Matt Marshall

135 Posts with Tag life (All tags)

Just been informed that my laptop order will be delayed as the chassis won't be delivered to the manufactrer until ~20th Jul.

Current laptop currently requires blood sacrifices to charge properly. I feel that I'm about to take a break from digital media at home :-P

life laptop tools delays

Benefits of doing my thesis and #chi2019 paper from home:

  • Wide array of tea options
  • Less distractions, nicer environment than the lab
  • Chippy around the corner

Drawbacks:

  • also the chippy. I buy way too much chippy.

food life phd chi2019 writing

Feature Creep, and Doing.

I have always had a problem with the dreaded Feature Creep. Not only with software development, but in life generally. I take a lot of pleasure in the doing of something, and when I stumble across something that I feel I may enjoy doing I get incredibly excited at the prospect of its doing. If that made sense :-/

I experienced this quite early on in my strength training journey -- attempting to integrate a full Calisthenics system with a Power Lifting one. When I finally dropped my Power Lifts to focus on Calisthenics, instead of relishing the extra time and simplicity I instantly started trying to do various different forms of calisthenics training (my foundation was always Convict Conditioning, but I was attempting to Grease the Groove on quite a lot of things too, and was rushing the addition of extra exercise progressions).

I've most recently experienced this with Brimstone, my little indie blog project. I've only recently gotten around to actually fixing the main feed, and integrating everything together. Mainly, features creep in and keep me awake via RSS feeds (it's getting shinier back here, btw). The same can be said with my PhD. People keep trying to introduce 'features', or aspects of the research. For the most part I welcome it, and their interest in it is exciting (if pressuring). But there's only so much I can do.

The most dangerous feature creep I've experienced is that which I indicated right at the start of this post. The doing features of my life. I take a real, carnal, pleasure in doing things, taking things in, and being part of things. Throughout high school and 6th Form (college) I was involved in a local theatre group. When I got a job making pizzas, I found it difficult to manage acting alongside 6th Form, the job, and a new girlfriend (oh myyy). So acting was dropped. I managed to get by in 6th Form without too much feature creep. My Open-Sourceness became more pronounced, so I suppose that was one thing I was doing, but otherwise I was pretty simple. I watched a lot of TV shows.

When I came to Uni, the acting came back in and I am ashamed to say that I let some good friends (and splendid talent) down by dropping out in the most heinous way possibe: ceasing to show up. I was busy being a Computer Science student, an active Satanist, a fledgling executive member of Rocksoc, and I had a new girlfriend (this one was a model! ohhh errr). I also still had my job slinging pizzas (in a different shop), and my social life was abuzz with clubbing and friends. Also now I had to cook for myself!

Years later, things are looking tamer; but I worry about feature creep still. The things I like to do keep growing. Every time I enjoy cooking something, especially if it takes effort, I long for a ritual of doing it daily or weekly. My Strength Training is so ingrained in me now that I can't help but do it -- but it remains something that I do so it affects my day significantly. I enjoy doing maintenance on clothes and boots. I enjoy doing reading, and writing. I enjoy doing development, especially adding new features to software. I've recently took up a light practice of making, which is absolutely rife with doing things -- lots of things! Also carving, if there ever was something that was doing; carving is it. Since developing an interest in Politcal Economy, and being awakened as a Feminist (or ally) I've being doing those things. Oh, and after a nice long spell of being out of the habit of doing being a Satanist; I'm being enticed back in by a new and sexy UK community.

I don't know what to make of all this. Juxtaposing the desire to experience rich variety against the desire to not feel bad for not doing something is becoming tougher every day. Is it wrong to love drowning in it?

calisthenics diary development reflections brimstone life

After spending years on a media diet of grand-scale TV shows and serialised MCU-style episodic-films, it's really really nice to watch a self-contained story which is artfully crafted. As a result I've found myself getting into cinematography and story-structure more and more.

I hope Netflix and the MCU won't be the death of cinema.

life cinema movies cinematography mcu marvel netflix episodic movies

Ok so I've just watched Snowpiercer for the first time ever and I'm convinced that it's a masterpiece that conveyed a message in two hours that latter parts of The Matrix Trilogy failed to convey in two films. Even based itself in Class Warfare.

life class cinema movies revolution

My resolution for this coming Equinox is to remember the restorative effects of my "foundational rituals" (stuff that makes me, me). I've been feeling thoroughly crappy lately and stuff like my Strength Training has suffered, and haven't been up to performing them much leading to feeling crappier.

I managed to start breaking out of this cycle last week through heavy focus on exercise (my bedrock) and I've never felt this good in a while. Still a ways to go, but upwards.

calisthenics life strength training feels sad rituals cycles restoration

Benefits of drinking around a litre of tea and a litre water in the mornings: super hydrated, feel great, healthy kidneys.

Drawbacks: needing the loo constantly between 1030 and 1400 :-/

life tea water

"Belly Full of Veg" is an accurate description of my current state, driving goals, and potentially what I'd name my Hybrid Black Metal-Gabber EP if I ever miraculously learned to do music.

life vegetables lunch

Me: "Oh no my potted oak tree is shedding its leaves it must be getting ill I am a terrible plant person"

Also me, outside: "Oooh all the leaves are falling I love this time of year aren't trees clever shedding leaves like that"

life plants trees silly

A good 60-80% of my ebook library (via Calibre) seems to have become corrupted magically :-/ Using it as an opportunity to pare down my digital clutter and sort out what I'll actually want to replace from my backups vs what I can forget about

life ebooks digital backups

The upstairs students are gorram psychically attuned to annoy me. I exercise on Thursday mornings for years and they party on Wednesday nights robbing me of sleep. "No problem, I'll train on Wednesday mornings". They've shifted their partying to Tuesday nights.

WHAT DO YOU WANT FROM ME

life sleep students flats

I usually spend the first hour of my Saturdays reading some Stoicism. The advice on dealing with insults from supposed friends always strikes me because I am so lucky to be surrounded by people who never offer backhanded compliments or genuinely mock me.

This wasn't always the case, obviously. But I enjoy the little family I've curated.

life Stoicism friends family

Gratitude List Autumn 2018

Every three months or so I do a gratitude list in order to try and cultivate gratitude, stem my desire for novelty, and seek tranquility by training myself to want what I already have. I usually write these in a notebook, but I am of the web and thought it would be cute to publish it as a blog post that I update every day.

