Sunday, 6 August 2017

Heat, Head-Pain and Healthiness

The word of the week is tangible.

July 31 – Head-hurty?

I unintentionally pained my head while writing these last few weeks...

It's been interesting trying to get a workable writing set up here at home. I don't have an office space that I can use with a desk and chair, and writing on the love seat in the front living room has become uncomfortable for long periods because I don't quite fit: my legs are about 6 inches too long. I'm certainly not going to sit with my legs propped up like I did before either, as that caused many other issues.

What I HAVE been doing to write for the last few weeks is sitting upright on my bed, with my back propped up against a wall kilos and my laptop across my legs. This was comfortable and seem to work well for sound isolation, as I was able to close myself off in my bedroom along with my Zik headphones to get some editing done.

What I didn't realize is that I was also stretching the tendons along my neck and back, and today I really felt the results. The top of my head became painful and sensitive, to the point where it felt like someone was pressing down on top of my head continuously unless I lay down flat. While it wasn't so bad yesterday morning, it was painful to sleep and today I had to use ice packs every hour just to be comfortable while at work; frustrating.

After looking into the matter online tonight, and discovering that my bed 'workspace' was likely to cause, I decided to change my setup to this:

It's awkward but cheap, and it's working for now. 20 chapters to go!

While it's not ideal, I can still stand for an hour or so at a time, and take short breaks even then to sit down or do other things to give my muscles some relief. My head was already feeling better by the end of the evening tonight, so it looks like I was right about my posture on the bed affecting my neck and head.

One way or another, I'm going to finish this edit in the next few weeks!

Aug 1 – Have Time, Will Book?

You know what I really miss? Reading.

With everything I've got on my plate currently, not to mention all the things that have been going on in my life this year, a few things had to go and one of those was the time for reading regularly each week.

It wasn't a conscious decision at first, but it's been one rather that crept up on me. I used to read every night before bed, sometimes for hours until well after midnight before turning out the light. But in the last five years, this has gone by the wayside as I've become more sensitive to brighter lights at night, to where anything like a regular reading light is painful to me after 9 PM: I can't do it any more. Besides, the light would just keep me up later, as I'm usually asleep well before 11:30pm most nights and waking up around 6am: meh.

Since this was the only time I had to spare, my reading habit fell by the wayside. However, the birthday gift of my new Kindle Paperwhite with a soft backlight a few weeks ago has meant that I've been able to read every night before bed, though my selection is limited to only the ebooks I have. There's close to a hundred books on my shelves that I haven't read yet, and it bothers me that I probably won't get to them until 2018, given that I still have to get my business off the ground as well and complete the second half of my second novel... darn it.

Still, being able to read at night again is a significant improvement, and I'm complementing it with bringing my girlfriends old Kindle with my everywhere I go, so I can sneak in a few chapters here and there. I'm justifying this by loading her Kindle with books about writing, with all sorts of advice about the craft as well as the business side of things. This is all to make the most efficient use of my time, especially when I'm on the bus or otherwise waiting for something.

Unfortunately, it appears I'm too late to use the Shelfie service, which shut down suddenly in early 2017 after three years of operation in Vancouver, BC. The service was an excellent one for bibliophiles: you took a picture of your bookshelf, and their technology matched up your physical book copies with e-books available from their catalog of over 2100 publishers, most of which were free!

Sadly, I suspect their business model wasn't able to sustain them. The world of book publishing isn't one of deep pockets, and so for now I'll have to just read the books I can carry with me and forgo the rest until I can spend more time with them, close and personal.

Aug 2 – Kiki's Delivery Service

Tonight was anime Wednesday!

Once a month this year, the Cineplex theater over at Tillicum has been showing animated films by Hayao Miyazaki! It's extremely rare to see any sort of Anime film in the theater, and doubly so for anything by Studio Ghibili, Miyazaki's famous company.

Tonight's feature was Kiki's Delivery Service, among the best anime films made to date and a true delight to watch. My girlfriend and I traveled under the smoke-filled skies, arriving eagerly at the theater to get excellent seats in the middle rows. The theater was mostly full, attesting to the excellence of the film being shown and was even introduced by a local radio host whose specialty is critiquing films.

The particular copy we saw was digitally remastered, with incredibly immersive sound and subtitles, so that the original audio was preserved. While I already own a Blu-ray copy of the movie, it was a wonderful experience to watch on the big screen, since the details were so luscious and a delight to the eye.

The film series continues over the next two months, with Castle In The Sky, Princess Monanoke and Howl's Moving Castle all playing bigger-than life in the theaters. Of the three, I think that Princess Monanoke would be the one I want to see the most, as I think it's the most beautiful Miyazaki film and one very open to interpretation by the audience.

Can we have more films like these on the big screen, please?

Aug 3 – Heat and Smoke

It's a little smokey around here this week.

Smoke from the massive wildfires afflicting the interior of the province of BC has been drifting westward, and it's reached Vancouver Island this week, as you can see( and I'm glad that I have a HEPA air filter running in my apartment ):

BC needs to butt out, big time this summer...

