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Not nearly enough of my life has been lived on principle. Expediency is no longer something I feel comfortable entertaining. Occasionally, reality holds up signs that you cannot easily choose to ignore and, in my case, the last 72 hours have been filled with offline portents. Forget the disaster that’s been my online life for the moment: waking up to snow this morning and the realisation that I’ve managed to complete some significant real-world milestones, but that others are a long way from even being doable. Life is about choices and making the best of what you have.

That means that certain things need to change.

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The more sharp-eyed amongst you will notice that there are now a number of donation buttons on this site. These are here as stop-gaps as I readdress what it is I want to do with writing, as I wait to see what Patreon has to say as a result of the last 72 hours. There is a desire to provide people who want to offer support all possible options, and that’s why (even as a committed tea drinker) you can now buy me a coffee via Ko-fe. However, at the back of my mind, I am now reasonably settled in principle as to what will happen going forward. If you want to understand those thought processes, you need the Writing Blog.

This place will remain as fitness, ranting, geeking and an increasing interest in getting back to reading and crafting. All this will be the balance of what remains very much a career in writing, however I choose to make that happen. There are other desires hidden too, things that will eventually get to see the light of day once there’s enough time and space to allow the ideas to grow. For now, I’ll be sticking to what I’m good at.

If I keep doing that, it will all work out in the end.

Underneath it All

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You cannot choose the people you inspire, or that will like you and most crucially of all, however hard you try, some people will never be your friends. I’ve learnt this lesson the hard way over the years: there’ll always be someone who you think you’d like to get to know better and then something will happen to ensure that never comes to pass. The last situation in which this transpired came back to haunt me at the weekend, a mutual tweeting someone who I reached out to but… on reflection, it wouldn’t have worked. They wouldn’t have been the problem, either. I would have ruined it.

The people that have helped chart the course over the last few years have been getting thank you’s this month (as I mentioned back at the start of November) and with the last four this week comes to pass an event that has made a lot of sense in the wider scope of what I’d like to happen going forward. You can give blanket thanks to people on Social media all day and night, knowing that many users simply read what they need or want into situations regardless of your desirers. Naming names is the way people understand how much they matter to you, pure and simple.

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Sometimes, people get disappointed. They put a lot more emphasis on you than is the case the other way. When I do a cursory account check of new people to follow, it is always with half an eye on who else they consider interesting. It means if you’re reading this and your Twitter friends list is full of female ‘online personalities’ and porn robots, I’m fairly confident we won’t have a lot in common. I’m pushing more and more for those people who understand that participation isn’t just complaining online about how unfair life is, those willing and prepared to give back more than they take out. Thinking needs to be the default these days, however tough that might be on a daily basis. That means not only considering what you say, but more crucially what you don’t.

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Having survived the early stage of Patreon, it is time to start raising the bar. Persuading people to give you money (especially in this day and age) is a tough ask. I have big plans starting this week, and need to get more people on board, who are prepared to take a chance on me and what I believe in. We don’t need to be friends for this to happen, either. However, that might happen, or it might not… a lot of it isn’t up to me to begin with. Life isn’t a predictable set of occurrences. If we get lucky, then so be it.

Sometimes, just inspiring people to be better is enough.

Stupid White People

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TECHNICALLY the book I’m referring to in today’s title is entitled ‘Stupid White Men’ but after last night’s episode post Gym, plus some other online tomfoolery? All will become clear.

This week, I’ve watched people doing stuff they thought nobody else would notice. It’s happened on social media, in the real world and even in my own house. Not thinking when there’s nobody else around means you’ll only end up hurting yourself, in the end. Doing it in public? Quite a different thing. The level of arrogance and selfishness this week I’ve watched exhibited by people who, in many cases, should know fucking better than this, has been staggering.

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From today’s Guardian.

You can’t tell other people to treat you nicely when you already punched them in the face, Mr Politician. You don’t dismiss other people’s comments over cultural appropriation with a clearly-undisguised arrogance. You most certainly do not cover your own arse with thinly-veiled excuses and a well-paid lawyer anymore. There’s a fucking World of Respect missing around these parts of late and it is really beginning to separate those people who want a decent, well-represented future and those who are just thinking with their genitalia.

It isn’t just men either, but for the sake of the current feeding frenzy in the media, white blokes (in the main) get to be the Bad Guys. I’m really sorry to the large raft of decent men out there as a result. I’m fairly confident I know who these people are in my own sphere, but who I can now trust outside of that is now hugely in flux. Entertainers, sportsmen, media celebrities… anybody who didn’t really do a decent job of being a human being up until this point is potentially about to get swept away in a tide of quite right and proper backlash. If you treat people without respect, especially in the spotlight? There’s no longer anywhere to hide.

However, all of my issues this week have been with stupid white women, hence the ‘people’ referred to in the title. Women who can’t see past their own basic desires. Women whose notion of respect is minimal at best… and the list goes on. Oh, and I utterly count myself as stupid here, because I did something utterly wankstainy this week and will be paying the price for quite some time. The wider point here, that to make society better overall is not just one group of people’s responsibility. Pointing fingers at each other and having someone to blame is all well and good, but what happens afterwards?