  • A is for Autumn. Crisp outside, the right levels of light, and a favourite season of mine
  • B is for Bees. I hope we can save them, as they give us honey and mead.
  • C is for Chickpeas. Delicious, nutritious, and straight from the Earth
  • D is for Dogs. They are all good boys, and I'm glad we evolved together.
  • E is for Eggs. For me, they're pretty much the perfect food
  • F is for Fruit. Ensuring I get nutrients along with my sweet fix
  • G is for Games, as ways of bringing play into my life
  • H is for Houseplants. Givers of oxygen, calmers of my mind.
  • I is for International Worker Cooperation. The solution to global capitalism.
  • J is for Jars. Allowing me to reuse them and store things in style.
  • K is for Kin. Through experience, I am glad of my friends and kin for making possible all I have achieved.
  • L is for LineageOS. You help me run a phone free from Google.
  • M is for Mentors. Teaching and guiding me.
  • N is for Novels. One of my favourite mediums for stories.
  • O is for Oranges and their variants. Always delicious and about as sweet as I'll go.
  • P is for (my) Pull-up bar. Temple and teacher, it forges me anew constantly.
  • Q is for Quiet, and for the ability to find moments of it everyday.
  • R is for (the) Red Flag. The People's Flag. The Workers' Flag. Uniting us in struggle.
  • S is for Stories. The building block of society, I adore stories of all kind.
  • T is for Tea. Like a blankie for your insides, it solves all problems.
  • U is for Unity. Together we may move mountains.
  • V is for Vegetables. Like, they're literally free food from the ground.
  • W is for Water Bottles. Specifically the steel ones; helping me stay hydrated without waste.
  • X is a tough one. Not much I know begins with X. I guess I'm thankful for X-Rays in Medicine. I'm thankful that I'm well but if I ever get sick, I'm sure they'll help.
  • Y is for (my) yacht. A gorgeous little thing that I hope to give proper attention to soon.
  • Z is for Zotero. You're open source, flexible with me, and do your job well.

life reflection minimalism Stoicism gratitude lists

Dear Seneca, Marcus, etc. I have learned a lot from you. You have brought me tranquillity and joy.

But I bet you never had to deal with students who have a proper sound system

life Stoicism noise

I hate London. Every time I'm here something goes wrong. It's smelly, the tubes are overcrowded and constantly break, and everything is an hour away from everything else.

Just had to walk 3.5 miles to my accommodation because tube failure and no buses available

life london travel

This fortnight had been super intense with traveling for work, spent way more time in London than I'm comfortable with. I am looking forward to a massive plate of vegetables and a snooze when I get back

life work london travel

So this morning I

  • Woke up 0530, trained outside in the park
  • Wrote some thesis before 0800 along with lots of tea
  • bought my reader-owned paper from a consumer-owned local coop.
  • Cleaned my bike ahead of cycling to work for my Worker coop remote-working job.

I have become very irritating on paper :-P

life work phd cooperatives

I never thought my bar for a "good week" at work would be so low as "not having to be in London" but here we are :-p

(PS I love my job but this month has been mega intense and London is crap)

life work london travel

Goodbye Twitter

"When it comes to the overwhelm; the easiest way to solve that is to turn it off. Really just turn it off" - Patrick Rhone in Minimalism: A Documentary About The Important Things

Since around a month ago on the 5th of October I've had myself locked out of Twitter. I achieved this by ensuring that two-factor authentication was turned on, and by asking my friend S to change my password (I actually did the same for her). This way I couldn't log in because I didn't know the password, and if she proved untrustworthy she couldn't log in without access to my phone or email.

I thought my motivations for this were pretty straightforward; less distractions. I'd developed a bit of a Twitter 'twitch', and endlessly scrolling the site or flicking between it and Mastodon was dramatically affecting how much I'd been able to achieve in recent months. I did the same thing when I staged my withdrawal of Facebook I didn't think it was too much of an issue; since I don't have any social media apps on my phone, I can't receive the summons of notifications. Turns out it had permeated my life in a few other ways.

My desire for input and entertainment have decreased

I thought I had a pretty good handle on curating my input. I only subscribe to a few YouTube channels and Podcasts at a time, which I've arrived at from years of striving to understand the form and topics of media that I like to consume. What I hadn't quite landed on was the connection between Twitter / microblogging's rapid-fire, consumable, format and its ability to increase my overall desire for just… input. It's like how my stomach expands whenever I often have too-large portions. The pace and overall serving size of reading Twitter or other microblogging sites just increases my appetite for mindlessly consuming more entertainment.

Really, that's what concerns me the most. I do believe that humans deserve to have a good time, and relish the playfulness that comes with our existence on this planet. Not everything has to be work. I just think that there exists a semantic difference between enjoyment of a playful activity and entertainment. As a phenomenologist at heart, I think that there just might be a difference between an activity being entertaining and the phenomena of entertainment. One is an attribute, that tells us and others that this activity, work, or interaction holds our attention and brings something into our lives. One is its own phenomena; that says we've extrapolated the attribute of being entertaining into its own noun and created this Thing which we seek out instead of thinking about the material thing that we're actually doing or watching or reading. For me, entertainment amounts to what I do in order to distract myself from what matters. I'm fine with something being entertaining, or sitting there being entertained while doing or experiencing something, but I'm very cautious about something that exists almost purely in my mind to distract me or hold my attention. This is not to say that Twitter or Mastodon are products of pure entertainment; they're very valuable communications tools. For me, the phenomena was that they were entertainment and they served that purpose of distraction.

I'm not sure about you, but I don't want to turn around in a few years, reflect on what I did with my time and come up with the answer of "Oh, I consumed entertainment".

Quietness is my new favourite thing

Linked to the above, I spend a lot more of my time in quiet these days. Previously I used to consume podcasts in the evening, and have a selection of YouTube channells I would enjoy checking up on. I still do, but now my actual hunger for these things has decreased significantly. I don't feel the urge to consume content as I get the opportunity these days, and while I definitely still enjoy listening to podcasts about various topics or watching YouTube videos or reading satire on the web; these things have fallen into a "natural" rhythm rather than being a relatively constant demand or hunger in my mind.

Since locking myself out of Twitter, I've not logged into Mastodon either (sorry fediverse! You're still my favourite), only visited YouTube once a day and usually to retrieve some specific information (usually around propagating a plant cutting), and barely read any web articles during the work day. It's almost like what happened when I started fasting in the mornings, and my body just started telling me what its actual needs and desires were rather than the holding pattern firing constantly.

I've still got a way to go with curating my input and determining what I'm doing purely to entertain myself rather than fulfill myself. But I'm a lot happier in the quiet now.

I think I'm done with reading Twitter

I… I don't think I'll go back. One thing Twitter was useful for was keeping up with world events because of the trending hashtag system. I'm pretty sure I can find a workaround for that somewhere. I will maintain my Twitter account but treat it as a bot (I may actually rename it to Marshallbot) which just posts my content from Brimstone.

I was using the direct messaging feature in Twitter somewhat at the end, so I think I'll use the api to wire them into Brimstone's inbox (which I promise I will finish at some point!) and outbox so that people can actually get in touch with me if they need to.

