Thursday, 14 July 2011

I'm not saying there isn't regret, I'm just saying don't let it stop you!

I’ve recently come to the conclusion that ‘regret’ as a reason not to get a tattoo is laughable. Everything in life can be regretted given enough time, a house, a car, a relationship, that last slice of pie when you knew that the previous 3 were 2 too much.

Tattoos are seen as an indulgence and do cost a lot of money, so do TVs, computers and cars, should we stop purchasing them? 

All relationships (whether they end or not) leave a mark on a person, that should we stop entering into them?

Getting a tattoo removed or inked over is just as difficult and time consuming as selling a house or car or getting over a relationship. 

The important thing is that the design of your tattoo is given as much thought as you would other substantial acquisitions, be it house, car, or pie.

Giving thought into an idea that is important to you or sums up feelings that you can’t express verbally are considerations when getting a tattoo. One thing you should never do when getting inked is to think about how it looks to other people, tattoos should be about what it important to you.

I recently had a cherry blossom branch finished and it means a lot to me, I love it. When asked in 30 years time how I feel about it, I may say I regret it, but that hasn’t stopped me today.

I think I'll live for now, not then.

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Not All Online Friendsips Follow The Facebook Template

People moving from the town they grew up in or to countries not their own is a growing trend in a world that can see employees being asked to relocate to other cities, and even continents. The loss of regular contact friends and family following such a move can be difficult to deal with. However, there is a communication medium that is connecting people. Matt Jeanes, aka Lanc, a 34-year-old father, husband and gamer describes it as “something to fill the social group that I left behind”.

The growing social interaction of online gaming, such as Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games (MMOs), is emerging as a more dynamic and real friendship experience than other online social interactions, such as Facebook or MySpace.  There are currently 12 million subscribers paying a monthly fee to Blizzard Entertainment’s World of Warcraft, while Microsoft's Xbox Live General Manager, Marc Whitten, announced last year they had reached 23 million members.

AFK Lanc is a finance manager in Ireland, originally from Portsmouth, he moved to London and had a good circle of friends who would meet up regularly. Since moving to Ireland he has had to deal with a new job, new city and a young child. Having to go to clubs and such to socialise is no longer appealing, “As you get older you have family commitments, free time becomes more precious, so you may as well do something you know you enjoy”.

Lanc sees the Internet as a way in which like minded people can find friends who are not, as increasingly happens as you grow older and move city, people you work with or your neighbours. “We all have different interests and we would rather be talking about them than about your neighbour’s cat” he remarks.

World of Warcraft is a computer-based role-playing game in which players create characters in a fantasy world populated by elves, goblins, dragons and other players, to complete tasks to further story lines and collect in-game money and equipment. Where games like World of Warcraft differ to normal, single player, games is that players will only be able to see all of a game’s content by working with other people in often quite complicated tasks.

The harder elements of the game require a large number of people working in co-ordination. For this kind of work, groups come together to form ‘Guilds’. Guilds are, to the casual observer, a place where a player has access to a pool of other players to which to call on for help. However, Guilds mean a lot more to those people who are in them.

Lanc, when not being a father, husband or finance manager, is head of The Grey Council, a Guild with over eighty players. He has been playing games for over 25 years and when asked why he plays World of Warcraft he replies “It is definitely due to the social aspect”. Lanc goes on to say that he does not play any other games, now-a-days, that do not have this element of online, social, play.

“That was the key driving force [when buying World of Warcraft]. It’s a common ground, common interest but with a vast array of people, which I find fascinating, where as other mediums, forums and such can be very narrow.”

Lanc is aware of the argument of not being pushed out of your comfort zone. “At some point you stop growing in that way. I have a 5 year marriage and a 2 yr old son. I’ve got a lot of other bits and pieces that take time, as you get older your socialising gets more precious, so instead of going out and doing things that they 'should do' maybe, it is better to maximise that time so you are doing something you enjoy.”

While commercially viable online gaming is entering its third decade, it is only recently that, with the efficiency of the Internet allowing near seamless voice communication, online gaming is becoming more than just the about the games.

