Month: March 2015

Not my blog

When I first started writing short articles I had no real plan. At the time I was inspired by reading the things that others were publishing, it was early 1999 and personal websites were slowly on the rise.

Reading those words, with the slow realisation that I could do it too, seemed like a new and exciting thing. There weren’t that many people doing it at that time (I’d guess at a number in the thousands) so there was a sense of being at the beginning of something, pioneering, blazing the way.

That may sound a little hyperbolic but remember that the internet, the world wide web, was still very much a shiny new thing full of possibilities and no-one really knew what it would become. Some would argue we still don’t. Others would then point out that that is exactly the point. Then someone else will jump in with a photo of a kitten. I digress.

Looking at the first few things I published I can see that they were more articles than diary entries. Sure, they aren’t particularly well written but they were my words, available on the internet for others to read. It was scary and exciting.

At the time my entire website was in hand coded HTML (using Allaire/Macromedia Homesite) and within the first few months of self-publishing I soon found myself looking for ways to make it easier to do, I had to find a way that would let me concentrate on the writing rather than the construction and maintenance of all the surrounding paraphernalia that a website demands.

Ahhh hand-coded menus and permalinks, how I do not miss thee.

Then along came a publishing tool called Blogger, and everything changed, but that story has been told.

Since then I guess it’s safe to say I’ve mostly continued in a similar vein. I’ve used a publishing platform (currently WordPress), tinkered with it at times, but more and more I’ve gone back to my roots and pushed to find ways that let me focus more about the words than the website.

Matt Gemmell recently wrote in a piece that sparked this one (ht: IanD):

Whatever your blog is, and the term is so fluid as to be unhelpful at best and trivialising at worst, it’s something. The first thing you ought to do is give yourself the respect you deserve. Publishing your words online can be a daunting, exposing, soul-baring experience – I know. I’m still haunted by self-doubt before sharing certain pieces with the world. But I do believe that those pieces have value.

Which neatly encapsulates my view of this website and why I have it. From time to time I’ve struggled with the self-doubt he mentions, and over the last 15 years I’ve watched other people find a niche and become very successful publishing their own content but that’s never really been what I wanted to do. I tried it for a while on another blog but once my focus changed it was hard to maintain.

This website remains as it began, a place for me to publish things I write and that have value to me, right now I don’t really have the desire for it to be anything more than that.

And, for the record, I’ve never really liked the word ‘blog’ anyway.

Todoist: One Year On

Todoist

I last wrote about Todoist almost exactly a year ago and it’s telling that I’m still using it today.

How I use Projects

My usage has evolved a little, mostly through the use of sub-projects. In ToDoist a project is really just a bucket, but because you can have sub-projects you can quickly build a hierarchy if you need one or, like me, just group all your Work and Personal stuff into two big buckets.

There are pros and cons to this approach, the pros surface when you start to use filters, the cons when you want to do a weekly review.

Using filters

The main advantage is how Todoist filters work. Because I have all my Work related projects set as sub-projects, when I create a filter based on the parent (Work) Todoist returns all the sub-tasks in all of the sub-projects. That means I can use filters to give a level of focus when I need it.

Todoist Projects and filters
(Some of) my Todoist Projects and filters

The first few filters shown above were very easy to create and because they will pull in all tasks in any sub-projects, very simple:

  • p:Work & (today | tomorrow | over due)
    p:Work & 5 days
  • A list of filter syntax is provided but it’s worth checking the Support forums for some that are mentioned in this list.

Weekly Review

Todoist does allow you to see your completed tasks, it’s just not very obvious. To get there you need to click on your Karma rating and then view your completed tasks. Here you can apply some limited filters and if you want to get a few graphs drawn for you as well.

I’ve used this to help generate invoices for clients as it’s a quick way to get all the completed tasks in the past week or two for a given project.

Unfortunately my project structure becomes an issue when I want to review all of my Work projects in one go as, for reasons I’m not aware, Todoist handles sub-projects as separate entities rather than returning them all when you select the parent.

