Week 2 – Rough Around the Edges

The body adjusts to stress. Winters feel a lot colder at the beginning of the season. By the time spring rolls around, you’ve adjusted to the drop in temperature. If you start to work out, it’ll be painful for the first three weeks, that is, until your body adjusts to the muscles tearing and regrowing. But the body takes time to adjust, and because of that, there is always growing pains when you encounter a new routine.

And right now, my body is definitely adjusting to the new environment. It’s been affecting me in weird ways.

  • Twice this week, instead of swiping my student card to get on the bus, I swiped one of my other cards. One of the bus drivers was nice to point out that his bus was not a grocery store.
  • I left some critical gear at home because I thought it’d be a great idea to have a look at the kit before the lab the next day. This was smart because it checking your equipment was the first task of the lab. It was also stupid because I forgot that equipment at home. Thankfully they have backups for the parts I needed.
  • I forgot some wires in one of my classes. One of my peers brought it back to me.
  • I spent fifteen minutes looking for a tool. I walked back to previous classes, I checked both of the bags I brought to school. Turns out it was sitting on the keyboard, right in front of my face.
  • I’ve been having weird dreams. I had a dream where was a massive bug in my ear that was screaming and scratching the inside of my head (horrifying). There was a dream where I threw a melon at the genitals of a giant bear (slightly amusing). And the last dream involved me shaving my head and convincing my fiancee it looked amazing (I would not look good with a shaved head).

Long story short, my body and brain are not used to the new, rigorous schedule I’ve set for myself, and as a result, are stressing out a bit. My mind, however, is fine. Mr. Charlton is holding it together pretty well, it’s just the vessel that holds me is struggling with waking up at 5:45 am and absorbing thirty hours of school a week and doing thirty hours of homework and then working twenty plus hours a week.

Still, though, even with this crazy schedule, I don’t feel overwhelmed yet. I’m still ahead in most of my classes, there’s a couple of knowledge gaps I have to fill with studying, but overall, I’m keeping my head above water. Even though I feel exhausted after these long days, I still wake up feeling refreshed and ready to do some more learning. At the same time, I’m hoping my body starts to adjust after week three or four. I’ve already had people at work comment on how tired I look all the time since my program started.

Sincerely,

The Illustrious Mr. Charlton

p.s. I’ve gotten insanely good at managing my time. On the bus? Studying. I’m at work? Some notes are put in front of me to glance at while I’m cooking. Walking home? Trying to recall the lessons from the day. When you don’t have any time to spare, study time is all the time.

p.s.s. Not only am I learning new things at school, I’m learning new things in the kitchen! Me and Kat decided that date night would be wing night, and instead of going out to some greasy pub, we tried making them at home. And let me tell you, they turned out amazing. Seriously, go buy some chicken wings, toss ’em in cornstarch, then an egg wash, then some seasoned flour, and throw them in a pot of hot oil for 8-10 mins.

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Look at these little badboys. We tossed ’em in some hot sauce and teriyaki.

p.s.s.s. You might also be wondering when I find the time to write this terrible blog. The exact time is typically Tuesday morning from 7:15 to 7:45, which is enough time to bang out a poorly written and edited piece of internet entertainment.

 

Mr. Charlton Gets Rid of Facebook

This is one of those blog posts that I had a hard time writing. The kind where I would pump out seven hundred words, only to look back and realize that I was a rambling mess, ranting off in the distance without any kind of coherent structure to my ideas. It was a random train of thought, one that derailed into a small community and exploded into a fiery mess of anecdotes and half-witty remarks. The people I was writing for would be reading with a mouthful of coffee, slowly swallowing as their eyes narrowed; “What the fuck is Mr. Charlton talking about?”. Well, today he’s ranting about Facebook.

I got rid of it, finally.

