to say the least. There just doesn’t seem to be a lot of Christian women, in my age range, in my area. I don’t want to join multiple sites as that may make me no better than a serial Tinder dater (no offense to anyone using Tinder, I’m sure you’re a wonderful person who doesn’t fit the stereotypical serial hook up mould).

Maybe I’m worrying as little too much. It is, admittedly, my first failure (possibly, of many). I just have to get back in the saddle and keep trying.

I’ve been told by several of my previous partners that “I’m easy to love”. I don’t know what that means, but I assume it’s positive. I just need an opportunity to demonstrate it. And maybe then I’ll understand it as well.

 

(“So much for your blog not being about picking up women,” says Alpha Girl.

“I’m too depressed to argue with you,” I reply.

“Good. That’s the way it should be,” she says.)

 

I live in Australia, where we use English spelling. I’m proud of my spelling. It’s not American spelling. And that’s okay.

Awkward Online First Dates

The first date when you’re online dating can be a bit awkward, can’t it?

I don’t know about you, but I felt that way, sipping a flat white (that’s a standard coffee with a thin layer of frothed milk, for American readers) and talking about an array of subjects and philosophies, at once engaging and confusing.

I’m new to this game, and so hadn’t had the opportunity to meet someone face-to-face (my previous strike-out didn’t get that far).

I assume these first dates all start the same way: you indicate online that you like someone by sending them a “kiss” (or some other, less than elegant sobriquet the website has implemented to indicate interest). The other person responds with the same. You are forced to buy a contact “stamp” and then use it to email (on the website) the person you are interested in. This goes back and forth, like online badminton, until you agree to exchange a phone number. Then, the texting begins. Eventually you get up the nerve to make a phone call, and near the end of that phone call, you set up a meeting in a public place (possibly a coffee shop), ostensibly to ensure you’re not meeting some crazy psychotic or potential stalker.

You get to the meeting early, a bit nervous and not knowing what to expect. The other person turns up and she looks a bit different from what you expected (even though you referred to the photos on the site specifically to avoid misidentification). You look a bit different from your own photos as well as they were taken a few years ago, so you’re both feeling a bit guilty.

The conversation starts off apprehensively, and gets more comfortable as it goes along. There may even be a bit of flirting (intentional or unintentional, or if you are me, completely no idea). By the time you’re about 15 minutes in, you’ve made a decision about whether you are going to see her again.

But even when the date is over, and you’ve gone your separate ways, you’re not sure whether the other person liked you or not (or at least, that’s how I felt, but I’m full of insecurities). And so, a follow up text is sent to confirm your intention to follow through with the “next date” plan you set up during the first date. This still doesn’t alleviate any concerns you may have that the other person is just being nice and wants to dump you on the kerb like last week’s recyclables.

I guess I’m just a bit paranoid, aren’t I?

Either way, online dating seems to be just as awkward as regular dating – a minefield of social niceties, posturing and personal hang ups.

But as awkward as it may seem, at least it’s happening. So it can’t be all that bad, can it?

No, I thought not.

The Perils of Christian Dating (or “ask questions first and shoot after you’re married”)

(Alpha Girl reclines on the lounge and eyes me venomously. “So when are you going to get out and meet someone? I know it’s hard, you being a loser and all, but other people do it.”

Beta Max thumbs his Xbox controller and nods. “She’s right you know. You’ve been a hermit for too long, man.”

Through artful manipulation of multiple controller buttons I eliminate his on screen avatar, turn and smile at them both. “I’ll have you know that I’ve thought about that. I’m writing a blog about it later.”

Alpha Girl rolls her eyes. “Now you’ve started that blog you’re in the house even more than you were before. If you get out and meet a girl maybe you could move out. Or get a job. Or both.”

“Yeah,” says Beta Max. “Don’t forget to come over and play me on Xbox, though.”)

 

Two years ago I broke up with my wife. Around the same time I resigned my job of twenty plus years. It was more than a mid-life crisis – really a case of kicking myself in the balls for an extended period of time. Since then I’ve done a lot of soul searching, complemented by much self-loathing and despair. Aside from a good dose of psychological therapy, I also found comfort in God. I became a Christian, found a great church run by a good friend, and started getting my crappy life back together.

It’s been about ten years since I’ve been on a date with anyone other than my wife. I find that I’m struggling to work out how to do it, especially in light of my new found status.

