The master

2018 is all about self-improvement (and waiting for the weather to sort itself out for further adventures), and this month I wrapped up a new qualification that encompassed several exams and a lot of time staring at Microsoft applications.

Is it wrong that I have mostly put in the time and effort for this award just because it makes me a master? Mastermind. The Master. Jedi Master. Take your pick, I’m it!

Awooga!

Recently, I discovered that NOW TV had six series of Gladiators available to watch on demand. I’m such a huge fan of Gladiators (bigger than I even realised, as a couple of episodes in, the theme tune made me a bit weepy!) and although I’ve seen clips and odd episodes over the last decade or so, this is potentially the first time I’ve been able to watch a concentrated batch of Gladiator goodness.

(And we’re talking really concentrated. Like, ten episodes across the course of 36 hours. Which didn’t happen. At all.)

I don’t know what it is about the show that I love so much, but I know there are some things about it that are so much greater than TV shows these days. Firstly, many of the contenders are participating to be a role model for other people – usually kids. They put health and fitness above many other hobbies and want to go on this show to encourage others to do the same.

Secondly, the exploits are all taken seriously. This is no Ninja Warrior or Total Wipeout, where the contestants are all made to look stupid. These are serious people who have trained to participate in the events, both contenders and Gladiators alike.

And there’s a wonderful sense of camaraderie. Sure, there’s plenty of competitiveness floating around, there’s the odd moment of tension, and there’s the Wolf trying to stir up trouble wherever possible, but for the most part, people are good sports and want each other to do well. The moments where the entire arena wants that person to get up the Travelator, despite the winner crossing the line a full minute ago, those moments are wonderful.

There’s a natural nostalgia to this show for me, I used to watch it with my brother in the good old days, but I think it’s more than that. Take away the slightly dodgy presenting skills and the emphasis on people’s vital statistics, and you’ve got a really quite inspirational plus hugely entertaining programme. I didn’t see the more recent remake (yet), and I don’t know if it had the same tone or whether it was well-received (I understand Sky axing it came as a bit of a surprise rather than it being a show with ailing ratings). I really do think there is a space for this kind of programme though. Healthy competition, promoting fitness, and creating some well-loved Gladiator characters that you never forget.

Better Watch out

I love Apple’s activity badges, I’ve talked about them a few times here already. I find them incredibly motivating, particularly with the recent upgrades that have made the programme more personalised and more responsive to your performance. Rather than your standard “get your move goal every day of the month”, you now have specific calorie, kilometre, or time goals measured in absolutes or averages, with a new and different challenge each month.

Apple Watch and Phone showing activity data
Credit: Shutterstock.com

It’s brilliant, if only because it gives you something to work towards that you might not otherwise have thought of. In fact, you sort of have to treat it as though that’s the only reason because quite often these badges aren’t functional. Apple came up with a “Ring in the New Year” challenge last year that was repeated in 2018, but some people managed to get the badge in December.

I picked up a badge last year that I didn’t actually achieve, whilst Mr C has been on the receiving end of working super hard and achieving the goal only not to be rewarded with the badge itself.

Like I say, for us, it’s more about having the goal to work towards and it’s the fun of actually doing it that makes it worthwhile. But for many people, and for me at the start of the process, it was more about getting the tangible badge to prove you’ve achieved something. And if you can’t rely on that, then the process actually becomes demotivating rather than having the more positive effect that Apple want.

I’m sure it’s just a bug or two that needs to be ironed out, and I’m also sure that Apple have some people working on it, but I hope they can sort it out soon so I can truly shout about how good the system is. There’s another one-off activity challenge coming up this month and the badge is adorable so I hope it doesn’t break this time!

Film Watch notes – further improvements

Soon, Film Watch will reach its ninth birthday, having catalogued over 800 films so far and still going strong. More than anything, for me, it’s a handy reminder of what’s been viewed and an easy way to settle arguments between Mr C and myself about a) whether we have watched a film before and b) what we thought of it. The actual live blogging of the film is less important to me after the event, but is hugely important to ensure I’m paying attention as the film goes by.

