Sunday, 22 April 2018

R.A.I.N., Reading and Romans

The word of the week is languish.
April 16 ­- How's it going?

Things are proceeding apace hereabouts... albeit slowly.

Nothing new on the job front: I apply, I wait, I get rejected and told that I didn't make any Eligibility-Callback lists... then I apply for new positions, and so on. Next week I'll be crafting resumes for three positions, sending them first off to a co-worker who has great experience in navigating the persnickety filter-heavy world of government job applications... so I hope that will help better my chances.

Glowforge-wise: I've decided to wait until June, when the air filter( necessary for indoor non-vented use )will be ready to ship... and by then I'll have the money set aside for either (a) shipping it to me or (b) picking both the filter and main unit up from the USA. Of the two, the second option is better, as it's cheaper by $300 USD all-told than paying the shipping to Canada, even factoring in the cost of a ferry trip... and taxes / duties are due on either option, of course.

Writing-wise: I'm waiting for May to arrive, because sometime in that merry month Baen books will have their Live Slush Reading, which will include my novel's manuscript! Who knows what the result will be, but I'm excited for it! In the interim, I'm continuing to plug away at editing the draft, polishing it further...

Health-wise: I'm walking to work regularly, doing 10,000 steps a day with no issue; swimming twice a week has really limbered up my left foot and I'm feeling the benefits in the rest of my body as well. I'm planning on keeping up the swim schedule for the summer, at least until I can gently get back onto my exercise bike in a month or so and see how that goes. Seeing as the bike has sat unused in my apartment for almost 18 months now, I'd rather use it than keep paying $4/swim over the rest of the year, which adds up of a month.

Finance-wise: don't ask, as usual. Each month is its own challenge...

April 17 - Cherophobia

What are you scared of?

For me, it's only a few things: failure, death, and not reaching my potential. Maybe a dash of being wrong and losing my mental faculties in there too.

But am I also scared of being... happy?

It's a valid question, asking if I have cherophobia:

Of all the things listed above, the only one that I know I do semi-regularly is "thinking something bad will happen" if I'm happy, akin to the old adage "don't jinx it!" when people say things like "Everything's going great!" and the like.

Cherophobia isn't depression, and I see that, but I also see that not being able to take joy in the moment, in success, is a bad habit that's easy for me to fall into sometimes. Like any bad habit, being aware of it means you can watch for it and step around that trap when it rears its frowny face.

Smile: it's that easy, if you know what to look for.

April 18 - Letting it R.A.I.N.

This seemed appropriate as above, given the weather this week: rather blah.

When you're feeling overwhelmed by life at times, as we all experience, there's some useful( and simple! )tools you can use to get a handle on things.

One such is R.A.I.N. which stands for Recognize, Accept, Investigate and Not-Accept, as follows:

I like quick checklists, as they're easy to remember in most every stressful situation, and act as a 'safety' to let you step back to view a situation rationally instead of allowing things to steamroller you into actions you might regret.

Think before you act, and let it rain...

April 19 - Stoics

I've been doubting myself yet again this week, and I shouldn't.

As always, I keep running the budget numbers, looking ahead to see where I can make this or that purchase work, while avoiding running out of things like supplements, T/P, household supplies and food.

Is this adulthood? Is this success?

What am I missing out on, that so many other people are doing?

I'll get into that next week, as it's a whole 'nother post and I want to stop the line of inquiry at just taking stock of your life... of paying attention to how you're living it.

Few people in history were better at such than Marcus Aurelius, Emperor of Rome from  between 161 and 180 AD. His collected writings can be found in Meditations, and are a fantastic read, one which I'll be digging into again for the first time in decades this coming week...

For now, I'll leave you with 14 of his solid stoic quotes, taken from a larger article and themselves pulled from Meditations, which I highly recommend...

April 20 - Vacation!

I officially started ten days of vacation today, the first of 2018 for me!

All the same, I was still up at 6:30am to go swimming, then have breakfast, which was a treat for me: the end of this month is going to be very tight, so much so that I'll be spending my vacation at home, with no forays out save for a cheap tea on a patio once or twice, weather-permitting - no room in the budget for cookies, at that.

