Still here

It’s been a while, huh? Yet another long period without posts. I’m back for as long as life lets me. I want to start blogging more regularly. The plan is:- posts like this, sharing things I’m working on, finding interesting, or useful, with occasionally longer posts when something warrants a bit of research or I have a lot to say. Any how, anonymous readers, are you well? Say hi.

I regularly get distracted online – it’s too easy to type the first few letters of a social media site into the address bar and zoom off, when the browser autocompletes the address. It’s barely conscious at this point – open new tab, type ‘tu’, hit enter and bam, I’m on Tumblr, before I really register what I’m doing. I installed LeechBlock for Firefox a few days ago, created a list of all the sites I was going to impulsively and losing time on, and set it to block them between 0900 and 1800. I highly recommend it – it’s very effective, and keeps me on track. It’s easy to subvert, but to do that I have to actively do it, and I become aware that I’m deliberately procrastinating. LeechBlock’s ‘you’re blocked here, lad’, is like a little Rinzai slap during mediation, keeping you on task, keeping you focused.

Despite having many wonderful books for my birthday this year, and for Christmas last year, I’ve read barely any of them. It’s a trend continued from last year, and I fully blame the pandemic. I’ve broken that streak by reading Show Your Work by Austin Kleon (his blog is pretty great, too, by the way), in April and then last weekend I started reading The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel van der Kolk. I first heard about it in Tim Ferris’s incredibly vulnerable interview with Debbie Millman, disclosing his abuse, and was immediately intrigued by the title. I used to suffer with terrible IBS that seemed intractably linked with anxiety, and a book about the links between the body and trauma sounded very interesting. To be clear; the book is talking about capital T Trauma, and focuses on research about patients with PTSD, or complex PTSD. It can be intense in places; trigger warning for descriptions of pretty much the biggest traumas humans can encounters, including sexual assault, war, violence, natural disasters. This isn’t something I’ve ever been through, but it’s really interesting to see the links between your brain and body that perform in similar ways in anxiety and depression, if on a much more severe scale. I really recommend it if you’ve got any interest in psychology or biology or the links between the two. Van der Kolk is an easy to follow writer and makes the neurology of the mechanisms of psychological trauma easy to follow, and is meticulous in his rigour. He points out and addresses the arguments of detractors and notes where research has yet to be completed that provides empirical explanations for his observations. Well worth a read.

My WIP, Halo of Flies, is going swimmingly. There are only a handful of scenes left to write and then I need to do a fair amount of editing. I’ve written parts of this book an uncountable number of times, and ‘editing’ is going to involve stitching the first draft together from the new stuff and the dismembered parts of the previous drafts. Franken-novel, here I come! Once that’s done, I’ll have a finished first draft, and I can start giving it to close friends and family to read. I’m quite excited, (understatement). It’s been sitting in my head, taking up space for five or six years now, and I really would like to see it finished so I can use that psychic energy for other projects I’m desperate to pursue. I already know what I want to write next.

For years I’ve been searching for the perfect personal knowledge management system/ task management system combination that turns my personal life from a raging whirlwind of chaos into a highly functioning machine, and I think I’ve finally found it; a combination of using Obsidian.md and… a bullet journal. The combination of quite niche, techy solution and a notebook and pen is hilarious to me, but it works.

Obsidian.md is great for storing information and making links between it. The interface is nice and simple, as well as allowing you to open multiple notes at once, in separate adjacent panes. The graph overview shows links between notes – which I love – allows you to include or eliminate tags, and colour code projects based on keyword phrases. Great stuff. A note: it uses Markdown for text formatting; I’m not a Markdown convert, but I don’t hate it as vehemently as I used to. I just don’t think it actually adds anything for the average user. I believe a WYSIWYG editor is on the way for Obsidian, and I’m looking forward to it.

As for the Bullet Journal, I’ve used one on and off for years. I think the first time was around 2015/16, but I’ve never really made it stick. Unlike other management systems, however, it’s the one I always come back to. I have an undying love of notebooks and writing things down (I blame almost all of my education being analogue), and I think that simple fact, that I enjoy doing it, keeps me coming back to it, over and over. This time I’ve just decided not to quit – my pitfall is always that I have a failing somewhere (human beings, failing? My god, how novel), and end up blaming the system, instead of blaming… human nature? The fallibility of man? And begin looking for alternatives. Instead of throwing the baby out with the bad note book, this time, I’ve resolved to work out a BuJo solution to it. I might do separate posts on how I’m using BuJo and Obsidian another time.

Much love from what feels like the rainiest May in years.

Ancient trees and the value of telling the truth

Who is it that drafts the spectacularly tone-deaf responses for the UK Government? Whenever a sentence begins “a spokesperson from X Dept/project/official body said”, you can guarantee the coming response will deliberately miss the point, and instead offer a mealy-mouthed platitude.

My most recent favourite is the one given to the BBC about the ancient woodland being felled for the development of HS2. Here it is:

“Seven million new trees and shrubs will be planted as part of the HS2 programme. The new native woodland will cover over 9 sq km of land.”

