Quiet but Not Absent

Things have been rather quiet on the RantVoid front of late. It’s not to say that nothing’s been going on, though.

Between Jobseeking and helping my parents out wth a house move, I’ve not had quite as much free time as I would have liked. And the time that I did have, I’ve either been tired out and resting or off visiting family members.

From a content viewpoint, I’ve been trying to get a few things out as and when I could. Vlogs have been going up on YouTube, along with one current in the editing phase and a few others being planned out. Several blogs are currently in early draft, they just need polishing into something properly readable. Podcasting has gone on a bit of hiatus owing to both Roiben and myself dealing with Jobseeking and depression.

The Twitter feed has been seeing a fair bit of action, though. I regularly share out interesting articles and stories that I see, as well as linking to previous blogs and Vlogs if they become topical.

Hopefully, things should get back up to speed before too long. Until then, though, do keep an eye out on the feed as there are a lot of interesting tech and entertainment stories hitting the headlines at the moment. And you’ll be able to get an idea of which things catch my eye.

Why Assange Should Face Charges

This whole Julian Assange situation is one big political minefield, no doubt about it. It is unfortunate, for him at least, that there are multiple things at stake and one of them is big enough that maybe it shouldn’t be sacrificed for his political beliefs.

It all comes down to the rape allegations. It’s also related to, but independent of, whether or not the allegations are true. And this is where it gets messy. Assange is, quite understandably, worried that Sweden would use his arrest there as a pretext to extradite him to the United States over the whole Wikileaks situation.
Here’s the problem. People cannot be treated as “too important” to face rape charges. The disturbing amount of former celebrities now recognised as sex offenders should have taught us that by now.

There are those who, having read up on the public details on the allegation, think that he is basically being stitched up on false charges simply to give the US an excuse to get Sweden to extradite him. To me, however, this is an even bigger reason why Assange  absolutely must let this play out however it will. As I see it, anything else is allowing all those involved to trivialise rape.

  1. If Assange is guilty of rape, then he is using his status to try and avoid facing the consequences. This is not acceptable.
  2. If Assange is not guilty of rape, and this is all a pretext to get him to face different charges however important those changes may be, then it is saying that false rape allegations can be justified. Wrong!
    All this does is trivialise actual cases of rape. This is just as unacceptable. More so, in a way, as it makes it harder for rape victims to believe they’ll be taken seriously.

The sad reality is that a case can be made for Julian Assange to effectively be “sacrificed” to test the truth of the rape allegations. Because if he really is an innocent man being stitched up for an ulterior motive then this must be brought to light and those responsible held to account.
Anything else is just turning to actual rape victims and saying, “The pain and horror you experienced is insignificant enough for us to use to bait a trap for someone else.” That is a precedent that must not be set!

Oh, and Assange did skip bail. Which, as far as I am aware, is still generally frowned upon even if you don’t get proven guilty?  Whatever valid points the UN panel had, the message that “If you have powerful connections, using them to break bail conditions is fine with us” is probably not the point they’re wishing to make.

Viewster and OMAKASE, Focus on Video

I’ve blogged about Viewster, both specifically and when talking about anime streaming in general, multiple times now. I’ve also posted a vlog and a followup on YouTube.
Since then, though, I’ve been keeping an eye on what the more general opinions are regarding the OMAKASE service.

From what I can tell, on the whole it sees to be going down quite well. Especially in the US, as they lack the much higher shipping fees that Canada and the UK incur. The problem, from my point of view, is that the main focus of any praise for the service is the giftbox aspect and nothing else.

True, the HD streaming and the digital extras haven’t been implemented yet but it really seems that people are looking at OMAKASE as just an “Anime Lootcrate”.
Ironic, since Lootcrate themselves have recently announced an anime-specific offering.

I’ve seen OMAKASE mentioned as a really good giftbox service that just happens to be attached to a fairly good anime streaming platform and throws in ad-free as a nice bonus.
If that’s what Viewster are aiming for then fair enough. The problem for some of us, though, is that if your main interest in the anime streaming then you’re a bit of an afterthought, audience-wise.

So, here’s the problem. People who like merchboxes are completely catered for, as long as they’re in the right region for shipping. Fans of streaming video, which may possibly be some of the people following a video streaming company, are left out in the cold.

