Category Archives: General Fluff

What are your goals

Personal Goals and Single-Use Plastic

Quite a departure from my usual topics, I’ve been meaning to put this post together for months now. Would have been a good thing to write about in January, but hopefully my picking it up in August still makes sense. Also this probably should be two separate blog posts, but I didn’t just want to make a post called “single-use plastic” that was heavy on affiliate links but light on content. Instead, it’s a wall of text. Hurrah?

Personal goal setting

Every year I like to set a few personal goals. These are essentially New Year’s Resolutions as I set them in January, but I much prefer the term goal. Not sticking to something you “resolved” to do immediately frames itself as a failure. Goals feel more aspirational, and thus positive. “This year I’m going to try to achieve these things, and if I don’t, then I might try again next year”. I also find it useful to check in every few months during the year, to see how I’m doing, if I even still want to do these things, or if I want to adjust them a bit.

Fairly obvious ones:

  • I like to set a reading challenge on goodreads – although I also set a personal target of how many of them can be graphic novels (usually aim for 50% of the target with non-comics)
  • Diet, exercise, weight loss, same as everyone else
  • Career / professional development – these have focused around either changing jobs or continued study. I’ve been pretty good at achieving my goals in this area, but studying and working full time continues to take its toll.
  • Money, get a better grip of budgeting and the like. Generally one of those most likely to be carried forward every year. Haha.

Some things I’d like to do:

  • Previously this included starting a blog, then I had one to move to private hosting, and subsequent years have focused on keeping it going. This year I’ve tried to move towards proactively scheduling more posts in advance. Very much still a work in progress.
  • Now I’m on a podcast I’ve started to think about ways to develop that. At the moment I’m just trying to get ‘better’ at it.
  • Hardware projects, previous years included building my RetroPie arcade stick. I now have one to finish modding a Dreamcast arcade stick with better parts. Still in progress…

Finally, things I think I should do:

  • I always try to budget to be able to support things my creative friends put out, whether that’s people I know personally or ‘mutuals’ on Twitter. Not something I can always afford to do as much as I’d like, but I have been setting myself goals around my support of other people’s creativity i.e. via Patreon and Etsy. (Also, if I know you and you write a book, damn straight I’m going to buy it).
  • Tend to be one or two personal goals in here, and this year is the reason for this post. Pretty late to the game, I started with the simple intention of getting a reusable cup for the coffee shop, to avoid single use cups with plastic lids. (Yes I saw Blue Planet 2 and got the single-use plastic message as well). I also realised that by the end of last year, I was buying a 600 ml bottle of Pepsi Max every day. I decided I was done buying those plastic bottles, so the obvious extension was to buy a reusable water bottle too.

Falling down a single-use plastic rabbit hole

Disclaimer here: the links to products on Amazon are affiliate links, where I’ll get a small commission if you buy something. Secondary disclaimer: I am of course aware of the ethical issues around Amazon as a retailer. Feel free not to use them. However, these are the switches I’ve made this year, hopefully someone reading might discover something they’d like to try for themselves.

Travel cup

Travel Cup - Reducing single-use plastic

This was a bit of a challenge, it took me ages to decide what cup I wanted. I even bought new ceramic ones from HMV for me and my girlfriend, then discovered they don’t hold much liquid. Certainly not enough for a large mocha from my choice of coffee shop. (Didn’t stop me picking up a third one from NERG last month though). Then I realised that a Marvel Comics one my parents bought for me years ago was actually perfect, and have used it constantly since. My girlfriend went one better, and now has a bamboo one, like this. I’ll probably do that when my Marvel one dies, since I wouldn’t have chosen to buy a plastic one.


Water Bottle

Water bottle - Reducing Single-use Plastic

This was also difficult to decide which to get. A lot of the available ones have intricate “sipping” systems in the lids that make me think they would be difficult to clean. I went with a very simple metal bottle from Wilko that was about £5. I now have my eye on one of the fun designs from Chillys though.


Razors

Safety Razors

Probably the most daunting change, I decided I needed to stop buying plastic disposable razor head cartridges. The alternative meant getting involved in the whole “double edge safety razor” scene, and they are a bit terrifying. However, as well as being a great alternative to the plastic system I was used to, they’re incredibly cheap. I bought this Bamboo Razor Handle* and these 100 blades* which helpfully came with some shaving soap. I notice that the blades I bought are currently out of stock, there are plenty of options for these though. However, do check the packaging details. Some of the “Derby” branded ones have each 5 blades packaged in little single-use plastic cases. Pretty much defeats the point of making the change!

I am starting to get better at using the razor now too, although still manage to do myself minor injuries. Oops.


