Kawaii: Embracing the Cute

calico-cat-1732371_1280Does it have big eyes?
Does its cuteness overwhelm?
That’ll be Kawaii
Kawaii, a haiku, by me.

Following on from my previous Kawaii post, I’ve come across a few more Kawaii pieces to cheer up my existence.

I found a couple of bargain Kawaii-like pieces in Shoe Zone of all places. I’m not sure the bag constitutes Kawaii, I think it’s more pretty than Kawaii (what do you think?), but the owl wallet definitely gets my approval.

Now my ‘Soot Sprite’ has a place to hang.

I got these adorbz stickers from Amazon. They were pretty cheap, so they were just an add on to my main order. What I didn’t realise was they were getting shipped from Asia. It took them nearly a fortnight to turn up!

I also splurged (inadvertently) on a Pusheen reusable bottle. I say inadvertently because I bought it from Claire’s Accessories and there was no price on it. It wasn’t until it got tilled through that I had the “how much???” moment. But hey, if it helps cut my use of disposable plastic bottles to help save the planet then its worth it. And actually, in the end, it pays for itself via tap refills.

That’s pretty much all I’ve collected so far. With university module payments coming up (ugh!), I’m gonna be cutting my expenditure back for a few months … unless I see something I simply can’t live without.

A Second Life in Second Life

So I’ve recently done a section on virtual worlds in my Open University module (My Digital Life), and a lot of it was about the use of Second Life in the realms of education, business and pleasure. It got me thinking and intrigued about the place again. Many years ago I tried logging in, but my old PC simply couldn’t handle it, and my foray into the world died before it even started.

By the end of the section, I had succumbed to curiosity. Armed with my more powerful Linux laptop, I signed up again, got a new avatar, and I entered the world at the OU’s remaining island (Deep Think).

I didn’t meet anybody while I was there, which was probably a good thing. It gave me a chance to wander round and get a feel of the place undisturbed. But more importantly, I had major problems using the edit avatar menu, and on several occasions I inadvertently ended up butt naked. Being alone certainly saved my avatar’s blushes.

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I’ve called my cat Mor’du

After my wander, I went and visited the International Space Flight Museum, which was actually pretty cool.

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I went back a couple of times, mainly to tweak my avatar’s look. I also visited another museum, namely the Museum of Natural History of Vienna, where I looked at dinosaurs, and managed to get trapped under the floor. But again, I didn’t see anyone else.

Do I think I’ll be going back to Second Life? Probably not. But it’s handy having an avatar if a get-together is ever on the cards.

Everything is (Buffer) Awesome

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Since Hootsuite decided to downgrade its free version options, I’d been seriously considering Buffer’s Awesome Plan, especially after my fortnight’s free trial of their Businesses Plan. However, at $102 per year (and that’s with their 15% yearly subscription discount) and me not having an income, it seemed rather a large fee. Then one day I was scrolling through Twitter, reading what people had been saying about the plan, when I saw something that immediately made me sit up…. The words student discount…. And there’s me being a student!

The tweet was old, so I had two questions to get the answer to. Did they still do a student discount, and was it available to Brits?

Armed with only my university email address, I shot Buffer a message, and soon got the answers back…. Yes & Yes!

Thanks to the 15% annual discount, and a student discount, The yearly fee dropped to $51 (a manageable £38!). I signed up on the spot, and ho-boy, has it changed my morning routine for the better.

Firstly, I can link up to 10 social media accounts to one buffer account. As it stands, I’ve now linked:

*I still post to the charity’s Facebook account via Facebook’s scheduler as it allows other admins to see the posts, and make changes if necessary.

And at 100 post slots available for each, the time, it is being saved.

Before, thanks to being constrained by post slots, I would have to fill up different applications. Buffer for my retweets, Facebook posts, and LinkedIn; Hootsuite for plain text posts; Tweetdeck for posts with images, and when I’d run out of room on Hootsuite and Buffer; Facebook scheduler when I’d run out of room on Buffer; Pinterest didn’t even factor in; and I had bookmark folders for tweets and posts that simply couldn’t be fitted in anywhere at the time (e.g. for the charity account and my LinkedIn). I would quite often have to generate multiple copies of the same post, switching between scheduling platforms as space and post type dictated. Not anymore! Now I can create one post, and instantly have it schedule across all my different social media accounts, with the barest tweak to any text before they go (like adding hashtags to tweets). Plus, I no longer have to worry about backlog posts because I have more than enough available slots for each account.

Another time saver has come from being able to cross post between different account types. My social media accounts can be divided into three profiles: Charity org, me as a marine biologist, and me as a sci-fi novelist. I had different buffer accounts for each hat I wear, and I would have to log in and out of them to schedule posts. So, say, I came across an a marine-related article when scheduling stuff for my marine platforms, that I fancied sharing on the charity’s profile. I would have to wait until I’d done all my scheduling for my marine accounts, log out of the accounts, log into the charity’s accounts, recreate the posts, and schedule them again. Not so now. Now, if I find a post that I want to share across several profiles, I can simultaneously schedule them across several profiles. Job done!