Outside of the US and can’t justify the higher shipping charges? No premium video for you.
Live in the UK and just want to see the exclusive simulcasts in HD and without ads legally? Sorry, out of luck.
Live in a region not covered by OMAKASE shipping at all? Sorry, premium video still not allowed.

And here’s where it starts to sting. Viewster are a European company with their Head office in Switzerland. Certainly here in the UK they’ve been a nice little addition to the video-on-demand scene and I would have to assume that the same applies in mainland Europe.
Similarly, their recent expansion into Anime simulcasts and catalogue streaming has been a much needed breath of fresh air over here. Again, I can only really speak for how it seems here in the UK but I would guess that the same applies elsewhere in Europe.

In the UK, at least, they were beginning to cover the holes not covered Crunchyroll’s licensing and were offering a much stronger service than alternatives like Animax and even Daisuki. Licensing by American companies was having a bit of an adverse effect over here. Funimation picking up the English language rights almost always froze Crunchyroll out of the running for a UK stream, as they are competitors in America. Viz picking up a show in America may put it on Crunchyroll over there but it also increased the chances of their European branch picking up the license as well. And that would mean Animax over here, as they’re the local competitor.

Viewster’s main strength over here was that they had a real passion for anime which they were showing to the local fanbases that were often overlooked by more America-focused companies. They just needed to improve a few things, like their queue, and have an ad-free subscription which enabled HD video. Which we were told was “coming soon”.

And in June 2015, having had a bit of an American presence for a while, Viewster opened its American subsidiary, Viewster Inc. It is at this point that their focus seemed to change a fair bit. Helped, in part, by the American CEO also being involved in their global strategies, like premium streaming.

Yes, the one thing that Viewster most needed as a European entity to stand equal with the American-focused companies was now being spearheaded by their own American subsidiary that was also tasked with expanding its American market.
Shortly after this, OMAKASE was announced.

Since then, their entire marketing push has been towards OMAKASE. Talking up their merchandising box with little mentioned about the video side of the service. Worse still, the HD video side of things still hasn’t appeared despite being much requested  (and hinted at)since before OMAKASE was even an official “thing”.

In various interviews regarding OMAKASE, it seems that they are wanting to go for the all-in-one offering to try and distinguish themselves as not being “just another anime streaming service”.
The problem is, it’s only really in America where they need to do that. Here in the UK, and likely elsewhere in Europe, there’s nothing wrong with being “just another anime streaming service”, especially when catering for titles that otherwise wouldn’t be legally shown outside of Japan or America.

This is where, I think, attitudes in the UK start to sour a bit. Viewster’s biggest advantage was that it actually seemed to give a damn about our segment of the market, unlike a lot of the America-focused (or America-exclusive) services. They were covering some of the licensing gaps that the American companies were leaving in the UK landscape.
Now they just feel like another America-centric service concentrating on the American market with anywhere else just thrown in as an afterthought.

With no HD-only subscription option, premium video is either tied to a costly giftbox or frozen out entirely, depending on where you live. And if Viewster are the only people legally streaming a show in your region, you’re basically screwed.
Whilst they focus on the market that is already extremely well catered for when it comes to anime streaming.

Focus on Video

My hopes for the (near) future are that they ease up on the giftbox push and focus on the streaming side of their offerings.

  1. Offer an ad-free premium video option that is standalone. People have been asking for this for a while.
  2. HD video, The shows are made in HD, so that should be the next “big feature” in development.
  3. The website and apps need a bit more work to have proper sorting and filtering.
  4. Apps on the Sony consoles would be nice, too.

Gun Control

Thunder 9 Pistol
By TacoArgentino (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons
“There’s been another mass shooting in America.”

 

Putting it this way sounds awfully offhand, and borderline flippant, but they are the exact words used by US President Barack Obama after the October 2015 shooting in Oregon. The way he uses this is rather “matter of fact” and “day to day” and I think thats sort of the point. It is becoming normal.

The way he delivers this speech is one I’m familiar with. It’s the parent disappointed with the child they thought had learned their lesson. It’s the headteacher giving the school assembly after its students got a bad reputation. It’s the boss, whether in an all-staff briefing or a one-to-one meeting, telling their staff that the current situation is not good enough.
Whether on the receiving end or as just an observer, I’ve seen all of these first hand before and this is exactly how President Obama comes across.

