J is for JUST DO IT

J is for just do it

Struggled here, so I nicked the old Nike slogan. Here is an attempt at short fiction, inspired by Prompturium.

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A week after I died

It’s been a week now. I can categorically state that every major religion got the whole afterlife thing wrong. Completely wrong. They were right about God. Partially. God exists. but it’s not a person or an individual. It’s more of a corporation. That’s almost completely wrong , but close enough for me to understand it. God stands for General Outerworld Developments. We are effectively a breeding colony/ experimental laboratory, in the universes equivalent of a low rent industrial park, a long way from the motorway.  

We were arranged into cohorts based on age and gender, of twenty one. Orientation took up the first four days. The rest of the universe works on a 30 hour day so part of orientation was getting used to longer days. Only a third of us passed this stage. It’s still not clear what that means, either way. The other fourteen have gone somewhere else. We were told it’s not our concern, and to focus on ourselves. The last two days had been assignments and briefing. Tonight is a mandated evening of rest and celebration, before I take up my new role. Something I am not over happy about.

Mostly we record, measure, and report back.

The cohort facilitators were dead like me, but seem to have been bureaucrats before. There were a few middle level managers in the cohort, who seemed to have a bit of an advantage. Before my event, I was a disillusioned junior manager; that must of helped. There were assessors, but they only flickered in and out of vision.

John Lennon was surprisingly well informed.  We were not in heaven, or hell, neither above or below.  Best way to describe it would be alongside. This was a big stumbling block for those heavily into religion, which seems to have been a construct of the Romans, or Greeks, or someone similar, but basically a thing  made up to exert some control over populations. Talk about a little white lie that got well out of hand.

Speaking of getting well out of hand, our bellicose nature was not part of the plan either. Outerworld Developments had seen many bloodlines compromised by war, and was still reeling from the various 19th Century wars. The 20th Century conflicts were organised just to weed out a percentage of the population spike, an unexpected result of innovations in technology and medicine.  OD needed time to evaluate apparently.

Alongside is a dreary place. Think 1970’s beige and brown. It’s a little bit worn, and a lot dull. By getting this far I have been promoted to level five. I managed to suppress a giggle at this point, which would have probably demoted me to a four or even a three. We were herded into the club for a bit of a celebration. I really fancied a pint of two, what with it being a busy week, dying, finding out all life as know was utterly pointless, and now my new role, which was also utterly pointless. Quite a lot things needed to be washed down. Microsoft, for example,  was created to punish us for the cold war. I think we all suspected that, but come on. Apple was set up as an experiment to see how gullible we were, and examine the impact of marketing on the developing brain. Apparently we were a lot more gullible than they thought.

There is no money here, your level entitles you to so much food, so much space and so on. In return, you work, as directed. The food is dreadful, but tonight I was entitled to two pints. A scratchy electronic recording told me I could have two more next month. Given the weak battery acid aftertaste, that might not be a bad thing. The facilitators had tried to encourage us to aspire to promotion through hard work in our new roles. Some of us even make the low twenties. Nice to find out your a low grade species, who in the General Outerworld Developments corp could actually aspire to the dizzy heights of junior cockroach. Did I mention there were over five hundred levels of promotion?

After an hour or so of enforced cheerfulness, without really knowing the alternative, we were ushered out, and directed to our pods for the six hour sleep. Here it really was a twenty four hour day. I call it pod, because that’s a nicer word than box. Just enough space to lay or sit, space for a box of papers, and this place ruins on paper, tons of it.

Alongside is not the Hi Tech  paradise you think it should be, not at level five. Level tens have access to microfiche, if I get that far. There was a cautionary input about getting promoted before your entire box is full of paper. That one gave me a disturbed nights sleep, trying not to think of a mattress of pink assignment reports. Carbonated forms, white to management, pink to keep, yellow to stores.  

