Wide Open Space

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You ever had a day when you realised the fundamental problem in everything was you?

Once upon a time, when this used to happen (and it did quite often, coinciding with hormonal change before or during menstruation) I’d just go backwards. There’d be rows, recrimination and ultimately tears: yesterday all of those happened, but not in the way they had before. In fact, on reflection, Thursday ended up the best day of the week. Even with five hours sleep I know that yesterday was incredibly important. I’ll write about the literary consequences in the appropriate place but psychologically, we are breaking new ground. I’m pretty confident the meditation is what is helping (and I’ll be doing a practice later) but there are other, more subtle factors at play.

I find looking at myself intimidating, and yet next month am planning to start a video diary, mostly because of just that. Laying yourself bare is not an issue a lot of the current generation have, because they have grown up with the visual very much front and centre. For me, it is the last bastion of uncertainty. Now I am pretty comfortable with what I am, that there doesn’t need to be makeup or a particular type of ‘look’ to merit comfort, the time has come to start playing about with visuals. I’m also considering doing audio only readings of poetry with musical accompaniment for Patreon, so everything is coming together quite nicely.

What is at the core of all of this, inevitably, is familiarity with myself, which hasn’t happened for quite some years. This is due to a very particular set of circumstances which, one day, I will pluck up courage to share with the World. For now, the people who do know have been hugely supportive and understanding, and that’s probably all that is required as a result. I’ve also had enough of those people who come to read my stuff and are arrogant and self-centred enough to believe I’m talking about them. For the record, if you piss me off in the future, I’ll use names and make sure EVERYBODY knows what fucking tools you people are.

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The main reason I know things are getting better is because I’m still working on a domestic project I began on Sunday. I didn’t get bored, or lose interest, or think the whole thing wasn’t worthwhile. I’m still going, and today (after a second scheduled PT for the week) I’ll be carrying on. My personal sanity now depends not simply on internal factors, but the external too. If I can improve everything around me, not simply myself, the benefits are becoming immediately obvious.

The key here is to keep moving forward.

Question

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This popped up yesterday and has subsequently created something of a moral dilemma. The Original Poster (OP) is a game developer (according to their bio) and I don’t follow them, but this got Tweeted into my feed and therefore attracted attention.

Now, I know immediately what these people are referring to. There is sufficient explanation in each of the comments to support a logical conclusion: cats have done this for centuries. It is not a new phenomena. Therefore, a word already exists in language to support it:

This is the first time I’ve encountered the situation where more than one person has hoped the Internet can provide them with an answer, where that solution is a word they never have been taught. Part of my brain supposes that maybe these people never had a cat or were close to one growing up, or simply don’t realise that certain things that particular animals have specific language associated with them. After all, this level of literary sophistication is no longer required to live or exist, especially with the presence of the Internet itself, particularly AI such as Siri.

Imagine, if you will, asking your mobile phone: ‘Why is my cat vibrating?’

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One assumes that if your phone ‘assistant’ can locate at least one other person who has asked this question, and it is ranked high enough in a search engine to be picked up by an AI, then suddenly vibrating cats gain a measure of legitimacy. What should happen with AI, of course, is that it/they look at this question and think ‘look, human, that’s not vibrating, it’s called purring, so let me provide you with the correct word and move on’ except the day artificial intelligence can do that one assumes that humanity will also have become surplus to requirements, and we’re into Terminator ‘no fate but what we make’ territory. Also, one assumes that synthetic brains wouldn’t have pedantry programmed in as standard, and would understand that ignorance can be easily addressed with education.

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Just so we are clear: people are not more stupid than they were. This cannot be solely blamed on educational failure, however ‘funny’ that might be. The key difference between twenty years ago and now is that individuals are exposed to far more information than was ever the case before, but have not yet fully grasped how to absorb it effectively. People are more willing to ask questions anonymously when they are confident their question will not be met with immediate ridicule or contempt. Most importantly of all however, you as a person are interacting with far more people than was ever the case for your ancestors.

Everybody has questions, but not everyone has the answers.

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The key here, it seems to me, is not to use other people’s ignorance for entertainment: however, when entities such as the Darwin Awards exist to do just that, curiosity may well be the bigger casualty. We all like to point and laugh at other people’s stupid, ad programmes like Jackass exist purely to prove that we, as a race, are often as dumb as rocks. In my ideal world, I’d now make a video explaining this blog post with some funny GIFs and a genuine earnest conclusion: sometimes, shouting your question into the void is not the answer. When the only things that might be listening are AI, this has the potential to turn a bright future into a place where ignorance is derided.

The future should be education and not entertainment at others expense.