Anyway, catch you later Twitter. Maybe. Probably not.

life habits twitter web internet social media entertainment tranquility

2018 was a Long Year

2018 was a long year.

I've put off writing a little reflection on 2018 for a while now. Part of that has been due to how tired I am. Part of that will be simply due to my priorities not laying with updating a blog. Part of that will be me not wanting to sit down and take account of everything that happened.

I hit burnout this year. It had been building for a while. You know the kind of burnout? The kind where you can spend every week day exercising and doing fieldwork and analysing data intensley and then can't summon the emotional fortitude to pick up the phone to make a GP appointment, or speak to a supervisor. Unfortunately I think it was a pretty typical progression; supervision for my Phd has been problematic for a while. I've had five named supervisors for a while, and no real supervision. I'd not see a supervisor for months at a time, and when I did see them I felt obliged to tell them everything was ok. To essentially lie to them about how I was feeling about my PhD. That's its own problem really -- eventually I want to write a piece about life at Open Lab and the issues around supervision there, and how I never felt that it was possible to approach or speak to anyone. To sum up my experience; for the latter half of my PhD (around halfway through Stage 2) nobody ever asked to actually see my thesis. Not once. I had to attach it in its current state to my annual progression panel. That caused me a lot of anxiety. The progression panel were fine with the state of the thesis -- I had publications. My supervisors were usually attentive to my work when it was CHI time.

The environment in Open Lab turned actively toxic. Patrick Olivier's abusive management style was beginning to be reproduced by some of the academics in the lab. The other professor in the lab, Pete, sat back and claimed ignorance when confronted with the reality. I know this was not a genuine claim. The emotional support I was giving others was necessary but also taxing. Partially due to the specific way I was suffering under Open Lab made me feel I couldn't speak up and thus others kind of presumed I was fine. Nothing was put back in my tank. As much as I love my friends and colleagues at Open Lab, I am upset they never really made efforts to ask how I actually was (with a few notable exceptions).

At the same time, my relationship with B was growing steadily worse. Not due to her, but because of my ignorance and self-absorption in my own mental health issues. I'm so sorry for everything. I can explain it. I did genuinely have mental health problems, and probably have for a while. Probably will continue to have for a while. I can't excuse it. My relationship to Helmsley Road (my home of seven years) was also deterioating. The walls that had once acted as shelter and opportunity, and an incubator for my growth started to steadily warp into something else. It had been building for a while. I couldn't leave because of the financial uncertainty that came from my funding running out and my perceived dependance on my pull-up bar and the "flexibility" of the landlord. I would sit there, being the only one who ever did any cleaning for years, feeling trapped.

It came to a head in August. I couldn't take any more. I sent a 'state of the union' style email to all five of my named supervisors. I received a mixed set of responses from ones that actively blamed me to ones that took responsibility for their failure. I also spotted my dream job, and in September I was offered a role at the Open Data Services Co-Operative. I also moved flat and broke up with B. All of these rapid changes across the last quarter of 2018 also took their toll. It was really tough, and those decisions each have had their lingering negative effects. But they've given me the chance to start the next stage of growth. There's been a few false positives with the mental health. I was feeling better and then took on too much again, and once again it came to a head recently where I was socially exhausted and nothing was putting back into the tank.

Right now, I'm fairly positive I'm on a better trajectory. I've got steady employment, meaning my anxiety over money is a lot less. I'm in a lovely new flat with an amazing new flatmate and the place is very much what I need in a home. It has a central hub around the kitchen table where I spend time alone and time with my flatmate. I'm still writing my thesis. I still miss B, but I need to be alone to recuperate and reflect to rebuild my foundations. I watched the sunrise over the beach today; an annual ritual of mine. The solitude and headspace felt right. I'm ready to put in the work to make myself happy again.

I think 2019 is going to be a long year too.

life reflection work academia phd 2018 mental health

Hi Twitter, please be informed that I am no longer logging in so I will not see replies or messages, and haven't for some time. All my tweets are automatically posted via my blog. I'm basically a bot now.

life twitter social media

(Almost) Off into the sunset; what I've been up to for the last six months

I last wrote something longform in this blog in February, about how 2018 was a long and brutal year for me. The post reflected on 2018 and low-key announced that I'd landed myself a new opportunity. I wanted to give a sort of update, sort of belated announcement of what I've been up to for the last six months since October.

On October 8th, 2018 (2018-10-08T09:30:00+01 for all you ISO 8601 fans) I started my first day of work at the Open Data Services Co-operative (ODSC); my dream job. Why my dream job? Well:

  • the work follows naturally from where my PhD will leave off (status update on that later) in the open data world. ODSC support many amazing open data standards such as Open Contracting (OCDS, not to be confused with ODSC), 360Giving, and International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI) among others. It's meaningful work, that I adore doing even in the midst of "the daily grind"
  • it's remote work. I've been looking to transition to remote work for a while; partially to escape the UK if the far-right rise up, but also partially to experience a bit more of the world. This is a relatively low-key requirement for me but the fact I've managed to find work that ticks this box so early in my post-academic career has been mindblowing for me.
  • and most importantly -- it's only a bloody worker co-operative! Many know I lean quite far to the left and that democratic worker control is a really important thing for me. Worker co-operatives are pretty much the best a worker can get under capitalism and ODSC have proven time and again that they (we!) value each of the workers and strive to provide an environment that grows each individual in a way that means we strengthen the group. I'll add an obligatory footnote that we don't really discuss politics much at ODSC (besides Brexit) and that, unless someone's really good at hiding it, I'm the only commie there. There are many political stances that advocate for the worker co-operative model and I believe that ODSC nurtures members with a wide variety of political views. As a group we are by no means a-political but we're certainly not positioning ourselves as a leftist organisation.

I've by no means hidden my new job from anyone, but I've held off of making a proper "announcement" online for these last six months. That's because the probationary period at ODSC is six months. So… I am ecstatic to announce that as of Monday 08th of April I am a full worker-member of Open Data Services Co-operative!! I have never been more proud to contribute to an organisation as I have ODSC. During my time there I have been moved to tears on more than one occasion due to the genuine passion and care that these people have for each other and their work. Whether it's writing a policy to give workers generous parental or sick leave, the daily act of reminding you that you're working too much and to take some time for yourself, or the systematic way they've incorporated expressing gratitude to others as part of the culture there via a dedicated IRC channel -- I leap out of bed every morning to go to work and return to bed grinning after the day's done. As a full member now, I am expected (and keen) to become more involved in working directly on the co-operative itself. For now I've elected to join the Staff Welfare group (to scratch my Shop Steward itch) and Finance (to actually learn about the financial processes of running a business). I've participated in three quarterly Ordinary General Meetings (although my first one was on my third day and I didn't contribute much!) where there is always a rollercoaster of emotions as we discuss the future of the co-op. I am under no illusion that being a member in a worker co-op is (shock-horror); work. This is work that I'm looking forward to. I'm more than happy to trade the false stability of market-salaries and keeping my head down being told what to do for control over my destiny and furthering the cause of worker control. I was braced for a future filled with workplace struggle through union battles and, for a while at least, I get to redirect that potential energy into the co-op.

