I got the speaker working!

(*wubs*)

I’ve never really used speakers before. I don’t really like disturbing other people, and my experience of music played aloud has always been shite through computer speakers, ear-splitting at gigs, or tune-warping when watching my mates play live. But now, armed with a naff app and a free speaker from Virgin for some reason, I’ve been able to live out my fantasy of making vegan pasta sauce while listening to NOFX.

It’s not just the speaker that’s the satisfying thing though, it’s the setting up of it. I use a lot of electricals in my life, and while I’m hardly an engineer, there is a certain almost performative element to feeding wires through gaps, swapping scart plugs for older consoles, and and generally buzzing around my gear in an effort to make it all functional and nice-looking. And while this speaker is hardly ‘new’ in the way a console is – all it’s doing is blasting my existing songs in a slightly more needlessly public way – it;s something that I’ve had to set up and incorporate into my small array of electricity bill-feeding gadgetry.

I’m also exhausted, having spent today recovering from the last week weeks of mayhem to the point where all I can write is a few lines on how I plugged in a speaker successfully. Pro writer over here, folks.

My sleep schedule is breaking down again

(still keeping to the writing schedule though)

Last year, my sleep schedule was infamously shite, combining 36-hour periods of squinty-eyed waking with five-hour naps at like three in the afternoon because there are no easy life choices. This year I’ve been mostly exhausted, but until today I’ve at least been diurnal; now, however, it’s five in the evening and I’m going to bed for eight hours, so I can wake up for a seminar at ten tomorrow morning.

Sigh.

As ever, my busy schedule is an important factor, but not the critical one; I’m doing things, sure, but people have overburdened themselves with projects for as long as others have kept their schedules blank, so I’m hardly a trendsetter in having little down time. My problem is my inability to do anything in small quantities, or at half measures. I was burned out yesterday, so instead of having an afternoon off and doing some light work in the morning, I stayed up until three off the back of a 14-hour gaming marathon; similarly, right now, I’m hitting the hay so I can wake up early to publish an interview, translate some Old Icelandic, learn two verb tables and work on Game Shelf articles, all before breakfast. Whether it’s work or rest, I do things in big chunks, and with maximum effort.

Often, this is a good thing, as I work much faster and more efficiently than I used to, and when I relax I’m able to properly enjoy myself, instead of existing in that half-working, half-chilling, all-guilty combination of watching Persona 4 let’s plays on YouTube while making notes for a Middle English seminar. But these large, aggressive blocks of time do make scheduling my days difficult, as I’m moving a few huge jigsaw pieces around, instead of lots of little ones that can be manipulated and rearranged in a variety of patterns. My rigid scheduling of my life has only really broken down twice: my first term of university this time last year, and this last fortnight or so, both of which are one-offs: last year I was still getting used to the whole ‘living alone’ thing, and this year a series of unrelated but unfortunately timed poor decisions and deadlines have rather frakked with my head.

Whenever I run into this problem, or even think about it when I’m not trading logistical water, I wonder if the problem is that rigid approach to my time, rather than being a series of one-offs; and every time, I decide it’s the latter. I don’t stick to this way of applying myself to work because it’s easy, or because it’s what I’ve always done, but because I feel comfortable when I’m actually working the majority of the time. Looking at my timetable from a distance – on a Sunday afternoon as I assess the success of last week’s planning – it’s easy to spot these holes, and point out these flaws; but when I’m on Wednesday powering through some translation, two magazine articles and dodgeball training, I feel productive, satisfied, and that the resource that is my brain is being effectively deployed.

I might be wrong, but I think I’m doing fine, I just need to crash every few months or so; sadly, this crash takes place two seminars before reading week. So close.

My bloody emulator crashed

(a poor end to a wonderful nerdy day)

With my friends playing through the first five hours of Persona 4, bouts of Mario Kart to break up the single-playering, and me booting up my emulated copy of Golden Sun, today promised to be a wonderful day. And, for the overwhelming majority of it, it was! Right up until my emulator crashed and I lost two hours of progress.

And this isn’t a ‘remember to save often, kids!’ narrative; I’d been saving every fifteen minutes or so, as I always do; the emulator itself broke down, losing all of my progress from the two-hour session I’d just trawled through. Because the gods of gaming are cruel masters.

But I’m not too pissed off. Obviously the loss of progress is annoying, but getting through Donpa’s Fortress wasn’t the main attraction of the day. I’ve been stressed out a lot lately, not because I’m doing a lot of things but because a lot of those responsibilities have had deadlines or big projects all happening at once, and while I’ve kept on top of things it has been at the sacrifice of free time, and relaxation. Effective time management isn’t about cramming lots of activities together like a jigsaw, but factoring in recovery periods, and setting aside days where you don’t plan anything and just let the day take you somewhere; I’ve missed out on these important times for a few weeks now, and it was awesome to get one of them back.

Because over-scheduling can be a killer; I’ve been going to a few social events recently that have been scheduled well in advance, and were structured ‘events’, rather than spontaneous hanging-out. And while I enjoy those kind of things more than, say, work, they’re not very relaxing (especially if they involve ‘going out’, which requires on my part a conscious effort to be sociable or friendly because God knows those things don’t come easily to me).

But today was relaxing. And fun. And spontaneous; it’s impossible to schedule spontaneity into one’s routine, the best we can do is hope for random awesomeness when we need it. Fortunately this time, I got to chill with my friends when I did need it.

