On Misnomers, Part One: Self Storage

So we all know what self storage is, right?  As far as I’m aware (being no expert), a company owns a big old warehouse-type building, portions it up into storage units, and hires these out to people to store a load of stuff that for whatever reason they can’t keep at home.  All fine and above board, sounds like a smart way to make money and probably comes in useful for people with loads of crap.  I don’t have a problem with the business model.

But I do have a problem with the name.  Why on earth has it come to be known as “self storage”?  As far as I can see, this is literally the opposite of self storage.  Self storage should be when you look after your own stuff, yourself.  Not putting it somewhere that belongs to someone else.  That isn’t self storage.  It’s “someone else storage”.

Let’s even go crazy and accept for a second that self storage is a reasonable name for this, because, I guess, even though you don’t own the space, you have a sort of responsibility to look after it yourself (tenuous at best, I know).  Even then, why call it self storage?  That implies that you’re going out of the way to differentiate it from some other sort of storage, “not-self storage”, as a viable alternative.  Now, unless I’m uninformed here, no such other option exists for the everyday person with too much crap.  The only thing that you’ve got to compare it to is… storing things at home like everyone else.  So what’s that called then?  Home storage?  Imagine English isn’t your first language and you need to decide where to keep some of your stuff in an English-speaking country.  Home storage or self storage?  Sounds like the same thing to me.

Rant over.  Although I have learned something today – if lacking in creativity, just think of something that makes you angry.  Easy words.

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On Writing, Part Three

I had an idea for a story (or series of stories) today.

I guess that’s a positive. The negative is that I am already worrying about how to turn ideas into actual pieces of writing. Plot, character, style, all baffle me.  I guess I can only really sit down and plan.

I’ve never been a planner and it has probably held me back in life a little. By this time next week, therefore, I promise that I will have at least tried to plan one of these stories. That’s all I can do!

On Ratings

Yesterday, I formulated on the folly of favourites.  Today, in a related quibble, I rant about the wrongs of ratings.  I actually began to write this as part of yesterday’s post but it started to turn into its own thing, which I guess is fine.

For any classification scheme rating something out of more than 5 options, it seems completely illogical to use the top band.

Why, you ask?  Well, let me tell you.  Say I read ten books, and I rate the best of them a 10, and the worst of them a 1, and everything else in between accordingly.  Perfectly logical so far, right?  Well, then I read an eleventh book and I decide it’s better than any of the other ten.  Well what the hell am I supposed to do then?

Do I call it a 10, knock the current 10 down to a 9, and so on?  If I’m doing that, then I have to recalibrate my entire system every time I read a better book than the best book I’ve read so far.  Do I call it an 11?  That would be feasible if most ratings systems weren’t constrained by computer applications and things.  Do I call it a 10 and let it sit alongside the other 10, which I’ve now decided isn’t actually as good?  No.

So my only solution is to keep the top spot free, not for the best book I’ve ever read, which has changed over my lifetime and will hopefully continue to change, but for the mythical best book I will ever read (and in theory, the bottom spot for the worst book I will ever read – but I’m not so fussy about that).

Well, you might say, what about a sort of percentage system?  1 for anything you rate in the bottom 10%, 2 for anything from 10-20%, etc.  It has crossed my mind but frankly I don’t really have the capacity to get that specific with my ratings.  And that’s just for a 10-point system.  Anything above that would be utterly impossible.  Which brings me to my exception – 5-star systems.

It’s just not worth implementing the “keep the top spot free” process for a 5-star system.  Leaving the top spot for the best book ever and the bottom spot for the worst only leaves me with 3 ratings to play with, which is hardly a ratings system at all.  On the other hand, I probably can sort things into 5 bands of enjoyment/quality factor.  Just be aware that if I ever rate something 5 stars, that means I am making a judgement that this will probably turn out to be in the top 20% of books I will read – which, really, is a lot of books. But if I call it a 10/10, I’ve decided it’s the best book in the world ever.

Sorry, that was a bit rambling.  I promise I’ll get better at this writing thing eventually.

 

On Driving, Part One

I like driving, but not as relentlessly (or at least that’s how it seems) as I have been obliged to for the last few days.

I have driven from Manchester to Coventry, Coventry to farthest Kent, and farthest Kent to Coventry on consecutive days.  Which means I have spent most of my time driving or recovering and none of it writing.  The M1 really takes it out of you!

Proper updates to come soon, I promise.

On Writing, Part Two

So I have successfully written something every day for a whole week now.

Have I written anything worth reading? Probably not.  Do I feel any more creative?  Not really.  Should I drop this habit of asking myself questions only to answer them immediately? Definitely.

