Sunday, 30 August 2015

Books, Beverages and Being Better

The word of the week is stabilization.

August 24 – Lack Of Zip

It's been a few weeks since I've had any tea to drink.

Since I became ill on August 12, I haven't had any sort of caffeine to drink. This was at first because I simply wasn't sleeping for the first few days after contracting cellulitis: it didn't make any sense for me to try to stay awake when I was doing it anyway and had the potential to fall asleep at the drop of a hat.

Once I was back to just resting, not going into work, it also made sense not to drink any tea because I was again falling asleep every few hours - no point in trying to stay up when I badly needed my rest.

There were few ‘withdrawl’ headaches in the first week, coming and going randomly here and there for a few hours as my body adjusted. Seeing as I was going to bed early and waking up late, my body clock naturally adjusted itself to when I needed to fall asleep and when I needed to wake up. While there are indeed some health benefits to drinking tea, overall I believe cutting back on it to minimal levels will do me more good in the long run then keeping up the levels that I've had for the last year or so at my current job.

Once I get back to work, I'll see if I need to have a tea in the morning or the afternoon. My habit of drinking a pot of tea throughout the day is going to be a thing of the past, I think, in that I seem to have adjusted to waking up in plenty of time for work while still getting tired at a reasonable hour well before midnight each night.

As my energy levels formalized in the next week or two, I hope that I won't need more than a cup or two of tea during the day at specific times to counteract my natural mid-afternoon need for a nap.

August 25 – Critique OK

The second time's the charm, I suppose, when it comes to critiques.

In today's case, I mustered the energy to attend my regular monthly critique group, a week late I have to admit. As far as exertion went, all I had to do was ride in the backseat out to Sooke and back in the evening, which turned out to be exactly how much energy I had left in me for the day.

One thing that I love about my critique group is the invigorating energy that gives me as a writer. The people that I meet with are wonderful, one and all, which makes critiquing their work all the simpler given that we have giving feedback to each other for a few years now and can relax when it comes to wondering if someone's being critical or just opinionated.

The energy comes from having someone critique my work who knows it very well, to the point where their questions are extremely specific to things like character motivation, plot details, history points and all the other things that you hope readers will pick up on and ask about. I can't emphasize enough how important getting critical feedback on this sort of thing is, so that my revisions can jump to the next level instead of circling around small edits and tiny fixes. Regularly adding big bricks to the structure makes all the difference.

So again tonight I got back home tired but energized: a bit of a contradiction but that's how it usually is when it comes to my critique group. Every month I can't wait to hear what they have to say about my latest passages for my second book, so that I can sit down and make my work even better for my readers in the next draft.

August 26 – Changing Times

Today’s my last day ‘free’ before I return to work.

It's been wonderful to be able to just rest for a few weeks. Not doing much of the day means that I felt no pressure to accomplish anything other than getting better, resting both my body and my mind to recover my equilibrium.

It is odd to have just been resting, reading and thinking of the day, with interruptions for meals and socializing with my parents. Heading out for small errands this week has been a nice change, getting back into the habit of doing instead of dawdling, so to speak.

Oddly, I've felt little urge to socialize electronically with anyone, in the main I think because I just want to rest and not exert any more energy than I have to. Years ago, I would have spent a good deal of my recovery time chatting with people online, back in the day when IRC( Internet Relay Chat )was king. Nothing like shooting the breeze with a bunch of people you've known for a while but never met to make you feel better when you're sick.

Nowadays, you can chat to strangers instantly with video on your device of choice.

One of the most popular services in use today is Chatroulette, where you’re paired up with random people the world over. While the potential for abuse in such a system is obvious, there’s also tremendous creative potential that is often overlooked, where users can randomly find wondrous and novel things when they log in… like a zombie shooter:

Such a project goes to show that the internet is an endlessly inventive place, where creative minds can go to both play and present their newest brainchild to the world. Neat stuff!

August 27 – Return To Work

After almost 3 weeks off, I returned to work today.

My coworkers were one and all glad to see me, commenting that while they had managed to keep things running decently enough without me, they had quickly come to appreciate how much I accomplished every day when I suddenly wasn't there to do the work.

It was gratifying to know that while my coworkers could pick up my workload during my absence, they were now fully aware of is actually how hard I work every day at my job. Each of them is a dedicated, bright and energetic employee as well, so hearing them uniformly praising my abilities was extraordinarily welcome during my return to the job.

Easing back into the daily routine today, I was quite grateful that for whatever reason it wasn't busy at all. There were quite a few lulls during my shift with very few calls, enabling myself and the team to easily accomplish our daily tasks by late afternoon. There were no problems to speak of and while I felt tired heading home, I wasn't exhausted.

