Friday, 28 February 2014

Sexism

Nearly every day I log into the great digital depths of the internet, I am met with some form of information on how badly women are treated. Some articles point out all the micro- and macro-agressions women are met with on a daily basis. Others focus on how there's a prevalent rape-culture in our society that puts all the blame of rape on the victim. Objectification of women seems to be so prevalent that we don't even register it as anything out of the norm and we need a gender role-reversal video to actually see that there's something wrong with how we treat people.

At times, when I read these I can't help but be reminded of some of the things the women I've met have told me. Whenever I hear these words repeated in my mind, I'm more and more convinced the blame for this social problem plaguing us is not just a simple matter of one gender exerting control over the other. It is, in fact, much worse.

'I like him but I told him no. If he likes me enough, he'll come find me again.'

Why can't men take no for an answer? Because no is propagated as a test rather than an answer. I never liked this idea of how I should always harass a woman after she turns me down. Apparently, it's a sign of a very strong love. No, it isn't and it shouldn't be made to be so. Ignoring another person's wishes is a clear sign of disrespect; that you do not care what they have to say because what you want is more important. Moreover, if a person doesn't mean no by saying no, that means they're lying. I honestly never thought of liars as good partners for anything.

'Just pretend you want to have sex. Every girl does that.'

Nothing says I love you more than Take off your panties. All right, I'm still getting to grips with how sex is part of love but I doubt I'll be able to put sex above love any time soon. I'm not really sure what's so bad about doing stuff together outside the bedroom, like watching TV, cooking or shopping. Yes, even non-romantic activities. I don't think a relationship should revolve around getting laid and here too, I don't like receiving suggestions that lying is all right.

'A girl feels ugly if a guy doesn't want to have sex with her.'

Yes, women take their worth from being seen as sexual objects. A woman that has no one fighting for her attention is nothing. I thought we're supposed to move away from the sexual objectification of women rather than convince guys that it's fine to see another person as just another place to keep their penis in. I can understand how rejection can affect a person negatively but I don't see how treating a person as only good enough for a one-night stand is any better.

Ideas have a strong influence on us, our society and culture. When they're damaging, we shouldn't even consider incorporating them into our personal value system. I suspect that the above suggestions are results of damaging ideas being seen by women when they were creating their own value systems and so, they hold them for true now when they really shouldn't.

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Greed

One of the most common advice people give me is that I need to find a better job.

These are words that I question on a regular basis. I can understand why people have this desire for a 'better job'. Some want to be fulfilled in their career. They want to be respected in their chosen field and engage with it on a regular basis. Others want to be paid enough to further their other goals in life.

For me, work has never been about living. I simply chose my career path and got the required qualifications because I believed I would have been good at it. I wanted to have a decent job so that I could comfortably pursue my other dreams... but last year I had to face the harsh reality that my dreams were folly and there's nothing I can do about it. I suppose I'm still grieving over it in a way.

When I made the decision to stop fooling myself and break the shackles that were keeping me from moving forward with my life, I was hoping that some new desire will pop up and I would pursue it as my life's goal. That didn't happen.

I don't drink, I don't smoke and I don't like prolonged exposure to crowds so I don't spend any money to go out. I get my energy from reading and gaming. Unfortunately, I have full stacks of books I haven't read and games I haven't played so my financial motivation remains extremely low. Despite having a job that most people I work with despise and want out as soon as possible, I find myself with a roof over my head and bread on the table. I don't need to live in a palace or eat caviare to survive. These things don't matter to me.

Someone once told me she wished for me to have a job I'd be good at because she hates to see people waste their potential. In my case, I don't see a difference. Whatever job I have, my personal needs are low enough that I don't need much of an income. Neither do I want my career to define who I am. Whether I have a successful career or none at all, the same problem remains.

I don't know what to do...

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

New Year's Resolutions

I have mixed feelings when it comes to New Year's Resolutions. I haven't had the habit of making any for most of my life, it's only recently that I've even learned people do such silly little things. The common conception seems to be that people who make them, forget about them in a manner of weeks. I think that's because people either don't take their word seriously or they come up with resolutions to be someone else rather than just working on making yourself better. That's something I realised somewhere along the line last year. That I was too focused on being someone else and just caused myself pain. Now I'd like to just try be myself and do things that I enjoy.