[PS: Yes, I’m overthinking this. What of it? ^^]

Listen to the Music

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Yesterday, my PT returned from holiday to remind me of what hard work really means, and that I have slacked over the last three weeks. Therefore, as of right now, many things have changed. My morning snack has become breakfast. Breakfast has moved to lunch. This morning, I ran, strode and walked myself until I could do no more. Training to failure is not a recommended technique, but I don’t push enough. A lot has become habit, and that is never a good thing. Tuesday therefore has become the first day in a new regime.

You don’t need to wait until January to be dry, or start new resolutions. A Tuesday in September is just as relevant as a starting point. The key, of course, is that when that line is drawn, the race is run as if it mattered. I can feel bad habits slipping in: last night, for instance, I procrastinated for most of the evening when there was work to be done, and now I have a sizeable to do list which will only get larger because I’ve inserted exercise into the start of my day. However as the plan is to do this every day this week? I can at least now organise around it.

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Then it is all about not being distracted by Twitter, or daydreaming myself into inactivity (which can often happen) but settling down and getting the work done. That means the bedsheets get changed today as well as catchup from last week’s Patreon gubbins, before finally clearing the last of my desk area so I can prepare for video blogging next month. All three sites support it, and I may well end up doing supplementary content for all three ‘interests’ assuming I can set the computer up to my liking.

Needless to say, there’s a lot planned for the future.

Wondrous Stories

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Question: Why is there a Bible in every hotel room?

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Considering the trouble this set of teachings continues to cause, you’d think commercial hotel chains would want nothing to do with it yet when I stayed in a Hotel over the summer there was a Bible, on the floor of our room. I asked for an annotated version a couple of years ago for a birthday present from my Methodist-practising mother in law, which caused some surprise from my husband. I’ve never embraced religion, but I’m not an idiot. This really is the most important book that has ever been published, for so many reasons, and if you think hard about it there’s everything inside. It is either a story book or a set of real-life diary entries. It is also the largest selling hardback/paperback on the planet.

The word ‘legacy’ gets thrown about a lot when it comes to major, life changing events such as the Olympic games but when the entire planet is focused on one place to celebrate sporting achievement (in all its forms) that can provide a perfect opportunity for the people hosting said event to capitalise. Making people think is a hard ask, after all: with all your personal issues from money woes to simply coping with the issues around you, why should you care about making the World a better place? As is becoming apparent in Brazil after 2016, what that country needs is not massive monuments to sporting excellence. The problems that existed prior to the Games have not been solved, far from it. Even after 2012 here, the UK has a lot of image and personality issues of its own to deal with.

Maybe the Bible could help everybody here.

Darren Aronofsky’s latest film is, if you believe certain interpretations of the plot, is simply another in a series of his biblically-inspired narratives. Although Noah is quite obviously based in a version of God’s story-line, a movie like The Fountain may seem to have less influence but really… no, he’s still falling back on the Good Book as source. It is no surprise, when all is said and done, because the parable is by far and away the simplest source material for an author to borrow from successfully. It also holds the benefit of being a story everybody understands, which makes the telling somewhat fraught. If you are overt in your settings and themes (as was the case with the 2014 telling of the biblical flood) and then subvert the ‘original’ story with elements that an audience can’t grasp or feel is inappropriate… things can and will get messy.

Until the day comes when we are a religion-free planet (and that’s not going to be a while) every religious text is shadowing every writer, whether we like it or not. It isn’t a bad thing, however, when you consider why the Bible was written to begin with, or the Quran plus the countless other texts that have become the foundations of modern spiritualism. Even Scientology, which is inspired by the sci-fi teachings of L. Ron Hubbard falls under this umbrella: just because you created a religion in 1954 does not make it any more or less significant that that which was established back before the Roman Empire fell. The key to legacy is inspiration, and the basis of the Bible are stories to make human being do just that, be inspired.

In effect, a bunch of stories is just as effective as building an Olympic village.

Faith and belief are not concepts owned by spiritualism. Both of these underpin physical achievement, drive athletes to be the best they can be: understanding yourself, being able to push beyond what most ‘normal’ human beings are capable of producing… complex systems of mental and physical fitness, combined to a whole. The ability to inspire a nation to start exercising, even when many of them were afraid to do so, is an enduring legacy of 2012 I am a grateful part of. However, many things have worsened post London Olympics, that no amount of inspiration is likely to alter. It is the encroaching spectres of xenophobia and greed that are warned of in the Old Testament, but are rarely seen held up as reasons for change. All the modern world seems to want to do with the Bible is try and justify why diversity isn’t allowed, as if somehow this will make everything right and ‘good’ again.

That’s the problem when someone tries to use the Bible as a stick to beat people with: it may often be used as a rule book, but those days are long gone. The world has changed, even if the ignorant and narrow minded still remain in power. These are stories and teachings, not doctrines. That’s what happens when a branch of religion takes the Bible and starts subverting the point: they create a version of the original tales, for their own ends, and often at the expense of humanity itself. Parables allow people to help rationalise the difficulties in their own existence, and come to a greater understanding of themselves. The big omnipotent deity thing is largely irrelevant, except to those who wish to believe that the Universe is clearly only man’s work.