Today is the first day of my unwanted role within G.O.D. It started with a brief ceremony at the stores building. Here I returned the faded pink jumpsuit of a novice, as well as the slippers. The receipt was signed, witnessed and countersigned. After a few minutes in the altogether, new ( to me ) essentials were issued. One pair of boots, sturdy. Two pairs boot laces. Three pairs of socks, three pairs of pants, two pairs of heavy serge trousers, one pair braces,  two shirts, long sleeved. One woollen jumper, with faux leather elbow protectors, one knee length cotton jacket, button up, in brown, three ball point pens, one pencil, one pencil sharpener, the clipboard, and one satchel. We hurried to get dressed, the stores manager yelling, the facilitator yelling, and making notes. Everything had to be signed for, witnessed and countersigned for. Three of us got a reprimand. Failed to check inside the satchel, failed to count the needles in the clothing repair pouch. I’d signed to say I had two, there was only one.

Needless to say this caused a lot of smugness from fellow members of my cohort, and near apoplectic rage from the stores. The missing needle was replaced after a very impressive full five minute bollocking.

I looked and felt like a bit part actor in a 1950’s documentary about a factory foreman.

The only concession to technology was the PES. Personal Environmental Stabiliser. This generated a personal bubble of temperate calm, to ensure the paperwork didn’t get smudged.  

So now I am alongside you. You might call me a ghost, or a spirit, but that would be wrong. The world is cluttered with clipboard wielding folk like me. As a level five counter, I have four levels to look down on, but four hundred and ninety four looking down on me. Pays to be aware of that.

Counting the leaves on an oak tree is not a bad job, quite restful. I am too lowly to know G.O.D.’s reason, but I was fortunate.  My tree, and they encourage ownership of the job, is in a park. I can see another clipboard wielder counting and weighing dog poop.

I must of done something right, before after life…..

 

 

K is for Kilter.

As in “off kilter” or “out of kilter”.

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When tired, or jaded, it is quite common to feel not quite up to speed with anything going on around you.

It’s a bit like the keyboard of life has shifted a few inches to the left, and your just not hitting the right keys. When your backspace delete button is almost worn out, and no matter how much you try, the word ordinary just looks wrong.

When you find you carefully parked car is now parked in a space that is only marginally longer than the length of the car, thanks to the actions of other drivers, and the ebb and flow of parkers. When you consider the possible 50 shunt maneuver to extract said car, then realise its longer on the diagonal, and ain’t going nowhere.

When you boil the kettle and then find there is no coffee in the jar, or pour cereal and find the milk bottle is empty.

When you haven’t left enough time to shave, and then find its the day you have meeting with the Boss. When you wash your hands, misjudge the tap, and cover your trousers in water.

You are out of kilter. It’s important to recognise this, and behave accordingly. Know that on these days, everything you touch will turn to sh1t.

There is no cure for this, it simply has to be endured, and consider damage limitation tactics where possible.

These days are not good days to do anything vaguely important. Try to avoid involving yourself in significant financial deals or new commitments. Order the house red at a restaurant, it will be drinkable and a safe bet. Avoid marriage proposals at all costs. Defer till tomorrow for better decision making.

The out of kilter day will involve spilling soup on your tie, leaving your glasses somewhere, forgetting your PIN number, and in extreme cases, wearing mismatched shoes.

And if you do make it home without serious injury, your car, the one that was physically impossible to move earlier, will now probably have a ticket on it.

STOP.

Leave the car and ticket where they lay. You have drunk most of a bottle of red, as your potential spouse fled in disgust or tears when your declined their proposal at the restaurant. Just go inside, re match your shoes, find some clean clothes for the morning, throw out the soup stained tie, they never clean well, go to bed and hope for a better day tomorrow.

Out of kilter days just suck. Try to avoid them.

L is for LEGO

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This started with Lego, and will continue to bring in Lego now and again. This is the primary build from 31048 Creator set, released in 2016, Mountain hut or similar. I don’t buy a lot of Lego any more, but when I do, it tends towards the Creator sets. What I like about this one is,

  1. Compact. It all fits on a base, no significant bits flapping about loose. Well there is a moose to make with this set, but as it falls into the flapping about loose category it does not get made.
  2. Quick to build.  Less than an hour.
  3. Variety. You have a lake, fishing, woodcutting, frogs, tree, some inside detail, and a fire.
  4.  Its a small building. I quite like small buildings.
  5. Nice rendering of a log cabin.

Have a nice day..

