A Moratorium on YouTube

In 2013, my New Years Resolution was to stop mindlessly watching TV after work.  At that time, I was living and working in Red Deer, Alberta and I had cable.  I didn’t have a huge package with loads of channels, but I did have the two most important channels (for me): HGTV and the Food Network.  Due to the shortage of jobs in my field (and also to my own stupidity) I had been unemployed for some time before moving to Alberta.  I was unaccustomed to working full time and, for the first few months that I lived away, it was a tough transition.  I found myself spending far too many evenings lounging on my couch, mindlessly watching House Hunters and Chopped.

These shows are fine and I still love watching HGTV and the Food Network, but I was getting bored.  I was spending hours watching TV shows that I wasn’t engaged in and didn’t really care about.  I wasn’t excited about watching them or experiencing any joy or happiness, I was just tired after work and wanted to be halfway amused without making any real effort.  This was, in my opinion, an enormous waste of time.

If you can manage it (and I definitely could at that point), time away from work should be spent doing things that make you happy.  Things to which you are devoting 100% of your attention and that are bringing you a great deal of joy.  It could be watching TV series or reading or knitting or playing video games or sports.  It could be spending time with your family or friends or your partner.  In my opinion, no free time is wasted as long as you’re wholeheartedly enjoying yourself.

I’ve been wasting too much of my free time lately, mostly on YouTube.

We have cable in our home, but I don’t use it.  Since I went back to work in 2016, I have replaced HGTV and the Food Network with YouTube.  If I can’t decide what I want to do or I’ve had a tough day at the office and I can’t be bothered to make an effort to entertain myself, I watch YouTube videos.  Like most folks, I have some weird things that I like (studio apartment tours, Van Life home tours, videos about Japanese food) and a slate of YouTube channels that I watch on a regular basis.  I will also sometimes spend hours watching videos about a topic I’d like to learn about.  Sometimes all this can be valuable time spent and can be relaxing, but recently I feel like I’m spending too much time watching recommended videos from my home page that I am not particularly engaged by or interested in.

I want to spend my time in treatment doing things that bring me joy and enrich my life.  I don’t want to waste my free time vegging out with YouTube.  From today on I am going to stop being so lazy and put more effort into having fun.  Here’s a short list of things I’ll be doing instead of watching YouTube videos:

Re-watching my favourite anime series

When I’m working, I often feel a bit guilty about watching shows I’ve already seen, reading books I’ve already read or playing video games I’ve already played.  I have a unique opportunity right now, however, to revisit some of my favourites.  I think that this will be fun, relaxing and a great source of comfort.

Playing simple video games

Normally, I play a lot of console video games; however, since starting chemotherapy, I have had significant issues with neuropathy in my hands and fingers.  This makes it difficult for me to play games on handheld consoles or using a controller.  Fortunately, I can still play simple mouse and keyboard games, such as as visual novels and adventure games.  I have a nice backlog of simple PC games already installed on my laptop that I hope to start playing soon.

Reading books

I often think that going to school for as long as I did ruined reading for me.  After finishing my two degrees, I associated reading books with work and not with relaxation.  I am ashamed to admit that I haven’t spent much time reading since 2008.  Since I haven’t been able to play video games the way I could prior to my diagnosis, however, I have been reading constantly.  My goal is to get through 2-3 books per month while I am in treatment.

Playing with my new puppy

We will be bringing home our new puppy from the breeder on February 19th.  I am assuming that house and obedience training will be taking up a good chunk of my time from that day forward.  I am so excited that I can hardly contain myself.  I have a significant update to share on our puppy situation, but that can wait until we get her home and settled.  Please look out for it.

There plenty of other ways that I can purposefully and joyfully spend my free time, but it is my hope that these will be my focus over the coming weeks.  I will still watch YouTube from time to time, but I don’t want to let it swallow so many hours from now on.  Do you sometimes feel like you aren’t spending enough of your free time doing things that actually bring you joy?  Do you have any YouTube guilty pleasures that you can get lost in for hours?  Let me know!  I’d love to hear all about them!

 

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Media Round-up for 28/01/2018

This might be one of the oddest combinations for reviews I’ve come across in a long time: a collection of Oprah’s columns from her magazine and a hentai game.  Oh well, we all know I like trying a little of everything!