I’ve enjoyed it so far though, I think.  I have had to stop myself writing posts in advance to make myself actually write every day like I said I would.  I feel like this may have led to some wasted creativity – I’m not sure whether I should take it when it comes or try to make it work for me.  I suspect the latter will be better in the long run.

So there you go.  I’ve got a nice long list of things I want to write about anyway, so hopefully I’ll keep this up for a little while longer yet.

On Doing Laundry

I really like doing laundry.

It’s one of very few chores that I genuinely enjoy.  Others being tidying my bookshelves (which is far more like a game than a chore) and doing the weekly shop.

It’s relaxing, satisfying, and nicely discrete.  You have a load of dirty clothes, you put them in the washing machine, you find something else to do, you take them out and hang them up to dry, then you take them down, fold them (if applicable), and put them away.  What’s not to like?  If I’m being honest my favourite bit is the drying – I have a strange fascination with things drying/freezing/melting etc.  But apart from that it’s just a highly pleasant weekly routine.  I even find myself disappointed when my partner chooses to do the laundry when I’m out, despite the fact that she’s actually being helpful.

There is however a bit of issue with terminology.  When I was growing up, laundry was called “the washing”.  I think this is a general British (or maybe just English) thing, although it might just be my parents.  Anyway, I now have an American partner who loathes the ambiguity between washing (laundry), washing up (dishes) and washing (yourself).  Which is not an unfair complaint, so I have taken to calling it laundry.

I think it’s time to go and check if the clothes hanging outside are dry.

On Live Music

This evening I am planning to go to the Godiva Festival in Coventry, which claims to be the UK’s largest free family music festival (because if you chuck enough adjectives at something you can be the biggest/most/best whatever you like).

I last saw live music in May (Charlotte Church in Birmingham) but the last time before that, unless I’m forgetting something, was in the vicinity of four years ago (Skindred, also in Birmingham).  Which is sort of a shame, because I used to go to a lot of concerts and festivals and I had a lot of fun, but also not a shame because fuck staying up until 2am and spending a ton of money on something that, really, I could do without.

I have a bit of a question mark over the Godiva Festival because a) it’s probably going to be full of an awful lot of awful people (sorry Coventry) and b) it clogs up traffic in the whole city for the whole weekend which is quite annoying.

On the other hand, it’s free, I live within walking distance of the park, I like to try new things, the Stranglers are playing, I’ve got nothing better to do, and it’s free.  So what’s the worst that can happen?

 

On Cycling (to Work)

I have recently started cycling to work.

It’s something I’ve been eager to do ever since I moved within realistic cycling distance, which is a little over two years ago.  The main reason I’ve put it off so long is just that I was unwilling to shell out a couple of hundred quid for a bike and all the requisite equipment (and I didn’t really even know how to go about it) but after a generous gift from my partner I have finally been convinced to make it happen.  I tried walking to work a few times earlier in the year and it’s manageable but it takes an hour which is too bloody long for me.  The bike cuts that in half which is much more manageable and comparable to the time it takes to drive in.

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My (so-far) faithful bike – as yet unnamed.

I’ve been struggling a little with the road/pavement dilemma, but I think I’m close to working out a compromise.  I don’t really feel all that safe cycling on the road but the surface is so much nicer, and I also don’t really think that it’s fair to pedestrians to cycle on the pavement.  So now, since buying a helmet, I cycle on the smaller roads and take the pavement when the roads are big and scary.  I think that’s about fair.

Here are the pros and cons of cycling I have discovered so far:

PROS

  1. It’s good for the environment
  2. It’s good for my health
  3. It will probably save me money in the long run.  No way am I going to get rid of my car completely, but the money I save in petrol just by leaving the car at home three days a week will (presumably) add up eventually to pay me back for the bike
  4. I never have to worry about a parking space
  5. My combined journey to work and back is actually quicker than driving, since I don’t have to wait in traffic any more

CONS

  1. The initial outlay was quite a lot of money (for me), having spent around £150 on the bike and another £150 or so on accessories/safety equipment
  2. I don’t exactly feel safe on the bike, particularly on the road
  3. I have to worry about the bike getting stolen
  4. Cycling is difficult when the weather gets too extreme in any direction (hot/cold/wet)
  5. Sometimes my knees hurt, which is presumably from cycling since they weren’t hurting before
  6. If I want to do anything outside of my normal routine (go shopping, carry any sort of package, go out of my way on an errand) I can’t really do that on the bike
  7. As with most things in life, I don’t really know what I’m doing.  I’m probably making glaring mistakes and look like an idiot.  But fuck it, I’m managing

As I say, I’m fortunate enough to have a car too and to be able to afford to maintain my parking permit in case I need to drive to work for some reason.  In fact, due to various circumstances, I haven’t managed to cycle in more than three times in a single week so far.  But I’m not going to worry about it.