 

M is for Mental Health

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Now I am am no Mental Health professional, and some MH conditions are chronic, and need professional treatment. With my neck firmly and willingly on the line, most are not.

Stay with me on this.

This is about mental well being, a sort of keep fit for the brain.

The object is to suggest some tools to avoid common mental health concerns. They are my opinion only, and your mileage may very.

 

  1. You are one of many. You are not that special. Some will love you, some will hate you, some will enrich your life, others will not. Most will not even be aware of your existence. Good things will happen to you, bad things will happen to you. You were born, you will die, and you have no control over either of those. You simply are. You are that consciousness behind your eyes and just over your nose. You are that last interaction good or bad. Accept this. Try to do more good than bad.
  2. To paraphrase one of actor Jack Nicholson quotes, “The less I care, the happier I am“ So the message here is to care about things that are within your influence. Care about the people close to you, the people who want to be with you, or be part of your life. There is little point getting all riled up and passionate about things you have no sway over. View these other things as what they are, just entertainment. Support your team, but if they are not the winners this time, that’s no reason to feel bad, or to feel angry or depressed. You can celebrate the game, and feel grateful to be part of it.
  3. Have a look at mindfulness as a way of enjoying the mundane, as well as the spectacular. Even sat at the keyboard typing, I can marvel at the apparent dexterity of fingers and hands, feel the comfortable pressure of crossed ankles and so on. Try to do the best you can at whatever your doing.
  4. Try to minimise your exposure to harmful substances, and avoid where possible being dependent on these. Recognise the difference between say a social drink with friends, and getting completely shitfaced. One is a great and acceptable use of your time, the other is not. Understand your limits, and understand how judgement can be clouded when intoxicated.
  5. Get a good sweat on several times a week. Your personal level of fitness will determine what is required, but physical exercise makes you feel better. It’s all do do with some complicated internal biochemistry, but it really works. Just don’t use it as an excuse to beat on yourself. In any way. You are doing this for yourself.
  6. Try to avoid treating yourself on payday. Treat yourself the day before payday, with what is left. Better still, with half of what’s left, and squirrel away the rest for another day. Avoid reckless debt. Experiences are way much better than things. If making a large purchase, ask your sales person how much commission they are making on it. Or put it another way, how much money are you going to give them personally to buy this thing. Remember, if they fudge the answer, what else is fudged about this deal. Do your research. Let’s not forget who is doing who a favour here.

 

Only experience will show what works for you, but try to protect your mind. Life may harm you, but it’s how you view that harm that defines you. It’s not enough to blame your misfortune on an event, and give up. You must always move on, or you won’t. Take help and advice as needed, but move on. Two little quotes, Dory in Disney’s Nemo, “ Just keep swimming, just keep swimming “, and the French Foreign Legion, “ March or die “

And away’s celebrate your Victories. Its personal to you, and important.

 

Be happier.  

 

 

 

N is for Night Shift.

 

Even before the 24/7 world we live in now, there was the night shift.

It used to be the domain of the emergency services, lorry drivers, and a few others.

Now it is much more widespread, with at least 12% of the workforce regularly working nights.

That is about three and a half million out of a total of thirty two million employed people, Unemployed or otherwise economically inactive accounts for a further ten and a bit million.

So at any given time, some 3% of the population are trying to sleep during the day.

When the other 97% are not.

This is a personal issue for the other 3,499,999 people, who like me, find that night shifts account for about a 1/3rd of my paid hours.

As a regular night worker, I am able to share the benefits, of a much shorter life expectancy, feelings of total exhaustion on a regular basis, and a totally non existent sleep pattern.

Do you really need your Supermarket open all hours?

As part of the Emergency Services, and thus publically funded, there is an EXPECTATION that the work will be done, the crises will be averted, and the majority of the other sixty odd million people will be able to carry on with their lives, blissfully unaware.

I stress it is my choice to be on that front line. Commitment, duty, and vocation are not words widely used, out of this industry.

Speaking of stress, those who manage avoid working night shifts will never experience the thrill of being expected to make critical, and potentially life changing / ending  decisions, when totally exhausted.

It’s a lot more common than you’d think.