Toothbrush

Bamboo Toothbrushes - Reducing Single-use Plastic

An easy change, I was a bit sceptical at first as to what they’d be like to use, but I bought these bamboo toothbrushes* and have been very happy with them. I could do with a solution for my electric toothbrush too, but not sure what to do about that yet.


Sandwich wrap

Sandwich wrap

This was less about single-use plastic, but more the realisation that I was buying kitchen foil simply to wrap my lunch for work everyday. I assumed there must be a solution to this, and Google didn’t let me down, sending me to this Guardian article picking out 5 options. I had a look at them all, and decided to go with Re-Wrap-it. I’ve got this green and white one, because of course I have.


Metal Straws

So far I’ve resisted buying these as I very rarely use straws, but the deeply unsatisfying experience of a McDonald’s milkshake through a paper straw is making me consider it. More so given recent revelations that there are even issues with recycling the paper ones. These straws from Chilly’s are well regarded, but I’m tempted by the more portable, collapsible straw variety. I’m considering something like these straws from Amazon*, as I might actually remember to take them out with me.


Cling film

Something else I haven’t tried myself yet, but I’ve heard good things about using these bees wax wraps* as an alternative to cling film, so will probably give them ago.


*these are those affiliate links I was talking about. By all means use them if you’d like to kick me a few pence. ^^

A Brave New Home

I have finally taken the plunge and forked out for a domain and some web-hosting. Hopefully you’ll now be reading this on my new home at liberaljoon.com where I am advert free.

I expect there will be some teething issues, as the migration is only 60% automated and the rest is me fiddling away, but I hope you’ll stick around. Both of you.

All-Time Top 5 Christmas Movies

Various conversations on Twitter had me thinking about this recently. Thought I’d collate my personal Top 5, and as usual include comments on a few of the notable absences at the end.

So, in reverse order:


5. Christmas Vacation (1989)

Always been a fan of the Vacation movies, but I still think this is the best of them. It’s a shame Chevy Chase turned out to be so thoroughly unpleasant, the best thing about all the Vacation films is Clark Griswold’s earnest pursuit of quality family time in the face of ever escalating set-backs.

51rbQkmeYNL

4. Polar Express (2004)

I’m pretty much a sucker for a train movie at the best of times, but this ticks lots of boxes. Even the weird animation style works for me, and although the soundtrack isn’t going to be worrying Disney anytime soon, it remains a festive joy.

MPW-50959

3. Muppet Christmas Carol (1992)

While the Polar Express is slightly let down by it’s soundtrack, the Muppet Christmas Carol excels. Somehow having a magic that the Muppet’s never managed with any of their other big screen outings, this is a masterpiece. One of my favourite performances from Michael Caine too, can’t be easy acting alongside puppets.

muppet-christmas-carol-1993

2. Scrooged (1988)

A firm Christmas favourite and essential viewing every year. Bill Murray (as usual) is outstanding in the lead role, and is still the best interpretation of the Scrooge character for me.

It’s all at once funny, dark, depressing and sentimental. Just like Christmas.

scrooged-poster

1. White Christmas (1954)

“Let’s just say we’re doing it for an old pal in the army.”

My personal favourite, and the greatest Christmas Movie of all time, is Irving Berlin’s White Christmas. Most of my reasons for loving it are sentimental, for how much it was part of my childhood. Usually start watching it in November, and get 3 or 4 viewings in by January.

white-christmas-movie-poster-1954-1020143863


Other Mentions

Die Hard (1988) – This is only absent from the list because it didn’t make the top 5. It is absolutely a Christmas Movie, and if you’re spending any time arguing to the contrary, kindly rethink your priorities.

Holiday Inn (1942) – While I still mostly enjoy breaking this one out over the festive season, some of the content which is easy to dismiss as being “of it’s time”, I find uncomfortable to watch. Not least an entire routine in blackface. Just as well that was left behind when remaking it into White Christmas.

The Santa Clause (1994) – This (and at least the first sequel) only just missed out on the top five.

Elf (2003) – I sort of like it, but Will Farrell grates so much that it would never make my top 5. Top 10 would also be a stretch.