It’d be great if this functionality was expanded to be available in a similar way to the filters to allow for easier control, but it’s not a major blocker for me.

Annoyances

As with every app there are gaps that I hope will be filled one day, nothing that stops me using (and loving) Todoist but annoyances nonetheless:

  • Default sorting options – my biggest annoyance is not being able to apply (and save) a default sort to a project or filter. Given that Todoist is so good a being ‘personalisable’ elsewhere, this seems like an odd omission.
  • No Safari extension – specifically a good hook into GMail on Safari.
  • Notes – You can add a note to a task (and that can be text, or an attachment or voice recording) but I must have a task created before I can do that. It would be good if this was streamlined into the task creation process itself.
  • Completed Items – moving this to the same data model as the filters would be a huge boon and make those weekly reviews and reports a lot easier to generate.

Further Reading:

The Basics

I stumbled across an old post of mine the other day – one of those weird moments when you google something and your own site comes up – which discussed the idea that some of the basics of a profession were a given. They could, and should, rightfully be presumed.

It made me realise I do the same of others in my social life as well. I have some basic ideals that I hold true and, while I will challenge them and expect others to as well, I have an unwritten expectation that the people I engage with will hold those ideals, morals and notions, to similar standards as mine.

Wow, that sounds weirdly creepy to write.

I guess all I’m trying to say is that I do my best to be polite to everyone, I try and be considerate of others, and I try to be mindful of the company and surroundings that I am in. I tend to be drawn to people who hold those ideals to be true.

I don’t always get things right, I know I have said the wrong thing at times, or not considered the medium I’m using, and it’s backfired pretty badly on me. I don’t like it when that happens but I know that every time I screw up I learn from it.

And that is one of the things I hold as an ideal. Everyone fucks up, just try and learn from it.

Equally there are other things which aren’t really ideals, or morals, but still jar me to my core when I see them. Not in a big shocking way, these aren’t things that make me catch my breath and make my head spin, these illicit little more than a quiet resigned sigh.

I’m possibly too aware that what I’m about to say might make me sound like a snob but I’ll be honest. I don’t care.

One small example of the ‘quiet resigned sigh’ happened yesterday. Watching lazy Sunday morning TV and someone on-screen picked up their fork to eat, knuckles wrapped around the handle as they shovelled the food from plate to mouth.

OK, it’s a small (bad) example but as one of the myriad of tiny signals that our brains have to interpret I think it holds true. After all, isn’t it that kind of thing, alongwith more fundamental questions, are what guides us in our choice of friends and in the shape our social circles. The first small interactions start our brains on a path towards a decision, the way a phrase is constructed, the words and intonation used, the position of the eyes, the body language.

And that’s all before you start to get to know that person better, before you start to learn their likes and dislikes. Presuming you get that far, of course.

Where it gets interesting is when you find yourself overlooking a certain habit or trait and let someone be a part of your life. How do you decide? What factors drive you to accept one person but shun another?

I have no idea how I base my decisions in this area. Looking at my friends we come from similar backgrounds but in our formative years we all branched away and became very different people, yet as a group everything works because we have a set of core values that we all share (and no, it’s not just booze).

I’ll be honest, this isn’t something I’ve really questioned all that much but it does seem that over the past couple of years, as my polyamorous life has taken hold and I’ve made a concerted effort to simplify my life, I have made decisions based on these very sketchy outlines of what I consider to be morals, or ideals. Hell, I’m not even sure what the right word is.

Which I guess prompts the question, what are my ideals and morals? What values do I hold true to myself and of others? What is the right word?!

It turns out that ideals and morals are the right words.

It turns out that I don’t really have all that many in detail, and I’ve realised more and more that I like that. I like having that flexibility, I like that I tend not to judge people beyond a few basic principles (and how they hold their fork when eating, obv),

I like that I am open to learning about others, listening to them, and learning from them before I judge them.

