5 Things I Wish I Had Done Before My Laptop BURNED OUT.

So, I’m stressed right now. Very, very stressed. I have just had my computer crash and lost a week worth of work. Send the thing in to be checked, but there is no guarantee anything can be recovered. Which leaves me finishing a pile of work that I had already done. Annoying? Yes, very. Even Jon’s giving me quiet space to do my work, so I’m guessing it’s very noticeable that I am angry and stressed beyond words.

So here are five things I wish I had done before my laptop burned out, as a caution to myself and to others who take their work as lightly as I do.

1: Deliver things as soon as they’re done.

If you’re writing for work or for a magazine or volunteer group, deliver everything as soon as it’s finished. The only thing worse than losing a load of work is losing a load of work that has been ready to go for 24-48h and that I’ve been postponing. Writing over 40k words all over again in a night is the worst experience imaginable, worse than writing it in the first place. Do yourself a favour and don’t mess up like I did: deliver fast.

2: Set online backups.

Most computers today come with the option of online backups. Create an account and back up your most important work, updating it daily. It sounds like a lot of stress, but it is a life-saver in the long run. Many of my personal work files, such as my books, are saved on Amazon or my email account, which is brilliant to know!

3: Keep external backups.

Even so, try and keep external backups. I am usually good for this, every six months or so. Shame my last backup was exactly that long ago. Ouch. I think more regular backups of certain folders may be required. If the folder is updated every month, then two or three months should be the absolute minimum for backup. Plus, it’s a good safeguard against online formats breaking down.

4: Keep an eye on known problems and keep up to date.

I had no chance to guess this one. Apparently it was just the result of regular use for several years, including the usual issues of running it too long every once in a while and the odd bump. Still, it might have been in my best interest to bear in mind the issues that come with an aging laptop and to run more backups after the second year. When this bad boy is two years old I will definitely be running more regular backups and treating it more gently.

5: Save important work as you go.

I found this out the hard way the first time around as well. I think we have all at some point written several hours worth of work and research, only to have the computer crash, the session time out, the internet die or just to click “do not save” instead of “save”. So we learn to hit the save button at least every sentence and eventually find a happy medium of saving every few paragraphs. Well, that’s where I am right now. From now on I am going to store my most important work in various file systems and save it there whenever I make changes.

All I want is my books back. 😦

Any tips for feeling so stressed you’re about to be sick? It hasn’t gone since last week.

TTFN and Happy Saving!

 

For help starting out homemaking, check out The ESSENTIAL Beginner Homemaker’s Guide. For help budgeting all your everday and not-so-everyday essentials, from food to transport to clothes, check out On A Budget: The good homemaker’s guide to economizing.
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5 Things To Give Up When You Feel Like Giving Up.

Some days everything gets on top of us. We’ve all been there. Maybe it’s a looming deadline with no possibility of timely completion. Maybe it’s a confusing point in a book you just can’t wrap your head around. Maybe someone has left their laundry on the stairs one too many times. Maybe you managed to break something you need and can’t readily replace. Or maybe something tiny just happened and it was the straw that broke the poor camel’s back.

Whatever it is, it makes us throw our hands in the air, roll our eyes, tug at our hair and say “That’s it, I give up!”

So, for when these days hit us and hit us hard, here are the five best things to give up when you feel like giving up.

1: Give up bad feelings.

Sometimes it’s easy to let bad feelings get the best of us, especially when we are overwhelmed. But these feelings do nothing to improve our situation. If anything, they make our lives and everyone else’s worse.

For anger: Go and do something physical to burn off the steam. Keep your thoughts in your head and work through them before bringing them up to someone else.

For despair: Go somewhere quiet and practice your breathing. Look for the good things you still have.

For guilt and blame: Ask yourself whether blaming will get you a solution. If not, accept that someone or something caused the problem and let it go. Promise yourself not to bring blame up against yourself or others in the future.

For weariness: Go and have a lie down and a hot drink. Slowly ponder solutions to your problem in a practical way.

2: Give up boredom and routine.

Sometimes we’re just caught on a hamster wheel of daily habits and we just need to get on with things. And then we get thrown off and it feels like we will never catch up.