This has been a far-cry from the late days of my PhD; where I was experiencing a lot of depression and anxiety and would outright not feel up for making it into the lab some days. It's safe to say that the environment ODSC have created for me to visit every working day has been the major contributor in my recovery re my mental health. There have been other factors, too. A massive shoutout goes to my new flatmate Rosie who has provided a wonderful environment to grow in. Seriously, thank you. Another focus of my gratitude is my lover V who has been a bulwark of support and patience these last six months and who provided an amazing rest period over the Winter Solstice for me in Madrid.

The journey of my PhD is not yet over. I've still got a thesis to write. My writing has been... slow. Part of that is due to fear of the thesis, some of that has been lingering anxiety reactions from the trauma of my Phd, and some of that has due to being plain tired at the end of a fulfilling-but-long working week. My supervision is slightly better now, but still not ideal. I'm debating playing with my options for extending the write-up through looking at extensions or dropping to 0.5 for the writing year (if that's even possible!). At the moment, though, I want it done. It rattles around my brain at night (though I've actually been able to rest). I'm ready to write it but we'll see what's a healthy rate for me. The lessons I'm taking forward into the next six months are that I need to be better at getting what's owed me from my supervision, and that integrating writing into my new life is key. I owe it to my participants and myself after last year.

I'm not sure when I'll next write something that isn't a response to evaluating some open data, or some thesis. My priorities aren't with a blog until my thesis is done. I can't say that I've left my old life behind but it's certainly fading to nostalgic sepia tones; a series of loose ends that just need a few knots tying off before the sails are rigged and I can cast off.

life work recovery phd writing open data mental health co-ops odsc

After nearly a year of an ethnographic study of work practice I have come to the conclusion that the only thing more painful than needing the toilet in a meeting is needing the toilet in a remote meeting.

life work remote work

I own less than 200 items. They all fit into a 1/3 wardrobe. My bedroom is pretty much just empty space. Yet I have managed to lose my smartphone somewhere in my flat. In do-not-disturb mode.

life phone silly-matt

Idea for a start-up: alternative to TripAdvisor where hotels are rated solely on the quality of their toilet paper. Cashflow is generated by ads from companies selling travel bidets.

life travel

Me at 16: Uses dark mode on everything because am an edgy boi
Me at 19: Doesn't use dark mode because slightly less edgy
Me at 28: Dark mode on everything because I'm old and my eyes hurt

life age edgy dark mode

Continuing on the theme of dark mode everywhere, I have installed a Dark Reader for Firefox and learned two things:

  • You get used to it scarily quickly. The CSS is really nice, and most websites are compatible. It feels really natural.
  • Brimstone's CSS is so simple it looks really good in Dark Mode. That's kinda neat.

brimstone life health web dark mode eyesight

I wear an oversized hoodie around the house in the evenings. It's thick enough to feel cosy and large enough to trap air between my body and the rest of the air in the room. This means it feels cool in the summer and warm in the winter.

There's a moment when I slip it on and I feel the fabric on my skin (for why would I sully the hoodie by wearing a layer underneath? It is the cosy hoodie) and I raise the hood. The hood temporarily blocks my peripheral vision until I adjust it. I can feel the hood against my scalp. I smell the hoodie; it only smells of home. Of tea and the spices of last night's meal. I hear that weird woosh of fabric moving over your head and I feel the coolness of the cotton on my shoulders and chest.

I like that moment.

life home

There are very few things in life that cannot be properly addressed with "more tea". Problem? More tea. Celebration? More tea.

life tea

Routine is a tool, not the point

I seem to have given off the impression that my routine is the most important thing in the world to me and while this is partially true on the surface; it is for wholly different reasons than most people think. I think folks might view me as having this rigid, highly-disciplined, approach to constructing my day. And that deviation from it causes me severe distress. From my perspective, I've developed routines as a tool to ensure that I manage to fit in the things which are important to me.

Contrary to what neoliberal "self-help" books say to you, we don't each have the same 24 hours a day. The ruling classes have staff and people they pay to do labour. Beyoncé has a staff to deal with mundane things so she can focus on what's important to her either personally or professionally. This means that within a given rotation of the planet some people have several hundred hours of other people's time feeding into their lives, and 24h to do what they want. Some of us (probably most of us) don't even necessarily have a full 24h or even 18h to ourselves (18h presumes only a 6h sleep by the way). We work (notably for others), we have responsibilities of care, to feed ourselves, to provide for a family (whatever shape your family has).

Not all of this work is drudgery, and is an essential part of being human. The work that we enjoy naturally energises us and the work we hate naturally exhausts us. I'd also argue that sometimes it's more complicated than that and something we hate doing under certain combinations of circumstance becomes something we look forward to doing under different conditions. For example; I thoroughly enjoy cooking for myself and others but if I've had to work late I often dislike the fact that now I need to spend some of my previous evening time just feeding myself to be able to work the next day.

Often it's little things that can keep us going. Small moments to take for ourselves to feed our wellbeing. We're told this all the time through the class-war that is self-help, and even through well-meaning interactions with others (usually Liberals).

What is not often talked about is the stress that comes about when you've done the reflecting and have arrived at a bunch of things that you know make you feel better; but you've been unable to fit them in because of X or Y. You then get to experience the underlying problem of not having the space for feeding your well-being (which was the problem in the first place) but now you've got an additional level of stress caused by the fact that you now know you could've felt better and what you could've done to achieve this if only things were a little different.

In my experience something about knowing this makes it feel worse; you can now imagine how you could've felt just a little better as you deal with the next round of things-you-have-to-do. Does eating spicy pizza once a fortnight/week/month make you feel good? Does meditation, running, or strength training? Maybe you like to go to the pub for a quiet drink at the end of week, or a local gig. Good on you for knowing this (seriously) but now you also know you haven't been able to do these things. Ignorance wasn't bliss, but this now feels a little sad and you can feel yourself fraying at the edges.

Routine is the way I manage to actually fit a few of my favourite things in. I'm not inflexible at all and in fact, given the appropriate space, will fall into more of a natural rhythm than anything resembling a routine. I know that exercise is one of the foundation stones to making myself feel well. I get up at an early hour and don't stay up late because that's what's necessary to being able to fit it in consistently and in a way that makes me happy. I know that spending some time alone during the week reading or watching a movie on my laptop is essential to keeping me sane, so that's why I've drawn a line around some of my evenings.