Lunch was spent at my parent's place, visiting and assisting them with their tech: I moved their wifi to get a better signal in the far end of their condo, tidied up their computers and made my few hours there generally well-spent.

As I'd been developing a headache starting just after breakfast( weather... )I carefully took just a half-Asprin, as I had to meet a friend at 3pm for a day-off drink at Fire and Water... and neither Tylenol nor Ibuprofen mix well with alcohol. My friend and I have a highly-g33ky chat for a few hours, with a bonus two beers for me on his tab( thanks, man! )as he felt bad for having cancelled our previous two day-off chats. Free beers and great conversation = a great start to my vacation!

All the same, I spent the evening at home with earplugs and the blinds drawn to wait things out. I ended up watching half of the original TRON on Netflix, which to my surprise turned out to be the full-HD restored version with uber-crisp graphics - another bonus, and a lovely way to wind down my day sans headache.

April 21 - Locker Library?

I think I'll take a trip to the library this week, to get a few books.

As much as it pains me to admit, I haven't been there in years, not since moving back to Victoria in 2012. I enjoyed getting books from the Langford branch, as it kept me entertained with the latest scifi books... but I slacked off once I was back in the city proper: too busy trying to find work, and so forth.

Mind you, I LOVE libraries, and shudder to think what life would be like without them... or if any of my schools had banned books when I was growing up, like what seems to happen regularly elsewhere in the world, including the USA.

Some people though, are heroes - they fight back against banning books:

April 22 - Poetic Sounds

My girlfriend is a good cure for much of what might ail me, of a day.

I was feeling rather... blah this morning, thinking about my upcoming vacation-week nee imposed-staycation-due-to-budget, and even though the entire week's weather's supposed to be amazingly sunny and I have tons to occupy my time:

Blah. Negative thoughts lack-of-midlife-success mind-muddle all morning.

That lasted until brunch with my lady: she's that good for me.

We spent the afternoon at her poetry group in the sunny Atrium on Yates, chatting with other poets, followed by some poetry exercises... and my creations were well-received by the other much-better poets!

My best poem was this one, inspired by the Dixit card pictured:

A leisurely dinner, followed by a few hours of blogging and the rest of TRON wrapped up a day that might have started out blah, but ended in an ahhhh... and sans any remains of a headache, too!

The blog's a little later tonight, as I didn't really start until after dinner; yesterday was a bit of a wash, I'm afraid, as I was feeling kinda blah as noted above. I'm much better balanced tonight, again with big thanks to my lady, as she showed me a great cure for the creative soul is... to create. Who woulda thunkit?

Sunday, 15 April 2018

Procrastination, Pressure and Perfect Playsets

The word of the week is puissant.

April 9 ­- Maybe Later...

I love it when research backs me up...

Especially when it comes to bad habits, such as: procrastination!

For many years, I've been beating myself about the head when it comes to Getting Things Done. Oddly enough, it seems that most times, I CAN get things done, but in some instances it's just such a struggle that I've wondered out loud: why?

Science to the rescue!

For a procrastinator of my kind, perfection (or something negligibly close to it) thereby becomes the only result that allows one to be comfortable with himself. A procrastinator becomes disproportionately motivated by the pain of failure. So when you consider taking anything on, the promise of praise or benefit from doing something right are overshadowed by the (disproportionately greater) threat of getting something wrong. Growing up under such high expectations, people learn to associate imperfection or criticism with outright failure, and failure with personal inadequacy. A person who does not have this neurosis might wish they didn’t make a mistake, whereas the neurotic procrastinator perceives the error as being a reflection of their character. In other words, most people suffer mainly the practical consequences of mistakes (such as finishing with a lower grade, or having to redo something) with only minor self-esteem implications, while neurotic procrastinators perceive every mistake they make as being a flaw in them. So what they are motivated to do is to avoid finishing anything, because to complete and submit work is subject yourself (not just your work) to scrutiny. To move forward with any task is to subject yourself to risks that appear to the subconscious to be positively deadly because part of you is convinced that it is you that is at stake, not just your time, resources, patience, options or other secondary considerations. To the fear centre of your brain, by acting without guarantees of success (and there are none) you really are facing annihilation. A backlog of avoided tasks accumulates, and each one represents another series of threats to your self-worth should you tackle them. So the fear mounts, knowing that there is a minefield of threats between you and the fulfillment of your responsibilities. You feel like you must do something and can’t do that thing simultaneously, which can only lead to a burning resentment of the people or forces that put you in that impossible place — your employer, your society, or yourself. A victim mentality emerges.