For those days when your routine is boring you, you are getting slow and failing to meet your schedule or deadlines, call it out. Go for an extra coffee break at work. Crunch your numbers in the morning and do you emails in the afternoon. Go walking at lunch time. Put housework aside and paint for an hour.

Just push your routine aside for a bit and enjoy your day.

3: Give up bad habits.

Sometimes we are our own worst enemy. We start doing things that are directly self-sabotaging and don’t even think twice about them until the inevitable results happen and then, like a smoker struggling to breathe after a flight of stairs, we wonder why we picked up the habit to begin with.

If we are routinely running late for deadlines, perhaps we ought to reconsider our procrastination habits or accepting so much work. If we are often breaking glasses and plates, perhaps we ought to get some pretty plastic dinnerware. If we keep making ourselves ill with overwork, perhaps we ought to consider the work-illness ratio of effectiveness and take it easy once in a while.

Try and live for maximum health and mental wellbeing. Don’t let anything get in the way of that, however “important” it seems to stay busy.

4: Give up perfection.

Sometimes we get in the way of a perfectly good day by looking at five minutes of it and declaring “that wasn’t good enough”. How many times has a morning went really well only for you to break your favourite mug and declare the day ruined? If you’re anything like me… too many times. Why does that one moment have to define our days?

If something genuinely serious happens, then sure, our day is ruined. But a small issue like breaking a mug has not made our morning any less pleasant and has not set the tone for the rest of the day. Make a commitment to being happy, no matter what happens, and to letting the little things slide. When you do this your life will have a massive reduction in drama and frustration.

5: Give up fretting.

It’s a bit of a cop-out to tell a stressed person to stop being stressed. But it’s easier to stop fretting than to stop stressing, and if you leave frets behind, the stress will soon follow.

Sometimes we just let things get the better of us. This is sort of the other side to the coin of perfectionism. When you know that getting one thing “wrong” can ruin your day, you worry about making sure everything is perfect. Which means we end up stressing about problems that haven’t even happened.

When you feel like giving up, ask yourself if the day is salvageable or whether the whole world has truly ground to a halt. Generally, you will find something to enjoy from the day and something to look forward to. Push the worries out of your thoughts, tell yourself off for thinking about them and focus on actual solutions.

I guarantee you, it will feel better.

TTFN and Happy Hunting!

How do you deal with it when you feel like the whole day/week/year/world is ruined?

 

For help starting out homemaking, check out The ESSENTIAL Beginner Homemaker’s Guide. For help budgeting all your everday and not-so-everyday essentials, from food to transport to clothes, check out On A Budget: The good homemaker’s guide to economizing.

10 Things In Defence Of Adult Colouring Books.

Adult colouring books are a surprisingly divisive topic. On the one hand their lovers declare they’re just a bit of harmless fun. On the other their opponents believe they’re a marker of how infantile their users and our society have become.

Generally I find myself siding with the less emotional argument. Which in this case is that they are an infantile pursuit. However, this time the less emotional argument still has an emotional foundation. What emotional foundation? That we should necessarily eschew things that are infantile in favour of more mature pursuits, and that we should have a lesser opinion of people whose pursuits are not highly intellectual or explicitly adult.

And I don’t think that’s right. Because there are many reasons to engage in infantile habits and hobbies, some of them far more valid than attempting to maintain an appearance of maturity. So here are ten reasons why adult colouring books are beneficial, from least to most significant.

1: Fun.

Everyone likes to have fun in some way. The only people who avoid having fun to appear mature are those who never progressed beyond the teenage mentality that maturity is boring. Humans like to have fun. The sensation of “fun” is your body telling you that you are either learning a life skill (risky fun) or safe and secure (quiet fun). If it feels good, chances are it’s because on some level you need it. Not all good feels will be contextually appropriate, but not all of them are sinful or harmful either.

So before I address the other positive aspects of adult colouring books, I’d like to raise the first, most central point: there are many hobbies as pointless, unproductive, unintellectual and infantile as this. In fact, there are many that are moreso. If you see it as appropriate to attack colouring books, then you should probably also set your sights on video games, TV, chance-based board games, trash fiction, most films, shopping, casual blogging, social media, listening to music, etc.

2: Inexpensive.

