An update on my relationship with facebook

Things are pretty bad you guys.

Thanks to that tracking app, I was really careful not to exceed the 30 minute limit I’d placed on the facebook app (unless I really, really wanted to). However, that just meant that I no longer lay in bed scrolling for half an hour, but now checked it a dozen times a day or more. I disabled the app, deciding that if I really wanted to use it I could access it through the browser.

As you might have guessed, it didn’t take long for that to become my new normal. Instead of automatically opening the app, I’d find myself automatically opening chrome and then clicking the fb button on the home page (because apparently I go there so often google knows I’m looking for that next hit).

I also find that several times a day, sometimes several times an hour, I’ll think of something that I really want to share on facebook, either because it’s funny, or thoughtful, or something I want others to learn about. I try not to post more than once per day as a rule, but for every status that slips the net there are many more that are stayed by it.

The problem is partially one of access. But what worries me more is that I reach for my phone whenever there’s a moment of quiet in my day.

One of the times I notice it most is when I’m facing a loading screen. I’ll be playing a game, having heaps of fun and then the match will finish and I have a minute until the next one begins.
Or I’ll initiate travel that requires 30 seconds of pre-rendering for the new environment.
Or I’ll enter a room that takes 5 seconds to load.

And each and every time I’ll reach for my phone.
Not to look up something I’ve been meaning to research.
Not to see if there are any responses to something I’ve posted on facebook.
Not even to see the new posts since I checked my phone half an hour ago.
It’s because I can’t stand the lack of stimulation.

I can’t spend five seconds in my own company without wanting to fill the void. I check it because the algorithm always shows me something new. My current feed is full of posts from Nerdfighters across the world (a community I love, so ostensibly a good thing right?) and from a group that shares nothing but wholesome stories and memes (which make me feel better about being in the world, so that’s good too right?).

It’s like I’m in psychological discomfort, and there’s this big red button in front of me that floods me with soothing hormones every time I press it, and it’s really super hard not to. Why wouldn’t I?

Ah, now that’s an interesting question. In the stages of change model of addiction theory, this is what they would call the “contemplative” stage.

My Favourite Quotes from The Three Musketeers

A little while ago I watched the first few episodes of the BBC series “The Three Musketeers”. It was so awful that I immediately relistened to┬áthe audiobook read by Simon Vance to cleanse my palate. While listening to Vance’s masterful performance, there were many moments throughout the novel where I delighted in the clever writing, or found myself covered with goosebumps.

Here is a collection of my favourite quotes, which naturally contain spoilers. I highly recommend reading/listening to it yourself!

 


“Athos, who continued to suffer severely from his wound, although it had again been dressed by Monsieur de Treville’s surgeon, had seated himself on a large stone where he awaited his adversary with that air of calmness and dignity which never forsook him. As d’Artagnan approached, he arose and politely advanced some steps to meet him, whilst d’Artagnan on his part went towards his antagonist, bowing until his plume touched the ground.”


“‘And, now that you are all arrived gentlemen, permit me to offer my apologies.’ A frown passed over the brow of Athos. A haughty smile glided over the lips of Porthos. And a negative sign was the reply of Aramis. ‘You do not rightly understand me gentlemen,’ said d’Artagnan, elevating his head on which a sunbeam played, gilding its fine and manly lines. ‘I wish to apologise because it is improbable that I shall be able to pay my debt to all three. For Monsieur Athos has the right to kill me first, which greatly decreases the value of your bill, Monsieur Porthos, whilst it renders yours, Monsieur Aramis, of scarcely the slightest value. Therefore gentlemen, on that account alone, I again repeat my offer of apology. And now, upon your guard!’ And with most gallant and fearless mien, he drew his sword.”


“‘It is very hot’, said Athos drawing his sword, ‘and yet I cannot take off my doublet for just now I perceived that my wound bled. And I fear to distress this gentleman by showing him blood which he has not drawn from me himself.’
‘True sir,’ replied d’Artagnan, ‘but I assure you that whether drawn by myself or by any other person, I shall always see with regret the blood of so brave a gentleman. I will therefore follow your example and fight in my doublet.’
‘Come!’ said Porthos. ‘A truce to these compliments! Remember that we also await our turn!’
‘Speak for yourself only, Porthos, when you choose to be so rude,’ interposed Aramis. ‘As for me, I consider the courtesies which have passed between these gentlemen as worthy of men of the highest honour.’
‘When you please, sir,’ said Athos, placing himself en guard.
‘I was at your service,’ said d’Artagnan, crossing his sword.


