A tour of my YouTube subscriptions

A few weeks ago I was talking to some friends about how much time we all spend watching YouTube. “I’d hate to know how much time I waste on it,” I said. “I bet it’s awful.” Then someone told me that you can actually check this in the app. I immediately declared that I was never, ever going to check because sometimes ignorance is bliss.

Today, I gave in and looked. On average, I spend more than an hour a day watching YouTube. This was kind of sobering. An hour is a good chunk of my time, especially my leisure time. It’s more than I spend doing any other hobbies, like cooking, reading, playing games, watching films, or exercising.

So, what exactly am I watching?

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Keeping a journal

There are some things I always carry with me – keys, wallet, phone, and a bright yellow A5 notebook.

I like to think of the notebook as an analog download of my brain. I follow the bullet journal system, which means it’s a combination of a journal, a planner, a collection of lists, and basically anything else I feel like writing down.

I highly recommend keeping a journal. Writing down your thoughts can be a good way to work through problems and relieve stress. Plus, years later you can look back at it and laugh at what an embarrassing idiot you were. It’s a gift to yourself that keeps on giving.

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My favourite Crazy Ex-Girlfriend songs

After four seasons, the last ever episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend dropped on UK Netflix this weekend. The show had its flaws, but it meant a lot to me in various ways, and I’m going to miss it. I loved its characters and admired its focus on mental health. But my favourite part has always been the music.

I have always been a sucker for comedy songs. When I was a kid, I constantly listened to to Weird Al and Dr Demento (with apologies to my parents). As a student, I re-watched favourite episodes of The Mighty Boosh and Flight of the Conchords until I knew all the lyrics. I also grew up with a love for old musicals. So when I found out that the show I’d been ignoring on Netflix for years was actually a multi-season comedy musical, I was instantly sold.

I briefly considered ranking every song in the show, but that number turns out to be somewhere between 140 and 173 depending on how you count it. That is a lot of songs, and I’m not sure I have the fortitude to come up with a definitive ranking.

So instead, here are my top 25. The ones that get stuck in my head, or are the most fun to sing in the shower. Or just produce the most feels. Sometimes all three.

Spoilers ahead!

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Giving up on a book

I did something unusual last month: I gave up on reading a book. Two books, actually.

This is pretty rare for me. I will ditch a TV series without a second thought, and regularly lose interest in video games before playing them to the end. Films are a different story, but they’re also so short that I can tolerate a bad one in its entirety. But when it comes to books, I will generally grind through to completion, no matter how long it takes.

My latest book abandonments happened back-to-back. First I dumped Shardik after only a few chapters. Then I made it halfway through Brighton Rock and decided not to stick around for the second half. The books sat together at the top of my charity shop pile, a reminder of my shame. I began to wonder if there was something wrong with my attention span.

But the next time I picked up a book, I tore through it in 24 hours. I still felt bad about abandoning its predecessors, but I realised this felt like a much better use of my time than slogging through something I wasn’t actually enjoying.

I decided I should give up on more books. Why I don’t do this more often?

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My most boring dreams

Last year, I started keeping a dream journal. I usually forgot my dreams within minutes of waking, and I felt like I was missing out on something. What exciting and surreal adventures would I reveal? What secrets of my subconscious would I uncover? Could there be brilliant ideas percolating in there, possibly even fodder for a novel? I was excited to find out.

It turns out that most of my dreams are deeply mundane, and that was why I didn’t remember them.

Here are some of my most boring dreams:

  • I buy a mandoline slicer and use it to make coleslaw.
  • I attend a ‘luxury’ retreat that is centred around hand-washing my own clothes.
  • Quorn releases some new ‘vegan’ products, but it turns out they still have egg in them.
  • I realise I have only one day to live, but begrudgingly agree to spend it at academic conference on a subject I have no interest in.
  • I go on a day trip to Aberystwyth. I try to take some photos for Instagram, but later discover my thumb is in every shot.
  • At work, I am forced to justify my choice of databases.
  • I buy some clothes on eBay, but none of them are any good.
  • I under-bake the banana bread.
  • I meet a small child in a shop and try to convince him to buy a Wii U. He doesn’t.
  • Lying in bed, I notice the houseplant in the corner is about to topple over. I hurl myself across the room to catch it. I wake up standing next to my bed, adrenaline pumping. There is no plant.
  • I stay in a holiday rental with a group of people who are constantly reminiscing about something fun they all did while I wasn’t around. On the last day, I do the washing-up.
  • I write about the washing-up dream in my dream journal.

Truly, it is amazing what the unconscious mind can imagine. I’m looking forward to the inevitable moment where I re-enact that Calvin & Hobbes strip where Calvin bores himself awake. Maybe tonight’s the night.