Reading

I always give myself a goal of reading thirty books a year and never manage to get there. In itself, it's not a bad goal. Although I keep failing, it does keep me reading. There are, however, a few things about my reading habits that I would like to change.

I kept approaching them as sporadic so I often didn't bother to even pick up a book when I could. Instead, I simply kept browsing the internet, just wasting my time. Another issue is that despite having non-fiction books, I very rarely pick any up. I've got some interesting books on language and grammar which just gather up dust on the shelf. This has to change. Finally, I'd like to change my surroundings a bit.

Below are ideas I wish to implement:

- Go to bed an hour early and spend it reading, rather than stare aimlessly at my mail.
- On my day off, at least once a week, read a chapter from a non-fiction book.
- Once a week go to the café round the corner, order a cup of tea and read for an hour or so.

Write

I obviously don't write enough. Not because of a lack of ideas. I put great value in imagination so I'm rarely out of ideas. The sad truth about writing is that unless you sit down and write, you're not writing. Little known fact is that I have a really cool notebook which I could use to scribble down ideas and scenes. I really need to have it in close proximity and catch all those stray thoughts that catch my fancy. After which I have to work on them, use all those nifty tools I've got installed and produce words on electronic paper.

I had enough of having the ghosts of my past approach me to ask how's my book going. The one which stopped at chapter 1, probably not even going past half thereof. I'd like to get back into reviewing too, either whatever film I saw recently or book I've read.

- Get into the habit of writing down ideas, keep idea book at hand
- Write a blog post once a month (personal or review)
- Work on writing more

Art

Last year I've dabbled in jewellery making. While I enjoyed it and was encouraged to proceed with the course, I haven't done anything with it. I looked into buying some equipment but it's not an investment I'm ready for just yet. Instead, I'd like to finish some other projects I had lying around. Firstly, there are some figures that need painting. I was just getting into the hobby, getting interested in painting and sculpting miniatures, when life hit hard and I had to change my living arrangements into a much smaller space, I simply didn't have room to proceed. Now I no longer have that excuse but I'm still allowing those miniatures to gather dust. This has to change.

- Read the book I have on painting miniatures.
- Paint the miniatures I have.

Language

Since this part of my life is, basically, my obsession, I will have the easiest time with it. I actually enjoy reading up on grammar and I immensely enjoy discussing grammar of different languages. Learning languages is very fun, even though people tell me I should just focus on one. Problem is, I can bored of going with just one. After a while it just becomes tedious and I need a change. Juggling two or three keeps me going far better than having one to focus on. However, I do need to organise my notes better so I can revise more efficiently and focus on parts of grammar that I find personally challenging.

The other side of this coin is teaching. Last year I was awarded a certificate in Teaching English. I looked for a job in teaching but didn't find any. My decision to take a break went long enough and now I'm closing in on this feeling of limbo. It is not a good place to be. I'm already starting to doubt my skills and knowledge even though I'm given proof to the contrary often enough. I had ideas for a personal website dedicated to languages, just my thoughts on teaching and learning, and a way to present myself as a language professional.

- Organise a language learning folder
- Build a language website for myself
- Apply for translation services

Roleplaying

I haven't done any roleplaying in about a year. I used to be fairly active on both gaming forums and play-by-post for the better part of my life but that has waned since I found out the games I've been running just don't hold up to my expectations. I'm still interested in it though and I wish I could find people to have interesting games with but I pretty much gave up on that. Nowadays I mainly listen to podcasts. I used to read gaming blogs but I drifted away from that too. Problem is I still have a lot of unread books that are gathering dust and I feel like buying some more. So first order of business if to read the ones I have because right now it doesn't feel like I've got any.

- Read a roleplaying game book.

Gaming

I've been playing a lot of games lately (mostly Halo). I think I started playing more regularly after getting an account on Backloggery and realising that I really do have a lot of games I haven't finished. Having an Xbox also helps since my laptop is not good enough to handle gaming. I'll mainly just keep on doing the same as last year.