Lanc comments that “Some of the best times I’ve had on Xbox Live wasn’t exactly gaming, but just chatting to people. If geography allowed, we would be sitting in the pub”.

Games such as World of Warcraft have allowed a generation of gamers to become more interactive with the people they play with. The communication structure built around online gaming allows for people to put on a head set, complete with a mic, and just chat. This real-time chatting allows people to, initially, talk about the game but inevitably leads to talk about their day and other topics.

Lanc has found this to be true and setup The Grey Council on the simple ethos of ‘Have Fun, Make Friends’. When joining there is a trial period where people have to show that they are friendly and non-abusive.

Although it is not always easy due to the differing personalities within the guild, Lanc has noticed a slight change in himself since setting up The Grey Council a year ago, “I’ve had to get a bit tougher at times and learn which fights to fight”.

Friendships created through online gaming are more than tick boxes, ‘likes’ and ‘LOLs’. They are real friendships, with the good and the bad. Lanc notes that the best and, at the same time, hardest thing about The Grey Council are the people in it.

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Luke Skywalker

Something I had to do for class, thought I'd share it -

Having his mother die in child birth and his father controlling one of the most fascist empires in history did not stop Luke Skywalker from becoming one of the great liberators of his time. Born on the planet Polis Massa a long time ago in a galaxy far far away, he went to live with his aunt and uncle, Beru and Own Lars, on the remote planet of Tatooine after his birth.

Born as a twin to his sister, Leia, the babies were separated after the death of their mother and hidden from their father by the then governing state. It was felt that Anakin Skywalker, or Darth Vader as their father had come to be known, could not provide the stable home environment that two children required.

Living as a farm hand, with his aunt and uncle, Luke dreamed of joining the academy of the empire that he would later have a substantial hand in over throwing. Fate, on the other hand, had other plans for the young Skywalker.

Following the deaths of his aunt and uncle at the hands of the empire, Luke resolved to aid the Rebellion in its fight to over throw Emperor Palpatine, a once senator of the previous governing body. Having gained tactical knowledge of new fortifications, and learning that his sister was being held captive, with the aid of a religious advisor to the old republic, Obi Wan Kenobi, Skywalker set off to rescue Leia and fight for the Rebellion. Obi Wan also started teaching his religious beliefs, known as The Force, to a reluctant Skywalker.

During this initial phase in Luke’s life he had no knowledge of his sister or who his father was, the years that followed had Luke discovering both, joyous about the knowledge of one and deeply disturbed by the other. Both had a profound effect on the youth.

During the years of the rebellion, Luke suffered many injuries. One such was on the planet of Hoth were he was viciously attacked by a wampa and left with noticeable scars across his face; however this was not the most not-worthy injury. This he suffered at the hands of his own father. The loss of his right hand during a duel and the subsequent realisation that the man he had been fighting was his father affect Luke like no other moment in his life.

In an attempt to make sense of things Luke returned to the spiritual training Obi Wan had started and travelled to Degobah to learn at the feet of the wise Yoda. During his training Luke broke with tradition and left to lead a rescue of his friend Han Solo who had been captured by pirates. On his return to Degobah, Luke completed his training and was bestowed the rank of Jedi Knight.

Leaving Degobah, he decided to try and talk to his father and reconcile their differences believing that his father did love him. This succeeded and, with the help of his father, Luke was able to kill the Emperor. However, during the fight Vader suffered mortal injuries and died, but not after telling his son “You were right about me. Tell your sister you were right”. Many believe that this line is not only letting Luke know that he had done well, but an attempt, by Vader, to get his daughter to forgive him.

Following the death of his father, and the beginnings of the new republic, Luke attempts to create a place of learning for people who want to follow the ways of the Force and with the help of ancient texts found on Dathomir he eventually creates an academy in the ruined Massassi Temple on Yavin 4 where people came to train under him and learn the ways of the Force.

Skywalker eventually gained the rank of Jedi Master, the first such since the death of his former mentor, Yoda, and recreates the Jedi council, an advisory body that aided the republic before the empire disbanded the institution. Skywalker is believed to have died of old age after being exiled from a jealous ruling government, however little is known about his exploits after this time.

