Eighty Percent Chance of Getting Stuff Done

Today at work, I followed up with someone I exchanged email with on Friday, and suddenly they no longer exist. As of the end of March.

I’m about 80% sure I didn’t make this person up, so it was surprising.

-Me, @shainorton, five days ago.

I’ve been busy.  This quite possibly surprises you not at all.

I haven’t yet finished the sweater.  I did finish:

    • another book (The Book of Etta, Meg Elison’s sequel to The Book of the Unnamed Midwife, making two more books that I have read recently that are actually recent, who hoo!).
    • multiple homework assignments and a midterm.
    • my gigantic pile of transcripts evaluated for another academic program, which, assuming I can fit everything into the schedule, I should finish in a year and change.
    • a large work project (in very little time), and multiple smaller work projects (in less time)
    • a work transition, but I’m more than eighty percent certain that work has not yet finished its side of the transition.1
    • transferring my cell phone to another phone and another carrier, like I’ve been putting off for over half a year now.
    • a blog post.  This one. In twenty-five minutes, as planned.  YAY!

1This doesn’t bother me; I’ve yet to have a job or even a gig where things didn’t change. There have even been a couple of occasions where they changed on my very first day. I started an engineering internship once, and got swapped into a human resources administrator role before I could put my lunch into the break room fridge. My first analyst job for a government contractor saw me pivoted into corporate business development on Day One — I never set foot on the site of the client I was initially hired for during my entire time with that company.2,3

2I’ve been told there’s a disconnect between reading my resume and talking to me. Can’t count for you how many times people have told me “You’re not what I expected.” I’m never sure how to take that. Are they smiling because they’re delighted or because they’re worried that if they upset me I’m going to manifest some hidden superpowers that involve, oh, wide area disintegration?

3“Why didn’t you say no, Shai? Don’t you care about what you do for a living?” Frankly, no, as long as the money’s good, the scenery changes, and they let me use explosive — er, no, I mean to say if my paychecks clear, I get to solve problems, and it doesn’t require me to make someone else coffee. See, I have a problem making coffee before I’ve had coffee. Sometimes, it’s not even coffee, more hot water tinted brown from whatever residue was left in the coffee maker after I cleaned out the old grounds and failed to replace them with fresh. Or it’s water on top of a thick layer of sludge because I scooped the grounds into the coffee pot instead of the machine. Don’t get me started on what can happen when I have to use a Keurig in the morning…

The Masque of the Waffler

I just wanted to send you a quick message here instead of calling you.
– latest #spamcommentary

Huh. I didn’t think I had posted a telephone number on my blog, but thanks for the heads-up, mystery spammer who keeps introducing yourself with a different name each time. Not that there’s anything wrong with … hey, I get that. There have been times in my online life when I had so many different names that I’d sometimes forget who I was.1

Each day since I’ve started this latest creative project — a revisit of a novella I wrote last year before my brain completely blew its transaxle — I’ve dreaded spending time on it. Not that the writing isn’t happening, despite the dread.  Not that I’ve gotten it to the point where I want to print it out and set it on fire or throw it into a folder to age. I’ve gotten more to the point where painting the rest of the rooms in this house seems like a fun way to spend my free time. Notice where I said that the writing is still happening?  Yes, it’s still happening. Maybe that’s why the mental penguins are trying another tactic to mess with me.

You’ll probably laugh, but, uhm, I’m figitated that I’ll finish this thing, send it off to my target market, and it’ll be liked right up to the point Marketing Googles me and decides that I’m not a good promotional fit, then (assuming I’m even told this) I’ll need to have a conversation with myself about going through the whole rigamarole of creating yet another online persona, one which I’ll need to invest enough of my life into in order for it to seem like a living breathing person.

The prospect of not being a good fit at first glance isn’t what bugs me. I’m used to that.2  This is all about my brain getting pre-tired considering the effort of making a workaround for it.  Yes, even though the problem doesn’t exist, and may never exist.3

I’ll get over it. Or I won’t, and I’ll turn the project into something my own name can go on without causing dread. Er, at least without causing me dread.


1Briefly. Not usually disastrously, but there were uncomfortable exceptions.

2You could even say I was born that way. Mom’s spelling my first name like she did set me up for a lifetime of hijinky first impressions.

3This is not new. I have workarounds for lots of other things that haven’t come to pass and may never. Admittedly, most of these are potential move related. For example, I maintain a sketchy base familiarity with the public school systems in a handful of target geographical areas, so that just in case we do find ourselves moving, I can get up to speed quickly.

