This Week was also Birthday Week, which ended up wonderful after a rough start. On Tuesday evening, the snow and ice came back to make things interesting. Our neighborhood saw a few inches of snow, and the roads iced up overnight, so I was back to the bus commute on Wednesday morning.
But the week ended with an extended birthday celebration involving sushi dinner, well-wishes and gifts, two brunches, Star Wars, model trains, and reading books by the fire on a rainy evening. It was just what I wanted.
Due to the inclement weather and lots of meetings, I didn’t make much progress on my work projects. I did, however, make lots of progress on fretting over how much progress I wasn’t making on my work projects. I also gave my task list several meaningful glances.
We are done, so done, with Season 3 of “Outlander” and jumped right into Season 7 of “Homeland”. I find myself wishing that the series had ended with Season 3.
We finally saw “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” and I enjoyed that mess quite a bit, especially how it added nuance to most of the main characters. It tried to add nuance to Kylo Ren, it really did, but there isn’t much to do about that pathetic man-child. At least we got Emo Kylo Ren out of it.
Kimbra’s new single, “Version of Me”, dropped this week. I love it!
Our friend Mike came over and we played “Ex Libris”, a game about being gnomish librarians collecting magical texts, and if that sounds like that game is right up my Diagon Alley, that’s because it absolutely is.
One of my birthday presents from FunkyPlaid was Scrabble Typography, which I am eager to play!
Related: I no longer attempt to play Scrabble, Words With Friends, or any word-building games online. I’m miserable at keeping up with asynchronous multiplayer games, especially multiple ones at the same time. So if I have ever accepted your invitation to play, made it three rounds, and disappeared … that’s why.
I did start playing a puzzle adventure game on my iPad called “Rusty Lake Paradise” which is unsettling and strange and very good so far.
The best thing I read online this week was “The Problem with the ‘What Else?’ Mindset” by Jocelyn K. Glei because of this quote:
You could witness the most precious moment of someone’s life, or read a news story about a horrifying and terribly sad event, or complete one of the most impressive accomplishments of your creative career… And somehow it’s never enough.
That was quite a week, wasn’t it? Someone’s been busy. All I did was go to work, get a haircut, and try not to lose my damned mind over every New York Times app notification. Even my trusty Lamy 2000 fell apart.
At least Zen has had a great week. In between “spa treatments” (read: subcutaneous fluids) she’s been hand-fed baby food and otherwise fussed over pretty much non-stop.
For every task I completed, I added three more to my to-do list. And next week begins with catalog upgrades, which means downtime, which means falling even further behind. January: snowed under on both metaphorical and literal levels.
FunkyPlaid and I watched an episode of Daredevil, but were too bored to continue. We moved on to Black Mirror, which is terrific but probably not the best thing to be watching at the moment.
Aurally, it’s mostly movie soundtracks and Jelly Roll Morton for me.
Noodler’s Ottoman Azure: deep sapphire blue with plenty of shading for capturing the nuances of melancholy.
Featured photo: the sign we put up in our yard.
Hello from the midst of another Portland ice-pocalypse! FunkyPlaid and I have a fire going in the fireplace and still have power, but the sidewalks and roads are covered with ice. Now that I have somewhat recovered from last year’s Project 365, I thought I’d attempt this weekly review again.
To combat the winter doldrums, I’ve restarted my daily mood tracking with Exist, which also integrates data from various other services I use to find trends and correlations. Some of the correlations will be obvious – like a better mood on weekends – but I am looking forward to the less obvious ones.
One of the services that Exist integrates is RescueTime, which I use to track how I’m using my computer time. It tells me that I have been 65% productive, which is a 10.2% increase from last week. (That is an overall productivity score, not only during work hours, so it also includes how much faffing off I do online during nights and weekends. This is intentional.)
Three big deadlines hit all at once, which means that I spent too long in my office and felt pretty disconnected from my team. When I got home each night after work, I was too drained to do anything useful. But somehow I managed to begin a new short story draft!
I finished reading Patricia Highsmith’s The Price of Salt which is a gorgeous novel. It perfectly captures that free-fall of a passionate love affair and all the ennui-ridden rumination that accompanies it. I’m looking forward to watching Carol now that I have read the source material.
I started reading You Are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life because that seems like a good plan for 2017.
This week I have been listening to a lot of Real Jazz on SiriusXM. I also listened to the La La Land soundtrack a couple of times and finally listened to the newest Dinosaur Jr. album, Give a Glimpse of What Yer Not. Hearing Dinosaur Jr. again prompted me to once again attempt to reconstruct one of the best mixtapes I have ever received. (Adam, if you’re reading this, that mixtape haunts my dreams.)
FunkyPlaid and I saw Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and enjoyed it quite a bit. We also finished watching Westworld, which was ultimately a disappointment. I loved the first few episodes, at least. Then we started watching Luke Cage which I like so much more than Jessica Jones!