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Black Lives Matter – Helping, links to resources

I might not like writing about politics, but I don’t think people with a platform can afford not to at the moment. Unless you’re already a millionaire, or a member of the rentier class, we’ve all got something at stake, but some groups have far more at stake. Their lives, for instance. 

There are lots of ways that you can help the Black Lives Matter movement, so I’m going to put a big list of the resources that I’ve found useful over the last week or two down below, and hopefully they’ll be useful to you, too.

Continue reading “Black Lives Matter – Helping, links to resources”

In which I make a reading list

I haven’t been thinking about much today; I’ve been pedal to the metal writing, (3000 words before lunch! All junk, but eh, who cares;  some of it was good, and it felt great to make something). 

I have been thinking about the books that I want to read, however. I think this has something to do with the fact that I’m not enjoying my current read. It’s teaching me a lot; about what I value in books, about my aesthetic tastes vs Murakami’s, so I’m going to continue for now. I won’t be re-reading it like The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle – it’s just too big.

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In which we get a little fermented

Short one today; it’s been a long day.

I was in a terrible mood earlier; I spent hours this morning trying to get Gmail to let me access two email inboxes from the one account. After trying every troubleshooting guide I could find, it just seemed to work, with no explanation a little while later. I’ll just chalk it up to… I dunno… witchcraft?

The one thing that never fails to cheer me up, however, is It’s Alive! with Brad Leone. I watched the most recent one where he ferments mushrooms and it’s both a great idea and hilarious. Brad’s full of energy and enthusiasm for the stuff that he’s making, and the show has developed a really off-beat sense of humour that I really love. If you’re into food, do it at home and mad science, it’s probably for you. That said, if you’re into food at all, all of the Bon Apetit videos are great.

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In which the Twitter addiction sinks its claws in

Last week I said good bye to Twitter for good. It’s been on the cards for about a year and a half; at one point I deleted the account and then signed back up about six months later. I’ve been on some sort of social media for the last… thirteen or fourteen years? Maybe a little bit more? and it’s taken this long for me to come to the conclusion that it’s just not for me. I don’t get any enjoyment out of it, I’ve never really been able to utilise it to boost my actual creative outlets (like this blog) and I can’t seem to use it in a healthy way. I’m either scrolling in a mindless, addictive way, or I’m getting furious at the garbage other people have posted. The last few years I’ve noticed it has a negative impact on my mental health – being signed up to one of those services and using it regularly creates a back ground anxiety buzz in my life that, really, no one needs. I haven’t used my account for about three or four months, except for occasional check-ins, so I decided it was time. Time for the final social media account I own to go the way of the dodo.

Since then it’s entirely been on my mind. It’s the strangest thing. I went weeks without thinking about it, and now it’s gone, it keeps bubbling up in my thoughts. ‘Hey, I wonder what’s happening on Twitter?’ ‘Hm, I’ve got a spare five minutes while the kettle boils and the tea brews; download the Twitter app and see what’s going on!’

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In which I write a letter

Dear Reader,

I hope this finds you well. I hope you’re living a pleasant life under quarantine, and that your biscuit tin is never empty.

Since your last letter, I completed another scene of Halo of Flies. It’s going fairly well, I’m building up a nice momentum that doesn’t feel too strenuous to maintain, and I’m enjoying the writing itself. I’ve always loved coming up with worlds for people to inhabit; I think that’s why fantasy has always appealed so strongly. I’ve been thinking about this world for so long that it’s good to have people to finally inhabit it. If I can maintain my current pace, I should have the first draft completed by the 22nd of June. Mark the date on your calendar and if I haven’t completed it by then, you’ve my permission to give me a good ticking off.

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In which I hesitate to write about politics

I hesitate to write about politics. It makes people (including me), fairly angry, a lot of the time, and when you have strong opinions about something, it doesn’t necessarily engender good thinking or good writing. You have to be much more careful to reign yourself  in and examine your assumptions. In the first draft of this I referred to a certain political appointee as a professional asshole, and while I think that’s true, I recognise that it’s an opinion. Opinions are like professionals assholes, in that politics is already rife with them. See? I did it again. I just can’t help myself.

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Real life Lord of the Flies

It’s easy to imagine that William Golding’s Lord of the Flies speaks to what really lies at the heart of the human temperament, and that really, all of us are a single disaster away from becoming animals again. It’s certainly what motives lots of the prepper mindset, and I should think, lots of capitalist thinking. Rutger Bergman says that might not be the case. He went on the hunt for a real life Lord of the Flies, and found one.

I’m fascinated by this kind of thing; you only have to look at human history to see that we’re capable of truly horrifying things. There are also examples of the opposite; I haven’t done any serious research, but it’s an interesting question. Is there a definable ‘human nature’ we can pin down, and if there is, is it good or bad? Or is that far too simplifying, and in reality, depending on the conditions humans have the potential to be either? I’m curious.