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.

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.

My Year of Bread and Air (and Stuck)

“Insanity is doing the same thing, over and over again, but expecting different results.”

-Albert Einstein (likely misattributed).

I baked a lot of bread this year.  One or two loaves a week (three loaves a week on a few occasions), even the week of Mom’s funeral and the subsequent weeks of family-related and work travel.

I have been on planes this year more than I have any other year of my life — but there has still been bread in the house, each homemade loaf a little (and occasionally quite a bit1) different, even those weeks I’ve had all the ingredients I needed on hand and the last thing I wanted to do was experiment.

The bread did run out during a couple of those business trips, which inspired @bhoneydew to capture all the scrawled-on-butter-stained-printout hacks I’d made to the basic recipe I started with and bake a couple of loaves himself. Both of them came out differently than any of mine, and different from each other, even though he followed the same steps each time.

And … this is the paragraph where I was stuck for two weeks (I started writing this blog post on my birthday). It was a unique sort of stuck for me: until December 19th, it was a stare-at-a-page-and-no-words-come-out stuck as opposed to a write-ten-paragraphs-think-they’re-messed-up-and-delete-them-all-before-anyone-else-sees-them stuck. Though since this isn’t the first time this has happened this past year, I guess I should stop calling it ‘unique’. I should just call it ‘2016’s stuck’, and hope the year doesn’t forget it in the house when it heads out the door in a couple of weeks, especially if the door smacks it on the butt so hard that it falls down the front steps, because that should so happen.

My chirpy ambitiousness about being able to do NaNoWriMo and a massive work project and finish a networking class all in the same November timeframe? Yeah, that was me trying to flip off 2016 before it’d turned its back. I should know better, I really should, but I did get the two most important things on that list done, so there’s that. The bread still happened.

1The first time I used the “Proof/Warm” setting on our oven to proof a loaf, I didn’t notice that the temperature read “Hot” instead of “Brd”. This killed most of the yeast and made for a very dense brick o’ bread.

Wash On Monday … Or Something

It’s a month(ish) later, on another Holiday Monday, and I’m doing laundry. Don’t even try to look surprised. At least the weekend wasn’t a frame-for-frame reshoot of Labor Day Weekend:  while I did go out of town for work last Monday through Wednesday, and I pulled a work-related all-nighter on Thursday, I didn’t do…

Okay, at least I didn’t do as much questioning of life choices this weekend, and I didn’t at all have to hide from people I care about so I wouldn’t have to fight the urge to scream at them. I even left the house for reasons other than going to the airport or a grocery store or to take the Monster somewhere.  Yes, really!  Despite the weekend rain, I succeeded in participating in the charity walk I signed up for all the way back in August, and as a nice bonus, was able to drag @bhoneydew and the Monster along with me.

Of course, we did have doughnuts after that.

It also was for a good cause.  Or something.

Random Notes:

  • In week three of the Networking class.  My first exam’s on Wednesday. Things are going about as well as I was expecting from a refresher-must-once-again-officially-prove-that-I-know-this-stuff course.
  • Dropped the systems biology Coursera course after getting into Week Two and realizing, yep, I need to spend some quality time with my old biochemistry textbooks before I can get back into this stuff. Quality time, yes, I can schedule that! I am already almost done with this year’s Goodreads Challenge, and I am so proud of myself that it’s ridiculous. Just don’t ask me how low I set this year’s bar, okay?
  • Signed up for NaNoWriMo again this year, because :masochism:. Or my armadillo life is getting to me and I want to feel like part of a community again without, you know, having to put on war paint or pants. The officially sited reason is that I do have a personal writing project I want to work on in addition to the stuff I get paid to write, and NaNo gives me a great excuse. Or something.
  • Speaking of pants, I’ve become mildly addicted to LuLaRoe leggings. If only they had pockets…






My Year of Bread and Water

Bread in Basket

The first round of January bread. Dead. Wrapped in plastic.

When the alarm sounds, all errors are recorded.
-Today’s #spamadvice (translated from Norwegian)

I admit I spent more time trying to figure out how to add social media links to my blog than I did writing this post.1 It’s not that WordPress.com made that information hard to find, it — alright, I’m still not certain that I should be adding social media links to my blog. Oh, sure, I’ve had links to my Twitter feed here for a while, and it’s not (yet) been anywhere close to a disaster, but do I really want to make it that easy for folks to find me?2

The previous paragraph was a roundabout way of mentioning that I finally signed up for Facebook and … SweetMotherOfCthulhu, I’m so happy I discovered that it has a mute button! Still alarmed that I feel the need to use it as much as I do3, but I’m delighted that I have that option.