It can come across as rigid, as if the routine itself is what keeps me going - but it's the activities within it that I care about. The routine is the tool, not the point. In order to do what I love and feel non-alienated from certain elements of my life I need to feed my soul. In order to feed my soul I need to create the time to do so. Except we cannot create time. So I draw a line in the sand based on my needs.

For some things it's not even about time but just scheduling things on certain days to ensure I get around to them. I have a bunch of favourite foods and while I enjoy most things, there are certain things that transcend culinary pleasure into a joy. Sometimes it's pizza, or sometimes it's sushi. You get the point. I seem to have a rough schedule of eating these things on particular nights to the point where it seems quite funny to outsiders. Friday, for example, is spicy-veggie-bbq pizza night. Sunday lunchtime is veggie-sausage-wraps. Every second Thursday I give up my evening to do activism, so I buy in some sushi. It's not that I need to have these things on those exact days - it's just roughly the best time I've chosen to fit them in and ensure I get around to eating my favourite foods. Is it weird to make sure you eat your favourite foods? I hope not. I enjoy most food and actually only eat things I like; but certain foods just make me feel warm and fuzzy inside and I kinda like feeling warm and fuzzy.

All of these things serve to put fuel in the tank. If I have enough fuel in my tank it means I can enjoy very spontaneous things or have energy to work really hard in a given direction for a while. If I'm enjoying myself and I've built up a good foundation, it doesn't matter to me that I skip a single workout or don't get to eat pizza for a few weeks. But every time I don't, I lose a little bit of what I know makes me serene and happy in a particular way I need. It's not that I don't enjoy heading out to the Philippines for work, or staying up late at a pub quiz with friends -- I just need the energy to do it. To get that energy I need to make time for things that put the fuel in the tank.

So yeah - my routine is my tool, not my point. I kinda just want to keep doing things I enjoy and in a world where I own less than 100% of my time I'm going to need to schedule them in. Thank you to everyone who's patient with me when I say I can't come out to play because I want to stay in and eat pizza before getting up for a 0600 strength training session in the park.

capitalism life work alienation Labour self care mental health routine

I find it funny that I'm comfortable with any colour of post-it note except for plain white ones. They just look like someone's cut up some printer paper and it makes my skin crawl.

life paper

Eating an entire sharebag of crisps is valid and beautiful but you may be perceived as a barbarian by others. The trick, I've found, is to first decant them into a bowl. That way your scoffing appears classy and measured.

life crisps

The greatest personal tragedy of my life so far has been the slow transition fram viewing train journeys as "Yay reading time!" to "Ooh. I can get work done" :-/

life work trains

My life is currently a sequence of filling my water bottle and then trying to remember which room I left it in, finding it, and then realising it's nearly empty again

life water

Just finished watching the Watchmen (hehe) TV show… not sure if this is a hot take or not but pretty sure it should have ended after Ep. 6. Final third was a very different, much crapper, show.

life tv watchmen

Kicking myself that I've (begrudgingly) been using Google Chrome for work things to separate out my work and personal lives but Chromium which is more friendly and open-source is right there.

Luckily migrating was fine. It's still a Google product and a little too integrated with Google services for my taste but it's a step in the right direction

life google degoogle work FLOSS open source web

Last night I had a dream where landlords had started installing vending machines in people's front rooms to capitalise on snacking during lockdown. And I can't help feel that would be unsurprising if it actually happened

capitalism life dreams landlords

Ah yes, time for my quarterly slicing-a-bit-off-the-top-of-my-thumb-not-enough-to-warrant-attention-but-enough-to-make-basic-tasks-horrid-for-a-few-days

life thumbs

Finding joy in converting a file

Just had a really nice experience where a loved one asked me to facilitate the conversion of an ebook from epub format to PDF for reading on her computer.

Since converting data is kinda my jam, and I am well-versed in Pandoc this seemed like a one-command job. Pandoc complained at the file being converted for some obscure reason, and manually trying out a few different options under --pdf-engine didn't yield any results. I next tried Calibre, the popular ebook management software. It has facilities to convert between various readable formats although I've historically found its results to be spotty (this might be a case of garbage-in-garbage-out, though). Calibre similarly complained, citing the same reason as Pandoc (something about font encoding I think). Ever the debugger, I asked Calibre to convert the file to mobi which it kindly obliged me. Feeling bold now I asked it to convert the original epub to docx -- another success!

With my docx in hand I braced myself and opened the new file in LibreOffice. A quick skim indicated that there were no obviously mangled paragraphs or destroyed pages. From there it was a simple matter to save as PDF et voila -- task accomplished! This might mark the first time in history I've been happy to see a docx file.

This experience brought me joy because it reminded me of something. I've worked in standards for a few years now, and spent a lot of time designing technologies that tried to get it "right". Where right is either the most technically efficient way, or using the right participatory design technique in the right place, or using the right analytical framework. This exercise gave me a chance to playfully engage my creative problem solving. The "right" thing to do technically might've been to try and fix the encoding of the epub file, and I certainly never envisioned using LibreOffice to generate a pdf file when I have the power of Pandoc at my fingertips. But it was nice to play around and hack my way around the problem by stringing tools together in a pipeline.

life technology joy

I breathed a sigh of relief as the pringles in Sainsbury's went off of discount but they've just brought Ben & Jerry's on offer and I have decided that this is now a capitalist plot to ruin my gains and stop the rise of the swoletariat

life snacks pringles crisps

Bit of a nerd moment; but isn't there just something so warm and comforting about FTP? It's not trying to be anything it wasn't supposed to be. It's just "Hey, use me to put some files on a server. I'm trusty". So pure.

life web development tech ftp

If someone's invented like a heat-retaining blanket that can be "charged" on a radiator and just kinda retains heat for a little while let me know. I am permanently chasing that "hoodie just off the radiator" feeling.

life home cold winter

Despite writing thesis and papers for many years I have never, ever, learned the art of allaying the panic of starting a chapter/paper and going "Oh no how will I achieve 10k words!". It inevitably leads to the panic of "Oh shit this is 20k words already"

life academia phd writing

A year of journaling

As of last night I've been journaling every day for a solid year. I began on 2019-11-05, after several months of putting it off. I had just finished returning from a wonderful trip across Europe with one of my closest friends and was very tired and run down; owing from a really weird and busy year of adapting to my new life and work. I'd put off starting to journal for a few reasons: for one I wasn't sure whether I'd enjoy it or whether I liked the idea of journaling from all these lifestyle blogs; I wasn't sure what I'd be writing in my journal (like at all) and I don't blog very much any more so was wondering if I actually had anything to say; and "people who journal" are sometimes (most of the time), quite frankly, annoying.