How do we as human beings stop this cycle of stupidity happening once and for all?

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30 years ago, the Kings Cross Tube Fire killed 31 people when a lit match ignited a wooden escalator. Because of this horrific event, over the last three decades attitudes to smoking in public have radically altered. Fire safety protocols have changed, the Underground is now full of people trained to deal with emergencies and wooden escalators are all but a memory. Yet smoking still kills thousands of people who don’t ever light a cigarette and tobacco companies remain a massive force in developing countries… and nobody seems to worry about what vaping may do long-term to their health because nobody’s had enough time to do a study.

In your own home, personal freedoms allow you to conduct yourself as you wish… unless you step foot on the Internet, and then everything changes. Except some people quite clearly cannot distinguish where their personal freedom ends and common decency begins. Social media is just making this worse, to the point where it is becoming abundantly apparent certain individuals truly believe their private outlook is what should be the public norm, despite the massive damage such attitudes could have to those who are genuinely vulnerable or susceptible. History will teach us important lessons if we stop and allow it to do so, but the truly innocent around us may already be blighted by bad decision making or stupidity because… well, if nobody’s died, what’s the issue?

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Society’s downfall is everybody’s responsibility to shoulder. Yes, even the people at the bottom of the pile could technically be considered culpable, but you’d have a hard time in my mind apportioning anything but the minimum of blame to any human being who looks at another and, regardless of skin colour, ethnicity or wealth, treats them as an equal. What we do now as human beings is look for blame: it was that actor, that politician, that sportswoman who caused the problem. 

Perhaps the time is fast approaching where the reaction to such events is not indignation, but action from EVERYBODY. Teach each other, learn from these mistakes, find ways in your own communities and workplaces to stop such things happening. Don’t smile and laugh when someone attacks someone else or simply ignore what you saw. Make choices based on what takes place, discuss these with other people and then approach the people concerned with your issues. Most importantly, if you don’t feel that the person will be responsive or even listen to your argument, warn others of their behaviour, and stop taking snide potshots at them via subtweets on Social media.

If we all try harder, shit might actually start changing and stay that way.

Change

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Right then.

Yesterday was, without doubt, one of the best I’ve had for organisation for some time. It helps that the back of work was broken on Sunday, and now I’m left with the process of scheduling (which will happen after this.) Then it’s all about finishing off outstanding stuff, and starting the next batch of Things to Do. After three months, there’s a schedule that works. 

Next up, it is time to make some important changes to Social media.

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I now have a ‘Professional’ Twitter AND Instagram, and having worked out how to use the app in Windows (how smart is that?) I can prep all my artwork beforehand and still schedule it. This is unbelievably useful, and will encourage me to further organise my sorry arse better. Then there are the changes to how social media is consumed:

  • No social media before bed, or before I sit down at the PC first thing in the morning
  • ABSOLUTELY NO starting discussions without being 100% awake and attentive
  • No social media when bored ^^
  • Complete removal of Twitter (and all online media) from places where I relax or sleep
  • Regulated use of social media when I’m supposed to be sociable
  • Making time for ‘silence’ and times when electronic interaction does not happen

This is a lot but really, it all matters. If I look at the instances when I have gotten myself into trouble, 90% of them are due to engaging with people at the start and end of days, plus when I shouldn’t be using Social media at all. So, maybe if I can keep at this for a month it’ll become habit too. The lack of a tablet at bedtime for two nights running has made for some quality sleep, I hope this isn’t just a blip.

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The plan here is to try and be less reactionary and more reflective. This is fairly atypical of my life up to this point, but I’d like to believe that even at this age I can change and become more mellow. Sure, there are still going to be days when the table gets flipped, but at least now I’ll be better prepared to clear up the mess made afterwards, rather than just stomp off in a teenage huff and leave it to somebody else.

If I can get at least a part of all this to stick, it will totally be taken it as progress.

Hard Rain

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This week has been a literal disaster area for millions of people in the Caribbean. With three hurricanes now on Storm Watch, from a distance this is not unlike watching the trailer for The Day After Tomorrow, just without the Ice Age bit.

Climate change deniers are gonna have a hard time explaining the last month away. This is also the moment where, living as I do on a coastal estuary, there is a reminder that there for the grace of your deity of choice goes me and anybody else who enjoys the benefits of a beach within walking distance and the pretence of being a holiday destination. Anyone near to a coastline now stands the chance of being underwater quite soon, if those pesky polar icecaps continue to melt into the sea. The water has to go somewhere, and when the sea temperature is rising? Everybody’s in trouble.

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I know a LOT of people in Florida. I won’t lie, if I was there… well, I would have left probably on Wednesday, to hell with job or schools for the kids. I also realise that saying you’d do something and having the luxury of doing so are as far apart as the melting icecaps. I didn’t mean to either upset or irritate anyone by suggesting publicly they should leave, but it happened all the same. I thought about deleting the offending tweet but on reflection, it is an important lesson learnt. From a distance, everyone can seem like a critic. My overriding concern is that there will be massive loss of life, and if that could have been preventable via evacuation… but it id never that simple. These are the issues that will now become as global a problem as refugees from wars and famine.