If you’ve read my blog on a somewhat regular basis, you’ll know I have a deep-seated hatred towards Facebook. I’m not a fan. In fact, it’s come up in about ten percent of my writing. That’s a lot, considering that Facebook is free. And there’s a pretty strict rule that I’ve been adhering to, especially recently as I’ve gotten older.

Don’t ever complain about something you’re getting for free.

Being the hypocrite that I am, I’ve been complaining about this free service for years. I’m not alone in my complaints; tons of people like myself dislike social media, especially Facebook. So then why are we using it?

Understand that Facebook, and a lot of other tech giants, have worked tirelessly over the last decade (even longer in many cases) to integrate themselves into the fabric of our society. You might convince yourself you’ll be missing out on something if you refuse their services. Truthfully, you will be. Without Facebook, there’s a good chance I might miss events that are organized there. And that’s a shame.

But…

The party is still taking place. That get-together is going to happen, it’s simply no longer convenient for the host to invite me. They’ll have to get a hold of me some other way. They’re going to have to send a carrier pigeon. They might try and put a message in a bottle, casting it out to the ocean in the slim hopes it washes up on my shores. Or, heaven forbid, they might have to use the telephone app on their smartphone and call me to arrange the party. Facebook is convenient.

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A ten year old asked me why the phone app was a ‘C’ shape.

Facebook is too convenient.

It’s so convenient, in fact, that you can have a social media relationship with someone you don’t know. I had a little over three hundred people on my friend list. At least a third of them? People I had met once. One interaction, years ago, was now something that Facebook convinced me was valid. It’s really easy to add people, over the years, over a pint at the bar when you’re four drinks deep and now everyone in the pub is your friend. Now your free social media page needs work. It needs to be culled every now and again. You’re social media image is something you’re going to have to manage.

Years ago, it used to list your friends post’s chronologically. Now Facebook has determined that you want to see what the hottest topics are. Those are the posts that keep you looking at Facebook, your eyes open on the screen while ads fill the sidebars. You know what posts seem to gather the most attention?

The controversial ones.

If you’re wondering why Facebook in particular seems to have gotten more mean-spirited in the last couple of years, it’s not because you’re getting older and more cynical. It’s because the easiest button to push in the emotion panel of your brain is the anger / outrage button. The social engineers at Facebook know this, and capitalize on it.

They’ve also figured out how to give you a dopamine hit when you participate in conversations. Someone says something wrong? On the internet? Fire back a snappy comeback, then watch as like-minded people support your post with likes and LOLs. A thirty second reply takes thirty seconds, but Facebook knows you’ll spend up to an hour or more seeing if anyone else validated your opinion.

All of your rage, your laughs, your accomplishments, your highs, your lows, everything you post to social media is facilitated by companies who are trying their hardest to manipulate your emotions. And they’re doing it because for every hour you spend on their site, they might make half a penny. Don’t quote me on that number. The point I’m trying to make is that your attention isn’t worth a lot to them, so they’re going to milk your attention for everything that it’s worth.

I’m picking on Facebook, but they’re not the only ones doing it. Instagram (owned by Facebook), Youtube (owned by Google), Twitter, Reddit, Tumblr, Imgur. They’re all competing for your attention.

If you’re wondering what happened to me, well, they ended up getting too much of my attention. They got so much of it that my only solution was to turn it off completely. It wasn’t the Cambridge Analytics issue, it wasn’t Zuckerberg having to testify in front of a bunch of congresspeople he was already donating campaign money to, it wasn’t Russian bots trying to undermine democracy. It was the simple problem of spending too much time on Facebook and Reddit, and not spending enough time writing, making games, learning new skills, and enjoying life.

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“I swear, your honor, that I put my pants and my flesh mask on just like the rest of you homo sapiens.”

I’ve lost the convenience of easily connecting with people. But I don’t think it should be easy to connect with people. It should be tough. It should be a little bit of work. Out of the three hundred friends I had a week ago, it’s plummeted to roughly sixty. I’m alright with that. Even though it’s going to be a little more work to connect with people, I have at least an extra hour a day to it. And maybe a five minute phone call would be better than liking a photo of them online.

