Oh iPhone, You Have My Heart (and my attention span)

Yesterday I cleaned and rearranged my entire desk, so now the multiple Post Its and to-do lists are all zen, just like my mind will be when I start work every day. Coincidentally, today I activated my new phone (or half activated it, since apparently it takes ages for my provider to realise it’s sending cat emojis to a different device) and I’ve been thinking hard about which apps I want to reinstall and how I want to use the new phone. At the moment the home screen is so serene, with twice as much space as the old one… admittedly it’s twice the size, but it got me thinking that I’d really rather fill my phone with mindfullness apps and cookbooks than I would with work things or social media – which are sometimes work and sometimes personal… and always time-consuming.

I feel like getting a new device is the perfect excuse to embrace hippiness and quit my Instagram habit. Become one of those people who checks their mobile for half an hour each day, with the occasional game of snake while stuck in a queue. I always feel that although those people might not get updates from their Etsy shop or messages from Headspace reminding to keep their shit together, they must already have very peaceful minds. I want my phone to be a tool to enrich my life, god damn it, not something to which I am beholden just in case Sweet Pea the dog updated her feed.

Okay, bad example because Sweet Pea will only ever enrich my life. But you know what I’m getting at? I spent a large portion of my teenage years living with repetitive strain because I texted far too much; I often don’t sleep because I just had a quick check of Twitter in bed and two hours later I’ve got the Syrian civil war and Gerard Way’s massage Tweets papering the inside of my skull. And why do I reply to emails on my phone? I have a desktop, an iPad and a Windows Surface, all of which are easier to read, easier to type on and, oh yeah, won’t fit in bed with me.

Thing is, when push comes to shove – which it does too often – I have to work from my phone. It’s so accessible, and Instagram doesn’t work nearly as well from a desktop. I need all five email accounts on my phone, both Etsy apps and Tumblr just in case my zen desk space failed me and I only remember something important in the car on the way to a birthday. And what if the iPad, desktop computer and Surface break in a freak accident? I need the Internet for money, so boom, the phone is a lifesaver. I don’t even like leaving it at home on a walk because what if I get attacked by crazy people or trip over or find a stray dog and need to actually speak to someone?

Upon reflection I think that it’s all down to me not taking my phone to bed (or into the bathroom, or to situations where I don’t actually actively need to use it). I’m the one who decides whether or not I should check Facebook for the 10th time on that device that morning, and it’s down to me to choose not to. Like anything, my phone will only take over my life if I let it. The part of me that wants to be chilled and  organised has to sit on the nervous news-seeking Internet junkie part of me. I’m fed up with only avoiding my mobile on holidays and at Christmas, and I know that if I spent less time refreshing my feed and more time properly working, I’ll be more productive in the long run.

So I’m telling you this hoping that by holding myself publically(ish) accountable, I might actually do it. Think of it as a new month’s resolution (speaking of, where in God’s name did September go?!). Have any of you ever tried minimising your tech use? Did you end up moving to the jungle to be at one with nature or did you flake out as soon as the new OITNB dropped? Please share your stories, because I think I’m going to need a support group for this.

Join Another Club, Bridge (pun intended)

This morning they broadcast one of those news stories that made me unsure whether to laugh or to fling my porridge at the stereo like a belligerent 95-year-old. It wasn’t about the refugee crisis or Donald Trump, which was a nice change – it was about a debate that’s raging about whether Bridge should be considered a sport by Sport England.

Bridge as in, cards.

Someone interviewed argued, quite rightly, that bridge is exercise for the mind. It keeps the human brain fit and healthy, and I should probably learn it so I can actually make it to 95. Thing is, though, it requires virtually no physical movement. So when I heard the bulletin, I thought ‘writing a book is brain exercise and it’s fucking hard, no one’s giving away Olympic medals for that’. I’ve given it some thought and here are things that do count as physical exercise:

  • Looking after a small child who has recently learnt to move independently
  • Looking after animals of various sizes who move about independently
  • Working in industries that require one to carry, move and/or shelve items, and to engage in physical exercise after which one is out of breath
  • Sex (assuming afterwards you’re out of breath, haha)
  • Actual Olympic sports

Here are physical activities that  count less as strenuous exercise and more as general movement, the engagement of which is of course important for your health:

  • Standing at one’s desk or a counter for a long time
  • Walking down the shops
  • Getting the door when it goes
  • Visiting the fridge
  • Dealing packs of cards and/or holding them

I mean, I could count typing and having a standing desk as my daily exercise, but it sure as shit isn’t going to make me as fit as professional gymnastics (bet the funding’s about the same though).  Plenty of people sit down for a length of time and use their muscles to hold pieces of paper. Writers, artists, teachers, admin assistants… no one’s campaigning for us to get into Sport England. But bridge is a big part of the lives of a lot of people and should be recognised as a healthy past time. So here is my suggestion:

Make a new Sport England and call it Thought England. Activities could include bridge, chess, battleships, noughts and crosses, origami, writing, puzzle assembling, watercolours, the crossword… all the cool stuff people start when they’re retired and should have started earlier to ward off dementia. That way the best thinkers in the country get to compete and show off their talents and the best athletes get to compete and show off their talents. Separately, because they’re two separate disciplines that just happen to both require discipline.

We could have world record holders for the first people to hold gold medals in long distance running and poker, or 10m diving and crochet. Think about it. I’m going to go read up on how to play bridge.

Review: ‘Holy Cow’, David Duchovny

Polite notice: I don’t discuss anything in these reviews that isn’t available from blurbs and articles, and they’re more like recommendations than reviews in the same way that Tony Blair is better known as a contributor in the Iraq war than he is as an expert on international relations.

If I were at all spiritual, I would say that the universe is conspiring against me when it comes to reading Frankenstein, but I’m not so I’ll just say that it’s a minor life goal to finish the book. Since it’s been nearly two months since I last did a review, this is mostly here to remind myself that I’m capable of long-term projects (a skill I’m clearly going to need where Frankenstein‘s concerned) than it is to extort money from my patrons… I don’t have any patrons, so I could review twice a week without bankrupting people, but in the spirit of things it is probably smarter to stick to my original plan.

I’ve just finished – as in, this lunchtime – David Duchovny’s debut, Holy Cow. Duchovny’s mostly known for acting, and the novel started as an idea for an animated film screenplay. For what it’s worth I wouldn’t have seen the movie by itself, because it’s about a cow named Elsie who discovers what happens to cows when they reach prime rib status (you’re welcome). Elsie goes on a quest to not get eaten, and makes friends with a pig and a turkey on the way. She tells the whole story as a memoir, and she has a human agent through which she is sharing her adventures with the human world.

It’s completely bananas and doesn’t even pretend to be plausible (if it wasn’t for meat farm references and swearing pigs it would make a brilliant children’s animal adventure film), but there are a lot of nuggets of wisdom here and there – for example the entire Israel/Palestine conflict is explained in a paragraph. If you’re interested in vegetarianism, talking animals and philosophy that’s woven into farce, go for it… but maybe not when you’re in the middle of a beef sandwhich.

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