I’ll lay it out for you: I’m mid-forties, fighting fit with a great gym bod (so I’m told), I’m reasonably good looking, reasonably smart, reasonably lovable, have no home, no possessions and little money (those last ones hurt), and have Christian values, so sex before marriage is off the table.

 

(“I thought your blog was to improve your writing,” cries Alpha Girl from the kitchen. “It’s just an excuse to meet women.”

“Whoa,” I reply. “That is not the reason – I’m providing context.”

Her head appears around the door. “And you thought I couldn’t get a rise out of you.”

Touche.)

 

So how do older Christians find someone to date? I guess I could meet someone at my local church. The ladies there are lovely, however all of them are either 1) too old, 2) too married or 3) both.

I spoke to a charming woman who told me a long story about meeting her husband via a Christian online dating service. Now I dabbled in online dating a few years back when my girlfriend (who later became my wife) and I split up briefly. It was a pretty depressing affair that sent me running back to her to propose (details? I went out with thirteen women in three months and none of them were a patch on her).

I can’t really hang out in clubs anymore because the average age of club goers appears to have dropped to that of teeny boppers, making me feel like a freaky old grandpa stuck in a literal twilight zone.

There’s another problem. Possibly the biggest (not that – get your mind out of the gutter).

I cannot read the signals that women give off. You know what I mean – when someone is interested in you they give you a few subtle signs and whammo, you know they like you. I am completely unable to spot these signals. Example: I remember a party some time ago where I sung an impromptu duet with a gorgeous girl. She told me how cute I was and I told her what a great singing voice she had. It wasn’t until after she split that I realised the error of my ways.

 

(“You pick up on my signals easily enough,” says Alpha Girl.

“Contemptuous disdain is one I can’t miss,” I reply. “Oh, a tautology. I’ll need to write that one down.”)

 

This has never really been a problem for me in the past. The women I’ve gone out with have expressed themselves in no uncertain terms (that is, hit me over the head with a pile driver and literally jumped me on the spot). This is what I like to call the “shoot first, ask questions later” approach.

Of course, being a Christian complicates things a bit. Since we’re going to get to know each other first (the “ask questions” component), and we’re not going to actually do the “shooting” bit, I have to learn how to interpret the signals to know if a woman likes me.

Having been blind to these signals for so long I’m concerned that I’m going to miss the love of my life unless she has a blazing neon sign attached to her head saying “It’s me!” In fact, I’m a bit worried I may have met her already and never recognised her because she didn’t have that aforementioned flashing sign on her.

So I’m praying for some pretty big signs. And a pair of big eyes so I can see properly.

And an eventual cure for my semi-patented disability.

And a woman who recognises the love in my heart. A woman who doesn’t care about a big bank account – and no, that is not a euphemism.

Here’s hoping.

 

(“I think I’m going to vomit,” says Alpha Girl.

“Didn’t like the sentimentality in that last line?” I say.

“No. I just don’t like you.”)

Love, Today, Actually. A poem.

He met her on Tinder
She met him on RSVP
He spoke to her on cell
She met him for coffee

I like you, he said
I like you, too, she said
Not as much as me, he said
Do, too, she said

I love you, he said
I love you, too, she said
I love you more, he said
Not as much as me, she said

He tweeted his love
She facebooked hers

He SMS’d his breakup
She emailed hers

Ah, love in the electronic age. It ain’t all it’s cracked up to be.

Strike Three – I’m out!

I’m taking a break from online dating. It’s just too depressing. Awkward, tiring and depressing. Big sigh.

Aside from all the women I meet not looking at all like their photos (does everyone put their Dorian Gray pictures online?), I’m just tired of the cycle: excitement at the thought of meeting someone, then the big letdown. I end up feeling like a flat tire that’s been beaten with a dead horse (at least I can still mix metaphors, very badly).

Maybe my conversational standards are too high. Maybe my expectations about lonely, 40-something women on the internet, are unreasonable. Sometimes the woman’s standards are too high, or they’re just downright crazy. My last phone conversation ended with me not being a ‘good fit’, because she received messages from the universe which she recorded in an exercise book, and I mentioned earlier I’d met a medium who ripped off sad people who missed their dead relatives. She felt I wasn’t open minded enough (probably a fair call on that one). Oh, and her ex-partner was still in her life, helping out with the garden. What?! Wow, saved by the bell that time.

