New Life

There’s been an standing joke running between myself and Mr Alt since I started using Zwift for exercise: I don’t do more than an hour at a time. As soon as the clock ticks over to 01:00:00 I stop and that’s me done. I knew the reasons behind this were sound, and last night science decided to show him with FACTS. My body is nowhere near as strong or capable as his is, and I genuinely struggle with endurance. On what I know about myself I’d expected to last about ninety minutes before legs stopped working. In the end, I made it to one hour and forty minutes before the bottom half of my body gave the finger and simply ceased to function.

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The first hour included pacing, not pushing 100% (as I normally do.) It did not matter one iota that I went up hills, because I’ve been training in fixed gear pretty much 90% of the time and the trainer I used down not automatically adjust when there’s a gradient. Resistance is my concern as a result and was only really used as way to give arse a rest from over an hour sitting down. The problem, on reflection, was that I never had anywhere to recover.Β Active recovery is a concept my trainer has taught me, the means by which you don’t stop after a burst of intense exercise. Having Mr Alt next to me who just pedalled through everything made me push, far more than was normally the case.

It is probably time I stopped training alone, and (more importantly) I don’t automatically assume that because I had to stop it was a failure.

These stats were a revelation, especially when Mr Alt showed me his for the same ride. He spent the entire ride in Zone 1 and 2, not really breaking a sweat, based on his own FTP (which is clearly considerably higher than mine due to his time cycling.) For me, there was no recovery time at all, hence why I finally had to stop dead. The next step in my journey is to work out how I can take the pain out of longer rides, and increase endurance/stamina. My goal of 110 miles a week is now complete: I’ll consider whether today is a rest day or not a bit later on, once I’ve got my prep work for the next seven days organised.

Once upon a time I would have gotten very nervous about using stats like this to rate my performance. Now I realise that there’s a mental disparity between ability and performance that needs to be both considered and addressed.

Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots

I shifted my blog ‘life’ away from Google a while ago, deciding to come to WordPress where there was more of an opportunity to flex my creative muscles. Having now felt as if I’ve settled in, comes the realisation that for a number of years Blogger helped me live a lie. Though I know I did have a decent audience at the height of my gaming interest, a fair proportion of that did not exist. A lot of my traffic was using my sites as stop points on other journeys, or to inflate the worth of other sites and not mine. I had hoped that by shifting everything to WordPress I could finally say goodbye to the automated response, but now realise I’ve simply swapped one form of robot for another.

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Normally, 10 people liking your post would be a cause of celebration. However, all of these people did so in under a minute of the post going live. I don’t know a single one of them either, which means one of two things: they all happened upon my site simultaneously at the exact same moment my post was published and have all become overnight devotees… or, it was a robot. I know which version of reality I’m going to ascribe to here, and what it makes me question is why this kind of behaviour is considered acceptable. It distorts accurate statistics, feeds the fire of ‘all automation is bad’ and makes certain people believe their own worth far more than will ever be healthy to begin with.

However, I’m beginning to uncouple from an interest in metrics, as it becomes apparent their relevance is fast becoming pointless, at least for me.

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Yesterday I wrote two blog posts and placed them on different websites. I know they were both of interest to my core audience: one was promoted by me throughout the day, the other was not. By the time I’d gone to bed they were both equally read, and the promoted one continued to gain a steady stream of views whilst I was in bed, from a regular audience who turn up to my site regardless of what gets advertised. The fact I could probably name about 80% of these people is neither here nor there, my audience is now a fixed percentage of the people I interact with daily. Everybody else might take an interest from time to time but in essence, I do more business using Social media than I do via blogging.

It’s the future: people don’t have time for all that commitment shit any more.

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There’s also an emergent trend of people I know not using social media as much as they used to, that I’m seeing people forcing themselves away (as I have) to exercise and reconnect with reality. Those who remain strictly wedded to their platforms are becoming more apparent too, and I find myself thinking that if I’m honest, I’d rather pitch content to someone who can show that their existence isn’t just logging in the moment they wake up and not moving from the virtual unless pushed. It is a really delicate balancing act too for someone who’s now attempting to create a presence for themselves online. How much is too much or not enough?

At what point does one accept that the only true progress comes via hard work and consistency? For me, that point has been reached this month with more cash in the bank than I managed when using a custom-built crowdfunding platform. I now have a new stream of content, and assuming I can keep it all going for another couple of months, there will then be the opportunity to turn to people and point, before declaring ‘this is what you get from me, if you pay me we can make it better.‘ It seems a decent way forward, and the exchange of effort for cash then has some actual meaning, because I’m not asking people to fund controversial opinions they disagree with. This is art. You either like it, or you don’t, and if that’s the case then you don’t pay for it.

It’s really very simple, and needs no robots involved at all.

