Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Insomnia, Annoying Spouses, Racing and Virus Checkers.

As both the frequency of my blog posts and the time stamps on them show, I’m currently right in the middle of one of my bouts of insomnia.

This is when, for a week or two, my body just decides to rebel against me, and make me feel as crappy as possible.

There’s no explanation for it. I can be stressed as hell and sleep like a baby, or I can be at my most relaxed and not get a wink of sleep.

It’s not a fun feeling to be absolutely mentally and physically exhausted and have my mind just refuse to switch off. It’s like someone has left a radio blasting in your head. No matter how hard you try, you just can’t stop thinking.

Movies you’ve seen play themselves over and over, songs you’ve heard play over and over (or more accurately a small snippet will play over and over again).

So I lie in bed, until eventually at about 6am, I give up and get up. Of course, 60 seconds after I get out of bed, I’m hit with a gigantic wave of exhaustion. The only problem is if I go back to bed, the cycle starts all over again.

If I stay up, however, I know that by about noon, one of two things will happen. I’ll crash out completely, wherever I am, or the act of staying conscious for over 30 hours straight will take its toll, and I’ll be hit with a gigantic wave of nausea, and probably throw up.

The worst part is making family understand this. I can’t help it. It’s completely beyond my control, and for most people “I didn’t get any sleep” Isn’t a valid excuse. I may appear to be completely awake and in control of my faculties, but in another hour I’ll either collapse or throw up. Not to mention I feel absolutely terrible right now.

So, a couple of days ago, I missed the family reunion for this very reason. I’d gone to bed at 11, woke up at 25 past, and spent the next eight hours staring at the ceiling. (Many people say they ‘didn’t sleep’, but what they mean is they had a lot of interrupted sleep, where they slept for an hour, woke up for half, slept for an hour, etc. Or they were stuck awake for a couple of hours. I’m talking about no sleep whatsoever).

Today was the same. Marie, my step-daughter in law gave birth last night. Sunny’s gone to the hospital to see the baby. Even though I don’t feel completely terrible right now, I know that within the next hour I’ll either crash, or puke…neither thing is something I’d like to do in public.

Again, the problem is that if Marie or Frank ask me why I didn’t go to the hospital, “I didn’t get any sleep that night so I was sleeping.” Doesn’t seem like much of an excuse. It seems a lot more like “nah, I couldn’t be bothered.”

Did I mention the irritability? I, and pardon my language here, get grouchy as fuck. Something that would normally make me laugh makes me ill as hell.

This morning, for example, I nearly threw the computer out of the window.

(Oh, and this feeling wasn’t helped by the fact that I’d just managed to get to sleep at about 4am, and got woken up by Sunny snoring. Then, when I came into the living room to escape it and laid down on the couch…I’d just managed to drop off again, when Sunny woke me up to ask why I was sleeping on the couch, and was it because she was keeping me awake by snoring again? Sweetie, I love you, but when you suspect someone is sleeping in a different room because you kept them awake snoring, waking them up to ask them this is not a good idea. It’s like rugby tackling a runner inches from setting a new world record…to ask them if they are about to set a new world record…next time, I’m taking your eye, and burning your teddy-bears).

Anyway

I’d got out of bed at about 5:30am this morning, and turned the computer on. I figured I’d play a game for an hour or so, and see how I felt.

Now, I was playing ‘Need for Speed : Most Wanted’, a racing game. I need to set this up, so give me a minute.

The story is that you have an absolutely shit hot car, you race for pink slips, and your opponent sabotages your ride. It craps out, he wins your car, and then uses it to get to the top of the ‘Black List’, basically the illegal street racing league.

So, you buy a crappy car, start racing, you win races, you soup up your car, and start at the bottom of the Black List, the point of the game being to get to the top and win your car back.

Now, as well as straight racing, before you can challenge a Black List racer, you have to complete a certain number of races, but also get into pursuits with the police. In these pursuits, you have to complete a certain number of ‘milestones’ that once you’ve passed the right amount, you get to challenge a Black List rival.

Now, there ‘milestones’ are things like “Break through 5 roadblocks”, “Dodge 5 spike strips”, “Get 15 separate infractions”.

These get harder and harder as the game progesses. The kicker is that unless you manage to escape, your milestones don’t count. Also, if you get busted, you get an ‘impound strike’ on your car. Get three, and your car is impounded.

I’d been trying to get past the same thing for three days. You see, the longer a chase goes on, the higher your heat level gets. The higher your heat level, the more aggressive the cops are, they use better cars etc. As an example, heat level three calls in the ‘Rhino Units’, basically heavy SUV’s that attempt to crash with you head on. If this happens, you come to a dead stop, get surrounded, and get busted.

There are seven heat levels. In order to complete my milestones, I had to get to at least level five…which calls in helicopters, spike strips, roadblocks and rhinos.