Plus, something adult colouring has on most of those hobbies, is that it’s actually pretty cheap. The books are sometimes costly, but you can always buy printable versions or photocopy a book or find one on the cheap. And compared to a night out, a new DVD, a game, a restaurant meal or a cinema ticket, even the priciest colouring books are actually pretty cheap.

3: Motor function improvement.

In the modern world we often find ourselves engaging in repetitive motions at work. Typing, clicking, sorting, carrying, pressing buttons, steering. Most jobs are UNIT jobs, that basically means you are one tiny gear and your job is to turn clockwise until you sign off. This can actually affect your muscle memory, cause cramping of hand and arm muscles and mess with your coordination out of work, like the stereotypical powerlifter who doesn’t know his own strength. Like most fine-tuned activities, colouring improves your hand-eye coordination, your eye focus, your hand steadiness and your hand’s range of motion. You may not be an expert artist, but after a while you start using a variety of motions and techniques to get these tiny, precise patches coloured.

4: Attention span improvement.

With the nature of most modern work and entertainment, most people’s attention spans are awful. We’re used to immediate gratification, swapping from tab to tab, pausing our films and TV shows, checking social media every two minutes… Having something you can sit down to and immerse yourself in does wonders for patience, attention, comfort and general serenity.

5: Normalizes relaxation.

Between the flood of women entering the workforce, the decline in small business and the desperate need to compete in the market, political forces, companies and activists alike go on about the sanctity of work. From one extreme, where Marxists believe all your labour should be yours, to the other where Nationalists believe all your labour should serve your people; from feminists claiming that women need to work as many hours as men in the same roles, to anti-feminists claiming that women’s work is generally less useful than men’s, monetized work seems to be the only value anyone has any more.

Which means the pressure to work hard and never relax is immense. Taken to the extreme, we get the stereotypical Japanese businessman. It isn’t actually good. But most of our entertainment options are presented as social, energetic options by force. Go to a party, go hiking, do some networking, go dancing… Having a widely approved and supported hobby that is actually calm and quiet could do society wonders.

6: Brain-stimulating.

Believe it or not, your brain is very much active when you do things like colouring. By focusing on shapes, patterns and repetition we engage the part of our brains that deals with number and space problems. By indulging in bright colours we engage the part of our brains that gains pleasure from pretty things. By developing our motor skills we engage the part of the brain involved in proprioception and detailed work. By working through different colours and balancing them we engage the part of the brain that naturally leans toward creativity. Unlike zoning out to a screen or knee-jerk-arguing on facebook, colouring is actually very good for your mental functions as a whole.

7: Family oriented.

Again, a lot of modern hobbies fall short here. We live in a culture that worships the individual so much that few hobbies engage more than one or two people at a time. Reading, blogging and cooking are preferably solitary activities. Clubbing, social networking or watching TV are engaged in by everyone, but rarely together any more. Sports, shopping or games can be social but are usually only appreciated by one or two members of the family.

However colouring is actually pretty good for everyone. Those with artistic talent can draw. Those without can colour. Children get their colouring books. Adults get theirs. Sharing time and space like that, helping each other out and taking it easy could be just what your family needs on, for example, a Friday night.

8: Productivity.

I could easily list a large number of highly productive hobbies. But the most common relaxation habits among modern humans are not productive. Watching TV, social networking, playing simple games, reading trash and shopping are not productive, especially not in the way most people use them. However colouring, as we have seen, has many benefits. It is productive in that it’s actually good for you. And it’s productive in that at the end you have a completed object to show for it, which in and of itself is also rewarding.

9: Stress relief.

We’re all stressed. We work fast-paced, low-reward, high-contact, high-pressure jobs. Even if one trait is absent in your job, the other three are probably there. When we don’t work such jobs we feel stressed because we’re not doing enough. Stress relief is vital for humans to function. We’re not designed to be continually pumping adrenaline and epinephrine into our systems. We need to get some dopamine, serotonin and GABA in there as well. Otherwise you end up… well, like me. Except most people don’t need to be stuck in that sort of a loop.

By relieving stress with a simple, mentally stimulating, quiet, low-pressure activity you can make yourself better able to function at work, in your social circles and in life in general.

10: Natural creativity.