Anyway … 2015 just happened, and 2016 is here. I sort of disappeared in the middle of November, so I’ll start with quick recaps before I natter about goals for this year then disappear for another six months4.

NaNoWriMo 2015
I hit 50K with Key of Tree on November 26th, and stopped recording my word counts after the 27th (50,466). The NaNo project’s now a shade over 60K, and, ah, it’s still mostly in outline form with blocks of dialogue scattered here and there. I estimate the first draft will be just over 100K when it’s done, assuming that I don’t just throw it in a box and bury it, maybe with a stake through it for extra reassurance. It started out as a paranormal thriller and turned into a historical family saga with barely any paranormal in it. Think, uhm, Gone with the Wind, just make it the modern era and swap in demonic possession and cultural shock caused by technological progress for the antebellum South and Sherman’s Army. Is your brain now threatening to leak out of your nose? Yeah, that’s how I feel when I think about it, which is why I’m considering the box-and-stake option.

Speaking of brain leaking out of the nose…

…since I’ve admitted this on Facebook already (but only to the peeps in Nova Nanites), I do have some other writing goals for 2016. Once I sort what to do with Key of Tree, I’m going to take a look at the dark epic fantasy duology (The Madness Gate and Singing Down Sepia) and see if they’re actually a trilogy-in-denial, or if they just need to be printed out and set on fire.

I might also try writing something short and maybe not as grim as my usual stuff. Maybe.

I would like to get at least one rejection this year. That would be awesome.

Finally, after the need to reschedule some courses, I’m on track for getting my database administrator’s certificate this spring. All I’ll need to do is complete a PL/SQL refresher, and yes, I have to complete it, because the PL/SQL course I took in California is over ten years old so it didn’t transfer. Have I completed my Oracle certs? No. Have I taken my PMP exam? No. Am I still sure I want to do those things? Also no, but I probably will anyway. What am I going to do after I finish the certification? I honestly have no idea yet. I keep poking at systems engineering, business analysis and data science programs, because I do a little of all of that for a living these days. Do they excite me? Eh … in the ‘new tools for the mental toolbox’ sense, sure. If I wanted to be excited about what I was studying, I’d go into bioscience.

Two projects are supposed to wrap at the end of January, and I’m ballparking the end of April for the third one I’m involved in. Of course, I ballparked the end of April 2015 for the two that are ending in January, and it turned out that I was needed until now, so, oops. This month is going to involve a fair amount of deepthink about lessons learned from the past year and change of freelancing, what I’ve enjoyed doing, what I don’t want to do again if I don’t have to5, and where I’d like to grow from here.

Speaking of growing, I’ve lost a little over fifty pounds this past year without doing anything crazy; I went back to eating three-meals-and-snacks as my nutritionist in PA prescribed, logging my food when I did, and moving around more than I had been6. The only things I’ve cut out are artificial sweeteners, which wound up eliminating soda by association (I haven’t drunk fully leaded soda on purpose in decades), and swapping the half-and-half in my morning coffee and the whole milk in my smoothies for almond milk.

My base goal with all of this is to see how healthy I can get just by being mindful. I’m not sweating setbacks, because so far I’ve been able to get back on track and get through them. When that stops working, well, it’ll be time to start doing more than the house cleaning/home improvement/gardening/cooking from scratch/parking a good distance from the store entrance workouts that I’ve been doing. The Monster goes to a great local gym, and I’m sure folks there wouldn’t mind making me forget how much I hated high school P.E.

Don’t laugh; cooking from scratch really has helped with all this! I’ve even started baking my own bread (that is, without using a bread machine). The effort involved in making it should guarantee I eat less of it!

1I’m still not done. WordPress.com’s Social Media Widget doesn’t appear to support Google+ or Goodreads (which surprised me) or multiple Twitter accounts (which didn’t), so there are some HTML shenanigans in my future.
2Because, uhm, Google might be hard to operate or something?
3Otherwise, I’d likely say something I wouldn’t regret in a way that I probably would.
4One of my goals for 2016 is to post something once a week, on Mondays if I can manage it.
5#1 on that list is ghostwriting.
6Yes, the eye doctor ordered computer diet has helped improve my physical activity levels. So has the FitBit.