And perhaps that is where I draw the line. Perhaps that is the idealistic morality I hold true and will judge others by.

If you aren’t willing to listen to others then, my friend, I don’t wanna know you.

Ill Moods

With the nausea and light headedness comes the dark.

The craving of melancholy, musical choices change to the minor keys, the quiet and downbeat. Lyrics flow over old wounds.

It is different now, the detachment of old is gone. Replaced by a floating view, looking down on this place, the swirling moods that ebb and flow.

Sleep comes, the dreams slide from view and in the morning the mood remains unblinking and groggy.

Sometimes it needs to be smashed, broken into pieces and scattered to the winds. It is merely a passing moment of life, it does not need to be reviled or pitied.

And sometimes it needs to be coaxed quietly into the light where it will slowly and quietly fade away.

Let it be acknowledged and allowed to be what it is before it dissipates. The final reveal is broadcast in a smile.

It’s sometimes just like sleeping,
Curling up inside my private tortures.
I nestle into pain.
Hug suffering.
Caress every ache.

Björk – Play Dead


I’m ok, it’s just a little bit of self-observation. I find it interesting to see that when I’m ill, and my energy levels drop, I tend towards melancholy. Just a minor case of the mehs.

Face Value

Some of my watches
Some of my watches

OK, let’s get one thing out of the way. Yes, I will be buying an Apple Watch. Probably. Most likely.

I’m not sure when, and it’ll certainly only be a final decision after I’ve had the chance to hold one in my hand and try one on my wrist, but for me it looks like it hits a sweet spot of design, user experience, and my continuing paring down of the artefacts of my life.

How does adding another gadget help with the latter? Let me explain.

As I mature, a phrase I prefer to use these days in preference to ‘get older’, I’ve been stripping away the superfluous items of my life and concentrating on items that hold some level of value, where that value may be judged on a monetary basis, through sentimentality, or just that is useful to me and gives me a better sense of value than something it is replacing.

The latter is most exemplified by a recent purchase of an OXO Can Opener. Whilst you may think £15 is a maybe a little on the steep side for a can opener I can confirm that each time I use it I know I have an item of value in my hand, it is well designed in every aspect, from the materials used to the implementation of the function. It is a far nicer experience to us that than the old one.

And I guess that’s where I place the most value, in the elusive qualities of a well designed object. It can be something simple like the can opener or a complex item like my car; true fact, one reason I bought my Honda Civic was because I preferred the feel of the switches over the Mercedes A-Class.

What can I say, I like the things I interact with to feel nice to use and yes I know that is entirely subjective (that’s why I won’t buy an Apple Watch until I’ve held one in my hands).

For me that’s why I’m such a fan of the Apple products I have. Whilst I have other gadgets by other companies – the Samsung smartphone issued by work is a nice enough piece of kit, as is my Kindle Voyage – but they aren’t things I appreciate, they are just things that fulfil a purpose. I appreciate the feel of my iPhone, the gentle clicks of the scroll wheel on my aging iPod Classic.

So I’ve been coupling my desire for nice user experience as I’ve slowly stripped back the things I own. I’ve been replacing items with a deliberation around things I WANT to use and through that journey it’s been interesting to observe how my aesthetic tastes have changed.

And that change is no better viewed through the history of my watches.

I’ve worn watches for as long as I can remember, from my first Swatch watch (a garish neon Fluomotions, hey it was the 80s!) through various Casio digitals (yes, including the calculator watch) which I largely got from the somewhat dubious source of the ‘left behind’ box in my Dad’s school (he was a P.E. teacher, amazing how many watches were left and never claimed!), through to the watches I own today.

It’s only been in the last 15 years or so that I’ve stopped viewing watches as purely utilitarian, that my eyes have been opened to the fact they are designed and can be worn to be admired.

The blue faced Skagen watch (in the image above) is the watch that turned me around on that, and whilst I’ve flip flopped back to more chunky models, I always end up back at the classic look, simple and functional but elegant in approach. So far my Braun watch (also pictured above) holds the place dearest in my (design led) heart.