“‘She loves me still! Come my friend, let me embrace you! My happiness suffocates me!’ And the two friends began dancing around the folios of the venerable Saint Chrisostem, treading gallantly on the leaves of the thesis which had fallen to the ground. At this moment, Bazant enterred with the spinach and the omelette. ‘Fly wretch!’ cried Aramis, throwing his skullcap at Bazant’s head. ‘Return whence you came!'”


“‘It is a long time since we have had a crow to pluck with the Cardinal’s guards, and Monsieur de Treville must think us dead.'”


“‘You have once before crossed my path. I thought that I had crushed you madame, but either I deceived myself, or hell has given you new life.'”


“He arose is his turn and put his hand to his belt from which he drew a pistol, which he cocked… Athos slowly raised the pistol, stretched forth his arm until the weapon almost touched the lady’s forehead, and then in a voice the more terrible as it had all the intense calmness of an inflexible resolution, ‘Madame,’ said he, ‘you must immediately give me the paper which the Cardinal wrote just now, or on my soul I will blow out your brains.'”


“…Seeing that they continued to march towards the bastion, he plucked his master by the skirt of his coat.
‘Where are we going?’ he enquired by a sign. Athos pointed to the bastion. ‘But,’ said the silent Grimaud, still in the same dialect, ‘We shall leave our skins there!’ Athos raised his eyes and his fingers towards heaven. Grimaud set down his basket on the ground and seated himself upon it shaking his head. Athos took a pistol from his belt, looked at the priming, cocked it, and levelled it at Grimaud’s ear. Grimaud found himself raised up upon his legs as if by the force of a spring. Athos then beckoned to him to take up the basket and to march in front. Grimaud obeyed, so that all the poor fellow had gained by this momentary pantomime was that he had been transformed from the rear guard to the advanced guard.”


“‘Then,’ said d’Artagnan, letting his arm fall in a desponding manner, ‘it is useless to struggle longer. I may as well blow out my brains at once and have done with it!’
‘That is the last folly to be perpetrated,’ said Athos, ‘seeing that it is the only one which will admit of no remedy.'”


“‘But when you had her in your power,’ said Porthos, ‘why did you not drown, strangle, or hang her? It is only the dead who never return.’
‘Do you think so Porthos?’ replied Athos, with a dark smile which d’Artagnan alone could understand.”


“This time there was a small band advancing, composed of twenty, or five and twenty men, no longer pioneers but soldiers of the garrison.
‘Suppose we now return to the camp,’ said Porthos. ‘It seems to me the match is not equal!’
‘Impossible, for three reasons,’ answered Athos. ‘The first is that we have not finished our breakfast. The second because we have still some important affairs to talk about. And the third, it wants yet ten minutes before the hour is elapsed.'”


“‘But!’ said Porthos, ‘I fancy that I in my turn have also got an idea!’
‘Silence for Monsieur Porthos’ idea!’ cried Aramis.
‘…The lady does not know me. I will get near her without exciting her alarm and, when I have found the beauty, I will strangle her.’
‘Ah!’ said Athos. ‘I am really somewhat disposed to adopt Monsieur Porthos’ idea.'”


“The four friends followed behind him and had taken about a dozen steps when –
‘Ah, what the plagues are we about gentlemen?!’ exclaimed Athos.
‘Have you forgotten anything?’ enquired Aramis.
‘The flag! Zounds, we must not leave a flag in the hands of the enemy, even though it be a napkin!’ And Athos rushed back into the bastion, mounted the platform and took down the flag… The bullets whistled around him, yet he stood unharmed. Athos waved his standard and bowed towards the camp as he turned his back on the town… They heard the whole camp exclaiming,
‘Come down! Come down!'”


“‘Life is a large chaplet of little miseries, which the philosopher shakes with a laugh. Be philosophers like me gentlemen!'”


“‘No violence! Violence is a proof of weakness! Besides, I have never succeeded by that means. Perhaps if I used my strength against women, I might chance to find them more feeble than myself, and consequently might vanquish them. But it is against men that I struggle, and I am only a woman to them. Let me struggle like a woman. My strength is in my weakness.'”


“At this moment a horse neighed. Her Ladyship raised her head, saw the pale face of Athos, staring through the window, and screamed aloud. Perceiving that he had been seen, Athos pushed the window with his hand and knee. It gave way. The panes were broken and Athos, like a spectre of vengeance, leaped into the room.”


“Athos stretched out his hands towards her.
‘Anne de Breuil,’ said he. ‘Countess de la Fare. Lady de Winter. Your crimes have wearied men on earth, and God in heaven. If you know any prayer, repeat it, for you are condemned and are about to die.’


“‘He is deciding by what kind of punishment I am to die,’ said the Gascon to himself. ‘Well faith, he shall see how a gentleman can die.'”