This exactly explains what I've been beating myself up for all these years: it's not laziness, or even procrastination... but fear of failure.

Yup. As noted above, it's also been accompanied by resentment and a 'Why me?' nagging thought-train that's been hard to kick some years, even though I know better.

I'll be ruminating on this further, but for now I have a blog to write...

April 10 - Quantum Night


Last week, I picked up a copy of Robert J. Sawyer's latest book, Quantum Night, in hardcover at Russell Books for $9.00 - a bargain, considering the eBook version has been $15 forever, and there's no sign yet of a paperback version( which would be more than $9 anyway! ). I've been itching to read it for some time now, and in case you're not familiar with the premise, here's a peek:

I find the concept of the book fascinating, as it neatly compacts so much of today's psychology into three personality categories: 'base-level philosophical zombies' as the majority of humanity, followed by a smaller number of psychopaths( unable to feel emotion )and an even smaller number of 'quicks' who are people with full emotional conscience.

Which, as you can imagine, is a recipe for disaster, as noted above.

Overall, I found the book a fascinating read, though it may not be for everyone. It's steeped in Canadiana, as are all RJS's works, and that's always a fun thing to read in popular culture. One of the signs of a good story to me is that parts of it stick with you long after the tale is done, and such is the case with Quantum Night: it makes you wonder if its premise MIGHT just be true after all...

April 11 - I Remember...

Back in 2006, I went through some pretty serious pain: gallstones.

I'd just returned from a trip to Toronto, and on the way I'd had a delicious Pepper Chicken sandwich from Wendy's, which I'd had fairly regularly before. This time, though, it set off an abdominal pain that within a few hours had me hospitalized, groaning with the pain while my parents sat next to me, helpless to do much. I recall being pissed off in between waves of pain because nobody knew WHY I was in pain: I'd just been stuck on a bed to be monitored in case it "got any worse" which, given the levels of pain I was in, would have rendered me unconscious. It was like someone was pushing a broom handle under my ribs, and I couldn't do a thing about it... 

Thankfully, by midnight the stone had passed( though I had no idea at the time that's what it was )and I was able to go home, completely wrung out. To this day, I still have the occasional dream where someone's pushing a finger under my ribs, reliving that same awful sensation, and I'll be damned if I can make it stop.

Which means when I read about this story, I got a few ghostly twinges of sympathy:


Stories like this one tend to put things in perspective, and I can't imagine the pain she must have been in, or the 85-year-old woman who in August 1987 had 23,530 gallstones removed at Worthing Hospital in England’s West Sussex after she complained of severe abdominal pain.

While I still get pain on occasion, it's from the surgery to remove my gallbladder in 2008, which has now connected my liver directly to my small intestine. That connection is a little short, and if I sit oddly or stretch in certain ways, it tweaks it... which is unpleasant, but not painful - most days.

Certainly not as painful as what I went through twelve years ago. With some help from regular bile salts with each meal, I've been doing just fine, which is a relief, as I've got plenty of other things to keep track of when it comes to my health.

April 12 - More Mojo B5!

One of the great things about FBook is connections.

As I mentioned last week, being able to connect with creative folk whose work that I admire is fantastic. There's glimpses into their processes and thoughts that are invaluable, and just getting to see them as a person helps dispell the 'imposter syndrome' that I myself face daily, in that my own work can't possibly be as good as the work of giants such as them.

Also, sometimes they just put out cool stuff for folks to admire, for FREE, and it's even better when it's NEW Babylon 5 work like this:

Full 1080p - one of my fave shots from the show!

Because he could, Mojo was able to find an original model from the show in his archives, re-rig it and tweak it with the latest image-goodies, then render it with the latest software to produce the stunning image above. All because he loved working on the show and wanted to do something to update one of his favourite images... which also happened to be one of mine too!

April 13 - A Week Off, Soon!

My first vacation of 2018 is coming up, in a week's time.

My plan?