 

 

Backlogs and the pile of shame

I think whatever direction your hobbies take you, if it involves consuming media you’ll be familiar with the concept of a backlog or “pile of shame”.  Over the past couple of years I made decent headway into my reading backlog, and am going to attempt to apply the same process to my gaming pile of shame.  If I thought about it too much I expect I’d also have a sizeable backlog of of films and TV shows to tackle, but let’s skip that for now…

At the start of 2014 I was setting some goals for the year, one of which was to return to reading for pleasure. I had been neglecting this as a hobby, but notably not cutting back on buying books… I discovered Good Reads and their annual reading challenge, and set myself a modest target of 20 books for the year.  Once I joined the site I  added my pile of shame to it, a pretty easy process of scanning barcodes. Next I created a shelf on there called “2014” and selected 20 books from my backlog that I thought I might like to read that year.  I didn’t force myself to stick rigidly to the list, but it was definitely helpful to have that narrower field to choose from when picking the next book to read. Obviously other books turned up during the year demanding immediate attention, but by the end of the year I had read 22 books, 13 of which were from my backlog, hurrah!

Come 2015 I started my new list with a revised target of 30 books, and started the 2015 shelf with the remaining unread titles from my 2014 one.  I had learned some lessons too. A nice balance of fiction and non-fiction is good, and also make sure the ratio of light reads to hefty tomes is considered.  (I wasn’t ready to tackle The Idiot and Crime & Punishment in the same year.) I blitzed the challenge in 2015 reading 50 books, although this was boosted by spending 5 months commuting for 2 hours a day, and took another 22 books out of the backlog. I’m now under way with a new challenge for 2016, although I kept the target at 30 books as I no longer commute.  I am confident that I’ve made the process into a habit, and am happy with the balance of new and backlog books I’m reading.

During this time I had started to wonder if I could take the same approach to my videogames. Thanks to my multi-platform lifestyle the gaming pile of shame is even bigger than my reading one ever was. There are a number of gaming equivalents to Good Reads, but with varying success in their implementation.  Backloggery was the first I tried, and although it seems to be popular I just didn’t get on with it.  At the end of 2015 I discovered Grouvee, which had the great first step of allowing me to import my Steam library which houses the vast majority of my games.  I manually added games from other platforms and then tinkered with the data.  I spent some time filtering out the games I’d already played, games I have no desire to play (bundle fodder) and those I dip into but don’t really have a point of completion (mostly multiplayer titles) to refine a ‘sensible’ backlog shelf of around 200 games. I have begun applying the same process I used for Good Reads and produced a 2016 shelf. I’m pretty terrible for games tourism and rarely finish games, so I am hopeful that this approach will help me focus.  I am also aware that the ‘cult of the new’ is likely to affect me more with games than it did with books, so I expect to be playing more new games through the year than going back to older ones, so I am only aiming to complete 10 games from the backlog and not setting any overall target.

Other things I’ve taken on board to help me get this under control:

  • It took a while to stick, but I’ve been repeatedly telling myself that it is okay to stop playing games I’m not enjoying. For many I expect this seems obvious, but you’d be surprised.  I might come back to them later, but I felt a definite sense of relief abandoning my games in progress on Fallout 3, Skyrim and the Last of Us.  All games I still think I’m supposed to really like, but I simply wasn’t enjoying.  I may come back to them when I’m in a different mindset, but if I do I’ll start again from scratch.
  • I’ve decided to start a small games journal for logging games as I complete them.  It’s unlikely to amount to anything I’ll share with anyone else, unless a particular game inspires me to write a blog post, but I think it’ll help motivate me to progress.

In case you’re interested, these are the current books for 2016. I’ve got 22 lined up so far.

My 10 games for 2016 on Grouvee are here, this includes finally replaying MYST, but this time the Masterpiece Edition of realMYST (versus the one I originally played through back on Windows 95) and also I really want to crack the 1cc on Space Giraffe now it’s Backwards Compatible with the Xbox One, and obtain the Long Neck Long March achievement for beating the game on one credit.  The rest are games I either have started at some point but never quite finished despite enjoying them or games I’ve always meant to play but never quite got round to.

I do wonder what other people do in order to reduce their piles of shame.

Wish me luck!

All-time Top 5 Christmas Songs

Determined to at least get one more post on here before the end of the year, and inspired by both the season and a recent re-watching of the excellent High-Fidelity, I felt compelled to assemble my own Christmas Song Top 5.  In reverse order, for extra drama.

5. Glee – Deck the Rooftop

The only entry from Glee, I promise.  I love this, it’s just a shameless fun mash-up, and makes me happy. 🙂

4. Tim Minchin – White Wine in the Sun

This is beautiful.  Amusing and sentimental, and really hits home how I feel about Christmas, despite Christmas in Stoke not featuring much in the way of sun.

