Tag: Things That I Like

Finalists!

(well, I’m a finalist by proxy)

I’m tapping this out on a train because we’re worming back from a dodgeball tournament at Hatfield. And while my men’s team burned out in the quarter-finals, both of the freshers’ teams won games, and our women’s team were beaten finalists. Finalists! And most of the team were freshers!

Obviously I’m mostly happy for my friends and fellow dodgelings, but I’m also glad for myself as I am a narcissist; being in the cauldron of a high-level sporting game, screeching at players and clinging to swiftly-dying hope, is such a buzz. Sure, you can get that at big sporting events, but the prices and cold professionalism of everything make it all a bit sterile, and artificial. But these were my friends succeeding, struggling, and falling just short of dodgeball immortality and it was so cool to be a largely unimportant, endlessly Tweeting part of it.

And for those of you interested, my live-tweeting of the day can be found @UCLUDodgeball

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.

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.

Being punched in the stomach is a good thing

(*coughs in pain*)

I didn’t have a great afternoon; remember that essay I mentioned yesterday? I frakked up, and didn’t get a better mark for the eight times the number of hours I put in. Tonight, however, I went to karate and was put in an infinitely better mood by being punched repeatedly in the stomach by a bloke much stronger than me.

It’s halfway between masochism and therapy, but honestly I don’t want to think about it too much; I felt shit, now feel better, and with things to do this evening and a full day tomorrow, let me be happy, and revel as a babe.

This part sucks

(*drums fingers impatiently*)

I sent off my essay today; it’s technically due tomorrow at 11am but I’m not going to get much out of slaving away for another twelve straight hours, just for the sake of using all the available time. The essay is done.

This opens up a myriad of problems. It being ‘done’, in terms of the work I shall put in, means I can’t improve upon it on my own; the opportunity for me to take the lessons learned from my previous mistakes, and my understanding of texts, and collate them into a single document affirming my grasp of these things, has passed. It’s over. Dead. Essays – or meritocratic projects in general – distill one’s interest for an expertise in a subject into a single tangible thing; there’s an obvious practical reason here, but this doesn’t get around the problem that learning is fluid, while essays are fixed.

Having an essay due every other week imposes an artificial fortnightly set of milestones on my learning, that I’m improving as a reader and a writer every 14 days; in reality, however, I’m progressing or regressing every day, every hour, and every minute if I’m writing something at the time. And that disconnect, between endless self-improvement stop-start academic improvement, is never more pronounced than now, the painful no-man’s land of having completed an essay but not yet got feedback on it.

That lack of feedback is the other reason this no-man’s land sucks; every sentence written is a sentence imperfectly written, and so an opportunity to improve. But now there’s a cooldown period, as my manic passion for the subject relents as time passes between now and my writing of the thing; it’s only a short period, but I was really into Alfred and his Preface to Gregory’s Pastoral Care a few hours ago, and won’t be come Tuesday morning. This might be a failing of my own enthusiasm for my degree, but I think that it’s just hard in general to maintain a passionate interest in any one thing for a period of time.

Ultimately, I need to ease off when it comes to my writing and its improvement; I’ve known this for ages, but still can’t feel comfortable without a new deadline rearing its head or a list of mistakes and errors to improve upon. I’m constantly afraid of plateauing, or coasting, to the point that I’ve been more stressed now that my essay is handed in yet unmarked than any point when I was writing the damn thing. I love to work, and love to improve; these 36 hours are the only time I can do neither.