I wrote a few years ago about the evolution of my note-taking process, starting as it did with a notebook and pen, and eventually graduating to an iPad. I thought it was worth a quick update, because the process couldn’t get much more streamlined at this point, unless they develop a way for your thoughts just to appear on a blog the moment you think them.

When last I checked in, I was typing up the notes on an iPad, getting the timings from an iPod, and then using iCloud as a better-than-iTunes-but-still-quite-clunky syncing process. Things haven’t changed enormously since then, but a few tweaks have made the publish process even easier.

Firstly, split-screen on the iPad means I no longer have to use two devices to keep track of everything. I can have my notes taking up two thirds of the screen, and the clock app tucked away down one side.

Secondly, I’ve used a few different apps for taking the notes, settling for a long time on Word and using Dropbox to sync the files back to my Mac for blogging. But, I’ve really been loving the Bear notes app, and find that the magic of tagging files and them syncing immediately through all your devices makes the process ridiculously easy.

So from here, I can quickly and easily transfer to my Mac where I publish to the Film Watch blog. In reality, I could go from initial thoughts to publish all from the iPad, but I find the process of getting images into the WordPress app and in the right place somewhat awkward on iOS. Hopefully this is the next step in the evolution, but as it stands, it’s almost perfect as it is.

Diaries with friends

I love Dawn French enormously. She recently released a new book/diary, wherein she shares her thoughts and feelings and lists and photos throughout the year, and you do the same. It’s an interactive sort of book, where there are plenty of spaces for you to add your own notes and doodles, over and above the actual space for diary entries.

I love Dawn French so much that I have done two things I wouldn’t normally do: bought a physical book, and then written in it.

It’s gorgeous and uplifting and encouraging, and I’m using it as a way of keeping track of inspiration and gratitude and general optimism.

Dawn’s been sharing photos of what other people are doing with their books, and whilst I don’t think I can be as creative as these in terms of art and doodling, I can already see that this book and I are going to be good friends this year.

Staying in for coffee

I’ve never been a coffee drinker. I’ve enjoyed the smell, but never liked the taste. For a long time, I just never had coffee, but I must admit to occasionally being pressured to find something to drink in a coffee shop and opting for the sweetest, most caramel-enhanced, beverage the menu has to offer.

I have a feeling that’s all about to change, as the festive period brought with it a new Tassimo into our house. Two days in, two Costa coffee lattes later, and I’m converted. Who knew coffee could actually taste nice?

I’ve had drinks from a Tassimo before, but always chosen hot chocolate or tea (which is nice but ends up with frothy milk which is kinda odd). Now, I can’t believe I’ve been missing out this whole time. I know these machines come in for a lot of criticism, but having that fresh coffee smell in the house for the sake of putting a pod in the top and pressing a button is the kind of convenience I like.

So 2018 is off to a pretty good, and somewhat energised, start. Lattes now, but check back in with me later and I’ll likely have worked up to the espresso!

2018 goals

It’s this time of year that people start talking about making resolutions. I’m guilty of it too, and I always have those thoughts rolling around my head for New Year: eat less, move more, write more, do more, be better.

This year I was all ready to get specific again, and then I realised, it’s not about those measurable goals. Sure, I have plenty of things I want to achieve in 2018 but the overarching thing that I, and the world, needs is not a list of my boring plans.

Instead it’s about the simpler things.


Be nice.

Be thoughtful.

Be kind.

 

Talk, but listen more.

Learn and grow and change your mind.

 

Be proud. Life is hard, but you’re making it.

Be awesome. The world needs awesome people.

Be fearless. You are loved, so take a chance.

 

Most of all, be you. Glorious, wonderful, flawed, beautiful, complicated you.