According to my coworkers, I actually picked the perfect time to be sick( not that I had a choice ): things are slow as to the middle of the month and by returning to work now, I can help with the end of month rush that we always get and which can be overwhelming even for a full, experienced team like we have.

Next time, I'll try to be sick while not on my vacation.

August 28 – Two Good Days

I made it through my second day at work just fine.

Again, I was fortunate in that we weren't all that busy overall. By noon I had settled back into the swing of things, enjoying the flow of the familiar and the fact that I was doing something with my day that was both productive and payroll-effective.

It also helps that my workplace is much more efficient of late. We've added quite a few new staff in the last few months, growing by almost a third in total staff size. This is meant fewer irate callers, as our turnaround times have shrunk dramatically from late spring due to the diligent and dedicated hard work of everyone in our branch. This has the effect of reducing everyone's stress levels, as we're not having to deal with problems of the major kind but rather only the small gaffes that always occur due to communication or human error.

By days end today, I was again tired but content with how things have gone. I think I could become used to this sort of feeling, of doing my job properly without feeling rushed or overwhelmed by factors far beyond my control. Having a skilled, supportive and solid team around me means that we all that benefit - I know how rare a thing this is to combine with an overall office attitude that can only be described as happy and healthy.

Now that I’m almost back to being healthy, I can get right back to happy, too.

August 29 – Rain and Lego

It’s wet here again!

The clouds rolled in last night, accompanied by some rather high winds( 90+ kph! ) and drenched Vancouver Island. Since we badly needed it, nobody really minded. We’re due for another rainy evening tonight, so hopefully that will resuscitate some of the drought-stricken trees and other plants here that have been pushed to the edge for lack of water.

Speaking of droughts, I finally got around to seeing The Lego Movie tonight with my girlfriend, who couldn’t say enough good things about it, having already seen it. Talk about anticipation: I’ve only heard good things about the movie but never managed to make the time to see it, until today.

Everything was awesome!

Just like the movie’s theme song: the movie was fantastic fun, all the better because the quality of the CGI meant that it looked like the entire movie was hand-made using Lego bricks. The voice cast was excellent( with many big-name stars )perfectly cast, a solid if unremarkable storyline and a decent twist at the end that tied everything together.

But what really made the film special was that it was jam-packed with parody and satire. The g33k in me reveled in the continual parade of wonderful winks and nods at everything from historical figures to modern pop culture. I especially liked the regular references to all the different Lego toy lines over the decades, of which I owned more than a few and instantly recognized as they popped up on the screen.

My girlfriend and I had a great time watching the film, laughing together at all the amazingly awesome things packed into each minute of screen time. It was refreshing to be able to watch the film with someone who recognized just as many, if not more, of the references that proceeded to parade full-tilt over the course of those most enjoyable few hours.

August 30 – Satisfaction

Have I mentioned I own more than a few books?

By my estimate, I have around 2000 books altogether, counting fiction, non-fiction and sundry miscellaneous tomes stored both in my apartment and that my parents place. Of those books, I started several years ago to inventory them using the GoodReads app on my smart phone, but I stopped after about 300 or so because the app wasn't as well developed as I'd hoped: I had to manually enter quite a few covers and that slowed down the process.

Fast forward to this month and things have changed quite a bit.

While I was recuperating at my parents, I took a little time each day to continue to inventory the remainder of the books that I have stored there. By the time I was done, I had managed to get my count up to well over 500 books, all of which were properly accounted for in terms of title and cover using the most recent GoodReads app.

Why am I bothering to do this, you might ask?

The simple answer: I don't want to buy the same book twice and this is the easiest way for me to accomplish that goal. At least half a dozen times since moving to Vancouver Island, I walked into a used bookstore, seen a book that looked interesting and have it end up that I owned it in my collection already.

With the GoodReads app, it’s simplicity itself to scan a book into my Shelves using the camera on my smart phone. The app has a built-in barcode reader and can scan up to 100 books at a time in a batch, making it quite easy to add many books in one go. Apart from the time it takes for organizing the books into various categories, I've been quite pleased with my progress in inventory my collection and I should have it all completed in the next month or so without having to spend hours at a time laboriously entering ISBN code by hand.

Goodreads has many reasons to join, good ones especially for authors. For now, I'm working on the book ownership angle and I'll get to the rest as soon as I can...

I’d say I’m just about back to normal operations: I’m waking and falling asleep normally at my usual times, eating regularly and feeling generally able to get through my days as I would previous to my illness. The next 3 weeks are all 4-day weeks, thanks to Labour Day and my EDO days falling fortuitously on the calendar, so it should be status-quo as things go from now on.