So I’ve closed off my online profile and waved goodbye, possibly forever (although nothing lasts forever, as divorced acquaintances are fond of reminding me). That leaves the problem of how to to meet someone (refer here for my issues with that).

I guess I’ll just have to be patient and know that the big guy upstairs has it all worked out (we’ve talked about it a few times, but as you know, he’s not in the habit of answering immediately. Big universe to run, y’know).

I’m hoping I don’t run out of hope along the way.

But that’s another story.

Bored, or annoyed, by Steve’s incessantly despondent ramblings? Try some excessively depressing poetry instead – click here.

Waving, not drowning. Just watch out for the sharks…

(‘So, what are you up to, now,’ says Alpha Girl, glancing over my shoulder at my laptop screen. ‘Blogging? Online dating? Writing recipes, or whatever it is you do all day on that thing?’

‘I’ve started writing a book,’ I say. ‘I’m trying to be a writer. It’s about time I started.’

‘A book,’ she says, with an air of incredulity. ‘You’re writing a book?’

Sometimes its exasperating having to justify everything I do to her, but I’m used to it by now. I guess I blow off a little steam in my response.

‘Yes, a book. I intend to be a writer and writing short stories, novels and blogs is part of that. I know you look down your nose on the things I do because you consider them unimportant, but they’re important to me. I know you probably think I’m wasting my time, and maybe I am, but if I don’t try I’ll never know if I can do it. I have time on my hands and now’s the time to do it, rather than stagnating and wonder ‘what if’ for the rest of my life. Happy?’

She steps back. The silence hangs heavy. ‘What?’ I say. ‘Are you going to tell me to stop wasting my time and get a real job?’

For a moment, I could almost believe she’s hurt. Her mouth is a thin line. ‘I was going to say good luck with it. I’ve read your blogs, and you’re obviously passionate about writing.’

She leaves the room, leaving me feeling like more of a tool than I usually do.)

 

I’ve started my novel. I’ve written unfinished novels in the past, but my intention with this one is to actually write an entire book. Maybe I’ll toss it in the trash at that point, but I have to write it, anyway. I would like to try to get it published.

I read some good advice in a book I’m reading, The Complete Handbook of Novel Writing.  In one of the many essays, Bill O’Hanlon advises to write in small increments. This ensures that you write every day and that you can fit writing into your busy schedule (yes, I have one of those. In between uni work and sitting around, that is). O’Hanlon also comments on overcoming the mental barriers associated with big and daunting jobs, using a process called ‘externalising’.

Externalising is taking the unhelpful inner voices (you know the ones – am I good enough? Why is everything so hard? Did I leave the gas on when I left the house?)  – the one’s that affect motivation – (okay, so I meant that, not the gas thing) and begin to consider them as external.

One of the examples O’Hanlon uses is: ‘I self-sabotage by telling myself I’m not a good enough writer to get published’. He suggests to think instead: ‘self-doubt is trying to convince me that I’m not good enough’. The change, he suggests, helps you to challenge negative thoughts, rather than allowing them to undermine you. This works for all things, not just writing.

O’Hanlon has written 28 books, so I can’t really argue with him. It’s one way he managed to overcome his own self-doubts as a writer, along with some other Jedi mind tricks he discusses in the essay.

So, I typed my first chapter with a newfound sense of confidence, clear headedness and purpose. Maybe this is what I was meant to do. Maybe this is my true calling.

Time will tell.

 

(I find Alpha Girl in the kitchen, making herself a huge, multi-layered sandwich.

‘Sorry if I lashed out earlier,’ I say. She turns to face me, a tight smile pinching her features.

‘I was going to say what you said, about getting a real job,’ she replies. ‘But then I thought to myself, maybe I shouldn’t shoot you down over this.’

I’m not sure how to respond. Is this a trap, another mental mind game wrapped in duplicity and deceit? I swallow involuntarily.

She turns her attention back to her sandwich. ‘I like seeing you all insecure and confused. It makes it all worthwhile.’ She turns back, the malevolent glint in her eye has returned. She tears the sandwich with razor teeth, chews and swallows, like a shark consuming a dolphin that’s irritated it for too long. ‘And I still think you should get a real job.’