[ more tweets & retweets, etc. ._.-. this section will be better in the future ]
I gave Rohrer & Klingner’s Verdigris another go, but it is too dark for me. I’m still enamored with the cool greenish-grey of De Atramentis Charles Dickens. Maybe I should look for an ice-blue to go with all of this wintry weather … recommendations?
“If I waited for perfection, I’d never write a word.” –Margaret Atwood
Often I want to say something important in the perfect way, so I keep putting it off until I figure out the perfect way. If the perfect way never occurs to me, I never say the important thing.
The point is to say the thing because there will never be a perfect way. (Thanks, Ms. Atwood.)
So here’s the thing: in January, we are leaving Scotland to move back to the States. After getting our bearings in the San Francisco Bay Area we will likely end up in Portland, Oregon.
I have approximately thirty-seven different feelings about this move. On the whole, I think it will be the best thing for us. But Scotland has been home for four years, and there is so much I love about it, hence my wish for perfection in relating the news.
But it is better to say the thing. We’ll go from here.
FunkyPlaid will be in the States to navigate the store through the holiday season again, so I will have one last solo Christmas in Edinburgh. It will be more bittersweet this time than ever, but I am determined not to spend all of it feeling sorry for myself (or packing, even though there will be plenty of that). Plus, my favourite shark will be visiting for part of December, and I can’t wait to show her around this wonderful place.
I fear there will be no more JDB1745 updates until life evens out sometime early next year. However, FunkyPlaid’s thesis is complete! His viva voce (thesis defense) isn’t until January, though, so no calling him Doc Plaid yet.
Sunday is my last day of work at the weekend gig. Tough to believe that it has already been two years! Time to polish up the CV and start the Stateside job-hunt. Know of any wonderful libraries in the Portland area who are looking for an enthusiastic tech-loving librarian?
Amidst all of the other craziness I decided to attempt NaNoWriMo again this year. It might seem like terrible timing but considering how my mental health improves when I make time to write every day, this will be good for me. I’ve been whipping my writing muscles into shape by participating in daily “dashes” with a group in Second Life called Virtual Writers. My current pace is about 1,000 words per hour. Since my goal is 1,667 words per day during November that means almost two hours of daily writing. I’m excited.
Speaking of getting into shape, it is time for another running challenge! I’m going for a sub-30:00 in the Great Winter Run, my last race in Edinburgh. The course is once around Arthur’s Seat, and it is a great way to start the year.
The “Hamilton” musical soundtrack has been on endless repeat this month. Not much else.
I started listening to the Tanis podcast because it is produced by the same folks who do The Black Tapes Podcast, and that season is now over. I am glad there is something spooky and weird to tide me over, but I am not yet sold on Tanis. I’ll keep listening, though.
FunkyPlaid got me hooked on Dungeon Boss, a battle game with cute retro graphics.
“Homeland” and “Les Revenants” and “Downton Abbey” have all started up again now. Before they did, FunkyPlaid and I started watching “Utopia” (UK version) which is all kinds of thought-provoking and disturbing so I hesitate to call it enjoyable.
I had the huge privilege of seeing my mom in a play called “The Cheek” in Tourmakeady, Ireland – where the play was set! It was a great production and my mom gave a stunning performance. I hope to have some photos of Ireland to share soon, if I can ever stop playing Dungeon Boss.
Photo credit: Autumn arrived at my home in Second Life. I sure do love fall foliage, even the kind on virtual trees.
I’m writing to a prompt today, just for the hell of it: “I can do strange things, believe me.” The strangest thing I do these days is ponder Mendelian genetics in order to better breed virtual cats in a dying world. (It’s not really dying, or it is, depending on who you ask. Does it matter?)
Did I ever do stranger things, or did I only trick myself into believing that my brand of normalcy was So Different? Yesterday I read David Orr’s article in the Paris Review about the most misread poem in America, Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken”, and I admit to feeling a little vindicated. And perhaps a little sad.
Like many other nascent lit-nerds, I memorised this poem after misreading it heartily and shoving it in front of myself like a badge, a shield, a sticky post on the blog feed of my identity. I might have scribbled it across notebooks in high school, or inked it on the hem of a jacket, or used it for earlier posts on this very site. (I haven’t looked but they’re probably there.)
I won’t blame my younger self, or anyone. How could I? That tattered shred I clung to was choice. Choices. The ability to say to oneself, to the world: I could do this thing, but then I could do something else. Isn’t choice the foundation of hope? To rub off the bravado of American identity from the poem and really read it again to discover that the speaker knows the paths are not all that different. He knows and yet he will someday tell someone — someone impressionable? someone who knows better? — that that single choice made “all the difference”.