The reasons I wanted to start a journal were actually pretty much the reasons you'd expect. Do a search for benefits of journaling and you'll find umpteen lists and blogs dedicated to the habit. Specifically I was keen on: boosts to mood and sense of well-being; potential benefits to long-term memory; and aiding sleep. Don't get me wrong, I was already sold on other benefits of journaling such as it being an inherently reflexive practice and good for the soul. Brett over at AoM has been pretty good at documenting various aspects of journaling that I knew I'd like. What I knew I wasn't attracted to was what some blogs centred around which was inevitably tied to being "more productive" and "more creative" at work due to the other benefits.

The thing that pushed me over the edge to start was actually a bad night's sleep. The benefit I was most interested in from journaling was the potential for a better sleep. A year of stress from work, stress from travel, and stress from my then-shitty PhD thesis was all contributing to a consistently bad sleep cycle. I'd just spent nearly a month travelling across some Central/Eastern European countries, and the latter third of that I spent basically being rained on in Ljubljana and Venice. I was ready for my own bed and every single sign from my exhausted mind and tired body pointed to the fact I was due a good night's sleep when I returned. Sadly it evaded me. During my undergraduate years I'd read about (sorry can't find a link) and subsequently adopted a short-term habit of keeping a pad of paper next to my bed to scribble down thoughts before sleeping. This helped me get all the thoughts out of my head and onto paper and stopped my mind racing as much; like software on a laptop and freeing up memory. I abandoned the practice largely because I couldn't build a habit, but I remembered it working and thought that sitting down and journaling and using that to process my thoughts and feelings would in some way help me sleep.

This gave me the 'in' that I needed to start: one of the key things to building a habit is finding a when to do it and I figured that if journaling was going to help me sleep then it'd be most sensible to tie it to my bedtime. This also had the related benefit of giving more structure to my bedtime routine which (supposedly) helps with getting off to sleep. It also gave me a what to journal about. As noted part of my apprehension was centred around not knowing quite what to write about; the slew of journaling prompts just really didn't appeal to me whereas the idea of just sitting down and getting thoughts out of my head and onto paper seemed reasonable enough as a start. I checked AoM for advice as it was the only site that had written about journaling in a way that made it seem appealing (I swear I'm not a shill for Brett) and this gelled with what they were saying: "Just write about your day. No need to get fancy with those cute little journal prompts. Some days might be pretty routine, but other days you might be feeling philosophical or have a problem that will require you to write more in-depth entries. Just write what comes naturally to you on that day." (source). With these two points aligned, I had my motivation raised and my barrier to entry reduced sufficiently to start.

I actually had the next day off of work when I arrived back home so spent it around Newcastle centre acquiring bits and pieces and made a point to swing by a stationary shop to grab a notebook that I wanted to use as a dedicated journal. Not wanting to intimidate myself I bought a nondescript A6 lined notebook; figuring that the small page size meant I wasn't going to be feeling bad about not filling up an entire page with thoughts. Turns out this was definitely the right move. My first entries were barely half a page of A6 each but worked well enough for me to continue and build the habit. Here's the first page of my journal:

2019-11-05: First day back home after my travels; didn't sleep well. Watched a movie, read, and bought some misc useful items. Turns out nobody in NCL stocks safety razor blades except 'Cuban Cigar Club'. It's cold out and I love it.

2019-11-06: Tired. Back to work today and [redacted] already extended my work day into my evening -_- In the grand scheme of things it means nothing but it irritated me a bit. I did, though, love being back at Goodspace.

And honestly that was it. Really mundane right? As the muscles for journaling were flexed I found myself writing more and more each time. I went from a single paragraph to a main paragraph and a reflection on a problem. Then from that to writing two paragraphs, and then around three or sometimes four. By 2019-11-14 I had found my perfect balance which was to write until I'd just-about filled an entire single side of A6 lined paper. By that point I was using it as a reflective practice and actively teasing out lessons from the day:

2019-11-14: A pleasant day overall; work was 360-based; then Goodspace Tea-Thursday; then CPB Meeting.

An interesting reflection on work -- whereas OCDS is stressful because of the granular and specific time tracking which causes me to stress about the time taken / spent on items… 360 is stressful because I don't do it enough to know all the moving parts and I'm often left needing to do some personal triage before I can get any work done.

A lesson from this is that I should hold a personal version of the weekly check to keep on top of the 360 work

I am aware of the irony that I was not attracted to the benefits of journaling for productivity and that this entry was entirely about making myself really productive. As it happens, I work in an amazing worker-owned business and do stuff I'm passionate about. Other things in my life became regular features of my journal such as my current challenges and approaches in my strength training and running (I took up running around this time too, on 2019-11-17 apparently), my dating life, my struggle with particular thought patterns, my attempts to control my yo-yo eating habits.

As each of these found their way onto the page I was able to interact with that part of my life a little bit more. It's not all problem-solving and deep reflection. Some of my entries are very mundane and quite a lot of the early ones involve pointing out things that have made me happy. One thing it did allow me to spot was trends; if I'd been writing about struggling to control snacking for around five days in a row it meant that I could dedicate some time to figuring out what was causing that, or realise that it was more of a problem than I thought. With 2020 being so bat-shit (as a result of late-stage capitalism mind, not it just being weird) journaling has helped a lot there too. It lead me to making a few changes since writing down the positive realisations about my relationship to myself and others made that stick. As a result I feel I'm genuinely a better person for it. I've clearly kept up the habit as it's a nice way to sign off my day and I get a lot from it. I've managed to totally fill two of the little A6 books and I've started on a third. I think once I'm finished with that one I'll "graduate" to an A5 book. Again, I'll not try and force myself to fill an entire page but the extra room might allow me to do some interesting things.

I don't really have a 'winning formula' as I sit down to write a page in my journal but I do seem to have a habit or a framework. I start with giving an overall impression of my day, then go into the detail about some key events in it and how they made me feel. Being a worker and a human being with hobbies these tend to appear more often than not and I find myself writing about strength training, writing my PhD, cool open data stuff, my awesome flatmate, food etc. I don't expect this to change particularly but I've thumbed through my older entries in preparation for writing this post and I've noticed that my focus and style does evolve and change over time, in the order of months rather than days; so I'm excited as to where I'm going next and what my journaling may look like in a year's time. I'm aware that recently there's been a bit of a push-back against journaling (e.g. here and here). I think those are making some good points and I'm not so emotionally tied to or dependant on journaling that I'm defensive. In fact I do see myself stopping journaling when it ceases to be useful to me. Until then I'm a bit late to the game because I didn't spend most of my 20s journaling and I haven't really reached a point where it's stopped being useful or becoming a burden. One day I'll retire the practice but until then I'll keep writing about my boring day.

Oh, and I do sleep better now ;-)

life habits writing mental health journaling wellbeing

Been watching some old Dmytri Kleiner videos lately and this really hit home:

One of the biggest weaknesses of the co-operative movement besides not being federated is that it's often a-political. It often takes care of its own members but doesn't actually use this economic power to like, like fight for social justice more broadly for other workers.

