Cruel to be Kind

Once upon a time, my life would have been put on hold on Wednesdays. Those days have (thankfully) passed, existence considerably better for the change. There was also a time where an obsessive need to attain goals would completely consume my brain: with reflection, it is more about understanding when to work, and that not doing so is probably more important. Body decided at about 10.15pm last night, today is a physical rest day: being able to snag an extra PT lesson tomorrow morning is perfect synergy required to get my head down this morning and work the grey matter instead.

List is written, washing is on, time to make the difference.

Learning from my kids is something that happens so many times during a day: it is not just your task to teach as an adult. There is an obligation to listen, learn and then suggest alternatives. Occasionally the intractable needs to be introduced but as has become apparent with my two, intelligence can make for a fine weapon against such restrictions. Then, it is up to you to clear middle ground. Not them, you, because the more that control is flaunted, the less likely it is that any outcome will be non-confrontational.

I’ve got very good at avoiding confrontation across the last few years, a skill not taught in my youth. Now, this and my limited parenting abilities are having unexpectedly amusing and satisfying uses. Control’s a funny thing, when all is said and done. Thinking that someone or something else is frightening or scary, when a lot of the fear never issues from the object of your concern. The amount of control you can wield is immense and really is capable of changing the World.

You just have to believe enough in the possibility.

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My paths are not once as clear as they were. Other things are appearing as important. As changes occur, and possibilities present, it is up to me to ensure that the journey forward isn’t just a single-minded steam towards one reward, if there other more important side-achievements to be had. All that gaming has finally found a use.

Who knew?

Future Boy

Day 1:ย Start again: in Good News PT is back today. YAY.

The Next Chapter Bar

Today I am here to remind you that the Future is not as forgiving and understanding as some of you seem to believe.

In the last week, a significant number of people in my timeline have seen some form of bank fraud happen in their accounts. Is it a coincidence that the biggest breach of data ever took place shortly before this? I dunno, but it’s a sage reminder to check your online accounts, making sure you don’t hold excess cash in your main account. Any excess (if you are that lucky) should be stuffed elsewhere, regardless of whether it gets saved or not. Also? Two factor authentication as standard on any app handing your money.

I digress however, but only slightly. It’s time to reference the fact that tons of privately marked tweets were, it transpires, easily accessible to anyone on an Android phone. This isn’t really news at all, because the idea of Private Messaging and Encrypted apps should be ridiculous to anyone who still holds onto any belief that the Internet is some kind of mysterious place like it was back in the 1990’s, where Government never listens and big business cannot capitalise.

Privacy, in a public space, is the biggest issue everybody should be talking about.

When you step back and consider facts, a lot of stuff is pretty well looked after. There are some basic mistakes that shouldn’t be made as consumers: online banking passwords really ought not be the same as the ones you use for porn site access. ANYTHING with a nominal value to your existence on the Internet should have a secondary form of authentication, preferably NOT tied to a mobile device.

However, what is abundantly apparent in recent years is that certain companies don’t really care about the privacy of the data you share. When you forget that Big Brother doesn’t need to watch you if you are dumb enough to use services without thinking through the consequences, the police and other organisations won’t even need a warrant to hack your Facebook account if every message you spew forth is tinged with hate. It’s just there, shouting into the void.

Just because nobody replies to you, does not mean there’s nobody listening.

The most amazing thing of all, of course, is that all this data combined adds up to an amazing way to unconsciously propel lots of industries forward. Targeting the right people online; not smart enough to grasp their news is fabricated but capable of casting votes, is one high profile example of using freely available data to influence all our futures. Yet people complain their privacy has been invaded, despite the unavoidable truth that this is not totally the fault of those doing the exploiting.

Let’s take an example: let’s say you wanted to train a camera to more accurately distinguish how faces age over time, as part of wanting to employ face recognition software for law enforcement. Picking the same person with… a ten year age gap between two pictures would be a decent starting point, wouldn’t it…?

[FX: Removes Tinfoil Hat]ย Okay, so maybe not everything is a government conspiracy, but on the other hand if you people could just stop sharing every single thing about yourselves 24/7 then the AI would have a far harder time deciding what you really like, before serving it up to you on a lovely, buy now and save 21%ย platter. I know that’s not going to happen, and a lot of people are betting on the same being true, or else I wouldn’t have a ton of people trying to invite me to a bazillion new ‘gamer only’ or ‘writer only’ social networks, or using my ratings to condemn delivery drivers and private cabs to personal hell if they don’t turn up on time.