He’s tired, disappointed and verging on angry. As “The Man In Charge” it is his role to makes statements at times like these and, in a way, to accept the responsibility of “his people” for their actions.

Time after time, he’s had to stand up after one of these incidents and offer condolences. In other types of tragedy, the leader of their country will also be saying how they are going to ensure that something like this doesn’t happen again. Yet, when it comes to gun crime his hands are tied. He wants to make a change but, instead, ends up having to be the public face of when it all goes wrong.

Again.

And again.

The guy looks tired.

“But we are not the only country on Earth that has people who have mental illnesses, or want to do harm to other people.”

This is probably the most serious and least discriminatory statement I’ve ever some across when talking about a link between mental illness and acts of violence. It doesn’t establish a causal link and it doesn’t assume that all mentally ill people are potentially violent, or that all potentially violent people are mentally ill.
It does, however, suggest that the problem lies with the intersection of the two.

It also goes on to outright state that other countries have people who fall into one, either, or both of these categories and yet do not have the same frequency of mass shootings. They tend not to have as relaxed gun laws, either.

Part of the complexity of the issue in America, though, is the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution. It protects the right of the people to bear arms. It also states that these rights should not be infringed. And this makes it messy. “This is a right that should not be compromised” is a difficult thing to regulate.

19th Century Pistol
By AlejandroLinaresGarcia (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
The thing is, though, that the world is a very different place now. I don’t even mean politically, I mean technologically. The Second Amendment was ratified in 1791. At the time, the majority of firearms were flintlock-based single-shot models. This is a far cry from clip-fed semi-automatic and automatic firearms available today.

Assault Rifle
By Burnyburnout (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Were weapons with that level of power something that they had in mind when creating the Bill of Rights?

 

 

The obvious and fair answer is “nobody knows”. It is something that ought to be taken into account, though. The world, the politics and the technology were very different back then. Many laws have changed, especially in terms of protecting people from others. Look at the age of consent, for one thing.

Times change. Societies change. Laws change. Except, it seems, this one.

As someone from the UK, I can only provide an outside perspective. Here’s the thing, though, the outside perspective is how each country is seen by others. The combination of easier access to guns and a much higher rate of gun fatalities doesn’t really paint the US in a very good light at times. And it’s a shame. Many Americans get tarred with the same brush as the few who spoil it for everyone else. I’ll also extend it to say that many gun owners get tarred by that same brush.
Seriously, if all gun owners were dangerous individuals then America probably wouldn’t exist in its current form anymore. The fact that the country hasn’t managed to wipe itself out in a hail of bullets tells me that the majority of gun owners can be and are are safe and responsible.

It’s just that there’s the occasional dickhead who spoils it for everyone else, usually at the cost of dozens of lives at the same time.

My own personal view, even as a Brit, is that I’m not totally anti-gun. We have very heavy restrictions on all kinds of weapons over here. That doesn’t always make me feel very safe as, yes, it does mean that criminals still have guns. Or knives. Or whatever. Only the “bad guys” are armed. I don’t like this.
Oh, and the police. But even if they do shoot a suspect, if they have to make a snap decision and get it wrong (in either direction) they get raked over the coals.

That doesn’t mean I’m a fan of unrestricted gun ownership, though. In fact, if the UK ever did ever make it legal to bear arms then I’d hope it was bloody well regulated. And licensed, kind of like cars.

The Car Analogy

Think about it. Certainly here in the UK you have to have a license to drive. This requires reaching a minimum age and going through a testing procedure. Owning a car also has its own requirements. You have to license the car against its registered owner, or have it registered as off-road. You need insurance. A car has to be regularly serviced and pass its MOT to prove that it is roadworthy. Your driving license will cover you for specific categories of vehicle, and you can get additional categories through appropriate training.

If you are careful and responsible, you will be able to drive as long as you have a valid license. And it will be likely that you will stay licensed.

If you’re a dick, you lose your license. Here in the UK it is points-based, so some driving offences are less severe than others but either way if you rack up past a certain amount then that’s it.

I don’t see why guns should be any different.

The other thing about how driving is regulated in the UK, at least, is that things like old age and certain medical conditions don’t always necessarily mean you’re automatically excluded from driving. They do, however, require additional and more frequent reapplications for your license. A similar regulation on guns would make sense, including mental health conditions.