My First Chilli Festival

For most of my life, I haven’t really been into chilli. Sometimes as a kid I would compete with my brother to see who could eat the spiciest curry or whatever, but I never really enjoyed it. Then one fateful trip to Korea, I ate a kimchi jiggae so hot that I found every other chilli dish in the world to be pleasantly mild.

Since then, I’ve been meaning to check out Araluen’s Chilli Festival, and today was the day I finally got there. Immediately after arriving, Beth and I bought a chilli plant to replace all the veggies we’ve lost (a kaleidoscope chilli that we’ve named Kali), and then decided to have a wander around the stalls.

The very first stall we came to had some chilli sauces, and when I saw one called “Widow Maker” (thinking of the Overwatch character) I decided to try it. There was a couple already chatting to the owner, covering an entire cracker in the sauce and sampling it. I sidled up next to them and spread a small blob (about enough to cover a 5c piece) on my cracker, and just as I put it in my mouth I glanced at the label and saw that it read: “Hotness: 15/10.”

As this couple next to me talked about how it had a pleasant heat that didn’t kick in right away, I suddenly felt like something had grabbed the back of my throat. I didn’t want to embarrass myself, but after a few seconds of fighting it I started coughing uncontrollably. Drinking deeply from my water bottle, I stopped hearing whatever the couple was talking about because I was consumed by the fire inside of me; it literally felt like I had swallowed a hot coal that got lodged in my throat.

Beth had been saying something to me as well but I couldn’t make out the words. After a few moments (where I stared desperately at the crackers on the table, wondering what he’d say if I just started shovelling them into my mouth), I thanked the owner and walked away because I didn’t want him to see me cry. And cry I did, the tears rolling relentlessly down my face as I desperately tried to put the fire out.

The water didn’t help much. The moment I swallowed it the burning returned as strong as ever, so I ended up just holding the water in my mouth and it kind of helped a little. Beth had the brilliant idea of getting ice creams, and without a word I handed her my wallet and leaned against a nearby post while I tried not to be sick.

We found some stairs to sit on as we ate our ice creams, and Beth gave me her handerchief as my nose started running uncontrollably. Trembling from whatever hellfire was burning its way through me, I felt like I might throw up, or soil myself, or both. I tried to make the ice cream last as long as I could, but when it inevitably ran out the waves of molten lava began to crash into me again. Talking made it worse, because the burning on my tongue would press against the burning on the roof of my mouth. All I wanted to do was find somewhere shady to lie down and die as I was consumed by the fire within me.

After about 20 minutes, I managed to gather enough strength to stand up and hobble, and we made the long journey back to the car pausing several times so I could rest. A laughing man pretended to reach out and steal one of the chillies off the plant I was holding, and I didn’t even have the energy to break his kneecaps. I felt like I’d been poisoned three steps into the dungeon and had used the every healing item the party possessed just to stay alive. Worse, all the drive home I felt like a hand was gently squeezing my guts, and that hand was slowly going from “pleasantly warm” to “alarmingly hot”.

All in all, I consider the Chilli Festival a great success, and I can’t wait to try again next year. 10/10 will immolate again.

General update: Getting up early, facebook, video games, and training

For the past four days in a row, I have gotten up some time between 5 and 6am. I didn’t plan to – it just kind of happened that way. First I met up with a friend for hiking, then I needed to fill a skip bin before it was removed (though it turns out they still haven’t picked it up two days late), then I had nightmares and couldn’t sleep, and finally I’ve given a lesson to my karate student. Although it’s early days yet (forgive me), it’s such a gift to see the sun rising, and to hear the birds begin to sing. The air is crisp and fresh, and the coolness of the dawn makes it a pleasure to be outside.

I haven’t been a “morning person” in many years, but I think I might try and become one again. Additionally, there’s something appealing to me about to building the discipline of getting up even though I don’t want to. I guess we’ll see how things go over the next few days – it’s probably easier to sustain while I have the opportunity to nap during the day. I recall a few years ago that I got up at 6am every morning (except Christmas Day) to run for 5km around Tomato Lake. Tiredness became my default setting, and I just learned to live with it.

I do not want to live a half-life of wandering about in a daze, not willing to sleep but neither willing to get up and be active. I’ve known such states all too well lately, and have filled the void with idle games or scrolling facebook.

 

Speaking of which, I noticed that I was spending a lot of time on facebook, so I downloaded an app that could track how much time I was spending on my phone. In the first week, I was disheartened to learn that I was losing over an hour a day on average to mindlessly scrolling, hoping for that next endorphin hit. I noticed the problem got really bad when, without being conscious of it, I minimised the facebook app and then re-opened it hoping for that fresh first-time-checking-experience.