I’m imagining the dolphin’s death throes, the water permeated with blood and pieces of frayed meat. The shark tears and tears, and it’s sinking into the red-hazed waters, plummeting deeper and deeper…)

 

Yes, my spelling is English, not American. So stop wincing every time you see an ‘s’ instead of a ‘z’, or a ‘u’ in ‘Humour’.   

To find out more about Bill O’Hanlon’s books and methods, visit http://billohanlon.com/

To find out more about ‘The Complete Book of Novel Writing’, visit http://www.writersdigest.com/qp7-migration-books/novel-writing

Blog Addiction – it’s a real medical condition…

(“So what are you doing, now?” says Alpha Girl.

“The usual,” I reply. “Posting a blog.”

“You have become obsessed with that thing.”

“That’s ridiculous.”

“So, how often do you post?”

“Almost every day.”

“Hmmm. And how often do you check your stats? You know – looks, or whatever they’re called.”

“I don’t have to, I have an app that tells me. It beeps at me.”

“Oh, it beeps, does it? And I suppose you look every time it does?”

“Ummm. No.”

“Really… So, if I was to check your phone right now the app wouldn’t be open?” Alpha Girl swiftly grabs the mobile phone from my hands, flicks through the screens. She turns it to me. Sure enough, the app is open, the stats bars shiny and resplendent in blue and white.

“That proves nothing,” I say.)

 

I started this blog to force me to write every day. So far, so good. Originally, I said I’d be the only person reading it, and didn’t care if anyone else did. After all, it was cathartic, a way of getting issues off my chest. But I guess lately I’ve gotten caught up in whether people are actually reading what I’m writing.

Yes, you got me. I care if people actually read what I write. That’s what writers do, after all – they write to be read. That doesn’t mean I have to cater to the popular crowd. It just means I have to write what I’m happy writing, and hopefully other people will like it, too.

So, I’ve had about 400 views on my blog so far. That’s not bad for a month, I guess, and it is early days. I haven’t exactly been marketing it, or anything. (Okay, I told some people at Uni via the discussion board threads – that doesn’t really count, does it?)

So far, my blogs have been varied, from film and music reviews to posts about my mental health issues, my son, gym workout injuries, computer breakdowns, writing and recording music, Dungeons and Dragons, Kung Fu, books and Christian online dating. I understand that blogs should really be a bit more focussed if you’re aiming for higher views, but I’m happy talking about anything. And that’s how it will stay.

I’m not obsessed with blogging. But I do really, really, enjoy it.

 

(My phone beeps. Before I can reach for it, Alpha Girl pipes up. “Bet you can’t stop yourself from checking your views?” she says.

“Yes, I can. Look – not touching it.” It beeps again. Sweat on the brow. Hand visibly shaking. Alpha Girl watching like a hawk.

I grab the phone and check the app. “Hah!” says Alpha Girl. “Just as I suspected – a blog addict.”

“Shut up,” is my brilliant comeback.)

Apple iTunes Bunnies Don’t Jump, They Just Annoy

(“Aghhh!” I cry. “This software is making me thirsty!”

 Beta max picks up on the joke and does the George Costanza version. “This software…is MAKING ME THIRSTY!”

 Alpha Girl sits on the lounge reading a magazine. “Can’t you two go be thirsty somewhere else? Especially you, Steve. New Zealand, perhaps?”)

  

If there’s one thing that irritates me a lot, it’s iTunes.

I’ve been an Apple user for about 15 years or so. I’ve seen their products improve over time, and I’ve seen iTunes (the program that allows you to update songs and data and backup your iPod, iPhone and iPad) evolve. I really like Apple products, for their durability, simplicity and ease of use. But iTunes…

iTunes was originally designed just for updating iPod, the first digital music player. It was simple to use, as it was only meant to load songs onto that device. When the iPhone and iPad showed up, iTunes was asked to do more and more. Various additions were made, making it more complicated for the average user. Over time, iTunes has become a bit of a clunky mess (apologies to the Apple software designers – I understand you have to work with what you’ve got).

Over the years I’ve had numerous problems with iTunes, and the latest is it won’t allow my devices to sync (a process that allows you to back up and update). I’ve read the online forums and used their suggestions i.e. reset devices, reboot computer; all to no avail. I’m now trying to download iTunes to reinstall it. Four times it has failed to download. My internet connection is good, but it keeps failing.