Monday, 24 January 2011

Next Year Will Be Different

Thursday 25th of December 2009, Christmas Eve and I was working until 1200. No problems with that, there are many people in the same boat. The problem I had, along with a reported 12 million other people in the UK, was that I had yet to finish my Christmas shopping. The rush, the fights, the pressure, it really took the shine of what I consider to be the best time of the year.

This Christmas I decided to be a little bit more prepared and so started my shopping at the start of December, and because of the crazy that builds in people during this time (Hell, thy name is other people!) I decided to do all my shopping online. Of course the snows came down, during one of the coldest Decembers on record, and many firms weren't able to complete deliveries. With many of my packages still to make it through the door I battled, once again, with my fellow ‘revelers’ for that last box of chocolates and Lush gift-box.

I always leave the Christmas shopping to the last minute and experience the same turmoil and problems. Albert Einstein described insanity as “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”. Einstein may not be an authority on human psychosis, but his description does seem to fit.

Leaving the shopping to the last minute seems to be a running trend in this country, this year alone shoppers were expected to spend £23m per hour on Christmas Eve, with up to 20 million people hitting the streets.

The common conception for this is that people are lazy. They are unwilling to do a job until they are forced to, but there must be other reasons, I am not lazy!

Getting that perfect Christmas present for someone is difficult as you do not know what they have got you. The situation that arises when a new friend buys you a watch, when you have bought them a box of chocolates, can be a tad awkward. The moment you realise that your partner has broken the limit you agreed months ago can be a bit of a mood killer. Using the excuse that you went shopping last minute due to time constraints allows you to under-sell your presents and tell the other, more prepared person, that you are planning on getting back to the shopping after Christmas.

Having limited funds is another reason to go out on Christmas Eve, using the excuse that you shopped last minute will allow you to buy cheaper gifts than you normally do, or care to do.

The excitement of Christmas Eve shopping could be another reason. The hustle and bustle of human activity can be an intoxicating experience. The empty platitude of the cashier wishing you a Merry Christmas, as you struggle with a bag that has just burst, just adds to the magical day.

I may as well just accept it; I am lazy when it comes to my Christmas shopping. I must do better. Perhaps shopping for next year in this month, while the hell is still fresh in my mind, is the key. If I leave it any longer the hell starts to fade and I think that surely the results of my Christmas shopping next year will be different.

Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Writing a UCAS Personal Statement

How about - "I'm awesome, please consider me for your instiution." No? OK, let me see. How about - "I'm awesome, please consider me for your institution, would you like a sweet?"

No again? Not good enough? Why not? Please don't make me do this!

Laziness is a large factor as to why people don't write a decent personal statement, for me it is something different. When I highlight a quality about myself I feel I am opening a door to scorn and riducule. "So I took a look at that 'blog' you mentioned in your statement.... Not exactly pulitzer material is it?" or "So you can play the guitar eh? How about a quick rendition of Flight of the Bumblebee?" No matter what quality I choose to highlight I always feel that there is someone that can do it better so what right do I have to make that a stand out quality?

Even though those qualities that I eventually put down are admirable, I do write for a local paper, I pass any exam/assesment sent my way, I get on well with people, I co-edit my own publication, I expect to have 70wpm short hand in 5 months time and I have a very strong tech background, I still feel that people are ready to attack them rather than endorse.

When I do manage to drege up some nice things to say about myself I then have to put them together in a coherent and interesting way. Which, I am sure, is fairly easy when it comes to applying to a physics course but there is a nice added pressure that comes from applying to journalism or some other literary persuit. Course leaders expect you to be a world class writer already! They expect word smithing of a high calibre. They expect that if you want to study journalism that you should already be a Journalist!

Don't they?

Perhaps I am putting too much pressure on myself, after all pulitzer winners or skills like Jinnifer Batten's do not come easily, but rather through hard work, dedication and teaching. I'm working on the first two, hopefully the third will come as soon as I've got this damn statement out of the way.