But you only get to hear about it when we get it wrong.

This is the fun bit, the other 10,000 correct decisions are irrelevant. In the eyes of management, and often the media, it’s the mistake that defines you. We quite rightly expect value for money for services we pay for. Emergency services workers are not miracle workers, but they do perform unseen miracles everyday.  

You would miss them more than you could possibly imagine.

Really short today, last couple of Night shifts have been insanely busy. If I told you what I’ve been doing you wouldn’t believe it, and you’d probably have trouble sleeping.

 

 

O is for Open University.

No longer the preserve of strange Black and White TV programs in the 1970’s, the Open University has developed into a very credible alternative to bricks and mortar Universities.

University funding, and student loans, are under review at the moment, here in England. Despite being part of the United Kingdom, which is a bit of an oxymoron, University funding is different and significantly more expensive to the individual in England.

Student tuition fees were introduced in the late 1990’s by the New Labour Blair Government. They were originally set at about £1000 per year. That is the same as about £1300 today.

They are now £9250 per year for students starting this year. For a typical student living away from the family home a bill of £50k is not uncommon for a three year degree course.

So the student loans company was set up to provide eye watering amounts of debt to aspirational students. Given the target customer is only 18 years old, they are quite easy to fob off. You will only start to pay it off when you earn over a certain amount. You won’t notice the monthly repayment. All your mates are doing it.

Context. It is not the Universities funding the loans. They are the ones selling the courses, and taking the money. The secondary and higher colleges are part of the sales force. The Universities bear no risk here, no motivation to get the best out of their clients, no motivation to ensure their clients get the best careers, the higher earnings, to pay back the money.

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This is where I actually feel sorry for my daughter, who needs degree level qualification for her chosen ambition.

There are four options.

 

  1. Take a University place anywhere. Move there, get the loan for fees and maintenance, hopefully get a higher degree, and move into career, start paying it back.
  2. Take a local University place, as luck would have it, we are within easy commute for two Universities, get a loan for fees, hopefully get a higher degree and move into career, start paying it back.
  3. Reevaluate life goals, consider apprenticeship route to similar but potentially less rewarding career.
  4. Have a long hard look at the Open University.

 

Everyone’s circumstances are different, but, if your chosen path doesn’t not involve significant time in the lab, or playing with lots of expensive hardware, then OU is worth a look.

Your course fees for a degree with OU are just under £19000, not just under £28,000.

You still have a tutor.

You will still develop and hone critical reasoning.

You will still have to work hard

You will demonstrate much more self motivated disciple, time management and commitment.

You will demonstrate a finer sense of financial acumen.

86/100 FTSE 100 companies use OU to further train their staff.

It is a very well respected University.

Perhaps most important of all, it has the largest student body of any University. Your fellow students will be a mix from all age and social groups. A much wider skills and experience base to interact with.

A common complaint is that it’s too hard. Shall we think about that? If that is a common view, how does your OU degree look to an employer? Determined, strong, committed, motivated, ambitious, hard working, intelligent.

Are we really encouraging adults into starting in the workplace with a £50k mill stone hanging over them?

Is the three more years in school really worth an extra £31k in debt?

How many thirty somethings are still paying for a teenagers decision?

 

It is worth a critical look.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

P is for PO, Life Skills 101 #3

PO is for Pissed off, not Post Office

No, I am not pissed off,  This is an internalised and destructive feeling I would most strongly recommend you strive to avoid.

At the end of this Micro article we will be helping to identify why we feel PO, how to minimise the effects, how to recognise external PO factors and impacts, and how to push through this fairly negative and self inflicted condition.

PO can be caused by a number of factors, far to many to be totally inclusive in a minor blog post, that basically exists to try to get my writing muscle exercised. We could broadly lump the factors into two piles, Internal and External.

Internal factors are, if you like, the imaginary cartoon characters that sit on the shoulders, one good, one bad.

The Good one, sits on my left shoulder and whispers gently into my ear. “ You would feel a lot better after a run. Get the heart and lungs working, build up a sweat, let those wonderful endorphins rage for a while.“ The watery grey mush that is my brain processes this, and agrees it’s a good idea. For whatever reason the runny sweaty thing does not happen.