As someone who struggles with depression and anxiety, and who knows people with varying levels of mental illness, I obviously don’t subscribe to the idea that all mentally ill people are dangerous. I do, however, think that it would be sensible if mental health issues were among conditions that required more frequent license application, or restricted from certain categories of firearm.
In my case, I do not think that I am likely to become a crazed killer the moment I got my hands on a gun. I would, however, say that when my anxiety gets particularly high it can impair my judgment and I get very twitchy. If that meant that, in a world where the UK allowed more open gun ownership, I had to reapply more frequently for a license, had restrictions on what categories of firearms I could use or it put me into a higher insurance bracket then so be it. Yes, it would be annoying but it would also mean I would have to think a little bit harder as to if I really wanted or needed a gun.

In Summary

I just feel, as an outside observer, that the current state of things is likely to lead to further tragedy and that, in response, one day there will be a knee-jerk reaction leading to a widespread ban on firearms. And I don’t think that would really work too well. Going straight from allowing something to complete prohibition is rarely a good solution.

Some level of regulation is needed, though. The statistics speak for themselves. Some things require proof of capability, responsibility and ownership. Driving is one of those things. I don’t see why guns shouldn’t be another.

OMAKASE @Viewster – Another Thought

I’ve still been thinking a lot about the upcoming OMAKASE service over the past few days, as well as reading various opinions on forums and social media. The whole situation has got me to thinking.

I’d be interested to see how good the takeup rate of OKAMASE is in the UK and whether people really are put off by the high price and non-optional extras or if that’s just a few of us online. Not just to know whether I’m “right” or “wrong” either. At least, not exactly.

Viewster obviously have a plan and an idea of what they’re doing. I’m just wondering if they know (or guess) something about the UK market that some of us fans don’t. Have Viewster really misjudged the UK market, and potentially soured the goodwill they’ve accrued so far, or have they spotted a genuine opportunity that others just can’t see?

Time will tell. Some of us think they’ve taken the wrong turning, Viewster themselves clearly don’t. The coming months will be interesting.

Hell, this month will be interesting. Viewster will be at MCM London Comic Con in two weeks’ time. I don’t know if they’ll have a panel there but I do know that they’re bound to get questioned quite directly about things at their booth.

Anime Streaming: Viewster Addendum

Since the last post, Viewster have formally launced their OMAKASE service. At the time of writing, it is defiantly a combined service with no streaming-only option.

As far as I can tell, signing up immediately gets the ad-free aspect. HD is still to come. Their non-US shipping charge is high but they cover VAT and import fees, so the overall price ($48 per two-months) gets it shipped to your door with no nasty little surprises.

As mentioned, they currently have no plans to have a video-only subscription without the box. So anyone who doesn’t want the physical items or who is outside of their supported countries is also out of luck for now.
Having said that, they tend to be good with feedback and there’s a lot of active chatter on various anime forums so I wouldn’t class this as set-in-stone quite yet. it is certainly the case for now, though.

As for my personal thoughts, I’ve already put them up here:

More on UK Anime Streaming

Last year, I put up a quick comparison chart of the various Anime streaming options available here in the UK. Since then some things have changed but the overall view doesn’t really seem to be that much better. Not yet, anyway. Things are moving forwards but the current state-of-play looks like this.

Wakanim/Anime Limited

Wakanim’s UK experiment has come to an end. I get the feeling it wasn’t doing too well. They had some definite technical issue to sort through but it sounds like they decided to just focus on their home market back in France.

Anime Limited are still picking titles up for streaming, though. For a while they were operating through Vimeo but are now using the existing streaming options.

Daisuki

Daisuki are still a bit of an odd bunch, in my opinion. They are still, currently, primarily web and mobile-app powered. They don’t have any real connect-to-TV options, which is a major failing in my personal opinion. They do have plans for console apps, apparently, which will help a great deal.
For anyone who mainly watches content on a phone, tablet or web browser, though, this is not going to be a drawback at all.

They appear to be ad-supported, with no current subscription option to watch ad-free. Again, for me personally, this is a dealbreaker. For other people, though, this isn’t much of a stumbling block at all. it’s all down to personal preference.