Edit my novel daily.

Plus, go for walks, catch up on reading, and generally relax. Since my entertainment budget of late is non-existent( along with every other non-necessity budget )there's really no other options. Besides, my girlfriend doesn't have the week off, and I won't take a trip without her, as it'd just be me moping around.

The last real vacation I had was in 2013 when I visited Niagara for a week, which was wonderful, as was the briefer trip my lady and I took there for 2 days in the summer of 2016.

 My trip to the USA last summer I unfortunately can't count a full vacation, as I was in pain for much of it, thanks to my 'sore core' muscles. It was a GREAT trip, don't get me wrong: I just couldn't fully relax, as every minute I spent sitting was painful... but I didn't let that stop me from enjoying it as much as possible to distract myself from my discomfort. Solar eclipse for the win!

Back to this year, though: it's going to be all about the rest and relaxation!

April 14 - Whatta Playset!

Some kids have the best dads; I know, since I was one of them.

And while my dad wasn't one to make things, other kids are fortunate to have fathers who are skilled with their hands, who can make things like this:

It's made of WOOD! 

This is the Star Trek: The Original Series playset I would have loved to have had as a kid, having grown up watching the reruns on TV. I did manage to get this bridge set, from ST: The Motion Picture... but it left much to be desired:

Cheap thin plastic that broke easily: not a great kids toy...

Still, it was certainly better than this monstrosity for the larger 1970's figures:

I actually had a Kirk figure when I was young, from a flea market: ugh.

April 15 - Weather


It's strange how quickly the weather can affect me; while it hasn't happened as often of late, when the air pressure changes, it can really hit me hard - like today.

After a pleasant few hours out and about with my lady( we brunched, then toured the very green rural backroads, and finished with a walk along the shoreline at Dallas Road )my head started to ache... and my phone showed the air pressure dropping:

You can see the sharp drop around noon... after the roadtrip variances.

As much as my S5 phone annoys me( the screen often refuses to turn back on )the one thing it does well is record the air pressure, much like its S3 predecessor did. So at least I get warning of when the weather's pulling a fast one on me, but today the headache started quite quickly, and by the evening was nasty enough that I had to write the rest of my blog wearing sunglasses - doh!

In ruminating today on my various aches, pains and lack of achievements, I again turned to the words of the late Stephen Hawking, who himself took pains to tell others to "Never Give Up, because where there's life, there's hope."

That's about all I've got in me; I had to take a few breaks while writing the blog, which took me around four hours overall, twice my usual time with said breaks accounted for. Still, I've got some quiet resting to do before bed, when hopefully the second set of headache tablets will kick in...

Sunday, 8 April 2018

Musings, Mojo and Major Movie Time!

The word of the week is tenacity.

April 2 ­- Goldilocks and Ideal Self

This was a short week, with a holiday today and Friday off.

Good; I can use the rest.

Working all of last week on my novel submission to Baen( go me! )was a strain on my eyes, and while I took precautions like leavening my writing time with 20-20-20 breaks, my weaker right eye is still paining me today. But not terribly.

What's paining me more is... happiness?

I'm a motivated person, as many of you know, though I feel what I've accomplished in life to date to be small and unremarkable, at least in terms of the impact on others, as well as my own life; one glance at my finances makes a good example of the latter. Still, we're not just balance sheets: life's a lot more than that. Challenging yourself and staying motivated is key to getting a grip on life, which when you follow the Goldilocks Rule, starts to make sense:

Right now I'm not challenged at my day job( and I've received word it's going to be changing later this year, so that's worrisome... )but I've been using that 'lack of challenge' to my advantage by learning via YouTube at work while my hands are busy but my brain... isn't. I've gone from a mix more of entertaining myself( a process of relaxation )to a majority of educating myself about writing, as well as the science involved in my novels, which has kept my motivation up.

It's also been a case of worrying less, which is a challenge unto itself.

Yet I know it's a process, a series of small hills, rather than a trudge up an unending( and unyielding )mountain:

For now, I'm simplifying, just being, and seeing how the rest of 2018 shows up as I crest each new hill.

April 3 - In the Swim

My water routine seems to be working out.