On This Side

I turned in the project, as I promised myself. I didn’t notice until afterwards that I’d submitted it on the first anniversary of Mom’s death.

Not that I forgot, good grief, no, I just didn’t notice while I was submitting it, in the same sense that I always remember that there’s laundry to be done, but I sometimes don’t notice that there are clean clothes in the dryer that need to be put away first.

I didn’t do anything dramatic like pick up the phone to tell her and remember she wasn’t alive to tell. Honestly, Mom was the last person I wanted to talk to about such things. I got good at dealing with her stumbling across the ones I didn’t hide as well as most, because they were all at a temporal remove where I could shrug them off as meaning little to me, yep, no big deal, nothing to worry about, let’s talk about your day.

There’s a why behind that, but it’s a long story that I don’t intend to tell. It’d be too one-sided now.

Days All Strange and Vague

I think the admin of this web page is genuinely working hard in favor of his website, for the reason that here every material is quality based information.

-latest #spamcommentary

You know, that’s hardly the first time I’ve been mistaken for a guy, even by someone who claims to have read something I’ve written.

But, I’m not a dude, dude.  I’m also really working hard in favor of this website (honestly, most days I’m of mixed mind about having a social media presence at all). I’m also not trying to meet any quality standards beyond “be vague enough to keep my family and work and self happy”.

Speaking of vague, I’m on track to submit the January non-work project this week, despite family and work shenanigans.  Once it’s officially out the door, I’ll treat myself to a cupcake1 and then figure out what’s next.

This morning I noticed I was already halfway through the year’s Goodreads Challenge. No kidding, I’m kind of wondering who I am and what I’ve done with Shai.


1Which will be cleverly disguised as a subscription to Apex Magazine.

Switching Defaults

I’ve a venture that I am just now working on

-The latest #spamcommentary

The first week of January, I told myself that I was going to spend 25 minutes a night Reading-with-a-Capital-R, which for me means Reading-Of-Things-That-Are-Not-Required-For-My-Work-In-An-Intentful-Manner (a.k.a. things I seek out to read, rather than news that pops up on my phone1).

Yeah. That didn’t happen. I did it the first day, felt great2, and it just didn’t happen again. I was too fried by the end of each day, and waking up each morning a little more pissed at myself for again failing to do One Simple Thing That I Enjoy. I was a serious grouch by Thursday, so much so that when I woke up that I ordered myself to read a freaking book in the half hour I generally have before everyone wakes up instead of catching up on e-mail or squeezing in some work.

I did. I wasn’t grouchy anymore. I felt better.

So, I flipped the planner. I now read for 25 minutes every morning. If I find some free time during the day (e.g. when I’m waiting for The Monster at his after school activities), I’ve started reading then, too, instead of my default action trying to work on my laptop (or my phone) through sketchy Internet connections. Oh, I’m sure if there’s a looming deadline, I’ll go right back to working during those times, but right now? Right now, reading’s good.

Mostly good.

There have been some side effects. Poetry. I want to tell you that those outbursts were just things I had to get out of my head before I could tuck into 25 minutes of working on a creative project, but I’m afraid I won’t maintain the momentum I have on the creative project, so I’m not telling you that, just apologizing for the mess.


1 I think I mentioned that I removed the Twitter and Facebook apps from my phone back in late September. I’ve re-added Twitter, but haven’t yet been motivated to do so with Facebook. (I’m not on Pinterest: every time I’ve registered for it, I’ve gotten a splitting headache. I imagine that’s some sort of sign.)

2 While reading lulls my mental penguins into a false sense of security relaxes me, I know one of the reasons I haven’t been reading like I used to is my fear that I’ll get lost in a book and everything else going on in my life will get ignored.3 Articles are short, and work/school related reading/research will eventually make my brain tired, so they’re self-limiting.

3That used to happen all of the time when I was a kid. When I discovered the pre-Internet internet (I cut my social media teeth on BITNET) and online text-based gaming — gah, that was like having a freshly dead tauntaun on Hoth. So, these days, I set timers when I read or play video games (I’ve also stopped playing social ones altogether) to remind me to look outside of my brain to see if, oh, say, the house is on fire.

NaNoWriMo 2014: What Day Is This?

Now together with all the harmful toxins
It is a great strategy to have your own
Fantastic, quick time passer
Most likely
The most effectively
Interesting things
You’ll be able to take anywhere

-today’s #spampoetry

I hit 50K yesterday. Good lord, no, not on the project that I was trying to finish during NaNoWriMo. The edits on The Madness Gate are currently at 9,847 — I might hit 15K by the end of the month, but there’s no way I’ll hit the 50K, not with my having just over double that due on a contract project in mid-December.1

So, I’m not going to win NaNoWriMo this time. I’m calling it now. Yep. So definitely not.