- Reach my TrueAchievements goals
- Make sure my backlog progress is higher than -28
- Have less than 35 Unranked games on Raptr

Body 

Taking care of myself has never been my strong suit. I like to think I'm faring better in this respect than in years prior but it's not easy to say for certain. I've neglected this mortal coil for a long time despite knowing I really shouldn't do so. There's one thing I wanted to do which I've been putting off for a long time.

- Get a tattoo

Thursday, 29 August 2013

Childish Things


I'd say everyone has certain comments that they don't want to hear about themselves. For me, they seem to crop up every few weeks. Someone in my vicinity will inevitably imply how great a husband I would be... and it would have been nice to hear that if I were still to believe in Love.

My problem with Love is that I've wanted to have a family for the better part of my life. Whenever I went to a new school, I had hopes that I will just lay eyes upon that one person and as our gazes meet, we would fall in love and spend the rest of our lives together. As I went to secondary school, high school, university and even to work, that moment never came.

People keep telling me that I'm still young and my life is ahead of me, so that moment is still within reach, but I've been feeling old since I was twelve and now that I'm more than twice that, I feel too old to start dating. Especially when I think about how everyone has had their fair share of relationships and I'm just lagging behind.

Nowadays, when I think of a relationship, all it really amounts to in my head is as an unnecessary distraction. I'm already struggling with finding the time to just sit down and do something I like. I'm not reading, writing, painting, cooking, studying nor gaming as much as I would like. Adding a relationship on top of it all would just complicate matters.

Thing is, even though my life isn't what I imagined it to be, I'm not particularly unhappy with it. I've got two godsons to take care of; the only problem is that I don't see them as often since they're so far away, I have friends who I can give a massage to, brush their hair, hug, make dinner for, go to a restaurant, watch a film and have tea with. In other words, everything I wanted to do with a partner. The only difference now that I see between Friendship and a Relationship is sex and since I'm not keen on that, there really isn't much reason for me to go out looking for a girlfriend.

For some reason I keep thinking of sex as rather vulgar and objectifying towards a woman. While I like that romance of waking up, cuddling and having breakfast together, I can't get over the fact I'd first have to sleep with someone. People have been telling me that this notion of mine is silly and that intercourse is romantic and emotional but I just don't see it. Then they usually follow up with suggesting I go see a doctor but I really don't want look at a woman and think of all the ways to screw her. Another excellent suggestion I've been given is to just blatantly lie about my libido but, here too, I can't see the point in basing a relationship on a lie. When I was younger, I thought girls will want to be with someone who doesn't want to just have sex but I had to grow out of this way of thinking. Probably around the time someone told me that if a woman doesn't feel like the man wants to sleep with her, then she feels ugly... and I just can't ruin beauty with vulgarity.

I suppose letting this dream die is for the best. I've been holding back on doing more to get a better job and improving my living conditions. I kept postponing that step because I know full well that if I were to have a decent wage, a job I wouldn't be ashamed of, a house of my own or even a car, I wouldn't be able to trust anyone to love me for who I am rather than what I have. Now that I have nothing, I could understand someone falling in love with me. If, by any chance, however, I manage to get all these things people seem to crave so much, I wouldn't know how to tell if someone loves me or just sees an advantage in hooking up with someone who can provide her with decent living conditions.

That is what I believed when I was a child: Love, Honesty and Compassion.

It's about time I did away with childish things...

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Decline of Dramatic Effect


It's been a while since I wrote about Roleplaying Games... and they've been on my mind lately... ever since I got a new room-mate and been showing him my various collections...

I have a few books with me that I haven't even read. Despite that I still feel like getting other game lines that I'm missing from the overall set. Quite a considerable amount of time ago, I bought a copy of the 20th Anniversary Edition of Vampire The Masquerade as part of a European project to mass order it from the States so we can cut down on the shipping price. I've waited months for the release and then I waited a year to actually get the book since I was moving a lot that year... but when I finally got a stable address, the people behind the project sent the game over to my place.