The biggest issue I have is getting into the new posting rhythm. It doesn’t feel right just creating one post for multiple accounts. Several times I’ve sat there, staring at the post, second-guessing myself whether everything’s ok with it, and that I’m good to press the ‘Schedule’ button. Also, I have to be wary to make sure I deselect all the unnecessary platforms before publishing (I don’ think MARINElife’s followers are too interested in my science fiction posts).

Despite that, my time spent scheduling posts has been cut from approximately 2.5 hours, to about 1.5 hours. It’s come to the point that I’m able to slot in some Open Learn studying in the morning.

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So, if you’re contemplating signing up for the Buffer Awesome Plan, I heartily recommend it, especially if you’re a student or a charity (the 50% discount applies to you too).

Kawaii: A New-Found Love

The night is dark and full of terrors, so why not kawaii?

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Kawaii
kəˈwʌɪ
adjective: (in the context of Japanese popular culture) cute.
“she paints elephants that are extremely kawaii”
noun: the quality of being cute, or items that are cute.
“even in a cosmopolitan city like Tokyo, kawaii is everywhere”
[Thank you Google]

No, but seriously, I love the idea of Japan’s Kawaii. Not so much the girly, frilly outfits, because as a woman knocking on 40’s door, I’d look pretty horrendous dolled up in Lolita fashion, but it’s the little things I like. I want to add a splash of kawaii to me and my surroundings, to brighten my existence, without making my world look like Hello Kitty’s thrown up in it.

So I’ve set myself the task of adding touches of kawaii to my day-to-day life, but (and here’s the important thing) without breaking the bank.

My first stop was The Range (a UK general purpose store). I mainly went to find some cute stickers for my bullet journal, but I stumbled across a pack of adorable owl pencil sharpeners. That’s proper kawaii right there!

I then stumbled across this little fellow in Matalan of all places. I’ve seen Spirited Away, so as soon as I saw it I thought, “Soot Sprite!”

Oh, and WHSmith stocks some adorable kitty pencil top erasers that are way too cute to use. Here’s mine checking out the exercise section of my journal.

I’ve also recently found a couple of bargain pieces in Shoe Zone of all places, namely a bag and wallet, which I’ll share in my next Kawaii post. For now, I urge you to brighten your life and embrace the cute!

Decisions Decisions

The time finally arrived for me to choose my second lot of modules for my Open University degree, something that I’d been waiting excitedly for.

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As you may know, I chose to do the Open Degree, basically to give myself a bit more flexibility in the modules I can choose, and I’m basically doing Information and Computing Technology combined with Creative Writing. Sort of an ICT major, Writing minor kinda deal. I’m still in the midst of doing ‘My Digital Life’, which, though a little outdated (it’s the last time it’s running), I’ve found to be interesting and informative, but I had 60 credits left to fill, to complete what will technically be my first year of study. And so, choices had to be made.

Since beginning this degree, I’ve already known one of the other first year modules I wanted to take, which is ‘English for Academic Purposes Online’, and which’ll be my first languages module. But at 30 credits, this left me having to decide on another 30-pointer, which wasn’t easy. I didn’t want to learn a language, or retail management, or delve into essential mathematics. This left me with two options:

  1. An introductory statistics module.
  2. A module delving into robotics, networking and Linux.

The sensible part of my brain told me to do statistics. After all, I’m a scientist, and if I ever manage to get a science-based job, statistics may well be needed. The other part of my brain said, “But robots!” As I was having trouble deciding, I put some feelers out to my social media followers, asking what they’d do. To be honest, the masses weren’t much help. My Twitter poll got one vote, for robots, and my Facebook post got one comment, again for robots. However, the FB post was the clincher, as they basically said I could do a statistics course anytime, and thinking about it, they’re right. I’m sure if I did a Google search now, I could find any number of free statistics MOOCS online. So, with that in mind, I’ve chosen ‘Technologies in Practice’ as my third first-year module.

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These choices mean I also know what type of degree I’ll end up getting in six year’s time. My second and third years will be split 50:50 between computing and language modules, but my first is going to be split 75:25 between computing and language modules. Meaning the majority of my modules will be science ones, therefore, my final degree will be a BSc. Woo, another science degree!

As an aside, did you know the first year Open University modules don’t count to the final pass mark? I didn’t! I’ve been busting my hump to try and keep my overall grade for TU100 within distinction level, panicking whenever I’ve got a low(ish) mark, only to find I’m stress over nothing. Basically, I just need to get a passing grade to make it to the second year. Still, I guess it shows I’m making an effort, and setting my personal bar high.