The big one. Humans are naturally creative. We want to create, to produce, to make marks and sounds and shapes. It’s what got us so far to begin with, combined with our deep curiosity.

But unless they are exceptionally talented or have the time to develop a skill, most people will never create wonderful art. There just isn’t the time, the financial incentive or the resources to make everyone a great artist. If we want to unleash our natural creativity we can write poems, compose story plots, doodle… and now we also have the option to do a colouring book page.

I personally have never had to use a colouring book. Not since I was very little, anyway. But I’m not some sort of a snob who thinks that just because someone can’t draw as well as me, they should miss out on the colouring. Colouring is fun. It’s relaxing. It’s productive and healthy and engaging. And if that’s how you want to let out some creativity, then by all means go ahead.

TTFN and Happy Hunting.

What do you think about adult colouring books? What do you do in your spare time? Do you think there is ever anything “too infantile” for an adult’s hobby, if the rest of their life is in order?

The 7 Sins of the Modern World.

In Western society we have all heard of the seven cardinal sins. And, whilst it’s a Christian concept, pretty much every person in every society can see why they are viewed so negatively. Pride is not only unpleasant to be around, it can motivate people to act in their own best interests rather than those of the group. Wrath is dangerous to a society, the wrathful person and their victims. Envy can be a motivator behind violence and more unpleasant activities. Lust undermines the romantic and political structures behind human relationships. Greed can encourage people to focus only on themselves, or to work only for unconsumable rewards, again interfering with society’s function as well as being irritating. Gluttony can make the sinner unhealthy as well as risking an imbalanced divide of consumables, causing starvation. Sloth makes people unproductive, encourages them to rely on the work of others and is a general bane to society.

And, just as most people in most societies understand the problems the cardinal sins bring, most people and most cultures have their own examples that spring to mind when these sins are mentioned. In the West, we picture the arrogant businessman with an inflated sense of self importance as Pride, the angry harpy beating her boyfriend over every misdemeanor as Wrath, the teenager keying his wealthier classmate’s car as Envy, the amateur “stripper” with a partner count in the 100s as Lust, the elitist CEO driving third world workers to death as Greed, the morbidly obese hedonist gourmet-meets-gourmand as Gluttony and the bone-idle thirty-something shutaway living off their parents and the dole as Sloth.

But we have these views because they disconnect us from the reality of these sins. These extreme examples are extreme because of how massively they impact those affected. But they are hardly the most common manifestations of these sins. Each is more common and just as extreme in our daily lives, and whilst the impact of one or two people engaging in these behaviours is small, their collective impact is destroying our society.

Pride = Entitlement

Pride is an overinflated sense of self-worth accompanied by an expression of that sense and often poor self-esteem. Basically, a proud person believes they are very important whilst harbouring volatile insecurity beneath the surface. Hence “pride goes before destruction”, as the inevitable result of pride is the cracking of the shell.

And nowhere is pride more evident in our society than in our fragile and all-encompassing sense of entitlement. Often confused with narcissism, this form of pride comes young. Children already display it in a way not evidenced in tribal or pre-1900s societies. It is the obsession with your own worth, the idea that you deserve everything you want, that every denial is injust, that everyone who dislikes you is jealous and everyone who loves you does so for the right reasons. It is born of a combination of easygoing parenting, extreme wealth and a deep fear of abandonment and hatred. Whenever pride is denied or the illusion is broken, a feeling of resentment and fear ensues.

It may manifest as an expectation that you’ll get a certain gift for valentine’s, a desire to be deeply loved by everyone or a need to get your ideal car, at your ideal price, regardless of all context.

Wrath = Stress

Wrath is intense, uncontrolled anger, normally born from vengeful desires. Basically, a wrathful person is quick to anger, sensitive to other people’s anger, quick to act on their anger and often paranoid.

Wrath in our society is actually a more subtle sin. Due to careful indoctrination in schools, extreme policing and careful observation of our social rules by both individuals and organizations, there aren’t many vents for anger. Not only is this bad for general irritability, as bottling your anger isn’t very good for you, but it’s even worse in terms of wrath. When you bottle rightful anger and wrath together, you can lose sight of what is a helpful emotion designed to tell you what is harming you, and what is a rooted desire for vengeance and destruction. When this happens, we begin to pile straw onto the camel’s back. Everything gets mixed up and causes stress. Because we’re angry, frustrated, wrathful and can’t express it, identify it, deal with it. Stress is your body’s response to danger. And when we harbour wrath we can’t act on, we feel endangered, hurt and start to become stressed.