(source)

When I joined a worker co-operative this was the first thing that struck me. I absolutely adore my colleagues at ODSC and we are doing very good work and we provide a wonderful place to work for our workers. My loyalties to them are strong and I will struggle for each and every worker there. But we're not (currently) agitating for worker's rights elsewhere. We don't take a class-oriented approach to our very existence as a workers' organisation. We share Guardian articles about Boris and Brexit (my opinions on The Guardian are documented), and we don't put our resources to work in terms of capital or labour

It irks me that the co-operative movement in general has such potential for radicalisation but it just doesn't make use of it. We have P7… but that's it? Donating to an environmental charity is absolutely a good thing to do; but better is to take radical action by allowing and encouraging members to help dismantle capitalism. To throw their bodies on the gears. To use our capital not just to support charities but to support radical liberation movements, trade unions, and start venture communist endeavours.

Maybe after my thesis is finished and I have my evenings back I'll join a Trade Union and agitate more.

life liberalism work socialism marxism-leninism co-operatives venture communism

Usually around this time of year I have to brace myself for exercising outside as I awake and hear the patter of raindrops on the window.

This is for two reasons, really. Firstly I love that sound and am subject to post-sleep cosyness and that makes it harder to get up. Secondly is that, despite loving training in the rain, I take a little while to acclimate. My exercise garb is pretty much the opposite of waterproof so I'll be cold and damp pretty quickly. I am all about the benefits of overcoming this (in fact that's a large part of what I get out of exercising outside) but I still get that hesitation to face the elements.

Today I awoke to the promise of rain and it was a lovely, if not entirely novel, experience to race against it as I finished my training session. When I was completing the second work round of my circuit I felt the first drops of precipitation on my face and smiled. After that I enjoyed the cooling effect of the rain as I ended the session with my grip work.

For me this is what happiness feels like.

calisthenics life weather winter nature

Managed to achieve a solid beginner standard for Uneven hangs (example). I definitely have a ways to go before progression standard is in sigh thougt; my left arm / hand definitely trails behind my dominant one (I suspected as much based on a year of bar hangs).

Having struggled to maintain a grip training habit for years; I'm excited to have bust through this plateau and finally move on to unilateral work. It's taken patience and discipline, adding only 2s to a single set per workout, but I'm pleased with where I've ended up. Hopefully this will help even out some problems in my shoulders and set up a strong basis for pull-ups.

calisthenics life grip exercise convict conditioning

I have a strange fascination with lost letters of the english alphabet (sometimes present in other european languages); what's your faves from the following? Æ æ (ash), Ð ð (eth), Þ þ (thorn), Ƿ ƿ (wynn). Þ is a strong contender but I am a big fan of Ƿ

life language misc letters þ ƿ ð

Seriously thinking of adapting Dan Lucraft's Plaintext Organiser to smooth out some gaps in my plaintext system.

One thing I've been struggling with is keeping different projects and contexts under wraps; although now using one file per project seems to have sorted that. I also like the idea that I can pilfer bits and pieces from various productivity systems, but I do still use my python adaption of todo.sh rather than organising each list.

Lots of food for thought.

life simplicity productivity plaintext computing

I've had a really sore wrist all day, no understanding as to why and I've just searched for my symptoms and it's likely RSI. I mean, can my body not wait until I'm a nice round 30 before it starts to fall apart please?

life work health computing

Needlessly spicy take: I get super irritated at the internet slang "hooman" to refer to humans from a cute-animal pov.

I don't know why I don't like it; cutesy typing and such is a-ok with me, but it's just the fucking worst. "hooman". Eurgh.

life internet language

Even as someone with a university login and access to journals I often still use Sci-hub; partly for support and partly because I don't have to log in every damn time my browser closes.

Honestly academic journals are as paranoid as thieves. You'd think they were hoarding stolen good or something…

capitalism life academia phd writing journals

Writing thesis and listening to music that I was getting into at 14; growing my hair out and thinking "we'll have sorted global warming when I'm 30".

At 29 I've got a shaved head and beard, water futures are a thing, and I think I'm living as the gritty reboot of myself at 16.

capitalism life music

I've had more interactions with the post and post office today than I think I've had in like the last 6 months.

Not exactly a profound reflection, but I'm tired alright?

life post

It's not often I sit listen to music-that-has-lyrics while I'm working but I'm feeling nostalgic and listening to In Flames - Clayman and mannn it's so good. Might try to make an effort to listen to more music while I work in the future.

Also, oddly, while skimming the wikipedia article for this note I learned some tracks have been re-recorded to mixed responses. I shall be investigating soon.

nostalgia life music

I've been feeling quite tense around the shoulders and neck lately (big problem area for me), and realised recently that this might be related in no small way to my decision nlto stop completing the "trifecta" daily.

The "trifecta" is a series of three strength-lead active stretches (sometimes known as strength holds): the L-Sit; the bridge hold; and the twist.

I used to do them in the morning before work and after my regular training but the faff of 2019/20 caused them to become erratic in my routine before fizzling out. I've just idly performed a twist hold at the end of my day to test the waters and wow -- I already feel better. It might be time to pick them back up slowly starting with twists. Like an old friend you suddenly reconnect with and who adds something to your life you'd forgotten you needed.

calisthenics life health

Look, I'm fine with people who snore. Really I am. But how is it fair that they universally manage to get to sleep first? Pick one!

life sleep

Can a comrade please assure me that Infected Mushroom is either pro-palestine or at least acknowledges that a lot of the settlements are illegal?

I can't find anything online but I've admittedly not looked very hard. Really like the music but can't be trucking with enemies of Palestine.

life music palestine

So I'm grieving right now

Hi folks, if you're reading this then either you're a close friend/colleague, or one of the few random strangers on the web who read my blog occasionally. This post is intended for the former group.

Basically; my father sadly died this weekend just gone (2021-02-27) after a struggle with COVID-19. He put up a hell of a fight and for a while things were looking like he'd get a little better but sadly he took a rapid turn and deteriorated very quickly. At the end he went quickly and quietly, with his children around him. As you might expect; I am incredibly sad/upset and about to go through my first really heavy grieving process.

I am lucky enough to be surrounded by a very amazing group of friends, colleagues, and comrades who all effectively make up my surrogate family. The chances are if you're reading this then you're one of them; and if you're one of them then you're so wonderful you've probably got yourself all worked up about how you can help me through this. The motivation for this post is to sketch out exactly how you can help this and what my needs are at the moment.

The rest of this post is presented as an FAQ to help you understand how you can help atm.

How are you feeling?

I looked up grieving and it seems I've got the standard package tbh: I'm still feeling that it's a little surreal and I get occasional bouts of deep upset and sadness where I'll realise what's going on, and have a cry. I feel deeply regretful for a lot of unsaid things, and a lot of things that were said. I get angry at myself. I get angry at the gods. I mostly get angry at our government for letting this happen. It happened to my dad and it's happened to ~123,000 others and it was entirely preventable.