And I don’t feel a bit guilty or embarrassed about that, ’cause, crap, I’m averaging about 2,600K a day daily now — not counting e-mails or analysis briefs — without breaking too much of a sweat.

In other news, the Deluge O’Spam comments continue. A lot of them are now in Japanese. I imagine they’d be more entertaining if I could remember more from my two semesters of the language than 私は日本語を話すことはありません (and I’m not too sure about that).

While I was skimming through the non-Japanese ones looking for poetry building blocks, I noticed one that seemed almost genuine.

Submitted on 2014/11/05 at 9:20 pm
First off I would like to say fantastic blog! I had a quick question which I’d like to ask if you do not mind. I was interested to know how you center yourself and clear your mind before writing. I have had trouble clearing my thoughts in getting my ideas out there. I truly do take pleasure in writing however it just seems like
the first 10 to 15 minutes are generally wasted just trying to figure out how to begin. Any recommendations or hints? Cheers!

Four quick answers:

1) Aromatherapy. I like bay, eucalyptus, bergamot and other citrus scents for “everyday” creativity. I switch between those and savory food scents like basil, parsley, cucumber, tomato and radish. Lately, I’ve been using a ScentBall with an essential oil mix of AuraCacia‘s Creative Juice (their Website’s wrong about the “mint”: it’s just bergamot, lemon and coriander) with some eucalyptus.2

2) Hydration, Hydration, Hydration.

3) Music. Sometimes my earworms need a break. I tend to avoid lyrics when I need to write, though I do binge on Steely Dan when I’m doing data modeling, and 70s/80s Southern California rock when I’m writing pseudocode or doing logical analysis. I’ve enjoyed the heck out of some of the curated playlists at Songza. Right now, I’m listening to its “Electronic Film Scores” playlist.

4) Rage. I’m not kidding. I might explain later.


1..and a key deliverable due for my analyst gig in the same time frame, and Parts 4 and 5 of a school programming project, and the final part of a school database design project, and uhm, three exams, as well as the general and holiday-related parenting and domestic shenanigans.
2Yes, I do know exactly how goofy I sound talking about this stuff. Thanks for not asking.

Awesome is the Enemy (of Done)

defined out the whole thing without having side effect
people can take a signal

-the latest #spampoetry

Friday was the first day since late August that I didn’t wake up with a song stuck in my head. It didn’t last:  I picked up one late Friday night (Tom Petty’s “You Wreck Me”) that hung around through Sunday, and I’ve had a different one every morning since.  Today, it’s INXS’ “Lately”.

I’ve talked about this before1, but in case you’ve just climbed into this clown car, here’s the thing: whenever there are a lot of things going on in my life, I routinely get songs stuck in my head. Sometimes there are multiple songs going at once (what I call “stereo earworm”).

I usually try to get the songs out of my head as soon as possible. Nine times out of ten, just listening to the song via headphones will do it, and if that doesn’t work, singing the Backstreet Boys’ “I Want It That Way” at loud volume can blast just about anything out of my skull2.

Here lately…

…you look around, and wonder what you’re doing…

…though, I’ve been letting the songs in my head stick around. They don’t seem to be hurting anything, and it’s quite possible they’re serving some useful purpose; I really am getting a lot of stuff done, and what’s more, I’m not freaking out about all of the other stuff that’s marching onto my to-do list like ants that’ve spotted a wedding cake.  At least not freaking out much.

Speaking of that, after looking over The Madness Gate, and figuring that I’ve got at least 10K words to write on it, I signed up for Nano.  Of course, this will likely mean that on October 31st, I’ll be struck by this brand spanking new idea, and will work on that during November.

A similar thing happened when I was working on a client project yesterday.  I was la-la-la-la-la-lately-I’ve-been-losing-sleep-here-I-go-again-on-my-own-almost-done-three-whole-days-early, then DEAD STOP — then OhWowThisNoOhNoNoNoIHaveABetterIdea, and boom, it was five o’clock, and I’d gone from zero to almost done on a radically different (and better) take on the same project within a couple of hours.  It was awesome and annoying, and I hope it doesn’t happen again today, because I want to get the darned thing done.


1e.g. “Transition,” the Soundtrack, Second Cornbread Iteration, and others
2As will my singing anything by Nickelback, but I think doing that might get us another letter from our Home Owners’ Association.