Why 'United by Glue'?

This is the only frequently asked question I ever really get asked about the blog. The rest are just things I sometimes get asked, or not at all related to the blog. The title is a mix of a couple of things. Part of it is a reference to a video game called Rival Schools: United by Fate. I picked it up right after changing schools, and it becmae a staple in my gaming diet during my last two years of school, and the first couple of years of the stuff that came afterwards.

The other part of it is in reference to the phrase 'the glue that unites us/holds us together', which I encountered a lot in religious and political opinion pieces around the time I was changing schools. It was around this time that I started using the phrase 'united by glue'. At sixteen, I was struggling with my sexuality, my illness, and my view of the world, which left me struggling to understand how I could be honest about who I was and what I believed. For me it is about acceptance, and I've carried it around ever since. If you have nothing else, you have 'glue'.

Who draws the comics, and what software/hardware is used?

I do.

I use AutoDesk SketchBook on my iPad. It does everything that I need it to do. I do the early sketches, text, lines, and colouring in the one app. It can also import reference images so I don't need to constantly flick back and forth between apps when I am drawing real world objects.

I do a lot of other drawing on it too, and the fact that it syncs so easily with the version on my desktop means that I don't have to think at all about where I when I drew something.

I use a Just Mobile AluPen stylus, which (as far as I know) is the best stylus for me. It's weighted, and has a wide tip. I have a slight tremor in my hands, and lighter pens tend show that way more when I am drawing. Before discovering this little puppy, I was often frustrated far beyond my own willingness to keep trying (I gave up a lot).

I used to use a Wacom Pen & Touch Medium, and AutoDesk SketchBook. I also often used Apple Preview to crop and resize images. I also have GIMP, InkScape, Adobe Creative Suite 4, and some other stuff, but I rarely use them. I really like SketchBook, and Preview does most of the things that I ask it to do, so I don't bother with anything else.

I drew the banner on my New iPad (are we still calling it that?) with a program called Bamboo Paper. I used the same program to draw a few images, like the octopus that I gave myself for my cephalopod anniversary.

You mentioned an older version of the site. What are you talking about?

Around the end of school I was learning about making websites, and I made a lot of stuff that I tried to ratchet strap onto some of the free websites that were available at the time. The 'homepage' of the first incarnation United by Glue had a hyperlinked title in lowercase letters in what I estimated to be the middle of the screen for most users. Those words didn't appear anywhere else, which has made it really difficult to find it archived anywhere. The site was actually hosted across a few different free services that were linked together. I didn't have the URL that I have now, or any fancy-pants URL beyond the ones that had been assigned to me by the various site administrators.

I imagined it as my own late twentieth Century contribution to a Burroughsian tradition, and as a result it was mostly concerned with my own sexuality and my attempts to understand my depression, anxiety, and 'stuff'. It also contained some pretty juvenile philosophising. Super juvenile. Some of the current content is similar to the kind of thing that appeared on the original, particularly 'That's about all there is to it'. Given the incredibly personal nature of a lot of the content, coupled with a nearly total lack of confidence, I wasn't interested in letting anyone I knew know that it existed, which resulted in a total number of hits for the entire site that probably wouldn't reach triple digits for the entire four year life of the site. I think I showed one person once. Maybe. That might've been after I took it down.

Is this that old blog that you used to write?

No, it is not. Well, it depends how old, but when I usually have this conversation it is not that same blog. I used to write other blogs, plural. Rayguns and Spandex, which ended up being mostly about my writing, Me vs The Movies, on which I reviewed films, and Sci Fi Snot Rash, which was originally someone else's blog about science fiction. I wasn't really sure what I was doing, or why I was doing it, but I liked the idea of blogging. There were a lot of things I was doing that weren't working for me, and I developed a general dissatisfaction with the process. I wrote a total of nineteen posts between April and December of 2010.