It is the elderly and the young which are of greatest concern, of course. Asking people to stay safe is all well and good, but until the storm makes landfall… it could yet decrease in potency, and all this hand wringing and panic would have been for nothing. Except, it isn’t, none of this is wasted. This is the next decades of existence unless global warming is arrested. Nature will simply do what it has always done and its own natural defence system will reduce the population of the planet. Ecology, like it or not, exists in very delicate balance and if you fuck it up, there will always be consequences. Add to that the truly unexpected, and a bad week just gets worse.

All I can do now is watch from a distance and cross everything that the people I care about will be safe. Offering prayers is about as effective as believing I can change the world just by blogging, and we all know that’s not happening any time soon. I’ll be donating my Patreon earnings this month to the International Red Cross, because these people need the money far more than I do right now. In fact, they need everybody’s love and cash as a matter of some urgency, because one day this could be us.

The World is changing too fast to stand by idle.

Life on Mars

I have a confession to make: I watch perilously little TV these days. Normally there is just not the time to do so: there tends instead to be vicarious consumption via Social media. However, as of right now I have two regular shows which aren’t missed: Quacks on BBC2 (you can iPlayer the whole thing if you choose, I prefer to do it old school) and, on the same channel Astronauts: Do You Have What it Takes? They are about as far apart as you can get in terms of subject matter, but I have interests in both.

The former is interesting for the subject matter (Victorian medicine but done for laughs) except I don’t find it that funny. In fact, I’m slightly concerned when I’ve heard other people consider it just that when I really don’t laugh that much at all. However, Rory Kinnear can do no wrong in my mind (you’ll know him as Bill Tanner from the Bond movies) and everybody else seems to be having a whale of a time so you know, it’s a win regardless. The Astronaut thing is as cerebral as reality TV shows can probably get at current levels: you ‘prize’ should you ‘win’ is a recommendation from former Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield to get you into the Space Programme.

After that, there are a bazillion things I probably should watch but simply haven’t gotten around to doing, thanks to the levels of work at present. This includes The Handmaid’s Tale, Twin Peaks, anything on Netflix or Amazon Prime and pretty much every point in between. In good news none of this stuff is going anywhere, the nights are getting longer and I could conceivably do this whilst cycling in the shed. I’d have to make a priority list but it might be a plan for getting through until next year, assuming nuclear war doesn’t break out in the meantime.

Today however is Back to School day for everybody, and when you read this I expect to be celebrating with a cuppa and quite possibly a book before I get on with the rest of my plans for the week. There’s a poetry submission for the 8th but as I have to pay for it I’m still not sure it is summat worth doing. I’ll sleep on it tonight and consider the possibilities on Wednesday.

Jilted John

header79At the start of July, I had a plan to lose weight. With two days to go until August 1st? Well, let’s see how that went:

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I’ve been beyond good. I’ve stuck to a strict calorie goal for the entire month, limited both carbs and sugar, never exceeded my totals once. Yesterday’s totals, according to My Fitness Pall, should have put me around the 11 stone, 5 pound mark (159 pounds.) Except My Fitness Pal does not understand how my body works:

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Now, I might have cause to be angry after four weeks of living so strictly, but these numbers are, as it happens, a step forward. That is the lowest fat percentage I’ve clocked in over a year. My BMI, for the first time in several years, exists in the 25 range (albeit not far but still.) However, if I was the kind of person who just looked at numbers and didn’t understand the fat exchange with muscle process that is going on? I could see myself being really upset.

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Here is where science, yet again, doesn’t serve someone like me very well. I do all of this work, put in a pretty superhuman effort to limit the two things that should affect my weight, and my digestive system just becomes more efficient at converting energy whilst continuing to ignore superfluous body mass. The physical changes to my body are so noticeable for it to now be inescapable, too: areas that never had muscle before now possess it, I’ve lost close to three inches off my waist… but I may not get close to my weight goal for some time, until the most stubborn and (currently immoveable) fat deposits start being eaten into. However, all is not yet lost. I still have things to do in order to make the scales move, and that means August is not only more exercise, but more protein.

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I’ve had a treat today, favourite chocolate bar that I’ll see again over the August Bank Holiday. Until then, all bread is off the menu. The carb content will be trimmed back further, replaced with more veg, chicken, fish and meat. I have options that will allow me to continue to train well, and hard, provide the calories I require but not the stuff that I think by body’s burning instead of taking my own fat. Carbohydrates will be eliminated as the potential source of the issue and if, by the end of August I’ve still not dropped some weight, we’ll go zero sugar.

I’m going to crack this bloody puzzle by process of elimination.

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I’ve also completely reset My Fitness Pal to take into account all the changes, setting a desire to lose weight in a measured and graduated fashion. It will mean having to avoid a lot of stuff that I’d normally live on, and making meals for myself, but I think that’s entirely doable under the current mindset. Then, it’s all about getting my arse properly in gear and doing the work. That doesn’t scare me any more either.

Time to make things happen.