Victoria is the red dot, and we've been under air quality warnings for the last few days. There's a hint of smoke in the air, but nothing grossly excessive, which I believe we have the ocean breezes here to thank for. It's much better here than in places like Kelowna and Princeton BC though, as they're wildfires this size:

While the particulate levels haven't been excessive( 5 on a scale of 10, with 10 being considered harmful to human health with long exposure )it has turned the sky a light orange color and shifted the sun's brightness levels in the morning and evening. The picture below is my favorite of nearly two dozen, and reminds me of when I was driving in the USA in 2015 with my girlfriend in the same phenomenon was happening, turning the sunsets a brilliant orange through the hazy air:

Photo by Kyle Slavin on Instagram

Aug 4 – Winner, Again!

I won something: a book!

My friend Bob, who runs the amazing book review website Beauty In Ruins, ran a contest this week for the latest copy of Stephen King's The Dark Tower, part of the Gunslinger series and also being released this week as movie, starring Idris Elba.

Go me! 

I'll confess that I've not read any of the gunslinger series, which for a while was rather a rare duck on bookshelves for years until the initial stories were released as a full novel in 1988. I've read glowing reviews of the series, many of which laud it as King's best work and I'm eager to find the time to truly appreciate it when I can in the near future. In the meantime, go check out Bob's blog: he's a busy guy who really knows how to do great reviews, with an affinity for horror and fantasy:

How ironic that I mention I don't have time to read, and I win a free book... ha!

Aug 5 – BIG BOOM is not Better!

Today was a war-film day.

After a much-needed massage( my neck was a taut mess! )my girlfriend picked me up and we went to go see Christopher Nolan's latest film, Dunkirk, in IMAX.

It was gorgeous, with sweeping vistas and a well-considered color palette layered atop multiple story threads that tied together the plot of the less-than-two-hour film. There was a lack of gore and violence for violence sake, which I appreciated as the tale of Dunkirk is one of bloody victory snatched from the jaws of defeat, not attrition through aggression. I will say that the film had some excellent moments, enough so that I was willing to forgive the artistic license of visual cleanliness, The real Dunkirk was a mess, a shambles of wrecked vehicles, abandoned gear and sunken ships, all strewn about with thousands of dead soldiers who didn't make it home:

My positive impression of the film was colored by the insane audio being pumped out of the IMAX system - IT WAS TOO LOUD BY FAR! Even with earplugs, too many times the bass was blasting so badly that it shook my seat... and the theatre wasn't a 'D-Box' equipped one, either! Such unnecessary decibels detracted from the experience for me instead of enhancing.

While it was nice sitting in the air-conditioned theater, we didn't really need to cool off as the temperatures today were significantly less sweltering. It was especially noticeable at night: all this week since Tuesday, I needed to run a fan in my room to keep myself cool enough to sleep, but I didn't need to tonight. Temperatures dropped to about 14°C overnight, compared to the mid-20s since the end of July: much cooler and it wasn't for the still-poor air quality, I would've left my window open.

All things considered, I'm glad that I'm living in a basement apartment this week. The only direct sunlight hitting the place is in the late afternoon, so temperatures are usually moderate unless it's extremely humid( and I have a dehumidifier I can use in that case )so it's rarely uncomfortable to be at home on even the hottest days.

Which in Victoria, since we're right next the ocean, isn't really saying much!

Aug 6 – Health and How Far?

Here's a double update for you two-day:

Health-wise, I'm feeling significantly better. For most of this week, I was able to sit upright to work with minimal or no discomfort, not needing any of the regular chair adjustments / extra padding to position myself 'just right' hour to hour - yes! I fully credit the five deep-tissue massage sessions I've had with getting me back on track: they've released the massive pent-up tension I'd been keeping in my abdominal area. This has had the added benefit of normalizing my digestion again, to where I can eat full meals without any issue, though I am taking small doses of digestive aids with each one due to my lack of a gallbladder, which helps. I've even started getting hungry again, right when I should thanks to my extremely regular mealtimes - also a great sign of normalcy!

Novel-wise, the editing is going very well! I've been at it full-tilt for the last three weeks, managing anywhere from half to a full chapter a day and I'm expecting to get the halfway mark by the end of the day tomorrow! This is really exciting, as I'm seeing the book in my head what I want it to be on the page in front of, sentence by sentence. As well, I've incorporated dozens of additional notes culled from e-mails I sent to myself over the last two years and already the story reads far more smoothly than it did before with all the little details supporting it strongly.

Since it's a long weekend( and a three-day work week for me coming up! )I'm spending as much time of the day as possible editing, which is as it should be. Getting my mind inside the story and pulling the ladder in after me is the only way to keep the narrative flowing inside my head; all else is secondary right now.

All for this week: next week, much of the same, but with additional style!

One thing I forgot to mention is that my weight seems to have stabilized in the last two weeks. I'm now up to 152 pounds and holding, which I think is a decent weight for someone who's not regularly working out. Later in the year I'm looking to start some serious training, in addition to the light flexibility stretches that I've been doing for the last month to get my body used to moving around more often. Now that I've had excellent success with massage therapy, I want to keep my body limber and start in on the next level of fitness.