‘Leave a review’ they say. Response to my blog posts is largely non-existent. What future is there in the writing world if you’re required to have a 3.6 star rating or above on your Blog before anybody will even retweet you? Has anybody thought through these systems properly, or are we condemned to a future where a Black Mirror episode looks more like a documentary of how life in the future was perfectly represented from a fictional past?

When I was a kid, the Future was shiny suits and flying cars. Now it’s all data and peer pressure and living a life online that should never be there in the first place. If your privacy really matters, stop doing shit online. It is terribly easy, and takes no effort at all to achieve: get your dick picks out of my DM’s, stop posting your cleavage in order to make you feel good about yourself. It isn’t difficult. You are the arbiter of your own destiny.

The only person making you share everything is yourself.

Building the Perfect Beast

DAY 14:ย The end of 2018 deserves to be pushed out with a bang.

Blogging used to be a largely unassuming, cottage industry, but in 2019 it will become a bigger business than has ever been the case. The key, of course, is getting people to talk about your product with an air of genuine interest, and then that being used to further promote brands that rely on the word of mouth such endeavours create. Except, of course, there are those of us who don’t give a flying fuck about such associations.

What matters most, in the end, is truth. Kermode’s scathing deconstruction of why 3D is such utter creative bobbins might have (allegedly) ruffled industry feathers but it highlights both integrity and intelligence that ought to matter far more to those of us pursuing a balanced view of the World around us. Except, of course, more and more that’s not nearly as important as putting food on the table.

It’s that moment you dread when the much loved small streamer looks uncomfortable doing ads for the company that decided they’re capable of making sensible people buy their product. It’s the break in favourite podcast where hosts all talk about the sponsored service in their ‘style,’ desperately attempting to make you interested. It is the depressing, inescapable creep of corporate takeover that now consumes (almost) everything online.

Sponsorship isn’t necessary or required, of course. Except, inevitably, if a company believes your work is the best place to sell their wares, who in their right mind will turn down a lucrative placement deal? It’s one of those Moral Dilemmas that is easy to pronounce as a no-brainer right up until the moment someone hands you a contract. Honestly, will you be the one to say ‘nope’ when the amount offered really will change your life?ย Does it even have to be money? Is being approached enough to alter your outlook?

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It will, ultimately, all depend on your notion of Success. I turned down a couple of offers during my time as a small-time gaming blogger, one of which was a) impressive and b) would have actually made me money. The more it’s thought about, the greater is my satisfaction that, at least in this corner of the Internet, there are quite enough other people lining their pockets in this fashion. Yes, it’s cash, but not required for my individual notion of success.

This year there’s thought to approach a number of Mental health charities to freely publicise their efforts, after which there’ll be a push for people to give ME money to pass onto them. Blogging has never been about doing words as a business, always as hobby:ย  over a decade plus that mindset has never really changed. I don’t resent or object to those who are doing just this, and don’t envy them either. It’s hard enough to write regardless, without the shadow of a corporate contract hovering in the background.

If you can be honest regardless, that’s a good place to start.

Freedom ’90

Life is funny.

If you ask me what has gotten me here, in 52 years of existence, I’m betting only a very few would know the part Bruce Willis and Cybil Shepherd had to play in that process. Moonlighting was an almost vital part of my late teens, and although it is fair to say it has not aged well, its part in my mid 1980’s life was… well, indispensable.ย This song, and the Billy Joel album it comes from, had been lost from my memory until first thing this morning. Suddenly, it demands another listen.

The lyrics to this song are amazingly apposite as a metaphor for myself.

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When I got to Mulberry Street for the first time the significance of past to present didn’t really register. It’s taken all this intervening time, with exercise and writing, to grasp that an awful lot of my past has been suppressed. The reasoning behind this isn’t a massive surprise, and isn’t the point of this post.ย I’m here this morning safe in the knowledge that I don’t need to panic.ย Hard work is it’s own reward, that’s not just one of those stupid things people say because they can’t get the critical notoriety so craved.

Yes, you can change your life to suit your soul’s desire.

I’m also amazed that after thirty two years of not hearing an album the words to every track exist with perfect recall, but I can’t remember the names of any of the people I studied with at either school or college. How exactly does that work?

We Used to Be Friends

This is going to be quite hard to write, but it needs to be said.