Sport is not just about winning and ‘beating’ people, just as religion is now about who is ‘right’. Both of those conditions are placed on these ideas by human beings, often because they lose and are wrong in the eyes of others. The problem is not your God of choice dispenses his/her teachings, but how we choose to be directed by them. 

If you wish to understand the World better, start with yourself.

Can’t Do

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On Friday evening, my husband suggested I watch a TED talk which has, quite literally, melted my brain.

What this talk does is explain how we lose weight. If you haven’t ever wondered where the fat goes when you get lighter, this talk is for you. Yes, you will get an exchange of fat for muscle, if your body has the ability to do so easily. However, most of your weight is exhaled. Yeah, just take a moment to grasp the amazing nature of that claim, and then watch this surfing Australian chemist BLOW YOUR MIND. Effectively it does not matter what else happens (within reason, of course) as long as you

a) eat less
b) exercise more and
c) KEEP BREATHING

The key is c) in this equation: the harder you work, the more you breathe, and (potentially) the more weight gets lost. Of course, this is hardly groundbreaking: however, what this explanation did for me was reinforce the basic point of exercise.

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I watch people at the gym pretending to do just that, far more often than should be the norm. By that, we’re talking about those who turn up, use equipment, but never push your heart-rate to a point where you have to breathe heavily. They don’t sweat, or indeed look as if there is any kind of removal from their comfort zones. This, by the strict definition of our science above, won’t let them lose weight. However, most of these people have no need to in the first place. These are the appearance exercisers: probably not eating enough to require major exertion, yet still aware their bodies need to be aired on a regular basis.

They look fit and healthy, but is this really true?

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I sweat like a pig when exercising, and always have. It is not pretty either, but what this does is make it aware to me whether the amount of effort expended is sufficient. As time has gone on, it takes increasing amounts of effort to reach the same point. However, on some days, you need very little. Those are the ones where I have breathing difficulties, or I’m less than 100% physically together. This scientific revelation means that every day has the potential for weight loss, if there’s the ability to grasp what body is capable of doing. Most significantly of all, steps have become completely irrelevant to my notion of exercise.

That will take some getting used to.

12k (which is my step goal) is achieved by a walk to and from the Gym, a couple of miles on the Octane machine and 30 minutes on the Treadmill. Except I could complete all of this and never really expend that much energy by doing so, and create the impression of exercise. Today therefore I made every step count, adding an incline to my workout, and almost fell off the treadmill. I can therefore attest that these 12,000 steps burnt a lot of calories, and that every subsequent time I go and exercise anywhere, that is what is going to happen.

Knowledge is a wonderful thing, but it is even better at that moment when you truly grasp the significance of what you have learnt, and then how to utilise that for yourself.

Start

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If I had to offer a GIF for how I’ve felt every day this week, this is probably the most apposite available. Sleep right now is a tough ask, and I’m not sure why: there’s been a lot of mental alteration since Sunday, and that must be contributing to the inability to relax. There are aches and pains too, but if I’m honest nothing at a level to inconvenience, in fact, I’ve probably not done nearly enough exercise this week to begin with. Maybe this is just evolution playing out across body as a whole.

What I don’t want to do however is complain, because there’s nothing really wrong at all.

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In fact, creativity and enthusiasm are reaching unprecedented levels. There’s a five essay sequence on improving my favourite game all ready to go for next week (where did that come from?) plus, once there’s a return from scheduled adulting this afternoon, a plan to reorganise the entire desk area in anticipation of *gasp* starting video blogging next month. Talking to myself is not unusual in this house, so I’m going to use my You Tube channel for good starting October 1st. It is just another excuse to push out of the comfort zone, when all is said and done.

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All of this, every day, is about making an improvement not just to my life, but those of the people around me, and this week I have begun that task in earnest. It’s not all going to happen overnight, but knowing what needs to be done is frankly half the battle. That’s the part of this that doesn’t need a song and dance made about it either, it will just happen regardless. I realised yesterday, and it has taken a while, that the key to not being part of drama is to not make it in the first place. That’s not perfect (yet) but it is going to get there, and soon.

Now, as it happens, is a perfect place to start.

The Winner Takes it All

Apathy is the single biggest problem on the Internet. 

It isn’t trolls, toxicity, or the corporate giants who decide they’re going to algorithm us all to extinction. We, the vast majority of ‘normal’ users, are the ones with the potential to ruin it for everybody, and we do. Most of the time you won’t even realise this is happening either, until someone turns up on your feed suggesting a course of action you disagree with. If you’ve already got a beef with their actions, that’s pretty much a guarantee that something is going to kick off.