Mostly I'm very sad.

Are you seeking any professional grief counselling?

It's only been a few days as of writing. I tend to deal with death pretty calmly, and while this one is admittedly a bit of a doozy I've already started processing and accepting things. I am a relatively reflective person (sometimes to my detriment when combined with my tendency to overthink); so I will be trying to keep on top of it and seek professional grief counselling when I feel I need it or if I'm not better after a little while.

As my loved ones (this covers all of you btw) you can support me by keeping an eye on me over time. You know me, and you know how I behave at work and in social settings. This thing will obviously change me in some way (giving me a new perspective etc), but if I'm fundamentally still not well after a longer period of time then I ask you to please gently let me know that I should seek help if I haven't done so already.

What do you need right now?

The bottom line is that I require a cocktail of needing to know life goes on, and also needing to know people understand that I'm grieving and care for me.

What I would like right now is for people to message me as they normally would, about normal things, but also be a little patient with me in terms of replies. You might catch me on a bad day/hour. I might miss a reply. If I do that, please don't stop messaging! Just leave it an appropriate amount of time based on how often we talk and just ping something else my way in due course.

Please don't worry about me trying to "distract myself"; this isn't that. I'm thinking and reflecting a lot, and processing as much as I can healthily. But I will need something to be there afterwards. Providing a scaffolding of 'normal' interactions will give me something to hook onto once the initial stages of very-explicit-grieving start to wane away. I don't want to come out of this with nothing on the other side.

OK, but can I check in on how you're feeling?

Yes please! But as mentioned I'm very lucky and you are part of a fantastic squad of people. I get overwhelmed easily at the best of times and if I'm asked to repeat stuff to people a lot I might get a bit stressed out. That said if nobody checks in that'd be worse tbh.

Right now I’d like it if you could spare the time to check in on how I’m feeling every few weeks. That way I’ll know you’re still there and caring but I’m not overwhelmed by keeping people updated all at once.

Can I help? ("If there's anything you need")

You can absolutely help. I'm not going to have a lot of headspace over the coming weeks and, awkwardly, I've got a house move happening at the same time. If you want to help then please do the following:

  • instead of asking "If there's anything you need just ask" (or similar) please just ask me if there's something I specifically need help with now or in the near future
  • do a quick think about practical things you would be comfortable doing to help and ask me about them specifically, framed as a one-time offer of support
  • just keeping offering various things on a regular basis for as long as you're comfortable

This does a few things for me. It shows me that you're there and you care. This also means I don't need to ask for help which is very important to me right now; as I don't do this at the best of times! By thinking of something you can do ahead of time it means I don't feel that I'm a burden or putting you out. Some examples:

  • "Hey, I know you've got a lot on at the moment. Can I pick something up from Gumtree/Freecycle for you for your new house?"
  • "Hey are you eating ok? I've got leftovers and can bring them round so you don't need to cook tomorrow"
  • "Yo, doing a snack run do you want comfort food?"
  • "Do you need some company? I'm going for a walk and can swing by if you want to join?"
  • "Doing a big shop, anything on your list you need?"

You'll notice that the above examples deal with mundane bits of everyday life that can become overwhelming during periods of stress; headspace to cook/get shopping in, and then a bit of social comfort thrown in.

Will these needs change?

Possibly. But if they do you won't need to play catch up. These are my needs right now and one thing I've realised is the importance of communication of my needs to people. If they shift then it's likely I'll either be in a position where I need professional support which is absolutely not your duty to perform; or I'll be on the mend thanks to you. In which case thank you so much.

Love you all,

Matt

life death feels family covid-19 grief

One of the most satisfying experiences in the world is realising that no, you don't need to catch up on the emails you've been when away. The important ones will reappear and remerge over time.

life work computing

One of the key insights I've found from buying a flat / living lone is that about 70% of post addressed to me at home could've been an email. There are valid and notable exceptions, but most of these fuckers have my email address and are not sending me anything mission critical.

life stuff minimalism home post flat

Y'know for all my historic tendancies to romanticise the past and want to live very close to nature and not rely on anyone else… I sure am grateful for modern dentistry.

life health teeth

Torn between absolutely loving the cold, blue weather (my favourite) and being worried that this is indicative of our messed up climate.

Anyway, it's reet chilly outside.

life weather

Essentialism

Last night I just finished a book on 'Essentialism'. I came across it throughout my travels on the net, as it came up in comments sections of a lot of Minimalism stuff I've been reading. Essentialism basically sells itself as the work-life balance counterpart to Minimalism. That is, where Minimalism is concerned with the cognitive and emotional drain caused by physical clutter; Essentialism is concerned with the job or todo list clutter that permeates your work, and can creep into your personal life. The basic mantras of Essentialism are: "Do one thing, well"; and, perhaps more pertinently "If you don't priotise your life, someone else will".

To be honest, there was nothing particularly groundbreaking in the book for me. I've done a lot of reading around lifestyle and happiness things and they all basically boil down to one thing, which is balancing hedonistic pleasure with purposeful and mindful activities. Essentialism did reinforce my personal work practice of not half-arseing two things but whole-arseing one thing, and why it's a lot more productive to work this way in both employed labour and personal activities. The only thing which stood out to me really was the explanation of the word Priority and its place in everyday parlance.

According to the book (and I didn't check its sources yet; though it did list them), the word Priority entered the English language in the 16th century and means literally "the thing that comes first". Pretty straightforward. The interesting thing is that it didn't have a plural form until the turn of the 20th century, when the Industrial Revolution had propelled modern Capitalism to grand heights. I realised then that I've only ever really heard people ask me what my "Priorities" are, never the one thing that's most important to me. So I guess I want to talk about that.

I could list the things most important to me, and they'd sound a lot like the list everyone else would give: enough money so that I can not worry about a roof and food, plus a little extra for treats now and then; the flexibility to make sure that I can enjoy my training regularly; keeping good company, both romantic, sexual, and friendly; access to good food and water.

They're all way too generic really, but I think they all boil down to one simple theme which I will be taking up as my single priority from now on: Strength. All of the above listed things make me a stronger human being in some way shape or form; they provide means to strengthen my body, mind, and emotional core (spirit?). I guess that means I could theoretically fit everything into that mould, but what I really want is to start asking myself "How does this make me stronger?" for everything I do. It'll help me discern what play-time is required for recharging batteries and stimulating creativity vs what is a habit formed by addiction (ie Netflix). It'll make me reflect on how and when I 'treat' myself to snack food, when actually I need to balance the emotional gratification with the nutrients my body needs to thrive.

Anyway, it was nice to know that other people have the practice of shutting out the clutter, and it reinforced my fortitude for continuing to do so.

life reflection essentialism priority clutter simplicity