But robots! Yay!

Monthly Reads – June 2017

I’ve decided to put my re-read of Harry Potter on hiatus (I’m half way through the Goblet of Fire) and try something. What with seeing Ghost in the Shell a while back, and studying Information Computer Technology with the Open University, I had a hankering to try a Cyberpunk novel.

I’ve never read Cyberpunk before, so didn’t know where to start. Cue a lot of Googling of recommendations and reviews, after which, I decided that Post-Cyberpunk sounded like my kind of trope.

“Whereas cyberpunk is/was a Darker and Edgier riposte to older Science Fiction, intended to portray what might happen if we don’t all destroy ourselves, Post-Cyberpunk is intended to present a less pessimistic and more realistic vision.” tvtropes.org

Actually, Ghost in the Shell is considered Post-Cyberpunk(ish), so that helped affirm my choice. The TVTropes page also had a helpful list of media in this genre, and amongst the books was a title I’d seen elsewhere: Snow Crash.

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“The only relief from the sea of logos is within the well-guarded borders of the Burbclaves. Is it any wonder that most sane folks have forsaken the real world and chosen to live in the computer-generated universe of virtual reality? In a major city, the size of a dozen Manhattans, is a domain of pleasures limited only by the imagination. But now a strange new computer virus called Snow Crash is striking down hackers everywhere, leaving an unlikely young man as humankind’s last best hope.” Amazon

So this is what I’m reading this month. The main character’s name is Hiro Protagonist, which is as daft as you can get, but I’m trying to look past that. I’ve only managed to get a few chapters in so far, but I’m holding myself to reading a chapter a night before bed. It’s been quite entertaining in places so far, so I’m hoping for a good read. I’ll keep you posted as to what I thought of it.

Anyone out there read Snow Crash? If so, what did you think?

No Wonder

When one door slams shut in your face, another opens just a crack. Gotta love air pressure! What I mean by that rather weird sentence is that a couple of days after posting about how Hootsuite had given their free users a punch to the gut, I got an email from Buffer inviting me to try out their business plan for free for a fortnight. S-weet! Unlimited posting here I come! Of course, there’s no way that I’ll be signing up proper to a Business account as 1) I’m not a business, and 2) I’m unemployed, so I’ll have to enjoy it while I can. It’s just nice not having to juggle 4 different scheduling platforms for a couple of weeks.

With my rantings over Hootsuite, I forgot to mention that I went and saw Guardian’s of the Galaxy the other week. Great film! I’m not sure about the inclusion of PacMan in the final boss battle, but other than that, it gets good marks all round. The dialogue was quick and funny, there was plenty of action…and oh, Yondu!

The next movie-going debate in my household revolves around Wonder Woman. To be honest, I just can’t find the motivation to go see this. The DC Cinematic Universe, for me, has been one loooong and daaaaaaaark disappointment. I didn’t even bother going and seeing Batman vs Superman. And from what I hear, I think I dodged a bullet. The whole franchise seems turgid at best. Actually, I’ve not seen a Batman on the big screen since Batman Begins. I caught The Dark Night on TV…and pretty much prayed for my own death because it was so long and dull. The Dark Night Rises wasn’t that much better, and in all honesty, the only good thing about it was the Robin that never got to be: Joseph Gordon-Levitt.

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Typical maximum lighting level in a DC film

From the trailers I’ve seen, Wonder Woman’s lighting isn’t much better. Again, it’s the good ol’ dark, bleak lighting that plagues the other DC films. Something that’s in serious need of a vaccine. Then there’s Gal Gadot’s accent. I’ve mentioned before that I’m more than happy to hear accents on a film, but not at the expensive of not being able to understand what’s being said, such was the case of Marion Cotillard’s last line in Assasin’s Creed that no one seems to have caught. And quite frankly, she could have done with subtitles for the majority of the movie, despite speaking English. Unsurprisingly, I worry that Gal Gadot’s accent may also cause problems. And to be honest, from what I’ve seen of the trailers, her delivery seems stilted at best, which doesn’t bode well if I have to sit through near two hours of her performance.

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With all this, I have to say, my drive to see Wonder Woman is negligible. There’s an undercurrent of, “you should go see this movie, because woman power!”, and that I’m somehow failing the sisterhood if I don’t go see it, but I don’t want to have to sit through two hours of ‘meh’ just to prove I support female leads. Yes, some people have been raving the film, but then, people raved about Heath Ledger’s performance in Batman, and I found it forgettable (no disrespect to someone gone too young too soon). I guess I’m just not a DC fan, or rather, a DC Cinematic Universe fan. Will I be going to the cinema to see it? No. Will I watch it on TV in a couple of year’s time? Probably.

Well, I’m sure my thoughts have just p-o’d a lot of people, so I’m off to go vote for a better country. Ciao!