I didn't have a lot of money at the time. I had to scrape what little I had and I only did it because that is the game that got me into a hobby that would be part of my life for more than half thereof. I have a lot of fond memories of that game. I still remember how I unpacked the box that it came in, how I marvelled at the cover, how I started to run games in school and how I tormented my friend with the fact he borrowed it and then gave it back in pieces...

That was two years ago and I still haven't read the book... and now there's a kickstarter for another game that means a lot to me... I find myself in this strange position where I would love to support it but I'm doing nothing about it due to insufficient funds and the knowledge that even if I have the book, I'll do nothing with it...

I did join a game, A Song of Ice and Fire, at The Roleplay Club. I didn't really get into the game. I think my character just got underused. Every time I wanted to show off his personality, I just hit a brick wall due to the circumstances... or maybe I just didn't know the setting well-enough to make a proper character... on the other hand, it was a gamble to begin with since I don't really like games based on existing properties in general... so I ended up wanting to chat with a friend while other players did stuff... and when I had to go to school for an entire month, I decided to just drop from the game...

Thus, gaming was had, I had some fun but I still feel rather lacklustre about roleplaying games. There's even an open spot at the club for someone to run a game but I just can't seem to find the willingness in me to commit to it. I still can't say I burnt out. I have ideas for games and campaigns, my main issue is deciding between them, and I keep catching myself thinking on how to stat the various characters I used to play in Hero System. I'm certainly not suffering from any sort of creative block. I'm even setting up a solo Skype game with a friend and am looking forward to it... alas, my enthusiasm is still not what it used to be...

I think, as far as the Roleplay Club goes, my issue is mainly that I feel, with the utmost certainty, that I shan't be able to run a game of the type that would please my gaming aesthetics.

Story trumps rules!
I can't help but think about this one Actual Play Thread that I've read on RPG.net a long time ago. There was this once scene that sunk into my mind. The game in question was Werewolf The Forsaken. I should explain a bit about the game but I can't just say it's about werewolves... about being a cursed creature with anger management issues... while there should be a lot of that in a game, it is much deeper than what you'd expect. Werewolves, in that setting, are half-spirit creatures who took upon themselves the task of keeping the physical and spiritual realm in balance. One aspect of that is that spirits will often try and break through the barrier between worlds and anchor themselves to the physical realm, preferably by possessing some mortal.

The scene that sunk deep into my psyche was one in which a werewolf approached his (or her, I'm fuzzy on the details at this point) closest relative who suffered a major trauma (probably by being related to a werewolf and dragged into a lot of unpleasant things) and bargained with a happiness spirit in the form of a happy smiley face to possess the person... because it's better for your sister to turn into a happy monster than to let her suffer through the atrocities she's been witness to.

The whole idea of a player going through the trouble of making that moment a significant part of the game struck me as wonderful. It's not just about how much damage you'll be able to dish out with your Epicly Legendary Sword of Doomy Doom +9000... The Pathos! That's what I want in a game... alas, I had people walk out of the games I run because they were too talky... just before the big fight scene between armies that would last a few sessions!

See, I like fight scenes too, that's why one of my favourite games is Exalted... where the more over-the-top action description you make, the higher your chances of actually pulling it off are... but I want drama in my games too... alas, players who will go beyond the call of looting the bodies are so rare that, in a way, I just gave up trying to game...

Sunday, 7 April 2013

Last Year's Drama



Well, it's April already and I still haven't done any review of last year.  I wanted to sit down and do it after my CELTA course... but life got in the way, as usual.

I had this enormous post planned in my mind, analysing and breaking apart all those significant events that took place in my insignificant life last year but now I don't feel like going into that sort of detail. I suppose the storm of the past few weeks has passed and I'm just a bit too tired to think about a chapter that has already finished. Yet an epilogue is always good to write...

2012 had this very specific theme of letting things go.

I'd say empathy is considered a desirable trait. We are encouraged to give to charities and look badly at anyone who dares not to help another human being in need. I seem to recall not providing first aid to someone being considered a criminal offence... but I'm not a lawyer. Problem is when you have too much empathy; when you care about others more than yourself; when you sacrifice your own well-being so someone else has the sliver of a chance to get better.

I suppose this is why others always told me to take care of myself.