On the flip-side of things, they are now a part of Anime Consortium Japan. Comprised of several Japanese companies, including Bandai Namco and Aniplex, this gives them direct links to companies involved in Anime production. In addition to this, ACJ sits on the production committee for some shows directly.
As a company specifically involved in international streaming, this means that some upcoming shows automatically have an official outlet outside of Japan.

Crunchyroll

Still currently, the heavy-hitter in Anime streaming, Crunchyroll‘s presence outside of North America has had its fair set of ups and downs.

On the plus side, they have now rolled drama and manga into their basic Premium package, with the higher-tier “Premium Plus” give some additional benefits. However, as some of the benefits aren’t quite as useful outside of North America, this means that there is still a good value method of international subscribers having full access to the basic media content.

Recently, they have finally been able to get their apps onto Sony’s Playstation platforms. So the PS4, PS3 and Vita are all covered now. They now show up on all major consoles and quite a lot of streaming boxes. Their app platforms now also give access to the ad-supported free subscribers, rather than being premium-only.
On the other hand, they are currently moving away from Smart TVs to the dismay of anyone who was using them.

For the UK (and anywhere outside of the US and Canada, to be honest) their catalogue is still a bit of a mixed bag. Some shows have their international streaming rights with other countries and some shows just don’t have English-language streams anywhere outside of America.
This still causes a bit of friction as UK premium members are paying the same (technically fractionally more) for the same actual level of service, but there’s no getting around the fact that we have access to a smaller catalogue.

Animax

Animax UK occupies an interesting niche in the UK Anime fandom. A lot of us dislike them. On the other hand, they are still around and still adding (slowly) to their service so they clearly can’t be a complete flop as they’d’ve closed down by now if they were struggling badly.

They still operate with the two-week ad-supported free access to their simulcasts with the paid subscription giving ad-free access to their complete catalogue. They have also recently added iOS and Android to their supported platforms, and the PS4 joins the PS3 in terms of console access.

However, their less-then-perfect reputation isn’t exactly unfounded. They often seem to aquire (or at least announce) their simulcasts partway into the season and their uploads aren’t always the most punctual. This combined with a lack of queue/watchlist (which, currently, only Crunchyroll sees to have) means that they’re not exactly great value when it comes to simulcasts.

I suspect that their main strength at the moment would be in their back catalogue. If a show’s been available for a year or more, it hardly matters at that point if it went up on time or a few weeks late.
Plus, they do still have some shows that just aren’t available on any other service at the moment. Also, unlike Viewster (see below) their back catalogue is available ad-free to subscribers.

Viewster

Speaking of Viewster, they’re a fairy recent entry into the Anime side of things. They’ve been around a few years as an ad-supported free video on demand service but have recently expanded to include a hefty Anime back-catalogue and have also had a healthy selection of simulcasts in recent seasons courtesy of Anime Limited.

Based in Europe, although recently expanding into America, they definitely cater for the UK audience pretty well. They also have apps iOS, Android, several Smart TVs and set-top boxes (no AppleTV as of yet) and have started to enter the console app market on the Xbox 360. Hopefully with more platforms to come.

The currently have no ad-free subscription available which, to me, is a dealbreaker. However, for those who don’t mind watching ads, it does mean that they have a very large catalogue of TV show, movies and Anime all available to watch for free.

They are on the verge of entering the paid-subscription model, too. At the time of writing this, they are heavily promoting their upcoming OMAKASE service which is a combination of ad-free streaming and a Lootcrate-like giftbox.
As of yet, there are no concrete details about the video side of the service. So we don’t know if there’s a gift-free version, whether the same apps will work or if they use new ones, or anything further.

New AppleTV

Not a service in its own right but the recent announcement of an upcoming revised model with an App Store means it warrants a mention of its own. If for no other reason than the same information applies to all services so far.

Currently, none of the Anime streaming services have announced tvOS apps. I would be very surprised if none of them had them at least in the planning stages, though.

Crunchyroll features on the current AppleTV and has iOS apps. Animax has recently added iOS apps to its repertoire and has a very limited TV-connected selection so far. Viewster has an iOS app and has openly stated that they are planning to expand what platforms they are available on.

Other Services

Other VOD services such as Netflix and several paid video platforms such as iTunes do also have a selection of Anime available for streaming and/or download.