The Bad guy then starts ranting in my ear, “ You really are a waster, lazy slug, are you auditioning for the Michelin Man?”

The grey mush also processes this, and it leads to feelings that include less than complimentary self worth, a negative body image, and some internalised anger against myself.

If you like, I have beaten myself up, and various conflicts between the bits of me that want to wear less tight and expansive jeans, and the bits of me that want cake, have caused an internalised feeling of PO. I could now be described as PO with myself for not managing some slightly arbitrary and self imposed goal.

Other internal factors are available.

External factors are legion. We live in a tight little part of the planet that sustains life without too much technology. A host of beings competing for space and resources. Like rats from a shipwreck, clinging to a piece of wood, fighting for space, tumbling over each other, pushing off the weakest or the unlucky. Often, we are not as well behaved and orderly as those imaginary rats. We are a dark, savage and violent species, but that’s another story.

In a typical day, we are not shipwrecked and pushing others into shark infested waters, despite secretly wanting too…..

We are however subject to unthinking actions of other people. Actions that impede your actions. You have a plan, keeping it simple, for example, you are driving to work. That is your plan, to get to your place of employment.  You have already accepted the punitive costs of having and using a car on a much degraded road network, but you want to eat, so you go to work. You need to exchange your time and abilities for money to exchange for food, shelter and so on.

It is the random chaos of life.  A thing that is real, and a thing you have absolutely no control over at all, not even a little bit.  An event occurs that impacts on your ability to move yourself from where you are, to where you need to be.

It could be Mrs Muggins has spotted her neighbour, and wishes to share information about the price of bread at a previously unconsidered retail location, and in order to do so, has pulled her car over in a less than considerate place, obstructing you from moving towards your goal. It is of no importance to you, but clearly is to Mrs Muggins, so much so, that it trumps your important mission.

It could be one of the many utility companies have to repair a piece of infrastructure helpfully buried under the road, and have set up a surprise set of traffic lights.

It could be that some previously unconsidered yet critical part of your car has failed, rendering the whole thing useless till repaired.

I could go on, but you get the idea. Many factors can spoil your plan of getting to work, and you have no control over them, but they will still cause you to be PO.

Being PO is destructive, can cause feeling of stress, anger, rage even. How many times have you seen some poor bugger leaning continually on his horn, which seems to be the motoring equivalent of a primal scream. Has no effect on the cause, and its value as a vent is questionable.

A couple of tools that work for me, your mileage may vary.

Anticipation. Recognise its a crowded planet, and other people will be sharing the space you need to use. You may be able to cover your commute in ten short minutes if no one else is about, but it is unrealistic to expect everyone else to stay off the road just because you want them to. Leave early. Travel and arrive relaxed. Listen to the gentle melodies on the radio, not thrash metal. Try it, even if just one time. It works for me, and the analogy of driving to work can be adapted to many other situations.

You are basically preventing or minimising external factors from impacting on you, and thus causing internal feelings of PO as well. It’s a win win situation.

Acceptance. Accept the path of your life will be mined, dug up, confused, covered in effluent or worse. Your control over your destiny is mostly an illusion. Accept that no one else cares about what you want right now. It’s not their problem. It may help to think of them as puppies, or unruly children, or homicidal maniacs, or basically unpredictable, illogical, unthinking, and mostly unintended. They have their own goals, their own priorities. They might be impeding you, but that doesn’t always make them bad people. And, always remember, you are quite possibly the cause of someone else feeling the same PO emotions.  

As for self induced PO, try being mindful of yourself. After a few years as a adult, you will have slumped into a number of behaviours which are unhelpful or even harmful. Perhaps I should go for that run, but would it help to try some brisk walks first. Little and achievable victories really help. You cannot go from multiple years of cake abuse to a perceived body ideal in a matter of weeks. But if you start to eat less and move more, it will become attainable, eventually. It is beyond the scope of what I am ready to write today, but mindfulness, marginal gains, and habit forming are all things you could look up, to see if these will trodden paths can help you.    

Anticipation and acceptance. That is today’s message, even if only to remind me, that I am but one of many.

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Have a gentle day.