I don’t have that much hair left to pull out. I’m vocalising my frustration with very un-Christian language.

I’m now at a loss as to what to do. iTunes will play music on my laptop, but won’t update my devices.

Maybe I should just buy a new laptop, but that seems a little extreme for a fix (it’s also not a financial option).

If anyone has a suggestion, I’d love to hear it.

 

(“Have you tried turning your computer off?” says Beta Max.

“First thing I tried,” I reply. “Switch off, switch on. It’s the IT fix-it mantra.”

“No, I meant just leave it off,” he says.)

Real Men Play D&D (when their girlfriends aren’t looking)

So, I’m a nerd from way back (you wouldn’t know it now, I’m fit, healthy and a wee bit trendy). I have, however, accepted my nerdism and embraced it (to those still struggling with coming out as a nerd, I strongly suggest you take a good look at yourself and get over it. Don’t you know that geeks are in?).

Like many young nerds, I played Dungeons and Dragons, a tabletop fantasy role playing game and glowing beacon for nerdity everywhere. Now some of you reading this blog (if there are actually any of you), may be wondering just what this D&D thing is.

(Alpha Girl smirks as she sees me reading a copy of the D&D Player’s Handbook. “You are such a geek”, she says.

“But a well built one,” I reply.

“No amount of weight lifting is going to change the fact that you are lame.”

“And no amount of nastiness is going to change the fact that you can’t get a rise out of me.”)

A role playing game allows the players, gently guided (read: slaughtered) by a “Dungeon Master” (yes, it’s a stupid name), to take on the role of a character living in a sword and sorcery fantasy world. They fight monsters, grab treasure and generally live an impossible existence far more exciting than their real lives. The game doesn’t require a board, as it takes place in the imagination of the players. There are, however, large numbers of accessories to visualise the game (including miniatures, for the less imaginative).

D&D was the first fantasy role playing game. Created by Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson in 1974, it became the template for a plethora of RPGs that followed, both tabletop and electronic. Since the original incarnation there have been multiple versions/updates – the latest is Fifth Edition, called “5E” by its fans, for short. 5E was released two years ago and has been responsible for a resurgence in D&D’s popularity. Indeed, tabletop RPGs have entered a new renaissance, with electronic PDFs of old and new games and supporting materials sold online via sites like www.drivethrurpg.com.

But what does the game mean to me? I’m glad you asked. Let me take you back to 1981, when a skinny young kid came across a copy of Basic D&D in his local games shop. He took home the strange pink box (yes, a horrible colour, even then). “This game hasn’t got a board,” he said to his mum, feeling he’d been ripped off in some way.

I was the first guy in my school to own a copy. I played it with my friends, who had never heard of a game like this before. They were all slaughtered in the first room of my first dungeon (I had yet to learn that it’s was a good idea to have some players survive so that they might want to play again).

A year later I moved on to Advanced D&D, a more complicated, definitely more expensive, version of the game. By this stage I had tempered my Dungeon Mastering lust for player character doom with some compassion, so some of them managed to level-up – that is, advance in rank so that they could take on bigger, better and more dangerous monsters and dungeons. And possibly die a more horrible death.

AD&D was responsible for a vast improvement in my mathematical ability, due to ridiculous experience point calculations. AD&D, along with other nerd-like things, such as comics and Star Wars, helped forge in me a fevered imagination and creative bent. And a joy of writing.

(“Wait a minute,” says Beta Max. “Are you saying that this game makes you magically good at maths?”

“Not magically, but with a bit of work, yeah,” I reply.

“Oh,” says Beta Max. “For a minute there I was interested.”)

Even my son (a padawan nerd-in-training) has started playing. I harped on about the game for years and he finally created his first character the other week (a Half Orc Paladin who communicates in grunts and gestures and has a penchant for physically throwing his protesting Halfling Rogue comrade into battle). Needless to say he loved his first game. (Told ya so, son!)

Nowadays, I play D&D every week or two. It’s surprising how many “gamers” are out there. You probably know one. They may even outwardly look like a “cool” person. But don’t be mistaken: they are a nerdist in disguise.

I say embrace your inner geek. Don’t you know we will inherit the Earth?

Play on, fellow gamers.

(P.S. Lots of women play D&D as well. Ignore that stupid title, it’s supposed to be a joke. English spelling as well, haters!) 

 

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