I don’t think I could have understood this meaning before I moved here and was forced to confront my American obsession with choice. How many times have you read my laments on the lack of peanut butter brands in Scotland, where peanut butter isn’t even a thing that people want to put on sandwiches hardly ever, let alone shove into their maws slathered on a Nutella-dipped spoon? How many times have I been utterly stumped by blasé responses to my suggestions at work? Not that people here don’t value choices, but I believe they’re less starry-eyed by the illusion of it. How much choice do we really have, and how much does it matter when our older, wiser selves evaluate how it’s all gone by?
It is startling to ponder how comforting an illusion can become. A couple of weeks ago I had to face a demon in the form of a minor medical procedure. Since I’ve encountered this demon before, I know some tricks that can help, mostly deep-breathing exercises. Creative visualisation doesn’t do much for me when I am panicking, even as much as I love falling into daydream. But the deep breaths weren’t doing too much and so I conjured an apparition of our wee lost Torgi. I could see him in front of me down to the bristliest whisker. Calmed me right down. Illusion, comfort: thank you. Call it whatever you want.
Sometimes we know we’re lying to ourselves and we do it anyway.
I can do strange things, believe me.
JDB1745 is still lightly napping as the thesis takes the foreground. Every once in a while it twitches in its sleep and I jot some notes down for the next phase, and then we both go back to focusing on other things. For now.
The weekend gig has picked up steam for the first weeks of the new semester. I’m back down to only one day of overlap with most coworkers right about the time when I could use more days of overlap just to stay in the right loops. That’s the most challenging bit of the job: keeping on top of the input streams, and sifting through them all to ensure I retain the bits that are relevant to the weekend staff. Once a week, I wish we would all use Slack.
Illicit Ink’s Jura Unbound show in the Edinburgh International Book Festival, “Happily Never Ever”, was a blast as you can see from the photographic evidence.
And finally, finally I have made a breakthrough in this story that has been wrecking me to write. I owe that to a dear friend who talked it through with me in a very non-pressuring (yet gently nudging) way. If you do anything creative, I hope you have a friend like this, someone in your area of creativity who challenges you to be better at it. Or just to finish drafts.
Instead of trying to hit arbitrary benchmarks like step goals in Misfit, I’ve been using Exist to explore trends and correlations in the data I’m collecting. Mood tracking has been particularly useful, as I can see on my Exist dashboard that my mood is better when I am more active and get solid sleep. So do more of that, self.
The weather has turned colder once more, and the days are shortening, so it will be time to break out the light-box before long. I’m kicking around the idea of training for a fun-run in November just to keep my body moving.
Have I have been reading Neal Stephenson’s “Seveneves” forever, or does it just feel like it? I don’t know if I am enjoying it, either. Two-thirds in, the timeline jumped ahead five thousand years, so everyone I cared about was long dead. I will say this for Mr. Stephenson: he has gumption. And pages. So many pages.
My to-read pile is starting to organise itself. I fear it shall revolt soon.
Last.fm underwent a redesign and reduced the functionality of the site significantly. I’m not going to complain about it here because Last.fm has a support site for that. For now I’ll list a couple of things I’ve listened to recently.
Radio Riel, mostly their Ragtime stream: I found out about Radio Riel through a community in Second Life that I visit called New Toulouse which is “loosely themed after New Orleans and the bayou, 1900-1925.” (If that sounds like someplace you’d like to visit, let me know and I would be happy to give you a tour.) If you just want to hear the soundtrack of the place, give this Ragtime stream a listen.
Spotify’s Discover Weekly playlist: This is all over the place, like my listening habits, but I’m enjoying what the robots have suggested for me so far. Nadine Shah is the best new listen the playlist has given me.
The Black Tapes Podcast: Recommended by a Writers’ Bloc comrade, this docudrama gives me the whim-whams in the best way. Think “Serial” crossed with “The X-Files” (and now that I’ve looked at some of their social media streams, I see that I didn’t come up with that description).
If you are new to podcasts, or simply don’t know how to get started with listening, try PocketCasts. It is the easiest and best way to subscribe and listen to podcasts from your Android device, Windows Phone, iOS device, or web browser. And if you’re a Twitter user, view my Podcasts list for some other recommendations.
FunkyPlaid and I re-watched “Firefly” and then “Serenity” and loved them all over again. We are now about to finish the first season of “The Trip” which is painful and terrific all at once.
“Hector and the Search for Happiness”: ★★½.
Diamine Ancient Copper: the colour of crunchy autumn leaves. Badass orange-brown with super shading, made all the sweeter because it was a gift from someone super.
Photo credit: Just a pretty garden in Second Life that I found. (If you’re reading this via email or RSS feed, I’m not sure it will show up, so click here to see it.)
I have tried to write this several times now. It never goes well. I find unsettling analogies, or take refuge in bluntness, or just pretend the thing that happened didn’t happen at all so I can get through the first paragraph. But it happened. And it derailed the tail-end of my spring completely.