After that I disabled the app on my phone for a day, and once I had re-established a degree of self-mastery, used the tracking app to set an alarm once I’d used it for 30 minutes. I’m happy to say that I’ve rarely gone over 30 in the past few weeks, but I’m still using it more than I want to.

It’s a tricky thing though. In my head, it’s uncomfortable but not impossible to just experience distress and boredom without deflecting and distracting. In practice, it’s almost intolerable for me to be tired but not try and comfort myself somehow. When I’m tired, I’m really fucking miserable, and if scrolling through wholesome memes and stories makes me feel a little better about my life, then it’s very hard to convince myself that it’s bad for me. Of course once I start scrolling, I find it super hard to stop; I keep promising myself that I’ll close the app after “that next big hit”, the next story that I pause to read, or the next image that makes me smile. Spoiler alert: it never comes. Or rather, I read the story, and then want more because I only get this tiny little endorphin release, and I’m chasing that next big hit. It’s really hard for me to walk away when I’m getting diminishing returns, but I know logically that the void I’m trying to fill can never be filled, and I have to make peace with the emptiness inside me.

 

Speaking of filling the void, I picked up Skyrim again. This was a scary decision for me, because last time I played it I fell 237 hours deep into the hole. Yet, I’d been reading Inheritance and reading about fighting with swords and shields, and I had such a craving I thought I’d scratch it.

And I scratched the hell out of it. I played about 8 hours over a few days, choosing a very different path from my magical, highly moral Khajiit and acting as a proud Nord warrior. I blocked and I blocked, and I bashed and I bashed, and then feeling satisfied I put the game down again. I’m grateful I didn’t stay long in the pit of addiction I so-often find myself in.

In other gaming news, I’ve decided to take a break from Gwent and Overwatch, which were consuming an hour or two of my day on a regular basis. When they overhauled the Gwent mechanics I dipped back into it for a bit. Apart from my deck Mahakam’s Finest, all of them have really low success rates, but have been fun to play with. (For posterity, my decks are named Ackbar’s Nightmare, Komorebi Phantoms, Sage Wisdom, Wielder of the Flame or Anor, Dragon Fire, Master Elves, and my one and only Nilfgaard deck, For A Silver Penny.) After playing out the first competitive season and ranking reasonably well, I’ve decided to retire from Gwent, at least for now. Overwatch on the other hand, now that the Lunar New Year event is on, I’ve been playing almost every day until I get that sweet sweet “First Win of the Day” xp. Sometimes it takes five minutes, other times an hour. It’s pretty fun, so I’ll probably continue my pattern of playing it during events and then not at all in the interim months.

I’ve been trying to finish Mass Effect Andromeda for a while now, and I kinda ran out of steam with it. 80 hours in, I’ve 100%’d 3 of the planets, and am about halfway through one or two more. It’s an amazing game with a great story and interesting characters, but I am looking forward to retiring it so that I can move onto God of War which I got for my birthday three months ago. For once, I have so many accumulated games on my PS4 that I’ve run out of room to download them all, so I’m planning on finishing and uninstalling a bunch as soon as I can.

 

Training-wise, things are up and down. Something that is fresh in my mind is that I keep accidentally making contact with my partner, far more often than I want to (but not perhaps more often than is reasonable). Sometimes it’s because my partner responds unpredictably and moves (or moves me) into contact, and other times it’s just because I move in too far. I’d really like to get better at this right now.

I met a Chen-style taiji practitioner at King’s Park last week, and his balance and control both put me to shame and inspired me. I feel clumsy and awkward compared to the memory of him, and I’m starting to understand what mastery looks like: not just being competent at the moves, but doing them to a degree of perfection that they could not possibly be improved in any way, every time.

Karate in comparison is easier for me. I’m pretty confident as a teacher, and there’s so much I know that I wish to pass on to the other students. I kind of take for granted that not everyone has had the benefit of training for decades in various styles, and so their knowledge of basic grappling principles (for instance) is very poor, ever though their stand-up fighting is reasonable. It’s hard for me to be patient sometimes and I wish that it were possible for everyone to master a principle the first lesson they practiced it.

My great fascination at the moment is with weapons. In the past two months, I’ve been revising jian, sai, tonfa and jo. I daresay I’m quite adept with all of them, and I wish there were other people I could train with for applications. All of them feel like natural extensions of my body and will, and it would be great to explore them deeper in other contexts beyond the forms. I seem to have an affinity for weapons of just about every kind, and I’m grateful for those skills.

 

Well, that will do for now. Time to get on with my day and enjoy it while it’s cool. Hope your day is a blessed one, too <3