This morning, I finally managed it. I’d got my milestones, evaded the police, and was waiting for the cooldown to finish. (Once you escape, the cops will keep looking for you until the cooldown period finishes. If a single cop car spots you, the chase continues).

I had three seconds left to go, when suddenly, everything freezes. Then the screen goes black. My jaw hits the floor.

What is it?

My virus checker doing a ‘scheduled scan’.

Here’s the problem, I don’t want a scheduled scan, and it’s crashed my game.

Now, the computer savvy among you might just ask why I didn’t turn the scheduled scan off.

I’ll tell you why, because if I do, I get a pop up every hour or so telling me that no scans are scheduled, and that this isn’t recommended, and do I want to schedule a scan now?

No! I don’t want to schedule a fucking scan! I’ve told you that! I’ve checked the fucking box! Why even make it an option if you’re going to warn me about it every 15 minutes!!!!

Now, normally this would piss me off.

This morning, it made me absolutely livid, and not just because it put about 6 hours of gameplay into the toilet. No, it made me mad at the software engineers because those pop-ups assume I’m a moron. It made me mad that no fucking idiot had the brains to insert a little subroutine that checks for running processes and to cancel the check if the user is actually using the computer!

Look, it’s my fucking computer! I think I’ll just scan for viruses when I feel like it, ok? I know it’s better to scan regularly, that’s why I actually do scan for viruses at least three times a week…only I much prefer to do it manually, when I know it’s not going to interrupt anything I’m doing.

That’s not the end of it.

I cancel the scan, and turn my game back on. It takes me another two hours to get back to where I was before the game crashed. I challenged the next blacklist rival.

Ok, this guy wants three races, two sprints and a speed camera race (The course goes past multiple speed cameras, the one with the highest combined recorded speeds at the end wins).

The first two races go ok, and I win them fairly easily. The last one if a real bitch, with plenty of ‘traps’ (That’s my name for courses where if you spin off the track at a corner, you’ll end up in a walled off parking lot or something, so instead of just hitting the wall and getting back into the race, you have to stop, do a three point turn, get back onto the track and start racing again…essentially giving your opponent a good ten seconds to get ahead.)

I replay the race a good 10 times trying to beat this guy. The final time, we’re on the second to final stretch, and I’m right behind him. I’ve saved my nitrous for this very eventuality. I slap the button and virtual nitrous oxide pumps down virtual fuel lines into a virtual engine, and my virtual car leaps forward. I’m not certain if I’m going to make it. With sheer seconds left to go in the race, the nose of my car just pulls ahead. I’ve done it! I’m going to win! There’s one corner left, a nice easy left turn, and I have the inside track. There’s no way this guy can beat me! Take that you virtual driver whore! And your virtual mother! Kiss my ass you…

And it freezes, again.

I hold my breath. Short freezes are not unusual for this game. It streams the tracks (IE, no loading times), and because I only have a half-gig of memory, so I usually get a stutter or a two second freeze, at least once every couple of hours.

Then the screen goes black. I come within an inch of screaming. What the hell could it be this time? I’ve disabled my virus checker. What’s going on now.

My desktop appears.

My virus checker has hijacked my computer to check for updates.

It’s almost as if that thing thinks, and thought “Hmm, I can’t fuck up his game by scanning, what else can I do?”

One thing stops me from screaming. My game hasn’t crashed, it’s still running, but minimized. A glimmer of hope returns.

You see, a lot of PC games support what’s called “Alt-tabbing”, where if you press alt and tab at the same time, you can switch to a different application. When I say games support it, I mean they automatically pause the game until it becomes active again.

You never know, once I switch back to my game, I could start right where I left off.

Can you guess what happened?

That’s right, Need for Speed doesn’t support alt-tabbing, meaning that the game continued to run, even though it wasn’t on the screen. My car had crashed into the wall on that final corner, and the bastard had beaten me.

Now, many of you may be thinking “It’s only a game”, but let me put it to you this way. Imagine you’re watching your favorite TV series. You’re watching the finale, the culmination of about 12 one hour shows. Suddenly, your TV turns off. When you turn it back on, you find your show has restarted from the very first episode of your show…and you have to sit through 11 hours of TV you’ve already seen, in order to get back to the finale to find what happens…and no, you can’t go off and do something else for 11 hours. If you stop watching, your show stops playing.

Now imagine that feeling after no sleep when you’re already grouchy and irritable.

That might be about 1/10th what I was feeling.

1 comment:

Miz S said...

Fine.....
But I don't snore and if I did I wouldn't appreciate it if you told all your zillion f-ing readers on here.

Good thing for you I don't snore or you would be in deep kaka.

As for your insomnia- I DO understand- remember-I went several YEARS with no more than 12 hours of sleep a WEEK- usually sleeping the 12 at one stretch- so I try not to bitch about it.