I keep thinking that I will be ready to write about it, and then I will, and then these entries (which were supposed to be weekly status updates, and nothing more) won’t loom in my to-do list like horrible chores.
But I am still not ready to write about it, the thing that happened, and so I’ll just say that at the start of May one of our cats died and he was so much more than “one of our cats” and it was so much worse than I imagined it could be and it continues to hurt every day and I don’t want to write anything more about it so we’ll just move on from here.
The thing that happened disrupted everything. Because I let it, and because my everything was already so precarious. So any good tracks I was on, consider those derailed. Any good habits I had forged, consider those discarded.
Rage, even now, two months past, blindsides me. The smallest things irritate me past rational points. Most social media channels are unbearable not because they have changed but because I have. I don’t know if I will get my old self back.
I don’t know if I want my old self back.
The strangest part of grief is the compulsion to keep pressing myself against the serrated edge of his absence. I am mostly over that phase now but sometimes it comes over me, the need to prod that wound, like I still don’t believe it, so that the pain will make me believe it.
I still don’t believe it.
But I make myself believe it.
Before the thing that happened, I had planned to travel to the States in June to celebrate a milestone in my mother’s life. When the thing happened, the trip carried another weight: I needed to escape, both geographically and mentally.
And then right before I left our other cat had surgery for a fibrosarcoma on her back. She’s doing fine for now.
Grief and worry have a way of clouding memory but here’s some of what I remember of my life from the past few months.
Not much to report on JDB1745, and this will likely continue through the end of the year. There will be small refinements to make but FunkyPlaid must focus on finishing his thesis now so we can’t undertake any major movements. I’m squirrelling away all sorts of ideas for the next phase of our project, and the more I do, the more I look forward to working on it.
The weekend gig is more intense project-wise over the summer, plus many folks are away on leave, so I feel more isolated than usual. I continue to struggle with the balance of wanting to throw myself completely into a job and only being there three days a week.
The guest post I wrote for Cat Rambo’s blog on motivational tools for writers was published. The timing was darkly amusing; my own writerly motivation had ground to a halt.
But now I am recovering, and I am currently working on two projects:
Misfit changed their app and I no longer have a weekly tally of points, so here I’ll start tracking how many days in the last week I hit my fitness goal: 2. Not great.
In April, May, and June I was around the 2-3 days per week mark. One day in May I somehow managed almost twice my goal and my personal best since I started using my Shine by having a normal workday but tacking on a social event in the evening that was 1.5 miles away.
So yeah. I need more exercise.
Since the end of March I’ve read some good books, fiction unless otherwise specified:
And that leaves me at 11 books this year. I will have to seriously hustle to make my goal of 50.
I am giving Apple Music a whirl. So far I love the playlists it suggests for me but it doesn’t have built-in scrobbling capabilities like Rdio or Spotify. For those of us who love tracking what we listen to with Last.fm, that is a disappointment.
My top artists for the past three months:
A friend made a Neo80s mixtape (mixCD?) that I’ve been enjoying too. Lots of M83, White Lies, HAIM, Grimes … really good stuff.
How do I not have a podcast section? I’ll fix that now. My top podcast listens for the past three months (and I am stealing the blurbs from their websites):
FunkyPlaid and I finished “Les Revenants” at the end of April and went on to “Orphan Black”. The first two seasons were so good; the third became unwatchable for me. We stalled out partway through and finished up the season of “Outlander” instead. As of last night we are on the second season of “House of Cards” (US version).
I stopped watching “Game of Thrones” after the infamous episode with Ramsay and Sansa’s wedding night. With that source material and that cast and that budget, there is no excuse for lazy writing. Later I heard that the show has diverged even more from the books, so that’s probably it for me.
I finally saw the film “What We Do in the Shadows” on the plane ride to the States, which was even better than I thought it would be. If you like mockumentaries and Flight of the Conchords, don’t miss this.
Photo credit: my Instagram.
I missed you last week. Every time I sat down to write to you, my to-do list glared back, so I wrangled that instead.
The big event recently was FunkyPlaid’s reading weekend. Halfway through it I had the bittersweet realisation that it was our fourth and final time away with this great group of history scholars, sharing ideas and laughter. Although I remember being very nervous about going away with a bunch of strangers that first year, I got over it, and I know these moments will stand out in memory when I think back to this time in our lives.
Even knowing this was my last reading weekend, I struggled to stay present. We all talk about being present a lot, and yet so much of our modern lives are constructed around the opposite. I read this article and it hit me pretty hard. Sometimes when I allow myself to think about those last years in San Francisco, I realise just how not-present I was, and how many times I flaked, sometimes for health reasons but also sometimes because I overcommitted even when I suspected I wouldn’t have the energy or time to follow through.