Oprah Winfrey – What I Know for Sure

what_i_know_for_sureWhat I Know for Sure is a collection of Oprah’s columns of the same name, originally published in O magazine.  Each essay is essentially a lesson about something that Oprah has learned for certain over the course of her life and I would say that the tone of the essays is generally inspirational.  What I Know for Sure isn’t the type of book that I would normally reach for, but a YouTuber I follow mentioned that it had been a source of comfort and inspiration to her and, since I am in an excellent position to absorb things that are comforting and inspirational, I thought I would give it a try.

While I did enjoy most of this book, some of the anecdotes made me shake my head at Oprah’s overwhelming privilege.  For example, one of the lessons in the Joy chapter was that one should always look after themselves as carefully as they look after others.  This is a profound idea that can be a struggle for so many of us and the fact that she spends a great deal of time in this book discussing self-care in general is fantastic.  In order to teach readers this particular lesson, however, Oprah employs a story about hiring a famous devotional singer to perform at her birthday party, something she wasn’t willing to do for herself alone and only thought of arranging once she learned that one of her close friends also liked the singer.  Why, Oprah’s friends wondered, couldn’t she have hired the singer for her birthday alone?  Why did she need to do it for someone else rather than doing it for herself?  As I said, the sentiment here is good, but the story is a problem for the wealthy and I found myself rolling my eyes as I read it.

Overall, however, despite a few missteps, several of the chapters of the book were extremely powerful for me, particularly the chapters on Resilience, Gratitude and Connection.  I agree with many of the principles that she discusses, such as the idea that no other person can make you happy if you aren’t happy with yourself, a topic that I spent some time talking about earlier this week.  I also greatly admire Oprah’s commitment to life long learning and completely agree with her when she asks… “when you stop learning, you cease to grow and subconsciously tell the universe you’ve done it all — nothing new for you. So why are you here?”

If you’re into Oprah’s particular brand of radical self love and you like reading inspirational literature, I think that What I Know for Sure is a great book to have in your collection.  I think that this book is best read when you need a short, easy to digest pick-me-up.  If you’re having a bad day, read a column or two and you might find a little extra energy to get on with it.

HuniePop

huniepopIn the video game community, HuniePop is more than a little notorious.  It’s an OEL (original English language) soft hentai game where the player can date and/or sleep with potential anime girl mates by solving match-three puzzles.  I would say that the match-three gameplay is a cross between Bejeweled/Candy Crush and You Must Build a Boat (YMBAB).  The puzzle aspect of the game is well-designed and super fun to play.  At any given time, you can hang out with one of the game’s available female characters (you can play as a male or female protagonist, but all of the dateable characters are female).  You can ask them questions about themselves to earn currency, give them gifts to increase your reputation with them, or you can go out on dates.

The dates are where the match-three puzzles happen.  In order to successfully complete a date, you must match adjacent tiles to earn a set number of points in a set number of moves.  Each colour of tile has a characteristic associated with it and each character has a favourite characteristic, which will yield more points.  If you are able to complete several dates with one character, she will eventually join you at your home and have sex with you which involves a bonus puzzle, some poorly voice-acted moaning and a topless illustration of the character.

All in all, I found HuniePop to be disappointing.  I love romance in video games and the otome visual novel (a romantic choose-your-own-adventure genre aimed at women) is one of my favourite game genres.  Unfortunately, HuniePop lacks the emotional depth that I like to see in romance games and the character interactions consist only of surface-level fan-service.  The characters are poorly developed and the only information you learn about them is similar to what you might find in a profile of a popular boy band member in a teen magazine (height, weight, favourite colour, favourite hobby, etc…).  None of the scenarios I encountered were even remotely romantic or revealed anything deeper about the characters involved.  The game’s only surviving grace is its excellent match-three gameplay.

Media Round-up for 21/01/2018

The Blacklist

blacklistThe Blacklist is the first episodic law enforcement procedural that I have enjoyed in years.  I’ve been speeding through seasons 1-3 (I watched them some time ago and wanted a refresher) so that I can enjoy season 4,  If I had to compare the Blacklist to another series, I’d say that it’s quite similar to the J. J. Abrams spy drama, Alias.  I feel like Alias is much maligned these days, but it remains one of my favourite TV series of all time (the first three seasons anyway, after that it really does go downhill).  The Blacklist has a similar structure that I find to be highly entertaining.