The internet is a powerful tool. But like any tool, it can be misused. Stirring the pot to get peoples attention on the internet is like smearing the walls with shit to get your perfume to stand out. It works, but people are going to eventually get sick of the poop smell, even if the perfume is free.

Sincerely,

The Illustrious Mr. Charlton

p.s. I’m four days in of not having access to social media. It’s been pretty zen so far.

1. Image taken from https://news.sky.com/story/five-questions-mark-zuckerberg-needs-to-answer-in-congress-11325242

 

 

Mr. Charlton Moves to Victoria

After months of planning, saving, packing, and preparing, we’ve finally lumbered all of our belongings from one province to the next. A two day trip, 1300 or so kilometers, fifteen hours of driving, a three hour wait for the ferry, the number all added up to transplanting two people from Lethbridge, Alberta to Victoria, British Columbia. Since drawing up the schematics to move back in January, this is a trip that’s been in the making for a while.

Now we’re here, and after a week of unpacking, settling in, scouting out the neighborhood and taking a bit of a break, I’ve finally managed to set up the workhorse and crank out some words for the internet. As much as I love sitting by the beach in board shorts, it was time to plop down in front of the computer and write.

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I had to spend a bunch of time posing majestically, staring in the harbour before I sat down.

See, I could recount the fact that since we’ve arrived, Kat has dived into the ocean and removed five crabs from their homes. I could also recount that I’ve given them new homes inside of our bodies, by boiling the crabs then soaking their meat in butter. Crabs that look sort of like this.

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I know everyone is going to be looking at the crabs, but just so you know, that’s a medley of crooked-neck squash and spinach leaves in the bowl. I just want you to know that.

I could talk about how I finally live in a city again, and there’s a place not too far from home that sells Latin American food stuffs, or there’s a place that does nothing except charcuterie, or there’s a place that sells gentlemanly items like proper razor blades and humorous socks. But all these things take a back seat to the fact that once again I happen to be living in an actual city, even if it’s sort of a tiny city. Mr. Charlton thrives on space and people all over the place doing things in that space.

I might also talk about the idea that after well over a decade, I’ll have family around again. My brother lives in the city, and I have a mess of cousins and uncles and aunts that are dotted all over the West Coast. After fifteen years of being over in Alberta, I’ll actually be able to attend weddings and social gatherings without having to get on an airplane.

The most important thing to take away from this is that I no longer live in Lethbridge, Alberta. To extend that, I don’t even live in Alberta anymore. I now live in Victoria, BC, next to the ocean. I can pop my head out the window and see the ocean from here. I can hear the ocean waves pound the seawall. And I can drive half an hour out of the city to a craggy beach where my amazonian goddess of a girlfriend will literally dive in the ocean and catch live crabs with her bare hands.

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This picture was taken about 15 seconds before she spotted a crab and decided to leap in.

It’s going to be a year before I head back to school, so right now I’ll be saving some cash and catching up with family and friends who live in the area. So if you’re down on the coast, hit a guy up. I’m always willing to get a few beers and talk about small times. In the mean time, it’s incredibly nice to be home.

Sincerely,

The Illustrious Mr. Charlton

p.s. The crabs were utterly delicious. The mussels weren’t bad, but they weren’t good either. They’re out of season right now, and they tasted a little spawny.

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In the same breath, they were the goddamned biggest mussels I’ve ever actually laid eyes on.

p.s.s. Sure, it’s just crabs right now, but soon I’m going to be hunting for fresh oysters. And mussels. And clams. Pretty much any shellfish you can think of, I’ll eat.

p.s.s.s. The drive down itself from Lethbridge was pretty mundane, except for the fact that the entire province of British Columbia seems to be burning to the ground.

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It’s hazy in Victoria at the moment, because the smoke from the mainland is wafting over this way. Also, if it doesn’t rain in five days, this will be the driest summer that Victoria is ever had on record. This rain forest needs some rain!