A new era in Labour leadership?

I try not to get too political on here.
Case in point, you have no idea how many unwritten posts would’ve started with that very sentence.

However, as today saw the Labour Party (UK political party, currently in opposition) elect their new leader and deputy leader, I figured there were a few comments I wanted to throw into the ring.

To the delight of many, and the dismay of many others, Jeremy Corbyn was elected as the new Labour Leader. His policies seem very down-to-earth and he comes over as being a “real person” with strongly-held convictions. He also seems to resonate very strongly with those who’ve become disillusions with politics in recent years.

His critics, for weeks, have been implying that Labour under Corbyn would be “unelectable”. Right or wrong, I think this misses the point entirely as to why him being Labour leader can be a good thing.

Being the Opposition is more than just being “that bunch trying to be in power next time around”. Labour MPs are still, as the title implies, Members of Parliament. The same goes for all MPs not part of the main governmental party. Yes, looking forward to 2020 and the next election is important but that doesn’t mean that the next five years aren’t worth anything.

Having a main Opposition party is one of the checks and balances that we have in UK politics. At least, I think it’s supposed to be. When all the main political leaders look and sound largely the same, it can be hard to tell. Everyone wants to run in a similar direction and nobody is really throwing out a dissenting voice. It mostly comes over as name-calling and blame-shifting. “Why you’re wrong” instead of “Why we’re right”. A small but significant difference.
Having a strong leader with a strong purpose will help drive the Labour Party (or any party) in a definite direction. As a part of parliament, this is important. Even if Mr Corbyn’s views aren’t what some would call ideal, they’re ideas that’ll get spoken. Out loud. In parliamentary debate. As he seems to be wanting to represent some viewpoints that are often brushed aside, this is no bad thing.

To be honest, though, the main advantage is bigger than just the Labour Party. His involvement in the leadership elections inspired a lot of interest from those who are usually disinterested in politics and who think their opinions aren’t worth raising. Jeremy Corbyn looks to have the potential to at least partially shrink the perceived gap between “politicians” and “normal folk”.
He’s got people interested in politics. He’s got people realisoing that, if enough people participate, you can vote in someone different than the normal crowd. Right now, I suspect we’ve got a fair few more people paying attention to politics than they usually would. Regardless of which side they’re on, this is no bad thing. Politicians have power, so we need to make sure the people actually give a damn about politics,

I don’t agree with everything that he stands for, but I agree with a fair chunk of it. And even the bits I disagree with, it’s a breath of fresh air to have those viewpoints actually being aired by our political leaders. Hopefully, he wil inspire debate both within parliament and about politics.

As to why I think “unelectable” is missing the point…
If political debates get more “real” and more average people start to take an interest and actually bother to turn up to vote in 2020, does it really matter who gets in as long as politics begins to gain the trust of the public and people think that votes matter? Does it really matter which group is “in charge” as long as we can start to trust the whole lot of them to at least engage in serious debate about the matters that you and I actually give a damn about?

Labour under Corbyn looks like it could be interesting. And I don’t think it matters whether that party can be in government (as nice as that would be) as long as it’s in parliament. Whoever’s in charge, we need a decent Opposition to keep things balanced and to inspire debate in the next five years’ worth of parliamentary decision making.

All Change, All Change!

A lot has changed over the past few months. Anyone who’s been following my posts on mental health issues knows that I am currently dealing with depression and anxiety. My first major period of this was around 1999-2004. I’ve since been back on medication, and seeing the doctor about it, for about two years now. Although, truthfully, it had been brewing back up slowly for a few years prior to that.

2015’s Changes

This bring me up to the recent changes, as the ride only got rougher this year. Back in January, I ended up signed off work for a couple of weeks as I just wasn’t coping. Winter is always rough for me and this time around the Christmas break wasn’t enough to recharge my batteries. At the time it was discussed that a change in medication would temporarily make things worse, which isn’t what I needed right then, but I was also referred for a therapy course – which I found useful.

Move forward two months, and I was due a followup appointment with the doctor anyway. Things were still rough so I asked about the possibility of changing my medication. It isn’t that it wasn’t doing anything, more that it wasn’t always able to do enough. When I went through a rougher patch, I was already on the highest dose so the doctors had no leeway.