The consequence is that now I miss all of those flaked-on friends desperately. I daydream about zapping myself back in time to un-cancel just once, whatever the plan was, it doesn’t matter.
So at the risk of lecturing you (because I’m lecturing myself just as much): Be present. Enjoy what you have while you have it. It goes by so fast.
Okay, that’s quite enough mushy talk.
I am halfway through the wellness programme, and feeling better in a general sense. My immune system has seemed stronger, but I haven’t figured out how to measure that other than “I don’t feel sick most of the time.” I’ll take it.
Misfit Shine activity points: 5269 and then 5533 out of 7000, compared to 5059 of two weeks ago. I started running again, so that helped. My running confidence is next to nil so I’m starting all over again with a 5K training regimen.
FunkyPlaid and I are slowly cleaning the JDB1745 location data together, which consists of looking up each place-name mentioned in the transcribed records and figuring out which type of place it was (parish, county, town, etc.) before standardising it. It is about as thrilling a task as you might imagine. Good thing we make each other laugh.
I have a couple of weeks off from the weekend gig, which couldn’t have come at a better time as I am feeling pretty burned out.
Have you heard of the Magic Spreadsheet? I am vaguely allergic to those words together but I heard about it via HabitRPG — which I will write about at length someday — and gave it a shot. The premise is simple, building on the “streaks” concept of positive habit-building: write every day, and don’t break the chain.
The power of the Magic Spreadsheet is that there are many other writers tallying their word totals and streaks alongside yours. If you are at all competitive, or if you really dig shaming yourself, I recommend this method of motivation.
As of this moment, I have written 9,031 words in 2015. That number is about one-third of what I wanted it to be at this time. Instead of thinking, “Hey, I haven’t been writing as much lately,” I have the numbers staring me in the face. That’s powerful motivation right there.
Thank you, Magic Spreadsheet.
I made chocolate pudding with chia seeds. It tasted like chocolate pudding with slimy seeds in it. But I shall not be deterred! I’m going to give it another shot. Chia seeds are good for me, after all. Also, I like eating bee pollen but I’m not sure I should be doing that. Some say it is a superfood but I cannot find the science that confirms this. It seems pretty mean to steal pollen from bees for no good reason.
I’ll spare you my top listened musical artists for the past two weeks because I have been listening to my workout mixes and nobody needs a list of Journey songs. (Except me.)
Still reading “The Bees” but now I admit I am reading much slower than I have to in order to keep the book from ending. The hive is such a wonderful escape, especially on cold and snowy days. FunkyPlaid also surprised me with Iain Banks’ book of poetry, which I dipped into delightedly just yesterday.
Recently, a friend reminded me how much I enjoyed Fallen London so I started playing it again, and am now even more curious to know if I would enjoy playing Sunless Sea. How can you not love a game with the tagline: “Lose your mind. Eat your crew. Die.”
FunkyPlaid and I finally finished watching season two of “Pushing Daisies”. I am glad that it’s over because I had started to grow weary of some of the characters, which was my problem with “Dead Like Me” as well and made me wonder if something about Bryan Fuller’s shows makes extended time with the characters difficult.
Remember “Night Court”? FunkyPlaid and I were chatting about it and decided to re-watch the very first episode. My word, it had a charm about it. Part of that has to do with some of the naivety of the plots: a judge who liked stage magic and unorthodox approaches to the law! A philandering husband almost shot and killed by his enraged wife but they work it out in the end! But part of its charm was how far off the rails I know that it went in later seasons. I don’t think I can watch all 193 episodes but I wouldn’t mind seeing a few here and there as a palate-cleanser.
March’s Ink Drop from Goulet Pens brought me my new favourite ink: Pilot Iroshizuku Ku-Jaku. As soon as I saw it in the sample vial, I knew it would be a daily carry ink. Look at that shading!
If I had one wish, it wouldn’t be a clever or altruistic one. I’d like to say that it would be, but I know myself better than that. If I had one wish, if that genie popped out of that Nutella jar and asked me what is the one thing I would want more than anything else in the whole wide world it would tumble out of my mouth before I could stop it because I have dreamed of it for decades.
My wish would be to own a train car.
Not just any train car: my train car would be magic because it could be hooked up to any train in the world, and it would be completely self-contained: it would have a library, hideaway bed, galley kitchen, observation loft, and of course an aquarium. Why an aquarium? I do not exactly know, but it was in the first designs of the train car when I was a little girl and hasn’t been revised out of them since.
I think about this magic train car, and my wish, every time I board a train. Sometimes while on the train I think I’ll doze off and wake up and be in my magic train car, and the sheer thought of it is enough to keep me smiling for hours.
I hold onto bits of magic like this a little closer when weeks like this one happen, full of loss: friends losing parents, family members losing relatives, much-anticipated plans falling through. And then Sir Terry Pratchett died.