Or maybe, if I’m lucky, I’ll have the houseplant dream again. That was pretty thrilling.

Running a half marathon

I recently ran my first half marathon.

Now there’s a sentence I never thought I’d write.

I have never thought of myself as an athletic person. The combined horrors of puberty and middle school gym teachers gave me a longstanding opinion that exercise was something other people did.

I first dipped my toe into running about 8 years ago, when I followed the Couch to 5K programme and shocked myself by managing to run for a solid half hour. But since then, my running had been pretty inconsistent. Occasionally I would keep it up for a few weeks at a time, but I had no goals and didn’t make much of an effort to fit it into my schedule. I’d do 2 miles here and there when I felt like it, and that was it.

One day last September, I was sitting on the bus during a particularly tedious commute, and saw that my friend had signed up for a local half marathon. “Maybe I could do that!” I thought. The intense boredom of the bus was so great that I signed up on the spot.

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Life after cheese, 6 months in

I’ve been a vegan for more than half a year now. It’s going great. At first I was hesitant to talk about it, because everyone hates smug vegans. But I’ve gotten a lot of questions about it recently, and it’s actually something I feel very strongly about. So screw it – let’s talk about why and how I became a herbivore.

For years, going vegan was something that I had a vague sense I should be doing, but could not be bothered to do. I’d been vegetarian since I was an animal-loving kid, but couldn’t bring myself to take the next step. “I love cheese,” I said. “If I don’t eat cheese, my life will be barren and I will literally die.”

Then I read this article:

Avoiding meat and dairy is ‘single biggest way’ to reduce your impact on Earth

Biggest analysis to date reveals huge footprint of livestock – it provides just 18% of calories but takes up 83% of farmland

The study in the article was enormous, covering 40,000 farms in 119 countries. And it showed that animal agriculture’s impact on the environment was massive. My love of cheese was contributing to greenhouse gas emissions, deforestation of the Amazon, and water and air pollution.

Climate change regularly keeps me up at night. I stare at my bedroom ceiling, thinking about famines, rising sea levels, mass extinctions. The fact that we humans are not doing enough to stop this future from happening fills me with deep fear and frustration. I see my friends having kids and worry about the state of the planet we’re leaving them. Suddenly the cheese did not seem worth it.

“Well, shit,” I thought. “I’d better get on with it.”

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I am still playing The Sims 2

Last night, the tiny island of Prospero suffered a great tragedy – everyone under the age of 33 mysteriously vanished, not only from the town, but from the memories of their friends and family. It was as if they had never existed.

Cassie Cardelli, the town’s oldest resident and owner of the local supermarket, was left alone in the world without her beloved daughter Jordan, an aspiring professional party guest. Country musician April Larrea was the youngest survivor, but her parents (both retired superheroes) had no memory of their other 3 children, or of her father’s secret other child (the daughter of April’s boyfriend’s sister). April’s brother August and his girlfriend Luna had been expecting their first child in day’s time – now the young family was wiped from existence, never to be seen again.

All in all, 17 souls were lost. They live on only in my memories, and also in the overly complicated spreadsheet I used to keep track of them.

I speak, of course, of the tragic corruption of my neighbourhood in The Sims 2. Because I am still playing The Sims 2.

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The Onion’s Sex House is now our reality

Screengrab of Sex House title credits

Here’s a pitch for a reality show: move a group of young, attractive, single people into luxury accommodation. Cut them off from the outside world and deprive them of any entertainment beyond social interaction. Use overtly sexual challenges and nudges from the producers to encourage them to act on their attraction to each other. Other reality shows may pretend to be a social experiment, but this one has no illusions about why the audience is really there: we want to see people hook up on television.

Today, this show is ITV2’s monster hit Love Island. But back in 2012, this was The Onion’s Sex House.

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Some thoughts on Rampage

A giant gorilla and The Rock

Tonight I watched Rampage, starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. I watched it because I will watch literally anything with The Rock in it. I have even seen Pain and Gain, a film which made me want to remove my brain from my skull and just slosh some bleach around in there for a bit to try to remove the deep sense of shame.

Here are some facts about Rampage I learned from briefly looking at its Wikipedia page:

  • To get inspiration for how to animate the many, many destroyed buildings in this movie, the special effects team watched footage from 9/11, which… yeesh.
  • Rampage is the best-reviewed video game movie on Rotten Tomatoes. 52%, baby!
  • Uwe Boll, king of crappy video game movies, threatened to sue Warner Bros and accused the film of “brainwashing America”.

Now that the tone is set, let’s get into the plot. Spoilers, I guess.

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