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I’m coming up for 200k Tweets quite soon, and although I might celebrate the passing, it will be with a sense of some irony involved. A vast number of those message have been GIF-based, and it is beginning to make me realise just how important that side of proceedings has become. As I’ll talk about on the Writing site today, the biggest revelation in the last 10 days has been my comic strip, and how art has subverted itself in my mind to a very specific and quite vital opening movement of what is clear will be a path I’ll never stop travelling on.

The robots don’t (and won’t) fool me any more. When success does happen, it will also make detection far easier.

Wake Up

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Once my Fitbit is charged (probably another 30 minutes) I’ll be walking to the Gym for the first time since the 23rd. It’s not like I’ve not exercised between then and now either: I’m on Day Five of what (I hope) will be a long, interrupted run of indoor hourly bike rides.

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Husband last night was kind enough to gift me Strava Premium, which is where all my stats go from Zwift, giving an extremely accurate idea of how much work is going on. I also have the Watt Bike at the Gym reporting to the same device, but it is going to be quite hard to register an hourly session because there’s only three of them available to record data, with January set to be a busy month. Therefore I may yet pick a time of day to do an hour out of my normal routine (say after 8pm) in order to start getting body ready for doing 50 miles in a day.

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I’m on familiar territory for the next few days: Zwift has parts of the Ride London circuit digitised and yesterday evening I did the ‘London Flat’: the run up to this loop, and then three circuits worth of sprints. In Encouraging News I was able to beat the sprint time on each loop, which means that there is energy still left after 60 minutes of my legs going OW (quite a lot.) Once I hit the Gym and do weights (plus I think some running today) there will be a better picture of how I’m faring. I’ve put on two pounds since Christmas but that will soon vanish once I get back into good habits and nobody is shoving fresh sausage rolls in my face.

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I’m going to post this here, and assuming Humanity make it to the end of 2018 unscathed? We’ll do a compare and contrast to see how I’m doing then. For now, I need to be burning off more calories, getting physically stronger, and not letting fear and anxiety get the better of me. The last one will be the hardest, on the results of the last week.

Exercise is no longer frightening or intimidating.

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This will be the third year I’ve been taken to Christmas Dinner at this particular gastropub. It used to be my local back in the early 1980’s, when I’d go to school a couple of miles down the road. Far enough off the beaten track to be worth the trip, in the days before you went to the pub for a meal. Now, it’s one of only a handful of Essex pubs that make the Good Food handbooks. The last two Christmas Meals have been impressive but this year, they excelled themselves.

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I’ve never liked ‘proper’ Christmas dinner, and knowing I have a calorie limit to deal with I decided I’d go high protein. The terrine was worth the trip alone: I know lots of you people are vegetarians (and I do go meat free now more often than I used to) but honestly, the combination of pear chutney with gamy richness was… frankly mind blowing. You got a tiny slice of sour-dough which I thought might blight enjoyment but nope, just the right amount. I’m also really glad I only drank water all night because I feel alcohol would have made me lose all the subtlety in flavour.

I’ve never eaten pheasant before and I could have eaten double of what was presented: it was served on a parsnip mash which went brilliantly with the long, elongated strip of squash and the wild mushrooms which were just… unlike anything I’d ever tasted before and all the more amazing for it. Portion wise it was practically perfect too… even though I could have done it all over again, I feel my trainer would have been happy with the balance and the fact there was no alcohol sullying the experience.

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The only issue, amazingly, was dessert. The pear tart was far too heavy, almost stodgy, cinnamon and almond completely lost in both custard and ice-cream as accompaniments (I ended up passing that onto Mr Alt.) There was none of the care or delicacy of the previous courses, and it took a lot of water and two cups of green tea to restore some sanity to my system. It reinforces the point that now I don’t eat sweet stuff nearly as much as was the case, when it is badly done those efforts become all the more jarring to the taste-buds. What I’d hoped would be refined and smart ended up as cloying and restrictive, but was fortunately not enough to destroy the brilliance of the other two courses.

Last night was also a triumph for the concept of mindful eating. I was really hungry on arrival, genuinely anticipating the food, and when it arrived there was no desire to just tear through each course or focus on the alcohol instead. Mouthfuls were appreciated, flavour and texture, the way my mind reacted to new tastes. It became as much about the process as the food itself, and a long conversation resulted on how perhaps Mr Alt and I should go out and enjoy food more than we do, as a couple. I’d really like to do that, and expand my mind more. It wouldn’t be to say I’d been to places, but instead to challenge myself to eat more than the stuff I’m used to, whilst reminding myself how lucky I am to be able to do this to begin with.

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This morning, I could do with about another six hours sleep: I have a few things left to do and then Christmas is sorted.

This is the most organised I have ever been, and it is brilliant :D

Games People Play

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Occasionally, there are days (like yesterday) when you have to accept loss. Like it or not, everybody screws up. Sitting crying in the Gym car park helps nobody: sure, it makes you feel better, but a logical mind can grasp that if you’re the one at least in part who started the fight, then you have a responsibility for the argument. As long as the days going backwards don’t exceed your forward momentum, everything is golden. That’s why I’m here to remind myself this morning, ahead of all the other stuff that has to happen, that how I conduct relationships is really important. This week, therefore, has been significant in terms of how that takes place online.