If you say ‘LOL’ in real life, I’ll kill you in your sleep

(and I don’t mean ‘LoL’)

You suck. You are a failure. You are, in many ways, what is wrong with our culture. Not all the time, and not in every aspect of your life, but in one particular facet you are despicable. You say ‘LOL’, the abbreviation of ‘laugh out loud’ in normal conversation.

Now I’m not gonna be that head-up-my-own-arse English student who hates all textual abbreviations and uses semi-colons and Oxford commas in his texts; these aspects of language are awesome, serving useful purposes and allowing people forms of self-expression beyond more archaic language. My problem is with ‘LOL’ specifically.

‘LOL’ is mono-syllabic. ‘LOL’ is a heavy, finite sound. ‘LOL’ is, when said aloud, either a chirped, brief ‘LOL‘ or a drawn-out, droned ‘LAAAAWL’. All of these things are an affront to the emotion and noise ‘LOL’ actually stands for – a laugh. Laughs are boisterous and unpredictable, intangible and instinctive, reflecting a sudden and unorchestrated response to stimuli that is delightful. ‘LOL’s, however, are functional; they’re the collections of letters you put on a group chat when you don’t know what to say next but desperately want to continue a conversation.  They’re also abbreviations, a needless tightening of the meaning of a laugh into three characters, while the best laughs are rambling, hysterical and open-ended.

As well as being an affront to the very meaning of a laugh, a ‘LOL’ is fundamentally insincere. Instead of laughing at a joke, you are acknowledging that you understand its comedic intent, but that this intent was too poorly-delivered to deserve an actual laugh. Funny things are laughed at, not quipped away with meaningless leetspeak in quipped, mechanical tones.

A lot of people are worried that colloquialisms, derived from the Internet specifically, will uproot existing languages and replace them with their own, bastardised dialects; but this is the fate of all languages, to be twisted into new forms as new generations need them. However, while new words and phrases bloom to give substance to new thoughts, the shrinking of existing thoughts into crappier, dirtier versions isn’t just another ‘development of language’, it’s a complete 180. And if you’re saying ‘LOL’ in real life, you’re ruining the humble brilliance of a laugh because you’re too socially awkward to say ‘I see what you did there, but it’s not that funny.’

So stop being a pussy and using this shite non-word.

Torn sleeves and painted nails

(indulging in my inner MCR Fangirl)

The other week, for Straight Edge Day, I scrawled crosses on the backs of my hands and tore the sleeves off my Minor Threat shirt with my old army knife, creating my most straight edgiest outfit. This week, I’ve painted my toenails and fingernails an impressively shiny tone of black, considering all the gubbins cost about ten quid and is all cruelty-free. But while I took a knife to a shirt with no qualms, the nail-painting has been a much more drawn-out process; I’ve been thinking of doing this for months now, and the first coats of varnish to my fingers and toes were all prefaced with about ten minutes of ‘should I really be doing this?’ playing on repeat in my head.

Objectively, of course, the two actions are identical; they’re both efforts to alter one’s appearance purely for cosmetic purposes, at the slight detriment to practicality; my Minor Threat top now leaves me with colder arms, and painting my nails leaves my hands and feet immobilised for a bit while the varnish dries.

The only difference is that one action is vaguely ‘masculine’, while the other is vaguely ‘feminine’, and once we realise this we can embark down the rabbit-hole of needlessly gendered pastimes to our hearts’ content.

I’m not particularly feminine in my habits, and I don’t identify as female; yet I don’t really consider myself ‘masculine’, as a lot of the showy, back-slapping extravagance that makes up generalised notions of ‘masculinity’ are weird to me. Most of my hobbies and preferences occupy a kind of middle ground, where I’m more open with my friends than most insular lads would be, but nowhere near affectionate enough to be considered feminine. This, and a host of other examples, has led me to behave, or at least try to behave, in more gender-neutral ways than a cis person might be expected to; my hobbies are writing, hanging out with my friends and wearing t-shirts, none of which are excessively gendered.

It’s worth noting, at this point, that the idea of gendered habits or clothes is inherently stupid, and this became apparent when I decided to paint my nails. I’ve been living a kind of ‘masculinity by default’, veering closer to masculine stereotypes than feminine ones because I’ve been raised in a society that teaches me to behave based on my genitals, and I honestly don’t care enough about superficial constructs of gender to rally against my slightly-masculine-but-pretty-neutral position. But painting my nails for purely aesthetic, not gendered reasons – I want my nails to look nice, but I don’t want to be more feminine – made me wonder if it’s ever possible, or even a good idea, to try to distance oneself from gender at all. Certainly for transgender people the idea of not identifying with their preferred gender may be a horrific one, while I couldn’t care less if I look like a man or a woman.

These feelings depend on the person, and for me, painting my nails was a much bigger stumbling block than tearing the sleeves off a top. The latter, while unusual, doesn’t active push against my gender identity, and so can be seen as a bit of random angsty edginess that is thoroughly masculine. Yet painted nails do push against this masculinity that I don’t really care for but see no reason to oppose, which led to a lot of doubts; if I don’t care about my gender, why am I thinking so much about opposing it? Would people see my nails as a move against this gender, or take them as intended, as indicative of purely aesthetic changes?

In the end, I’ve kinda sunk into apathy on the subject; not a rejection of this debate at all, but a rejection of the misunderstood conclusions drawn from it. I am male, and a man, identities I am comfortable with but not particularly attached to; I have a home-torn vest and black nails, because I think these things look cool.

It took longer to follow through with one of those plans, sure, but I’m really glad I did it; I don’t know why, but I love my nails. And for me, that’s enough.