Twice a week, I'm up early before work on Tuesdays and Fridays, to get to the swimming pool by the 7am open-time and in the water ASAP in case other people trickle in; I like having the place to myself, as it seems like it's my own private pool... if only for a brief time.

I just LOVE hottubs!

This week and last, I've been soaking my legs in the hottub for 5-7 minutes beforehand, to loosen up the muscles before I stretch, and it's been helping. I've managed to swim for about 20 minutes without pause, with good flexion and a nice, tired feeling at the end that tells me I've burned some solid calories while moving around.

Being sensitized to my own body as much as I am( thanks, 2017 anxiety... )means I can tell exactly when my muscles are tweaking / close to strain, and I back off the effort level for a minute, then go again. My goal is to make it a full 30 minutes of exercise at decent effort levels, though that's tricky since I have to factor in a shower, changing and getting to work... as well as fitting breakfast in there somewhere. Fortunately, the place with the best deal on breakfast also lets me phone in an order, so it's ready by the time I walk there from the pool; yes!

Once the current cardpass runs out in a few months, I'm considering getting a basic gym membership, as the pass went up to $80.00 / 20 visits, which at two visits / week is only 2.5 month’s worth.

Then again, I have a fitness bike just taking up space in my apartment... one that I'm loathe to get back on, should I suffer a repeat of the tendon injuries from 2016.

Maybe I'll just take things slow for now, and see how I feel by May.

April 4 - That One Thing...

Another note on happiness: it's all about quality.

A study by Harvard that's been going for 75 years( wow! )showed that when it comes to people being happy, the thing that matters most is love:

Now, I've read years ago that the threshold of financial happiness is around $75,000... but it's now around $83,000 AND that has nothing to do with being happy in life, just non-stressed about being able to pay your bills, buy some geegaws, and save for retirement. All of which I'd like to be able to do without getting tired from the continuous juggling.

Yet, I'm lucky in love, according to the Harvard study, as I have many quality relationships in my life when it comes to friends and family, as well as my remarkable girlfriend. There's a Ted Talk that goes into a little more detail about the Harvard study here, and it's worth the 12 minutes of your day to watch:

April 5 - Isaac Arthur

As mentioned above, I'm learning at work about science, specific to the concepts that I am using to write my novel trilogy.

YouTube is a big place to poke around in, but I'm incredibly grateful that I stumbled across Science and Futurism with Isaac Arthur earlier this year. He's a math guy, so the numbers make for a solid foundation to build each of his videos upon... and given that he's been releasing one per week for a couple of years now, there's over a hundred available, varying in time from 20 to 60 minutes. Gold!

Here's an example of an early video of his, which is still crammed full of great information:

I highly recommend his channel, as the 'later' videos( circa 2016 )are fabulous, many with animations and data charts worth pausing on to soak in the full concepts and ideas. I'll be re-watching some of his videos in the next few weeks, this time taking some notes as time permits each day as the ideas coalesce...

Bonus: in the evening, I went out to my writing group's Meet N'Greet!

It's been months since I last attended a Meetup, and even that was our State of The Union meeting, so it doesn't count; the last one was in November, five months ago. So tonight was well overdue for me making an appearance, and I'm glad I did: the group took my initial comments about genre and ran with them! We had a lively discussion for an hour and a half, then things wound down nicely a little after 8pm; plenty of time for me to head home to get a few things done.

I was also pleased that I'd managed to sit upright in my chair for all that time with nary an abdominal twinge; my exercise and movement efforts are paying off!

April 6 - Ready Player One

Two years after reading the book, I got to see the movie today!

For those of you who don't know, here's a spoiler-free summary of RPO:

In the year 2045, the real world is a harsh place. The only time Wade Watts (Tye Sheridan) truly feels alive is when he escapes to the OASIS, an immersive virtual universe where most of humanity spends their days. In the OASIS, you can go anywhere, do anything, be anyone-the only limits are your own imagination. The OASIS was created by the brilliant and eccentric James Halliday (Mark Rylance), who left his immense fortune and total control of the Oasis to the winner of a three-part contest he designed to find a worthy heir. When Wade conquers the first challenge of the reality-bending treasure hunt, he and his friends-aka the High Five-are hurled into a fantastical universe of discovery and danger to save the OASIS.