Everything I ever needed to know about life I learnt from James Bond.

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Okay, hang on a minute there Bald Eagle, how does the sexist, misogynist 007 start handing me life lessons, exactly? Well, quite apart from ensuring I don’t end up living my life in the manner of a Bond movie (with the inevitable big red reset button at the end) I find myself thinking about what James is good at, and how (amazingly) that provides lessons for me. He’s the best poker player in the British Secret Service, for starters, and that’s because he never plays his own hand, but always that of the person opposite. He’s also taught me how to deal with being poisoned and betrayed, but that’s not important right now. Let’s apply the Poker metaphor in a slightly different fashion, shall we?

When you move into new online relationships, the temptation is often to go overboard in explaining yourself: motivation, ideas, goals… all this in the first flush of ‘getting to know each other.’ I realised this week that this is not the most sensible approach, because it can often isolate people who are not easily comfortable with coming forward or opening up to strangers. It can make you look pushy and domineering. What I ought to be doing is letting the other person come forward first. In effect, I have to become them. Instead of playing my own ‘hand’, if I play the person’s I’m speaking to and effectively imagine what it must be like to be them, there’s a chance of better understanding and empathy from the word go.

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This has worked at least once in practice since the revelation hit, and going forward seems like a really logical means of finding a middle ground with relative strangers. When someone asks you how you are, don’t spend 15 minutes explaining the details. Summarise quickly, effectively and then ask about them. This is probably common sense to large proportions of the rest of the world, I realise, but I’m coming to the world of interpersonal relationships with strangers quite late in the game. If nobody bothers to take the time to explain this shit to you and you have to work it out on your own… well, here’s how it pans out.

Start new relationships by looking at other people first and not yourself.

It is a fine line we all tread in the modern World when it comes to interactions, especially when kids are being taught social niceties via YouTube. I realise now that it is all well and good to believe you have all the tools required to be a decent human being, but that is never always the truth. Every part of your personality needs constant reassessment and balance: you don’t have to do it daily, not even weekly, but every so often sitting down and asking yourself ‘am I doing enough?’ should be a prerequisite for every human being. My son might laugh at my attempts to reduce food waste in the house and increase recycling, because he can see no discernable change in the issues via a wider stage. However, if everybody does these things, the World can and will change. Believing you have no direct influence on the environment around you is a lie.

If you desire change enough, you can and will make it happen.

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My daughter will tell me that she hates my inspirational speeches, but I won’t stop giving them, because if even a scintilla of that belief gets through to her, it is progress. Nobody bothered with me, arrogance assuming that I’d just work it out for myself. Well, I didn’t, and after decades of nobody pointing this out finally, blissfully, people did. Only when other people cared enough to break the shell of my own ignorance, unwillingness and despair was I able to move forward. I entirely understand how horrendous and soul destroying depression remains, but in my case at least, it is my task to deal with and nobody else’s problem but mine. Learning to ask for help was the hardest thing of all, and it still is. However, now I get the formula that works. There’s understanding of what needs to be done. I stopped playing my own hand, and looked outside myself to move forward.

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Plus, any excuse for a bunch of Bond .GIFs is never a bad thing. Next time you start a conversation with a stranger? Ask them how they are, and be prepared to listen.

Learn about yourself by listening to others.

Magic Bus

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For the second day in a row, I’ve hit my step goal before lunchtime. There wasn’t a plan to do this per se, just the way by which life has worked out since the end of the Weekend. There’s a lot of real life going on right now too, because I’ve gotten to the point where self care needs to be more important than putting stuff off. That means hand cream, and teeth X Rays and eye tests in the next two weeks. It also means pushing myself in ways I’d not thought about for a while: an hour on the treadmill this morning was incredibly hard post Monday’s absolutely knackering PT, but I won. It all happened.

Inside, it is as if I have become someone new.

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I’ve been deeply affected by reading Jeff VanderMeer’s Southern Reach trilogy… well, I’ve only just finished Book Two but honestly, mind is unbelievably blown. I love it when I end up with more questions than answers in fiction, and need to read the first two books again to make sure I know what really went on. As a result of this mental stimulation there have been some amazing dreams over the last few days, which have had some unexpected physical hangovers to reality. Considering I’m working on six hours sleep today brain should be dead, and yet I feel incredibly alive.

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Yesterday was hugely productive too: if I can knock off the four things on the To Do List today in good time I’ll be beyond pleased. I also treated myself to something at lunch I would not have dared eaten previously pre-gallbladder removal. If it sits happily in my digestive system, I’m taking this as a sign that I can eat a bit more than was previously the case (and off limits.)

Right then, lets go get all this other stuff knocked off so I can spend the evening dicking about online.

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.