I don’t tend to spend a lot of money on my watches, as they have been purely about how they looked and, if I’m honest, I prefer the more minimal designs.

I wear a watch almost every day, only taking it off when I go to sleep, when I’m on holiday, or if I’m just lazing about my flat. I currently have two in rotation, one for ‘day use’ which is a bit more run of the mill, the other for when I’m out and about as I feel it is more design led, prettier to look at and says more about me.

I always wear a watch and, as most people who know will attest, I am almost surgically attached to my iPhone. So it seems obvious that I will get an Apple Watch.

I’m more than happy with the way it looks, the cost I will either make my peace with or it will be the barrier. If I buy an Apple Watch would be the most expensive watch I’ve ever bought, but more than that it does seem that as my focus over the last couple of years has been around having less, of cutting down on the unneeded, simplifying the items in my life, it would be almost frivolous to buy another gadget that I don’t fully need.

Yet from what I’ve already heard the Apple Watch is actually a better fit to what I’m trying to do. Reports suggest it would mean less time on one gadget (my iPhone) and shorter bursts of more efficient time on another (the Watch). I already try and keep the notifications I get on my phone to a minimum and many only need a quick look, or glance, rather than an interaction.

This isn’t me trying to justify spending the money, what I’m really driving at it how much real use and value, might I get from an Apple Watch.

As I slowly step back from a lot of social media, and continue to slim down the things which I don’t perceive as offering me value, or items which don’t give me a nice experience, it might just be that adding something might be a better step forward.

I remain undecided. The gadget fan in me, my biggest distraction in my internal battle of wills when it comes to ‘having less’, is being held at bay by the price barrier for now. I’m using that time to try and assess whether I want an Apple Watch, need an Apple Watch (I don’t, but then I don’t really ‘need’ an iPhone either, right?), or whether the gadget fan is twisting my longer term desires to get something new and shiny.

Part of me is glad I can’t stump up the cash right now, part of me is glad that I will have the chance to ponder this over the coming months.

And yes, fine, I’ll admit it, there is a part of me that is already planning to get myself one under the guise of an early birthday present.

Time will tell I guess.

(pun unintended)

How could I just kill a man?

It was the first time I’d killed a man.

Logically it wasn’t any harder than killing a dog, the physics and physiology differ but the principles are the same. You plan the method of death, account for size and weight, and follow the plan step by step.

It’s terrifyingly simple, terrifyingly easy. I can see why serial killers continue to kill again and again and again. After all everyone likes to improve, to do something better the next time, and soon it is a compulsion. A tweak here, a change of tactic there and maybe the perfect murder will happen next time.

Not that you’d know a perfect murder when it happened, I don’t think. The perfect murder needs investigated, tested, prodded and poked to see if there were any tiny mistakes. It’s therefore obvious that the perfect murder must include flaws, to lure in the curious, to silently beg for the attention of a questioning eye, someone to check your work, someone to sheriff and enable the investigation.

A shiny gold star for perfect work.

But this was my first time, I knew it wouldn’t be perfect.

Choosing the victim was took some time. The first list of candidates came easily, enemies and rivals, loathed and hated in equal measure, but that wouldn’t really serve much of a purpose. Enemies have a purpose, they keep you sharp and focused, without them there is nothing to focus on, plans would float off into ambiguity.

I was sure of one thing, it wouldn’t be anyone I didn’t have some connection with. Killing a random man is too easy and would likely lead me to ill-discipline. I wouldn’t care as much and the incentive to do things properly would fall away and leave a shoddy death. I’m better than that. I want more for myself.

A mercy killing perhaps? No. This isn’t a charitable act. I am not playing God here.

In the end the choice presented itself to me readily. An acquaintance but someone of no real value to me. No threat, just another man who flitted in and out of my life.

With the choice made the plan was put into action. It had to be carefully, patiently, executed – ohhh what an interesting choice of word, but this was no execution. It was an act simple and true, the taking of a life. Murder.