March to May was, therefore, a very rough time. I was stepped down from the high dose to the regular dose of the first med which, inevitably, brought along side effects. Mild withdrawal combined with an increased level of overall anxiety, mixed in with a basic reduction in the effects of the medication.
Coping with work had been tough for a while anyway and it had to get worse before it got better. The end goal was the ability to cope better but the short-term effect was a weakening of all my defenses.

More Change on the Horizon

This is where my timeline gets hazy, as so much was going on (good and bad, work-based and personal) that I can’t recall the exact order of some aspects. And when you mix in things like medication changes, work stress, (multiple) family birthdays and the week-long Easter break at work, my emotions were sort of all over the place. Good, bad, calm, anxious, all at once.

Chaos.

Around April, I was switched to the new medication on its standard dose. I was also put on an as-required beta-blocker to deal with the anxiety spikes that I was dealing with.
It was also around that time that work announced that it was gearing up for a pretty large-scale restructure. In particular, the department I worked for was going to be effectively merged with one of the others. This does have a certain amount of logic behind it, and my particular job role wasn’t at risk from this, but it was another big change on top of everything else.

Trying to juggle mental health issues and work life had been a struggle for a while anyway and I think my brain sort of threw in the towel at that point. Even though the change itself would take “complete” in August, I could forsee our department being somewhat up in the air for a good year before it settled nicely into how things would be.

As with any large-scale restructure, they opened up requests for voluntary redundancy. I’d been there for just short of ten years, and had been looking at a bit of a change of focus for a while anyway, so I figured I’d apply.

It is also around early May that I was put on the next dose up on the new medication and things were starting to settle back down.

The. Big. Change.

My application was accepted. Good settlement. Fast turnaround – end of May. And, to be honest, no complaints from me. I wasn’t expecting to be finished already but I think I needed it to be that way. There was a sense of relief as it means that i didn’t have to go through a large-scale change of something familiar. If I’m going to have some changes, I’d rather go through changes.
Cue a couple of weeks of tying off tasks and writing up notes.

Yes, I am now officially out of work. I’ve got enough of a financial buffer to be able to jobseek without too much pressure for a while. I also intend to use the free time to finish building myself back up.

I need to continue to get my head straight. Getting some regular exercise and working on my physical health will be useful, too. I’ve not been in a good way for a while now, so I am taking this opportunity to work on getting myself “right”. I’ve been off work quite a lot over the past half a year or so, a mix of depression, exhaustion and regular illness. Any one of those would be easy-ish to deal with on their own but they tend to build on each other and pile up on top of me.
I need to get my head straight, improve my overall health (physical and mental health are linked, after all) and work out what direction I want to move my career in.

I intend to stick with IT, although I am planning to move into something less front-line and more project-based. I think that would suit both my temperament and my skills better. But, for now, I’m going to dip my toes into the job market and just keep a general eye on what’s out there.

Sword Art Online: More on Collector Editions

Not so long after my previous post, we’ve hit Announcement Season again. Frustratingly, the first anime-releated announcement out of the gate is another example of the same collector bias I posted about last time.

Sword Art Online II has been picked up by Anime Limited who will be starting off by releasing a DVD Standard Edition and a Blu-ray (technically a BD+DVD combo) Collector Edition.

And no standard BD any time soon.

Once again, as a fair few releases appear to be doing of late, the deck is being stacked against those who prefer physical Blu-rays but neither need nor even want anything more than a standard barebones edition.

To be fair to Anime limited, it is an Aniplex series. They probably had a hand in making sure that the only BDs available anywhere had a minimum price and/or a maximum quality. Western non-collector fans seem to matter very little to them. Which, as a general rule, is why I tend to avoid getting too invested in Aniplex shows these days. But SAO is a series I’m already in, so I’m kinda stuck.

Predictably, though, there is already a lot of complaint about the high-seeming prices. Even though retail prices tend to knock a chunk from the SRP (Suggested Retail price), it still means that the full 24 episodes is lining up to be around £100 or more, retail. And that really is more than 24 episodes are worth.
As I’ve said before, nothing wrong with collector versions existing. But standard editions for people who get zero value out of the physical extras really ought to be catered for at the same time. Booklets and artboxes just aren’t worth the price overhead for some of us.

Shouting into the Digital Wastelands

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