The show features two main protagonists: FBI agent Elizabeth Keen (Meghan Boone) and Raymond Reddington (James Spader).  Raymond Reddington is a former high level US Intelligence officer turned notorious criminal (number 1 on the FBI’s Most Wanted list).  One day, he turns himself in to the FBI in Washington, DC with a plan to assist them in capturing a list of criminals (the Blacklist) that are so nefarious, the FBI is unaware of their existence.  Reddington states that the only FBI agent he will work with directly is Elizabeth Keen, a profiler who is, on that same day, just starting a new position with the Bureau.

Shenanigans and James Spader spy badassery ensue.  It’s pretty damned fun.  I’ve always enjoyed the monster-of-the-week plus interesting overarching plot format.  The supporting cast is good and, of course, James Spader is incredible.  A lot of the overarching plots are a bit ridiculous, but I’m a sucker for high drama.  I’d say that the only aspects of the show that grow tiresome over the first two seasons are the roller coaster relationship between Elizabeth Keen and her husband, Tom, and Elizabeth’s ever-changing feelings about Reddington.  The nature of their true relationship isn’t revealed until, as far as I can tell, season 4 and, in my opinion, this is drawing things out a little too much.  Elizabeth waffles between cursing Reddington, reminding us constantly about how evil he is, and then also clearly caring for him a great deal.  This is probably what any normal person would do in her situation, but it starts to grate a bit if you’re binge-watching.

All-in-all, I would recommend this show to pretty well anyone.  I know it’s difficult these days to justify trying out what looks like it could be a fairly standard police procedural (there are so many now and they’re mostly bad), but I think the Blacklist is definitely worth a try.  James Spader’s performance alone, in my opinion, is worth it.

Lisa Morosky – The Bootstrap VA

bootstrap vaAs I said in my Goals for 2018 posts, I am in the midst of evaluating my options for a career change.  Right now, I’m not completely certain as to what my plan will be, but I do know that I am interested in working online so that I can be more flexible and location neutral.  I am also at a point in my life where I feel like the best way for me to obtain real satisfaction in my career will be to start my own business.  One of the options that I have been considering is working as a virtual assistant.

Lisa Morosky’s book covers a lot of the basics that anyone would need to start a virtual assisting business.  I would say, though, that this book is an excellent and straightforward primer to working as a freelancer online in any capacity.  She has provided advice on productivity and project management software, tracking expenses, marketing and getting and keeping clients.  All this is presented in a package that is easy to read and loaded with links to resources for further reading.  I particularly like the fact that Morosky has clearly outlined business elements that a VA will absolutely need to have before starting their business, along with other elements that can be acquired or created as the business is growing and evolving.

I am thrilled that I read the Bootstrap VA at this moment.  It has provided me with so many ideas for how I can slowly start learning some new skills that will help me narrow down my goals.  The neuropathy in my hands has limited my options for what I can do with my free time, but I can certainly watch some webinars on social media marketing and search engine optimization and start working on my website.  It is my hope that, even if I decide eventually not to take the path of starting a VA business, I will be able to use a lot of what I learned from this book to find the right path for me.

Media Round-up 31/12/2017

This is my first Media Round-up.  Since I will be reading, watching, playing, and listening to a lot of media during my medical leave, I wanted to spend some time writing about all of it.  I often find reviews to be challenging to write, particularly music reviews (finding a vocabulary to express how you feel about music is very difficult), so I thought that this would be a good exercise for me.  I may change the format of these posts in the future, but for now I’m going for one post like this per week.

TV on the Radio – Seeds

Tvotr_-_seedsI’ve been a TV on the Radio fan since 2006, when a blogger I followed at the time included Return to Cookie Mountain in his list of top albums for that year.  I checked it out and fell in love.  2008’s Dear Science continues to be one of my favourite albums of all time and I think that Nine Types of Light has some some sublimely beautiful moments that surpass any of the band’s other albums.  Unfortunately, I don’t think that Seeds quite measures up to their previous efforts.  When it was first released in 2014, I was overwhelmed with gratitude that the band had decided to put out a new album at all, given the death of Gerard Smith (bass, keyboards).  At the time, however, I wasn’t that interested in listening to any challenging new music and set it aside until I was ready to give it the attention it deserved.

