Maybe I should update more than twice a year

Checking in.

  • I started a new job a couple of months ago, which I really like. It’s still weird to leave the house every day, after 6 and a half years of working from home.
  • I’m on week 5 of a couch to 5k plan. I do this most years. It’s going well so far.
  • I’m tracking my exercise in Google Fit again, and my walking and running in Runkeeper. I’m looking into FitBits.
  • I’m playing with ifttt again, after a few years of not using it. So far the only thing I’m doing with it that I see the results of is that when I read an article in Pocket, the article gets added to my Google Calendar.
  • I’m hungry. I should get lunch soon.
  • Really looking forward to Hal-Con this year. We didn’t think we were going to make it, and it’s possible that we still might not, but we’ve got our weekend passes and a hotel booked.
  • The reason we might not make it is because my wife will be having neurosurgery this summer, to address her chiari malformation. Probably next month, which should leave her recovered in time to go. But we won’t get the surgery date until about a week before it’s going to happen, and the recovery time is 6-8 weeks. So there’s a chance we’ll have to miss it.

Hello. It me. Negligent writer.

The other day I was reading an old Lifehacker post about journalling, and told myself I should get back into that. So instead of actually starting to do so that day, or the next day, or etc., I spent a few days thinking about how I would want to format journal entries. I was thinking about stuff like listing what music I was listening to, and what sort of mood I thought I was in. It later dawned on me that what I thought was turning into a pretty good format was actually turning into Livejournal circa 2006.

I guess that’s fitting, because lately I’ve been listening to Bloc Party’s first two albums a lot. LJ was also the first spot where I did any regular journalling.

Anyway, I’m bored and distracted a lot lately, but generally fine. No current (non-day job) projects of note to write about. I did promise to run a D&D campaign in the near(ish) future, so I should start working on that.

2016-01-23 14.46.18My son is really into Star Wars now. He’s seen the first 6 movies, and a bunch of the more recent Clone Wars cartoon. We didn’t take him to see The Force Awakens because we weren’t sure he would sit through the whole thing. He really missed out, because that was awesome.

We’ve been playing the old Wizards of the Coast Star Wars miniatures game lately. He’s got a lot of the basics down, although he still need help building a team, and doing the math to resolve attacks. He plays with the figures most days, even when we don’t make time to play the game itself.

I bought a PS4 shortly after Christmas, so I divide a lot of my free time between Dragon Age: Inquisition and Minecraft now. I’m slightly past the point where I want to do nothing but play these, although by no means am I bored of them.

I’m starting another frivolous shopping ban, for at least a couple of months. Mostly I’m just not happy with the balance on my credit card, but at least partially because my house is starting to feel cluttered again.

My guitar has been neglected since the fall, although I’ve bookmarked some tabs that I want to play around with. I should get around to learning how to play an entire song. Or even most of one.

My regular exercise has just been walking to the mailbox and back (about 10 minutes, total) and about 15 minutes of yoga at my desk, most week days. There’s been a bit of shovelling here and there, because it’s winter and I’m in Canada.

I’ve had a cold for about three weeks, although that’s mostly gone now. I had a vasectomy two weeks ago, which probably went fine but I won’t find out if it actually worked until May. My diet could always be better, but hasn’t been that bad lately. I got new glasses last month. I’m going to the dentist on Tuesday. I’d like to book a massage but I haven’t decided if that counts as frivolous spending yet.

Here’s a music video:

How I’ve been doing

A quick update on what I’ve been up to.

The shopping ban: I’m doing well on this one, but I think it’s only because some of the rules were poorly defined. By that I mean that I haven’t done any shopping, but I have ignore the spirit of the ban and bought fast food on, I think, three occasions. Which doesn’t sound like much, until you consider that I bought it for the whole family. This means I’ve spent somewhere between $70 and $90 on fast food this month. I’m unlikely to never buy fast food again, but I’m going to try to get that under $50 for next month.

Also, KJ got a tattoo, and therefore lost the shopping ban wager. Technically she got two tattoos, but one of them was planned before we agreed to the wager, so that one didn’t count against her. Anyway, I have to figure out where she’s taking me to eat when we’re in Halifax for Hal-Con.

Guitar: I’m kind of at a pause in my lessons (more on that in a minute), but I’m still practising most days. Like, 6 days a week, if not 7. I may only practice for 20 minutes some of those days. But I’m slowly getting better at the little bits I’ve learned.

I’ve decided to slow down on the lessons because I was blowing through them kinda fast. It’s a disadvantage to doing an online course. You finish a video, and the next one is right there. The instructor tells you to practice, but I mean, you’ve got time for another video and you think you’re keeping up pretty well. Next thing you know, your chord changes are sloppy and slow, you can play a scale but not identify the notes you’ve played, etc. But I’m making progress, and I’ll get to at least a basic competency at some point.

French: Give me another month and I think I’ll be at the end of what Duolingo offers for lessons. I need to get into reading and writing French more often if I really want to relearn the language. Reading a couple articles a week isn’t really going to cut it, long term.

Meditation: Still doing it once a day, still getting distracted a couple of minutes into it.

Exercise: I’ve put in a half an hour a day at least, all but one day since vacation. Mostly walking and yoga. I’m feeling and looking better than I have in a couple of years. It’s weird because I keep noticing little changes, like my posture has improved and I have pecs now.