I’m so upset about this last part that I don’t even want to write about it. Some blog, eh?
Amidst all this, there were some bright moments. The Writers’ Bloc meeting in Glasgow was fun and productive, and I met up with two other friends during the week as well.
Week 4 of 12-week wellness programme has not been going so great because I’m horrible at giving up all the foods I’m supposed to give up (hummus, I’m looking at you). However, I have successfully given up white potatoes, no small feat in a country basically made of chips.
Misfit Shine activity points: 5059 out of 7000, compared to 4208 of the week before. Improvement!
O, and I chopped off more of my hair. Rather, I paid someone to do this in a fancy way.
JDB1745 required more than a bit of project management this week, which involved reworking our Trello project board and getting some stuff out of my brain and into Slack. Are you using Slack? I never want to work on a project again without it. Those endless email threads give me the wobbly dread feeling in my gut; I just know things are being missed and there isn’t any way to get them back. Centralising all of it makes me so happy.
The weekend gig was smooth until literally the last two minutes of my last shift, which almost made me miss my bus but I hustled and caught it … except it wasn’t going anywhere because the bus had broken down. That’s the kind of week it has been.
I still haven’t managed to write the last book-club posts, but that’s because I’ve been scribbling notes on an idea I have for an ARG-ish thing. I also started a piece of flash fiction that is turning into a tribute to Terry Pratchett.
I finally renamed the “Hobbies” section. I don’t even know what that word means anyway. But I do love food, and talking about it, so here we go.
Marks & Spencer in Waverley now offers gluten-free sandwiches! This means my train food is not limited to weird crawfish salad with chilli dressing! (Why is that so popular?) I had a chicken sandwich on the train to Glasgow and I was like a normal person and everything. Well, as normal as I get, anyway. Very exciting.
Union of Genius has become my favourite restaurant in Edinburgh. Their soups and salads are delicious (and many are gluten-free), but that isn’t why. They offer something I haven’t seen on a menu before: a “suspended” coffee which is a pre-purchased coffee for someone who cannot afford it. You just add this to your order, pay, and add one to the tally on a small chalkboard. They do this with soup, too.
I think this should be available everywhere, for anything.
Still reading “The Bees”. I’m such a slow reader these days.
My top artists this week:
Season two of “Pushing Daisies” is not as enjoyable as season one.
I’m sorry, but I can’t hear you over the sound of J. Herbin’s 1670 Stormy Grey in my Lamy 2000. What does that sound like, you ask? Nothing, silly! Ink doesn’t make noise. But it’s beautiful.
When I was a little girl, I had a dresser drawer that was filled with small things, buttons and badges and beads, rubber animals, seedpods, scraps of paper. Among my favourites in this drawer — if I was forced to choose — were these teardrop-shaped faceted beads with an iridescent sheen that looked like they belonged in a minuscule chandelier in tiny Versailles.
It is a mystery to me how this week I found myself transported back to a memory when, as a child, I stood on tiptoes to peek inside this drawer and pick out one of these chandelier beads, hold it up, and watch the light dance around the room.
It might have been a glimpse of a dangling earring, reminiscent of the sparkly treasure. It might have been that, in a week full of family upset and distant tragedy, something settled into place in the tangled nest of wires I call my brain. I don’t know what that something was yet, or I don’t have words for it, only the feeling of that moment with a piece of plastic and refracted winter light.
Snap out of it: we’ve got a status report to write.
Week 3 of 12-week wellness programme introduced me to oil pulling. (Please do not click that link if you are squeamish.) I have not noticed any health benefits so far but something that disgusting has got to have at least one health benefit. I am hoping for two, even. Also I tried to reduce my caffeine intake further but roasted yerba mate tastes like ashtray coffee. The best I’ve been doing is getting more sleep and drinking the hell out of my spinach and kale smoothies.
Misfit activity goals met on 0 of 7 days. Let this be the nadir of my exercise motivation.
My friend Julia and I have exactly opposite days off work but this week the stars aligned! She came over and we made lunch together (pan-seared pork loin, chickpea and dill salad) and then chatted the daylight away. That visit plus plenty of Skype time with family kept me in higher spirits than last week.
The location authority structure is in place and location data — such as it is — has been loaded into JDB1745. Now comes a whole bunch of cleaning up transcription variants and other fun stuff. I am looking forward to this a little because I’m much better at focusing on a task like this than I am on straightforward data entry.
The weekend gig involved a special treat this week: I participated in a Wiki-edit-a-thon. My fellow editors and I worked on improving articles about several women in STEM careers. We spent a few hours researching these women’s biographies and CVs and ensuring that their Wikipedia entries were up-to-date and correct. The edit-a-thon inspired me to take a more active role in Wikipedia than I have in the past. Did you know that only 13% of Wikipedia editors are women?