There were work related stressors, coupled with a general displeasure with what I had been producing, that made me stop posting. I didn't post anything again until I started United by Glue. In the end I decided to write one blog, and just pile in all of the different things that I was going to talk about like a categorical clown-car. That is who I am as a person though, so it makes more sense. It has also given me more freedom as the blog has aged to talk about whatever I damn well feel like talking about. There are quite a few posts that wouldn't have had a home in the previous arrangement.

Your style/subject matter/output has changed. What's happening?

I had originally planned to start blogging again during a trip to India in 2011, but the trip just kind of got in the way. I wrote things while I was away, but nothing ever got posted. When I got back from nearly three months away I was under-employed, incredibly broke, and freelancing again for the first time in years. I was also struggling with an unfinished book which had begun to define me.

I was absurdly depressed and starting to feel like I had nothing to show for the time I had mostly spent roaming around the inner suburbs of Sydney, so I started writing things for United by Glue. I had no idea what I wanted to write about, but I was struggling to escape a definition of myself that had grown oppressive, while trying desperately to adhere to it.

I continued on through 2012 like that. I gradually found a way to separate myself from the writing of the book, but by the end of the year I had found something else with which to define myself, and threw myself into it with fervour. Meaty fervour. This freed me to write about whatever I felt like writing about. I toyed with the occasional technology focussed post in an attempt to justify the time I spent with the blog, but in the end they took too long and I felt ignorant immediately afterwards. This kind of split purpose went back and forth for a good part of the year.

In September of 2013 my anxiety and insomnia increased in severity, and as I spent my days in bed paranoid and sleep deprived I tried desperately to hold on to a future I thought I was losing. Through October I wrote nearly forty posts about technology, but posted only a few. At the end of that month I decided to write a book review to take my mind off of an exam I had agreed to sit. The next day did not go so well.

I spent most of the next month writing whatever came to mind, and posted anything that I thought I had enjoyed writing. Then that became the new rule.

What I am illustrating, but not actually drawing, is that United by Glue is influenced very heavily by what is happening in my life. When I am spending a lot of happy time coding, I am going to talk about programming, when I am reading something that I think is interesting, I am more than likely going to write about another book that I have read years earlier, and when I find sandwiches in the fridge, I am going to write about those sandwiches that I find in the fridge.

Do you edit or otherwise change your posts?

Sometimes I have reread something and edited for grammar, spelling and punctuation way after they have been posted. Months and years later. I often don't edit them when I am writing them, or before posting. That being said there have been a few times when I have accidentally posted something before it was finished, and I have changed it heavily in the first couple of hours after it was first posted.

I have on two separate occasions added a whole paragraph into the middle of an existing post. I don't remember what they were now, but I remember feeling a bit dirty. In both cases they were things that I thought I had put in, but hadn't transcribed properly from a notebook or had accidentally deleted. Not that that makes it any better. I also went through a phase of putting 'EDIT:' at the bottom of a post and adding some new morsel of information. I broke that habit in favour of either leaving it be, or in a lot of cases just writing a new post.

I am fairly certain that I once rephrased something, because it wasn't clear enough. Someone was talking about it with me later, and they had misunderstood what I was saying. I went back and read through it, and it was really unclear, so I changed a couple of words. It was one of those situations in which clarity was important, and it wasn't helping anyone that I had screwed it up the first time through. I don't think I made a note of it, which I would do now were I to do a similar sort of thing. I'm not likely to though.

How long does it take you to write a post?

Between zero and a bajillion minutes.

Regardless of statements made further up this is actually also a frequently asked question, but I don't really have an answer that is satisfying for anyone involved. It is a case where some things just fall out of me at an alarming rate, and are pretty much written at my WPM, while other stuff comes out at a more casual pace. Generally the longer rambley things just happen. I haemorrhage those words, and then I need to cut hundreds of words out, because I don't imagine that people want all of those words.

Sometimes I feel like I need to write about something, and it ends up taking me a surprisingly long time to feel like I have written something that I am actually kind of okay with posting. I think I'm better at that now. I try to engage with the thing again, and once I'm engaged I can write something that feels a lot like I really mean what I am saying in a fairly timely fashion.