Motive? Why would I need a motive? Why do you get out of bed everyday? Why do you decide to wear that t-shirt, or those shoes? Motive is over rated and entirely concocted by psychologists who wish to feel clever.

Everything went well I think. In the end I achieved what I set out to do. He died. I killed him. I stood over his body, looking down as he breathed his last breath and felt a small elation, not just the adrenalin rush I had expected but a wonderful moment of triumph.

I had done it. I had killed a man.

I’m not sure if I’ll kill again.


Idea from 642 Things to Write About

Buzz Buzz Buzz

The anticipation builds as I eat breakfast. A large full plate of not so healthy options. Sustenance for the coming hours, energy to deal with the adrenalin rush to follow.

My mind races ahead, what will the design look like? The final version awaits me at the studio and as I head there my pace quickens in time with my racing heart.

Once inside the design is revealed. Final tweaks discussed and then the cold wipe of alcohol and the sharp blade of the razor preps the skin. A cold shiver.

The design is lined up, checked and double checked. In the mirror the first glimpse of what the future holds. Excitement levels peak.

It begins. Positioned on the bench, the spotlight in place, the inks laid out. A short buzz to check the equipment and the first sharp drag on my skin.

The noise amplifies the sensation as the needles drive the ink into my skin. I breath deep as the gun moves to a tender area, breathing through the pain. The gun moves on and the dull pull on my skin becomes a calmng balm. I close my eyes and fade away into the sensation.

Hours later it’s over. Swathed in protective gel and clingfilm, I thank the artist and tenderly make my home.

I feel elated but wrung out. The buzz buzz buzz of the needle reverberates still as the chemicals in my system kick-in. Sugar needed to avoid the drop.

More sessions in the weeks to come. Repeat, repeat, repeat. The final art on my skin a permanent reminder, a badge.

Mine.

A big pot of time

Poly Means Many: There are many aspects of polyamory. Each month, the PMM bloggers will write about their views on one of them. Links to all posts can be found at www.polymeansmany.com.

I like making stew, I like the simplicity of it, I like how the combination of ingredients becomes so much greater than the sum of its parts.

Poly time management is like a stew. A big pot of time into which we chuck in all the schedules, plans, desires and appointments. Stir, season, leave to simmer for a few hours.

Alas that’s where the resemblance ends. I like stew because it’s one big pot of awesome but unfortunately I can’t then ladle out a bowl of only carrots and gravy (he said, avoiding the more obvious meat and veg part of this awful analogy).

Managing my own time means being aware of the schedules of 4 or 5 other people at any one time, and beyond that it means communicating my preferences, compromising and adapting to best suit everyone, and means that even a simple event can be tricky to plan. Good communication is a must.

It doesn’t end there of course. Once you have some plans in place there is then the question of value, of balance. It’s more noticeable at the start of a relationship, when things revolve around dates and going out, that period when the safety of neutral territory suits everyone. But over time that changes and, as you become more comfortable with each other, the time spent becomes more relaxed, more comfortable. Lazy nights slobbed out on the sofa.

That said I do find myself keeping a mental tally of the types of time I spend with my partners. Again, for me it’s about balance. Whilst the usual curveballs that life throws at us will play a part in all of this I try and make sure that, for example, I’m not always going out with one of my partners but staying in with the other.

Hopefully that way the quality of the time I spend with both my partners is about equal. That’s something that’s important to me as within our poly setup we don’t have notions of primary/secondary partners so the time spent needs to be balanced and ‘fair’. Of course there will be times when circumstance tips the balance one way or another but that’s where trust and communication come into play.

Recently I’ve spoken with both my partners to ask for a little more time for myself and I realise now that part of what made that conversation hard (in my head, they were both lovely about it) was that I will need to find the balance again to make sure they both feel that the time we have together is of value.

Time management isn’t easy, but with open and honest communication it doesn’t have to be hard.