No blogging this week. (I haven’t forgotten those last book-club posts!) Mildly more fiction-writing, but I had a legitimate how I love writing moment this week, which felt wonderful. I love my lumpy, crummy drafts.
What even goes here?
Still savouring every page of “The Bees”.
I mostly listened to podcasts this week and not music, but I did rediscover a mixtape (can we even still call them that?) that FunkyPlaid made when he left for Scotland back in 2003. Like that shiny bead, the songs yanked me back to before I had ever set foot in this country, wondering what she got that I don’t got and other self-absorbed, younger worries. Plus, FunkyPlaid just has great taste in music.
This American Life’s two-part series on policing in America is excellent.
So far as the tubular pursuits, FunkyPlaid and I finished our season one re-watch of “Pushing Daisies” and are on to viewing the second season for the first time. Exciting!
I also watched the first two episodes of “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” which is a must-watch if you enjoyed “30 Rock” or if you have a heart.
I’m saving the latest season of “House of Cards” for when I am not so twitchy because Frank Underwood makes me so tense.
High off the pink excitement from last week, I tried another from that Goulet Pens’ Ink Drop, De Atramentis’ Red Roses. I should have used a wetter writer, because my Pelikan M205 isn’t showing all the lovely variation I’m sure it has. But it is pretty, a darker red than the Caran d’Ache Divine Pink, and scented like roses. The scent wears off quickly but it feels very fancy while I am writing with it.
This week started with a birthday bang and ended with a wistful whimper.
First of all, thank you for your birthday wishes. It made my day so much brighter to hear from you. I smiled all day long.
Well, almost all day long: that evening, poor FunkyPlaid got hit with a nasty flu. We spent the rest of the week huddled inside our chilly flat with bowls of homemade soup and purring cats. Not such a bad way to spend the time, except for the flu part. (He is feeling much better now.)
One of my birthday gifts from FunkyPlaid was a Misfit Shine activity and sleep monitor! I finally got to switch from Fitbit. I’ve used Fitbit devices since 2010 and all of them have had miserable battery life. The Shine uses a watch battery that should last 4-6 months at a time. It also tells time, and I can wear it many different ways instead of just in a crappy plastic wristband. So far, I’m pleased with it. Time to take it for a run and see how it does.
Week 2 of 12-week wellness programme: I am doing well with some aspects and not so well with others. I already have a lot of experience with paying attention to the various foods I shove into my face. However, I’m rubbish at group interaction because it’s all done through Facebook, plus most of my group is in a different timezone. But I have a peer coach now and we’re going to work together via email, so I feel okay about that.
In general, I’m not feeling that great about my life right now. The birthday week was a good distraction, especially because I was more social than usual; I scheduled plenty of Skype sessions with faraway loved ones and had coffee with Babs at Artisan Roast. But now all that is done and I am again facing a bunch of unhappiness.
And Leonard Nimoy died.
Not much progress happened with JDB1745 this week, as we rethought how to structure the location authority. I cannot wait until this part of it is finished, mostly because we have been doing authority work for what feels like forever and its payoff is so “of course, that’s what a database is supposed to do.”
One thing I learned from the weekend gig this week: many of the “life hacking” feeds I read don’t mention the importance of being a good coworker. I think it is far more essential to be a good coworker than it is to achieve inbox zero every day.
Here’s my top three suggestions on how to be a good coworker:
No blogging this week. What started as a birthday-day break ended up a week-long break. I have a few last book-club posts to write.
I took a bunch of handwritten notes for a short story in progress. Handwriting my drafts is working so much better for me, I’m kind of surprised that I forced myself to work against this for so long.
I had these once, I think.
FunkyPlaid and I saw “Birdman” and I loved every moment of it.
Top artists I listened to this week:
I received five new ink samples from Goulet Pens’ Ink Drop, although I’ve only tried one so far, the lovely Caran d’Ache Divine Pink in my Esterbrook Dollar Pen. It’s fuchsia, in the best way.
The Lamy 2000 still has J. Herbin’s 1670 Stormy Grey in it. Still so good.
It has been cold in Edinburgh but not so cold that I can write that without apologising deeply to my family in the godforsaken tundra. Still, biting cold. Right now it is raining and the rain, I can say with authority because I was just standing in it waiting for a Sunday bus, is the kind of rain that wishes it were snow so it lands like little stinging hail-drops.
On Tuesday, FunkyPlaid and I went through to Glasgow to visit a friend and help her with some computer issues. The photo above is of her cat sitting on a silver platter atop an old Scrabble set. She was perfectly happy to sit up there (because it was near the radiator, I think) and the sight of it made me giggle.
Fitbit step-count: ~50,000 steps out of my 70,000 weekly goal. Not great, but better than last week.