Of course, not all stress is born of wrath. A lot of stress comes from exhaustion, overworking, etc. But, then again, some of the most effective stress release therapies involve violent outbursts. Boxing, pillow-screaming, stress balls, punching pillows, martial arts… Think of how many people do that to let off steam. Consider how much wrath could be behind their stress, unaddressed.

Envy = Debt

Envy is a desire for something that someone else has, usually largely because they happen to have it. Basically, an envious person wants to own the things that others have. They would not want them if the other person did not have them or enjoy them. They feel an acute pain when someone else has something good and they desire it.

Just to be clear, I am not saying debt is envy. Rather, a lot of debt in modern Western societies is the manifestation of envy: its physical result in the real world. Some people will be in debt due to a crisis: sudden unemployment, illness and injury, fire in an uninsured home, etc. But this isn’t the case for the vast majority of Western people. The vast majority are in debt because we spend beyond our means, buy pointless things and always need to upgrade. Students who get engineering degrees are rarely in debt for very long. They get out, get work and pay off their debt. But students who aren’t bright or qualified enough for an engineering degree would rather accumulate debt they can’t repay in a marxist film theory degree than be “outshone” by the engineers. People with good money can afford yearly new cars and £1M houses. People without good money will use credit, mortgages and installments to live a good money lifestyle.

Most individuals are in debt because a friend, relative, celebrity or random person on TV showed themselves to have more than the individual had, so the individual got a degree, a car, a house, etc to compete with everyone else. Keeping up with the Joneses is envy that begets debt.

Lust = Porn

Whereas envy is a reactive desire: wanting what someone else has because they have it, lust is an active desire: wanting something because it is. Lust is perceived as an integral, animalistic drive, following your baser instincts rather than taught behaviours. It is usually connected to sex, as sex is the strongest source of spontaneous attraction to humans, often coming before food.

I know this one has been done into the dust, but it has because it’s true. Lust in our society manifests primarily in our consumption of pornographic materials. And boy do we consume them. Pornographic content is available at the touch of a button online, composing around 5% of websites and getting more traffic than Netflix. There are also forums and message boards dedicated to it. And where it’s viewed as a man’s problem, people are starting to become aware that when women feel the urge, we are just as likely to go to a porn site. To add to that, we have the traditional sources of porn: magazines, erotica, photos, both in their old forms and online forms. Furthermore, we have become so obsessed with sex that we need to talk about who is or isn’t having it, what is appropriate to do in your private bedroom and whether breastfeeding is sexual. We are so obsessed that we now use sex icons to sell fairly innocuous products and all sorts of items, for men, women and teens alike, are sold using sex.

When we watch videos worshiping the female behind, when we buy a product that was sold using sex, when we consume erotica, pornographic videos or “soft” pictures, we are indulging lust. And almost nobody is exempt.

Greed = Workaholism

Greed is “excessive aquisitiveness”, or the desire to possess more than you need. Basically, the greedy person is a hoarder, wanting to accumulate beyond what they could possibly ever use. They never have enough, whatever they add to the hoard becomes the new “baseline” they never want to drop below. They just keep accumulating.

Greed in our society is manifest as workaholism. Now, again, we’re not talking about the actual medical condition where someone is basically addicted to the work itself. We’re talking about the far more common form: the addiction to earning. These are the people who ate their jobs and do the bare minimum for their hourly pay, but will do extra hours, extra work and take on secondary jobs to get more money in the bank. They will then use that money to buy material goods to hoard or boast of, or events and experiences to boast of. All that matters is accumulating enough wealth. And most people indulge in greed to a degree.

Yet thanks to a combination of greed, pride and envy, we don’t realize how greedy or jealous we actually are, as we will spend right the way to the edge of every paycheck trying to keep up with the Joneses. Plenty of people survive on 4-10k/year in Western countries. Yet a workaholic with a 200k paycheck and 100k in debt feels like they are living a bare basics lifestyle when, in fact, they are consumed by greed and envy.