 

Mr. Charlton is an Expert on Moving

I’ve been busy as of late. Busy moving. Getting ready to strap all of my stuff to the outside of a vehicle, and pack as much of it inside as well. Selling stuff on the internet (which is a whole other set of stories) and saving up money for the day we convoy across two provinces. ‘Bout to have a little garage sale, even. There isn’t a whole lot of things I can claim to be good at, but packing up my stuff and taking it to another location is something I’ve become somewhat of a pro at.

I should be a goddamn pro at it by now. This move to Victoria will count as the 32 move in my life.

Go ahead, pick your jaw off the floor. You read that right. I’ve moved a total of 32 times in my life, which chalks up to almost a move a year. That’s 32 times of stuffing boxes full of junk, sorting them out, putting them in a truck, putting those boxes in a new place, and then finally unpacking the boxes and putting all my junk back out into a living space. That’s 32 times of either renting a truck or wrangling friends and family into loading up vehicles and driving across my current landscape until the landscape changes into the new landscape I’ll hopefully be looking at for more than a month.

Moving is a hassle. It’s a goddamn pain in the ass. Nobody in their right mind would move as many times as I have. And it’s not like I’ve been living in exotic locals or anything. I’m not backpacking across Europe or taking a whirlwind tour in South America. All of those moves have been confined to BC and Alberta.

And yet, here I’m doing it again. And it’s going to be the longest move I’ve ever done. 1500 km. All the way from Lethbridge, Alberta to Victoria, BC. Hopefully this will be the last time I have to move in a few years.

There’s definitely a trick to moving, though. There’s a secret method I’ve cooked up, over the years, that’s a sure fire way to make uprooting and putting those roots somewhere else a little bit more tolerable. It’s crazy, it’s a bizarre and insane idea in this world, but gosh, it absolutely works.

I don’t actually own a lot of things.

This “Not owning a lot of things” has slowly been creeping up on me the last couple of years. At first, I thought this was something I was doing, something I had a hand in. I was reading blogs on minimalism, I borrowed “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” by Marie Kondo from the library. I exchanged my CD collection for an external hard drive. Instead of books, I got an E-Reader.

Until maybe a week or so, I had never actually tallied up the number of times I’ve moved. When I started counting out the moves, I lost count. So I made a spreadsheet, and it turned out I’ve moved over thirty times. Which is incredibly excessive for someone my age.

This got me thinking. Am I actually some sort of minimalist monk who’s rejected this consumer lifestyle we’re being sold every day, a modern Jesuit figure giving the middle finger to everyone who’s ever made a beer commercial, a Tyler Durden born in the flesh? Or am I just a guy who’s had to put his shit into cardboard so often that I just gave up and said “Man, if I don’t actually own this sweet Ab-Blaster 8000, then I won’t have to put it in a U-haul and move it somewhere in six months”.

Looking back, I think I’ve moved so often that I just got sick of owning stuff. When you go to the mall and your first thought is “Am I going to be able to put this in a Chevy Geo?”, you start to take into account how physically large your purchase is. It’s probably not the first thing that comes to mind when most people go shopping, but it’s definitely close the the top of my list.

I move again in two weeks. I’m excited and nervous and all those other crazy emotions that come with moving. Hopefully once I’m settled, I’ll get a little more routine back in my life and I’ll be able to yell on the internet more often. Until then, life is a little crazier when it involves changing locals.

Sincerely,

The Illustrious Mr. Charlton

p.s. The Ab-Blaster 8000 came about when I typed in “Most useless purchase ever” into a search engine. 90% of the comments mentioned exercise equipment.

p.s.s. Exercising is good for you, but you don’t need an Ab-Blaster 8000 to do so. Just some regular sit-ups should suffice.

p.s.s.s. On the other hand, you should at least look up some instructions on how to properly do a sit-up. Most people are sitting up wrong.