Life is hard in the affluent Western World right now. There’s an almost daily assault of terror incidents, natural disasters and threats to national security. My country’s trying (and largely failing) to successfuly leave a fourty year relationship. The American people are being governed (between rounds of golf) by a white supremacist (allegedly.) In all of this, people continue to pin their affinity and loyalty to a dizzying array of virtual saviours, or pray at the altar of corporate churches with the the belief their brand loyalty maintains a safe and trusted output, however much money that might cost.

It is no surprise therefore that compassion fatigue is becoming recognisable in larger sets of online communities with each passing day. The main upshot of all this trauma is individuals becoming less and less willing to consider a contrary set of beliefs to their own, being more likely to fly off the handle with the slightest provocation, and feeling that as long as they don’t name names or continue to hide behind a virtual persona, they can get away with being toxic because nobody cares enough to call them out.

So, what happens when a safe and trusted organisation does just that, shaming the nasty people for what others say they are? Overwatch is big news right now, and the level of ‘toxic’ game play is never out of my Twitter feed, reported third hand by person after person. So, when a company (that has never really been that keen on labelling anyone who pays for their games as anything other than a customer) takes the bull by the horns and starts calling out the bad people (and encourages players to do the same) what could possibly go wrong? Why would anyone complain about a company taking steps to eliminate the toxic element in a game that’s clearly full of just that?

Here’s where I stop one train of thought and ask you to pick up a second.

For as long as I can remember, there’s always been a jocks vs nerds fight happening somewhere in my earshot. Whether it is disdain for ‘sportsball’ or esports being a ‘joke,’ the two groups seem to have nothing in common, and continue to be pitted against each other whenever possible. The fact that so many sports fans play games is neither here nor there: they come to the table with a natural advantage, which is often overlooked. It is only by understanding the psychology of team games, the importance of playing as part of a whole, that individuals really begin to understand the need for co-operation and empathy.

The basement nerd, used to playing alone, has a hard time grasping the mechanics of team sports. She’s not been taught how to play well with others, and immediately becomes a disruptive, confrontational force. This has one of two results: people either attempt to help her understand how to play, or they reject her as a disruptive element. Then, it doesn’t matter whether what she says about others’ game play is right or not, whether she’s prepared to do as she’s told becomes irrelevant. You choose to play by the rules of the game, or you don’t. If the latter is your path, and there are rules in place that dictate these actions are against the spirit of this game?

Like it or not, you lose.

Overwatch’s decision to call out bad game play assumes that the majority of players just want to participate in a specific way. I wish them luck in making this stick, but when you are fighting ‘players’ who don’t understand what it means to be part of a team, or why that matters, you’re likely on a hiding to nothing. The internet is full of individuals who believe that their opinion, attitude and outlook are all that matters, that teams need them far more than the other way around. The concepts of loyalty, empathy and belonging are simple flimsy constructs for most; no real ‘friends’ just those who believe in a particular set of ideas, to a point, who refuse to allow reality to damage their persona. This is not just a white male preserve either, before you start giving me that look. I know countless women who perpetuate the shock/bitch persona. White men don’t get to die on that hill alone, oh no.

So what has apathy got to do with all this, the more astute of you will now be asking? This week came a powerful, personal revelation: sitting at a screen, being unwilling to name names when you see someone do something you don’t like because that just causes drama is slowly destroying everybody’s lives. It’s the lump on your arm that might be more than just a mole, but you’re unwilling to get it looked at and diagnosed in case the consequences end up as cancerous as you can’t handle the consequences to begin with. At some point, if you want to be a real human being, there has to be an acknowledgement of what matters most. I’ve realised I’ve had enough of reading social media where individuals aren’t prepared to call others out when there’s been something they disagree with. If you don’t have the balls to put conviction to a claim, then shut the fuck up.

If you won’t, don’t expect people to keep listening.

In effect, I have implemented my own response to toxicity. Watching somebody else complain at others but not rock the boat too much themselves, when multiplied up thousands of times, becomes apathy that destroys communities. If there is a genuine beef with someone, then go talk to them. If, after you talk to them, all that they’ll offer as explanation to your issue is glib platitudes and ‘well, I can hardly be expected to read my feed the whole time’ then it should be apparent your relationship is not as important as it appears was the case, and everybody should really move on. If you’re playing an online games where there are teams of people and you flatly refuse to play by the rules set down by the majority? Expect to get royally owned by those who do, even if you feel you are the one in the right.

If you really want to succeed in the future: be the team player who understands that the rules only work to a point. Play games as just that, and don’t live them as if they mattered more than life itself. Most importantly of all, when someone upsets you online, don’t say a fucking thing about it to anyone, deal with the problem internally or away from social media, and just move on. The real winners don’t need to prove they’re right, they know in their hearts that they’re doing the right thing, and everything else is irrelevant.

In a world where nerds have become their own enemies, the only way to win is not to play.