How much of what you write for United by Glue actually gets posted?

A lot more now than used to be the case. It started at about one in two, but at one stage I was posting about one out of every three that I wrote, and at times much less than that. Now I post probably three quarters of the posts that I write, but the total is at about three fifths (136/225 as of Friday, 2014-02-27).

The vast majority of what doesn't get posted these days comes from periods in which I will write a few posts in a day, and then post them over a few days. I will then start writing other posts and just move on emotionally and psychologically from whatever I had written. Sometimes I just forget that they are there. On a number of occasions I have been convinced that I have posted something before discovering that it is still listed as a draft, at which point I will usually post it right then and there, or on the next day that I don't have a post.

Do you enjoy blogging?

So much. I would still be here if no one was reading.

Where did you meet Panda?

I met Panda at IKEA. He was in one of those wire bins that they have the stuffed animals in. He was an impulse purchase, and set me back a whopping $15. Best $15 I ever spent. He is magnificent. He once threw a spoon. We both got in a lot of trouble for that. I was supervising.

Why do you have a policy and an FAQ? Would they not cover the same sort of thing?

The Policy existed before people started asking me questions about the blog, and even though people ask me questions about things that are covered in The Policy I see a different purpose for the two. One covers where I stand on certain things to do with the blog, while the other has ended up covering how I actually end up operating. It's ideals versus practise. I don't imagine for a moment that I am going to live up to what I believe, so the two stand as evidence of my own hypocrisy, which I think is important. I'm not proud to be a hypocrite, but neither am I going to deny it. It'll never get better if I do.

What happened to The Book?

I finished it in early 2013. It wasn't what I wanted it to be, so I set it aside. I had, and still have, a plan to go back to it some day, but I don't have that time at the moment. I have a very little amount of time for it, and have put some work into it, but it is such a very little amount that I don't feel terribly productive. I'm still very proud of it, and I'm happy with large tracts of it, but it has a number of problems that include, but are not limited to, a consistency of style.

I do not know when it will be finished.

Are you sure that you are a professional writer? It's just that your writing doesn't seem very professional, and/or at all like you have a very strong grasp of grammar, punctuation, and/or spelling. I guess I'm trying to say that based on what I see on your blog, I would never hire you.

I am sure. I am sometimes paid as a copywriter. It happens from time to time. Your points are valid though. I write very differently when I do it for other people, paid or otherwise. It is an entirely different process. I also write very differently when I write essays, business reports, incident reports, fiction, and pretty much everything that isn't a blog post for United by Glue. Most of the people I have written for in the past have been very happy with the work I have done for them, and have often asked me to write more words for them.

Are you trying to tell us that English is actually your first language?

Yes, it is actually my first language. I know enough of the rules, and even have my own opinions on the absurdity of some of those rules. I own some style guides, books on punctuation, and 'best practice' manuals, which I read for my own amusement. If you have ever read a style guide from cover to cover, or are at the very least in possession of a small quantity of English, you would be fully aware that many of the rules don't really lend themselves to clear and concise communication. This is because a great many of them are archaic, and were created by archaic men who themselves had little need for a flexible English. That is just the way that it is. English is not French. We need to stop trying to pretend that is. We are way past that now. We were way past that when the archaic men were doing their thing. It's Amazo. It just absorbs everything it comes in contact with.

Yes, English is actually my first language.

Oxford comma?

Preferred, but I sometimes forget. It's all about clarity.

I hate you.

Not really a question, but I would have to say that my favourite fruit is fresh rambutan.

I love you.

Also not really a question, but thanks, mum. I love you too.

I think you're a really good writer.

Thanks, mum. Perhaps you could call. This isn't really the venue for this sort of thing.

I want to get in contact with you. How does one (meaning me(which is actually you)) do that?

There are a couple of ways strewn about the place, but they're all covered at the bottom of The Policy. Actually, I'm not 100% on that, but if not all, most. There are probably enough there for you to get in touch.

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