Gluttony = Obesity

Gluttony is often confused with greed. Gluttony is the permanent desire for consumable goods and an overconsumption of them when they get them. Basically, a glutton is someone who longs for more food than they need and regularly indulges that longing.

And our manifestation of gluttony is obesity. Now, you could argue that gluttony is also manifest as gourmets, gourmands and bulimics. But these people, even added up, do not make up a half to two thirds of any given population. We are surrounded by food and the only people who are not truly gluttonous are those who eat the amount they need to sustain themselves and eat largely if not wholly for sustenance. So two thirds of the population is already excluded and that’s without counting thin people who suffer from binge eating disorders, who obsess over food, who eat only for pleasure and not for health. In short, we live in such a time of abundance that not only is the temptation to be greedy strong, there are few among us who haven’t succumbed to it.

Sloth = Infantilism

Finally, we get to sloth. Sloth is an aversion to work or activity, not at all limited to the physical. Basically, a slothful person will be work-shy, physically idle and therefore unfit, uninclined to make up their own minds about anything, needing to have their opinions and ideas fed to them, fond of mindless entertainment, etc.

As you have probably guessed, sloth is as prevalent in our society as pride, gluttony and envy. Probably more prevalent. And it is because of taught infantilism. Infantilism is the state of being mentally younger than your biological age. Taught infantilism is when that state is not a result of disability, but of upbringing. And every generation is more and more infantilized. We are hand-held through life. Our parents guard and protect us from bad images on TV, insults and fights with siblings. Our parents can’t punish their children efficiently any more. The government coddles and stunts children. We know no suffering, no pain, no fear, no injury, no insult. Too many children never hear “no”. Between weak parenting and government intrusion, many people don’t mentally mature beyond the age range 8-13, leaving them overly sensitive to insult, insecure, with abandonment issues, unable to look after themselves, relying heavily on the government for their income, safety, education, security, decision-making, etc.

The results of infantilism are fairly evident. Children need to look up to their parents, trust teachers and siblings, learn from their elders, rely on others to make decisions for them, etc. That is the natural order. But in an adult who should be robust, mature and independent those behaviours are just slothful. Someone who needs a comfortable car to go everywhere, who needs to be told who to vote for, who needs someone to protect them whenever they choose to intoxicate themselves, who needs to slap them on the wrist when they hurt themselves… that person is as slothful as someone who never gets up from the sofa.

Sins = Chaos

So there are the seven cardinal sins, why they are a problem whether you are Christian or not, religious or not and how they manifest in our society. You needn’t have any faith at all to realize that cardinal sins are sins because they mess things up for everyone and shouldn’t be done.

But as a population and as individuals we regularly indulge the seven sins. It’s quite likely that at least half the population gives into all seven over the course of a week and doesn’t even realize they have done it. We expect to be catered to by everyone and guarded from ourselves by the government, but we don’t see our pride and sloth. We obsess over earning more, getting good credit, all so we can get a car that our mate Dave has been showing off, but we don’t see envy, greed and pride. We overeat and get fat, but we don’t see gluttony and sloth. We long for every item we see for sale, but we don’t see greed, lust, pride, and envy. We get overly anxious at work because we aren’t earning enough and need a promotion to pay off our mortgage faster, but we don’t see greed, envy and wrath. We treat each other as objects, trying to extort money, sex, attention, all sorts of things out of the people who pass through our lives, but we don’t see lust, pride and greed. As a population we are consumed by the seven cardinal sins. And our society is a perfect example of why these sins are so much of a problem.

We can move beyond it on an individual level. We will all succumb to them from time to time, but we can at least strive to be modest, unselfish, calm, kind, loving, active, restrained and mature, to make the most of what we have, enjoy others successes, strive for our own success and be moderate in all we consume and use. But unless 99% of the Western world adopted that approach, we will be a drop of water in the ocean.

What do you think? Do you agree on the modern representations of the sins? Do you fight them, or do you “enjoy the decline”? How do you deal with people who display all these problems? Share your thoughts, knowledge and experiences in the comments!

TTFN and Happy Hunting.