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.

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!’

Continue reading “In which the Twitter addiction sinks its claws in”

Resurrected Elephant Revisited and General Social Media Post-Mortem

funny-2935405_640Oh, cool, Chnerk Mandog joined Mastodon. Honest.

It’s interesting; as another non-techy person, Chuck’s initial experience seems to have been largely like mine. “Hey this is neat, with caveats.”

I stopped using Mastodon a few months ago because trying to use four networks at the same time was like trying juggle four cannisters of other people’s shit; it makes you anxious and you’re bound to get some on you.

Then a little after that I stopped using social media almost altogether, and I’m still in that limbo. These blog posts get auto-cross-posted, (I know it’s not a word, that’s why I frankensteined it together with hyphens), and I sometimes go on Twitter or Instagram to check they’re still there, but otherwise, I’m social media free, at least in my personal life.

I’m still not sure whether that’s a long term thing. The idea of deleting my accounts altogether seems drastic. Continue reading “Resurrected Elephant Revisited and General Social Media Post-Mortem”

Wednesday Morning Thriller 4EVR – Music Round-Up

I’m social media tee-total, but I still get the desire to share stuff that I like. Here’s the music I’ve been into this quarter.

It’s been eight weeks since I stopped using social media, except for two or three browsings of five minutes apiece. What? I’m human. I lapse.

It’s been… well, it hasn’t really been anything. I can’t say that it’s been a revelation, nor has it impacted my life negatively. I’ve simply compulsively used other things to fill the time that I would have compulsively, mindlessly, spent on social media. That says more about me than it does about social media. Either way, unless something makes it a real benefit to use, I can’t see myself going back any time soon.

If you see something here that makes you think “Oh, if he likes that, he’ll love this”, please share it in the comments, I love sharing like that. Don’t be bummed out if I’m not into it though.

Beautifully Unconventional – Wolf Alice

I loved ‘My Love is Cool’, so when I found out Wolf Alice had another album out, I was a happy boy. I haven’t had chance to listen to it all yet, but Beautifully Unconventional struck me. It’s not revolutionary, but I like it; I really like Ellie Rowsell’s voice. Continue reading “Wednesday Morning Thriller 4EVR – Music Round-Up”

Toot Toot Tweet Tweet

I’ve been trying out a new social media site, here’s a few thoughts. A caveat: I’m not a software developer or a user researcher. This is just going to be my user experience, your mileage may vary. Do a Bruce Lee and take what you can use, leave what you can’t.

Animal Noise Onomatopoeias

I’ve been looking for new social media platforms for a while now. About a year ago I signed up to Ello, but something didn’t click and I’ve never used it. Recently, however, I came across Mastodon, a Twitter alternative.

On Mastodon, posts are ‘toots’, (you know, like the noise a prehistorical elephant might make) and have a limit of five hundred characters. Unlike Twitter the site is decentralised, meaning that it’s run on many servers (called instances, numbering over a thousand at time of writing), instead of one at Twitter HQ. You can follow people and browse hashtags to find new users.  Continue reading “Toot Toot Tweet Tweet”