3. The Pogues Featuring Kirsty MacColl – Fairytale Of New York

Pretty sure there is a law that this has to be on every list of great Christmas songs, (it should probably be number one, but what the hell…)   It is great though, and the first time I hear it on the radio is a much better start to the season than celebrating a bloody red truck…

2. Puff Daddy ft RUN DMC, Mase, Salt & Pepa, Onyx and Keith Murray – Santa Baby Remix

Merry Hip Hop Christmas!  This is so great, easily my favourite version of Santa Baby, with so many great rappers.  It’s very 90s, but if we didn’t listen to dated songs at Christmas, we wouldn’t have much left…

1. Mighty Mighty BossTones – This Time of Year

My all-time favourite Christmas song is coincidentally also by my all-time favourite band.  It’s joyous and I love it.  “This time of year gets me and it never lets me act like I don’t care.  This time of year’s my favourite time of year ’cause all of us are here together.”

Sorry about all that, I’ll get back to the games soon…

Forgive me WordPress, for I have sinned…

… it’s been three months since my last blog post.

Who knew it was actually the difficult sixth post that was so challenging?

As it happens I have 4 or 5 different posts half-written now, not quite happy with any of them and keep drifting onto something else.  Amusingly one of them is about my gaming backlog, and my tendency to only play a bit of a game and then move on.  Always intending to return but rarely ever doing it.  Perhaps I have a wider problem than just with gaming…

There have been some legitimate distractions however, along with busy times at work and the ongoing studying referred to in a previous post, I have even found time to play some games!

I do find it difficult (read impossible) to focus on writing for fun when there are college and workplace deadlines demanding my attention.  Today though I have finished my most recent assignment whilst sitting on the beach, and as I’m here I feel like writing more.

It’s amazing the difference the right setting makes to inspiration.  I should probably do all my writing for college sat on the beach.  Figures I’ll realise that 9 months into a 10 month course…  If I’ve learned anything from my brief blogging experience, it’s that I’m much more able to string words together with a pen and paper, than I am when staring at a word processor.

Anyway, an experiment.  While I have the weather for it, I shall endeavour to finish off my ‘in progress’ posts over the next few weeks, alongside drafting my final college assignment of the year, from my spot on the beach.  The only issue is finding an alternative venue with a similar inspirational level, for when it’s raining!

The difficult second blog post…*

*I am aware that this could well be the most common title for a second post in blogging history…

I’ve been thinking about this post for a while.  Well, I’ve been thinking broadly about the kinds of things I would like to write about on the blog, and where I might start.  So far the only enlightenment I’ve reached is that I excel at procrastination.  The following occurred when I finally settled on something I definitely wish to write about:

I decided that I would like to write about Robotron 64, and why it holds the position of #1 game on the Nintendo 64 for me.  I managed to convince myself that in order to do that I would need to add an N64 to my humble console collection.  Not just any N64 mind… I already own a PAL copy of Robotron, (presently my only N64 cart) and my flatmate has a PAL console that he would happily let me use.  However it seemed of paramount importance that I don’t settle for heinous composite output, I absolutely must be playing in RGB…

So now I await the arrival of a recently purchased Japanese N64.  When it arrives I shall be modding to also play US games (this is easy) and attempting to mod for RGB output (this is harder, and incredibly likely to end in tears).  Supposing I actually manage to get this to work, I will then need to acquire either an import adapter to play PAL games on the machine, or buy an NTSC copy of Robotron.  All of which needs to happen before I expect to actually write about it.

Maybe I should have found something else to write about.  Maybe.  I am more concerned that this is about me, and that this kind of thing is likely to happen more.  I’m already thinking that I’d be much more motivated to blog if only I had a bluetooth keyboard for my tablet…

This could get expensive quickly.  Oh well, at least I’ll have something clear to write about if I do kill the N64 with my soldering iron.

It’s alive! For now anyway.

Imagine that, I’ve actually created the blog.  8 months or so since I first said I was going to.  I have at least managed some high quality procrastination in that time though, so there’s that.

Hopefully this is the first of many posts, but it’s perfectly plausible that this will be the one and only entry, in which case hello lost wanderer.  I apologise for contributing to the vast dead internets.

In the unlikely event I do manage to write something else, I have no idea what it’ll be about.  At this point I suspect posts concerning games and books may be forthcoming.  Should I suddenly decide I’m smart enough to be commenting on my weightier interests, then maybe feminism and atheism too.

You have @feelgoodnev to blame for my inspiration to blog at all, and it was he who came up with the title Liberal Joon.  I’ve also joined a few million other people who have started as part of a New Year idea, I did resolve that I would actually do SOME writing this year.  Ultimately though it was the delightful Nintendude Martin Watts who prompted me into action today as he launched his own personal blog.  He also promised to follow mine, so I shall at least have 1 reader.