Two things happened. My dad rage-quit his job and as he was in the process of moving, he decided he didn't want the place where his contract was about to end nor the new one that he signed the contract for. After spending a vacation at my mum's place, he asked me if he could move in with me while he's looking for a job in England. I agreed since he's my father and I wanted to help him. That was one of my biggest mistakes that year.

I got into arguments with him over smoking in my room. Thing is I rent a bedsit so this one room is all that I have available. My dad deemed it too hard to go outside for a smoke, especially since he saw other tenants smoking in their rooms. Of course, my dislike of him making a chimney out of my room was all my fault since I got unused to inhaling smoke and my sister and mum somehow survived it. The way I kept coughing was because I kept getting sick at work. The worst parts were when he started to shout and threaten me with moving back with my mum, without a job, so she won't have any money to live all because I couldn't handle a bit of smoke.

There were also other problems like my dad being unhappy that I'm not jumping with joy because he put up shelves that I didn't want in the first place, or him telling me how to use a fork, which all can be summed up by this nifty term called micromanaging...

I promised my mum I will put up with it for a month as was our agreement. Fortunately, all his talk of 'only for a month' actually being meant as a preliminary didn't come true. He moved out and I had a few weeks of peace. Until he decided the best way to approach the problem of why his son doesn't want to speak with him is to take a week off, go to my place and stay here until I have no choice but to talk to him. This too ended without me calling the police to get rid of him because my sister coerced him to leave me alone. I was shocked when my sister told me dad doesn't know why I'm angry with him because he didn't do anything wrong.

I guess somewhere along the way I got so tired of being treated like his soldier that I just quit. I wanted to have a good relationship with my father and not let it turn out like how his relationship with his parents is but I just had enough.

The other important development was with this pseudo-friend I had. Now that I look back at it, it's just strange. We met at work and hung out a lot. After a while we found out we had a lot in common... but to my chagrin, all attempts to actually follow up on those activities were ignored time and time again until I was told to just stop it. So all we did was hung out and chat about her problems whenever she called me. She asked me for help often and I kept on helping the best I could because that's just the way I am, I like helping people.

I suppose everything would have been fine if she didn't tell me how grateful she is for meeting me and that if I'll ever need any help to just tell her because I'm her best friend... and one day I did. I asked her to meet up because I wanted to tell her how the things she keeps telling me hurt me, she said she'll get back to me but then she kinda forgot about it. I just couldn't make any sense of it. It looked to me like she can only find time for someone she wants to sleep with or to get drunk but her best friend who she supposedly treasures so much is just not worth giving a grain of her time.

I confronted her about it after nearly a month. She claimed she didn't think it was important and was angry at me that she always has to take the initiative. That was a short conversation, we met up later to discuss matters outside of work. She said I was playing a game with her, that she felt cheated and that everything was a lie. I told her that I just wanted to share some of my life with her like she did with hers.

There was some back and forth between us for a while. During which she told my sister things between me and her were getting better, though I don't know how since she wasn't doing anything to make it better. Then we started to talk again and after a while she asked me to take her to the doctor's again, so I did... and it was the same thing again. I invited her to do stuff together a few more times but she kept bailing on me... and then she told me that the reason why she didn't call me at all was because she was too busy getting drunk... The same thing happened again but this time, since we weren't working together any more, I had to text her saying how much I hate her behaviour and her lies. She tried calling me but I felt too much like crying to have a conversation. Then she tried talking to me on Facebook but I went to make breakfast and by the time I got back she just told me now she knew what I really wanted from her. I explained myself again and we didn't speak to each other for several weeks.

Until she called me to ask if I would lend her some money... so I did. We talked a bit, she hugged me, said she was touched and yet I felt this sense of everything being false. I didn't expect to see that money back. I followed up with a test, I invited her for a Christmas dinner since neither of us had any family close. She said she couldn't come, as per usual. Last I heard from her, she called me crying, saying that she kicked out her boyfriend because he was tormenting her psychologically by being so jealous that she couldn't have any friends whatsoever and that she didn't know if she's just so immature to not be able to hold down a relationship. I listened but I felt like I didn't really care... not any more at least.