While I enjoyed Seeds, I wouldn’t say that it was worth a three and a half year wait.  The pacing of most TV on the Radio albums is always mixed, but Dear Science and Nine Types of Light felt like they had strong unifying themes (art funk and art funk slow jams respectively).  Seeds, however, jumps around a little too much for my taste.  The tracks feel more like a group of random songs than they do like a cohesive artistic statement — an aspect of the band’s work that I have always admired.  I would recommend Seeds to die-hard fans, but I would never suggest it for anyone that had never tried listening to TV on the Radio previously.  Return to Cookie Mountain, Dear Science, and Nine Types of Light are three of my favourite albums of all time and I would recommend them to just about anyone.  They’re not always easy to listen to and can be a bit challenging, but they’re worth it.  Lyrical quality above and beyond any other bands actively producing music right now.

Key tracks: “Quartz“, “Careful You“, “Love Strained“, “Right Now

 

You Must Build a Boatymbab

When it was released n 2015, You Must Build a Boat made a lot of Game of the Year lists.  I took note of it because I’m a sucker for match three games with RPG mechanics (I spent at least 100 hours playing the original Puzzle Quest when it was first released on Xbox 360).  You Must Build a Boat (or YMBAB) is an interesting combination of different gameplay genres, combining elements of match three, runners, rogue-likes and RPGs into an addictive package.  The aim of YMBAB is to increase the size of your boat by recruiting new crew members and monsters to accompany you on your journey.  The player accomplishes this by running through dungeons and defeating enemies in battle by successfully completing match three puzzle mechanics.  Along the way there are chests to open and traps that can freeze you and end your run.  Each run, at least for me, is very short and, fortunately, you get to keep any rewards earned when you fail.

I find YMBAB to be a significant challenge.  The match three mechanics are a little different than the Bejeweled standard of swapping adjacent tiles.  Puzzle and Dragons taught me that I am terrible at match three mechanics that deviate from the format I’m used to and the same applies to YMBAB.  While this can make the game a little frustrating for me, the knowledge that I am slowly working toward upgrades that will make the runs a little easier lessens that frustration quite a bit.  The game’s music is also great and makes multiple runs a little less frustrating, but there could be a lot more variety — as far as I know there is only one piece of music in the whole game.  If you like the track, you should be pretty happy, but if you’re not a fan, this could get a little annoying.

All in all, I would definitely recommend YMBAB to anyone who enjoys a good puzzle game.  I haven’t tried the mobile version, but the PC version is great for playing in short bursts when you need a break from something or you’re in-between things.  For me, however, I definitely prefer more traditional match three puzzlers like Puzzle Quest.

Maria Semple – Where’d you go, Bernadette?

wheredyougoThis year I will be participating in an online book club run by some users of ONTD (Oh No They Didn’t), a long-running celebrity gossip community on Livejournal.  Each month has a theme and participants can choose any book that fits and discuss their choices on ONTD or the community that they have created on Goodreads.  The theme for January is any book that will be adapted into a movie or TV series in 2018.

I chose Where’d you go, Bernadette because Richard Linklater (Dazed and Confused, Before Sunrise, Waking Life) is directing the film adaptation.  Since he has yet to make a film that I don’t like, I felt that this book would be a good choice for me.  I am now very curious about how the film will turn out because while I did enjoy the book and found it to be funny and well-written, I also felt that it was a bit vapid, which is something that you can’t say about any of Richard Linklater’s films.

Where’d you go, Bernadette is a story about the disappearance of Bernadette Fox, a wealthy architect turned housewife whose husband works for Microsoft.  The manner in which the story is presented is very interesting.  Most of the story is told chronologically in documents, such as emails, letters, faxes, articles, and reports.  Some gaps are filled by Bernadette’s daughter, Bee, in first person perspective.  As an archivist, I heartily enjoyed this format and felt like Semple did a great job of presenting the voices of different characters.

Many of the book’s characters, unfortunately, are impossibly unrealistic.  Bee is probably the easiest to relate to and I can sympathize a bit with her being a normal-sized personality (while super charming and smart)  growing up with parents that are a little off kilter.  The other characters, however, are difficult to relate to.  The examination of Bernadette’s mental illness and depression is interesting, but it’s difficult  to empathize with her, because there are no real consequences to any of her issues or actions.  This book isn’t intended to make any grand political statements, but I am at a point in my life where I don’t have much interest in the fluffy plights of super glamorous people with loads of money and their problems that they could easily pay money to work through.

My Media Round-ups will be posted every Sunday!  Please look forward to them!