I am supposed to be reducing caffeine and sugar while on the 12-week wellness programme I mentioned. I haven’t done well with this. My justification is, as usual, that I already have to give up croissants for the rest of my life and now I’m supposed to give up tea and Junior Mints? So I’m a big baby and I need to get that under control. But Thursday I met Kaite at Cuckoo’s Bakery and had a gluten-free banana and sea-salt caramel cupcake with hazelnut tea and I didn’t feel guilty, not even a little.
Okay, a little guilty.
The JDB1745 naming authority work is complete! Well, as complete as things like this ever get, which means it is as polished as it can be for this phase and we really need to move on to location authority work next so, yeah.
As I was entering trial deposition data this week, I discovered yet another instance in which our data sets do not conform nicely to a template and require some creative thinking. This has to be at least 80% of database design for me: I think I’ve got a template that works, and then when I start entering data I see, nope, no, there’s more than a few instances in which this template just does not work.
As for the weekend gig … well, I wish the entire working world would get on Slack already because my work email inbox is a terrible place anymore.
However, I work with lovely people who wished me a happy birthday-eve. I am lucky and grateful.
I blogged the heck out of this week (thanks, book-club).
I also wrote a scene from a short story in progress, and am excited to write more. Part of this has to do with the book-club pick, and part has to do with me finally accepting the fact that I do my best creative thinking with pens and paper, not in front of the computer.
What are those again?
I did download SimCity BuildIt but after about an hour of gameplay I found its freemium bullshit unbearable: here, waste your time until interesting stuff happens, or pay real-world money to make it happen sooner. No thanks. Deleted.
I haven’t read anything about my bees this week because it’s been all about “Turning Pro”. What? You haven’t heard me talk about this book one million times already? Right.
CN Lester’s “What cis men could learn from trans masculinities” gave me a lot to think about this week. I often think about gender and identity and, especially now, the politics surrounding them. I try to write about these ideas with compassion and respect, and as I have so much more to learn I am glad that I can rely on CN’s intellect and insight to help me along the way.
Top artists I listened to this week:
Hey, I decided to watch the first episode of “Better Call Saul” because I heard mixed reviews about it. I enjoyed it, and I think I would have enjoyed it even if I hadn’t seen “Breaking Bad”. That’s saying something.
Tweet o’ the Week has been replaced by Ink o’ the Week! I love fountain pens and ink and I have to have a place to express that. In the future, I’d like to post ink tests and reviews here; for now I will share my “daily carry” pens and what they are inked with:
I’m trying something new here, kind of a “state of the union” only the union is a person and that person is me and this might just be awkward and strange but we’ll give it a go anyway. I like the idea of writing a weekly report to keep myself accountable of how I’ve spent my time and where I am at with my goals. Hat-tip to Cate Huston for the idea. She’s a software engineer and all-around interesting person I met through … something I’ll mention later. Here we go!
The sun is coming back!
FunkyPlaid and I celebrated Valentine’s Day over sushi dinner. <3
Fitbit step-count: ~40,000 steps out of my 70,000 weekly goal. Although I have recovered from the latest nasty bout, I’ve been hiding indoors a bit this week. However, I just started a 12-week wellness programme with a super-duper coach and I’m feeling very positive about it.
We’re almost done coding the naming authority data in JDB1745! This means that if we search for persona records with the first name “Robert” it’s going to pull up transcriptions like “Robt.” too. This essentially enables fuzzy-text searching on first, middle, and last names, and allows us to say things like, “Hey, when you see ‘Robt.’ also look for Robert, Bobt, Rob, etc.” This may seem like the simplest thing but 18th-century data sets are anything but simple.
I joined the Women in Technology Slack this week. Or maybe that was last week? I’m counting it for this week. It is filled with good people like Cate, and I look forward to the conversations there.
My weekend gig required more hands-on supervision than it usually does, which reminded me of two things:
Scrivener word-count: 0 words of 1,750 weekly goal. Holy ugh. When I say my writing mojo has bottomed out, that’s what I’m talking about.
I didn’t volunteer at the Community Virtual Library this week; I’m trying to limit my in-world time while I get my writing schedule back on track. I visited my virtual cats, and that’s about it. (Yes, cats really do rule all of my worlds.)
My knitting projects are languishing just now because my arms and shoulders have been very sore.
I finished reading Emma Healey’s “Elizabeth Is Missing” (my review is here) and started Laline Paull’s “The Bees”. I’m at 10% of my goal of reading 50 books this year.
The Daily Science Fiction story “Chocolate Chip Cookies for the Apocalypse” by Claire Spaulding got me all teary.
Top artists I listened to this week:
FunkyPlaid and I started watching the TV series “Dead Like Me” (first time for him, a re-watch for me) and I am enjoying it immensely. I am not sure that FunkyPlaid likes it quite as much, but at least I knew where to find more Mandy Patinkin to tide us over until “Homeland” returns this autumn. #quinning