I seem to outlast the people I care about. Right now, there are two lovely female friends who look after me, check on my welfare and health, and listen when things get tough. Without them, my life would be beyond miserable. There is my husband, of course, who remains my best friend by some way. After that, things get a bit murky and indistinct, because… well, I dunno, to be honest.ย 

A lot of the people I care passionately about have simply vanished.

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There’s effort, of course: trying to remember birthdays and Christmas, recalling the times when you were there because they needed someone, but ultimately they’ve gone. This year, of the dozens of lovely birthday greetings received, the most notably absent were those from those people I wished would remember, but never do. They did once upon a time, yet those moments are now history. Then it hit me.

I’ve moved on.

You have no obligation to anyone else unless it suits you. Finding real friends (especially male ones) is a particularly fraught exercise anyway right now, because of the obvious minefield of possibility that having someone you feel comfortable with presents. The thing is, male friends are what I yearn for the most.ย You can’t just conjure up trust and belief at a distance either. Asking for friendship is great, but only if the other person grasps what that really means.

I miss that a great deal indeed.

The truth of course is that this is the reason why it never works.ย All you single guys want to sleep with me, and when it becomes apparent that isn’t going to happen, all bets are off. The married ones can’t be friends with me because their wives will assume we’re having an affair. I’d love to not be some time in the last Century when it comes to all of this shit but it appears other people dictate those rules and not me.

It doesn’t help of course that the previous paragraph is bollocks, yet the same things happen over and over again. ‘You can talk to me about anything’ becomes convenient on their terms and not yours. If you give the ‘no, I really do just want to be mates’ speech a phenomenal number of blokes simply lose interest. I know this because of the last dozen or so male friendships I’ve attempted to instigate, every single one conforms to Billy Crystal’s assertion.ย 

Maybe it is time to stop looking and accept what I’m asking for doesn’t exist.

You May Be Right

What if everything you’ve ever done has been leading to this point?

A lot of time is spent contemplating our navels, like it or not. Imagination and role play as children allow vital opportunities to escape beyond the confines of self and stare forward to the future, with all the myriad of possibilities it presents. However, telling kids they’ll have it all sussed out by the time they reach eighteen and need to plan for a career is the biggest joke in the history of mankind (apart from the whole ‘everybody is equal’ thing, obviously ^^) Sometimes, it takes a bit longer to arrive at your chosen destination.

For some of us, a lot longer is needed to allow reality to finally register as significant.

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My favourite metaphor right now when trying to explain to people how I’m coping mentally with everything comes from the cartoon my kids loved as toddlers, and still enjoy now. There’s an episode of Spongebob Squartepants where he’s forced to help his frenemy Squidward Tentacles convince his snobby friend he owns an expensive restaurant. The titular sponge is forced to throw out of his head all the stuff that won’t help him focus on fine dining and breathing,ย and inside his sponge brain hundreds of tiny Spongebobs run around in anxiety and terror, shredding files full of memories of anything that’s not relevant to the task in hand.

For a long time, that was how it felt for me: ignore the bad stuff, don’t worry about the expectations of others and simply focus on what matters, which right now is cycling and writing… except, of course, this kind of approach is fatally flawed. Then you have nowhere else to send the stress, because all the other places it could have been siphoned off too are ignored. This weekend needs to be one where I don’t fixate on what could go wrong, and do my best to mentally relax, whilst simultaneously keeping up the training. I think there’s a Velo Park trip possible on Sunday too, which (if true) I’m already looking forward to.

It’s not going away, I can’t bottle and not do this. I have sponsors and a charity that is relying on to get the job done. The eternal questions of the Universe will have to wait, but they’ll help find the right mental balance going forward.

Time to get serious.

Three Lions

Maybe, we are making progress with the National Football teams. Writing their own history is a fine way of creating a positive mindset. Maybe, if they can make this progression, I can deal better with the stress.

I managed 90 minutes but the last minute equaliser was simply too much to bear. I’m still not sure that we’re good enough to beat either Brazil or Belgium on current form, and there’s the certainty of one making the Semi Finals. Fortunately, the game is on Saturday. I can lie in, because there’s still an adrenaline buzz remaining. The only consolation is that I’m not alone. The whole town is subdued.

To write anything of note, there needs to be more neurons firing. Maybe I should go and exercise early with the hope brain might finally bring some content to the party…