When all of that was going on I just felt like my self-esteem is eroding. I just felt worthless and used for my kindness. I didn't expect that standing up, getting the courage to feel I deserve better than this and actually saying enough is enough would make me feel so much better. I'm glad I did what I did, I really don't need that sort of self-absorbed people in my life... and I feel a lot, lot better now...

Friday, 14 December 2012

The Language Fiend Rises

At the end of the summer I have finally saved up enough money to go for a CELTA course. The clever reader may remember that I once tried to get onto this course which would give me much sought after teaching qualifications. It was time for another try. Everything seemed to be in place. I could pay for it on my own and I could use my holidays to go for it so it was only logical that I were to download the application form.

My first problem to tackle was that of having a sufficiently high grade in an English exam to qualifiy for a C1 level of comprehension at least. I had to track down the Common European Framework of Reference chart comparing grades of various English exams and found that my IELTS score of 7.5 was enough to qualify. It turned out that it was just what I needed and that everyone who has been telling me I should get a First Certificate in English should shut up.

The best part of filling the application was how I got to the section for Languages Known and Their Level... and I ran out of space...

After submitting it, I received several language tasks meant to check my knowledge of the English language. I got a reply saying that I need to redo two of them because they wanted me to use specific books that were on the list provided because they wanted to check my ability to do language research. The tasks they were referring to were about differences between tenses and different uses of modal verbs. The problem was that I wanted to do it as soon as possible so I used what any self-respecting linguist would do and used corpora for the task. Yet they wanted me to use specific books so I got mad and decided I'll give them an analysis that will make their eyes bleed.

This stage was the longest one. I've spent the first week in two libraries going through some grammar books and a huge chunk of time just waiting for books I've reserved to be returned to the library. In the end I wrote an analysis of tenses and modal verbs and sent it off. I received an invite to an interview about a week later and it took me another week just to set up a time for the interview.

I went for the interview and it was quite interesting. I was first given a task to write about what teachers and learners can do to enrich the language learning experience and then I had a chat with one of the teachers. She told me that she never saw that detailed and well-referenced analysis of tenses and modal verbs. She gave me a few tasks on spelling and punctuation. I was a bit nervous and made some mistakes but I think she was happy with how I could see where I made them. She asked me about parts of speech and affixes. It was really funny when she asked me what -able in manageable is and I told her it's a derivational morpheme. She told me it's true but she wanted a simpler answer so I just guessed she wanted me to say it's a suffix.

Then we went on to talk about teaching methodology, my experiences with teaching and learning and she asked me to show her how I would explain some grammar concepts, what I would teach specific groups of students and some teaching specific terminology. All around, it was a very enjoyable conversation. At one point we talked about pronunciation. She told me not to worry about my accent because everyone has an accent of some sort. I told her that I do try to look up IPA for words I'm not sure about, she asked if I can read it and I told her I can read most of the signs that are on the board behind me. She asked me to demonstrate, so I did and she was quite impressed... even though I only went through the vowels and diphthongs which are the ones I have most problems with.

I told her how I doubt I'll get a job even after this course because schools prefer to employ native speakers rather than people like me but she told me her school has several non-English teachers and they even had a Polish woman working here a while time ago. So there may be some hope for me yet. I did feel better after hearing that.

There is one thing that she kept on coming back to as the interview went on. Mainly how most people who enter this course need to start thinking about English on a higher level while I have to do the opposite since my English is that advanced. I kept feeling like the questions she's asking me are too simple that they must be trick questions and she kept telling me they weren't. For instance, she asked me to say what he and do is in a sentence and I was really surprised when she told me that some people don't know that he is a subject.

She had a laugh when I told her I find it fascinating how different languages can have the same word but pronounce it differently, like Spanish and Italian. We were talking about it because she asked me to give her a short lesson in Polish just to check how I would approach teaching complete beginners. The subject of drilling in pronounciation and relation between graphs and phonemes came up.

I was nervous during the whole interview but looking back at it, it was a really enjoyable conversation about subjects that I love and I kept myself together better than I was expecting to. I really feel like I came a long way these past few years.

I nearly cried when she told me she will give me a place on the course.