I went into the movie today with the understanding that there were some significant changes made from the book to the film, but I understood that some parts of the book( author Ernest Cline's first novel! )weren't well-suited to filming - this article goes into the details of why that was.

Did I enjoy the film? HECK yeah!

Was it good? Overall, with only one viewing, I'd give it a solid 8/10 for a fun ride through 80's nostalgia, a 9/10 for visual effects, a 7/10 for story... and a 5/10 for plot execution.

I'll explain that last score: it was... clumsy, which surprised me for a Spielberg film. There were many missed opportunities for character nuance, tidier plotlines and so forth, as the film simply barreled along to the end. It meant there were few slow spots, which was good, but I found myself wishing that things had been done somewhat tidier, which is the writer in me nitpicking( with good reason )on things.

Now, some people out there think the film is great, while others hate it... and I have to say, if I wasn't an 80's kid, I'd probably see it as just an OK action-VR-video-game film. But since I am who I am, I'll be seeing it at least one more time, in IMAX, to soak up the visuals, and definitely purchasing the film on Blue-Ray to pause saidsame visuals to savour all the easter eggs that I missed.

Which, in a movie whose central plot is about finding an easter egg, there's a TON of them!

April 7 - Complications...

It's never easy, or at least it seems that way some days.

Earlier this week, I received a reply to an email I'd sent to Glowforge, to make sure my unit was still being held in queue for delivery, once I figured out the details which included picking up from a USA address to save $425 USD in shipping to Canada. I mentioned as much in my email, and this was the response:

From the last sentence of his reply, what I take it to mean is that while I *can* have it shipped to the USA, I have to ensure I inspect it FULLY when picking it up in order for the warranty to be in effect. Meaning I have to call up the receiving company and ensure that I'll be allowed to do the testing, which will take about 30 minutes and some portion of their space - plus a power outlet.

It's not a huge problem... but it's one more consideration, on top of the estimated $400 I'll be paying in taxes / duties, according to my research this week.

Meaning my estimated payback, just for the cost of the Glowforge, will be about two years, based on a flat monthly income. Less, of course, if the business takes off later this year with some good local word-of-mouth and online website.

First though, I have to get it here intact.

April 8 - Comics!

As I wasn't feeling particularly well yesterday, I took it easy today. My girlfriend wasn't on top of the world either, so perhaps there's something going around, a spring bug? I'm hoping she feels better soon.

It could have been an incipient headache, or something I ate( dairy? )this week, but I was feeling a bit wiped, so just relaxing was key. Even a quick trip to the grocery store for some almond milk was an exercise in energy conservation and patience, as it was rather crowded. All I wanted was to get out of there ASAP... but I just kept calm and let the noises pass me by as I focused on just Getting It Done. Which worked!

I also read a few of the comics I'd picked up over the last few months, some of them crossovers( Ghostbusters / TMNT )and others unique( The Tick, BSG vs BSG ). I've rarely purchased a comic, or even a graphic novel, in the last twenty years, as I tend to simply read the word-balloons and take passing note of the artwork only as it serves to illustrate the story... which since comics are a highly visual medium, is a disservice to the artists. Still, that's how I'd read them.

Now, being aware of that, I'm taking more time to enjoy them, page by page. Today I ready BSG vs BSG #3( series written by the great Peter David, too! )the cover of which I was surprised to find out was done by none other than Adam Mojo Lebowitz of Babylon 5 fame! As a bonus, I'm connected with him on FBook, and we traded a few comments back and forth on the art as well as related subjects; how cool is that? Check out the cover in all its glory, courtesy of Mojo himself:

That's the fun part about social media: you can connect directly with people whose work you admire, and while bearing in mind not to pester them, you can engage with them regarding their work when they have time. One more reason for me to stick around FBook, despite the negativity it's been garnering of late.

I'm probably going to be there for the long haul, but with some changes: more on that soon.

Well, it's a full five-day week ahead, but I've got little scheduled other than what I choose to catch up on this week. I think, given my low-level eyestrain, that I'm going to keep it to reading, some light Netflix-watching, and staying in to save funds( it's also going to rain all week, not great go-for-a-walk weather ). Low-key is the watchword(s) for this week, while I kick whatever minor bug's bothering me.