Other stuff: Cohen and I got library cards yesterday. I’d like us to make going there a routine. It’ll help with the no shopping thing, but more importantly it’ll keep him excited and looking for new things that interest him. Plus libraries are one of the best things that humans have come up with, and we should take advantage of having access to them.

I’m sitting here just letting myself get hungry

I mean, my stomach is straight up growling right now, and my fridge is only about 4 meters away. Maybe less? I’ve never been good at estimating distance. I didn’t have enough for breakfast, and I’m probably not going to have lunch for another hour and a half. On top of that, now I’m daydreaming about some crème brûlée that I had yesterday, because my tweet about it just got retweeted a bunch of times (OK, three times, let’s not oversell my reach here) and I wish I was eating more of it right now.

Like, have you even had crème brûlée with chunks of fruit in it before? I didn’t know that was a thing and it’s the best.

Anyway, you were probably expecting, or at least hoping, that I was going to get to something that resembles a point. So, here it is. I don’t do much of anything to really allow myself to experience discomfort. And that’s something that I’ve been mulling over the past couple of days. I like being comfortable. I assume most people do. But comfort breeds complacency, and I don’t like how complacent I am. On top of that, I just don’t deal with discomfort well. I don’t get to sleep in my own bed for a few nights, and I get crankier every day. I also get super cranky when Facebook changes my news feed setting from Most Recent to Top Stories, or when I have to sit through a conference call that could’ve been an email. And yeah, those are annoying things, but none of them are things that I should let get to me.

I think the real issue is that I dwell on these little things, instead of focussing on the bigger picture. My life is pretty comfortable. I have a lot of advantages. And I ignore those advantages routinely, and I do basically nothing to ensure that other people who are less privileged can have the same opportunities that I do. This isn’t a new revelation for me. I’ve written about it before (maybe here?) and haven’t done anything else about it. Which, let’s be honest, is what’s happening again right now, because the next thing that I was going to write was “And I don’t know what to do about that, although I know I should do something.”

Oh, sure, I’ve got my little self-improvement projects (short recap: no unnecessary spending for three months, daily meditation, yoga, and French practice, learning guitar and to a lesser extent programming), but all of that stuff is very insular. I haven’t done anything to really be an active part of a community since university, and I haven’t done anything to really challenge my own comfort since I experimented with psychedelics around the same time.

So that’s what’s rattling around my brain this morning. I’m home alone for a couple days again. I had coffee on the deck a couple hours ago, when it was foggy and not too warm. My instinct now is to shut the windows and hide in front of the AC for a few hours. But maybe I’ll get the trike out of the shed after lunch and see where the day takes me.

Two things I won’t miss after the election is over

1. The phrase “Prime Minister Stephen Harper” being used without the word “former” preceding it.

Yes, I know that’s not certain at this point. But we all need at least a little bit of hope in our lives, and at least some of mine comes with a vivid image of that cynical turd being chased out of Ottawa. Occasionally it involves him making an escape on a log floating down the Ottawa river. I’ll leave it for you to decide if he needs to morph into a cartoon and do the Log Driver’s Waltz. Let’s just make his exit memorable.

2. Seeing my friends that are… let’s say enthusiastically partisan so that I can remain friends with at least some of them. Seeing my friends that are enthusiastically partisan lauding everything their party’s leader says and does as if its perfect.

I get that being a member of a party has to involve a certain amount of justifying everything to yourself. And yeah, there’s got to be a certain amount of cheerleading for something that you believe in. But it would be really nice to make it through my social media feeds during at least one of the next 70ish days and not lament that someone’s critical reasoning skills have been replaced by some party slogans.

Nothing makes me want to stomp the suffrage out of someone quite like hearing that their party leader looks ready to be prime minister. Can we at least do away with those specific words? I’m looking at you, NDP and Liberal supporting friends. I basically want one of those two parties to win (mostly because the Greens don’t have a shot, but here’s hoping they pick up a couple more seats in the process). Preferably the NDP, because at least they didn’t vote for Bill C-51, but I’ll take all the not the Conservatives again that I can get.

Vacation Happened

I spent the first half of last week home alone. I worked from the couch, generally with the air conditioner on. I practiced my guitar a bit every day. Status on that: I know where my fingers are supposed to be for 5 chords. It’s probably not yet accurate to say that I can play them (at least not without stopping to look at where my fingers are, and adjusting them a bit). I definitely need to practice moving from one chord from another, because I can’t do that well at all. So, probably not bad for a week of learning.

I also figured I should get around to learning how to program. I mean, I’ve done a bit of Javascript, but not a lot, and none recently. So I’m going through a Udemy course to learn python. (I probably should’ve mentioned that I’m doing a Udemy course for the guitar practice in the first paragraph.) I find the Udemy app a bit buggy (especially when played over my Chromecast), but not badly enough that I can’t focus on what I’m supposed to be learning. I mean, I’m pretty bad at focusing on what I’m supposed to be learning in general, but the app isn’t making that worse.

I’m about halfway through both of those courses. I haven’t touched either since Wednesday though, so I expect I’ll need to go back over some of what I’ve already covered before I get back into either. I’m also leaning a bit on Kelly-Jo, who has played guitar (among other instruments) for years, to tell me basic stuff, like when my guitar is out of tune. I don’t really have an ear for that yet.

Other learning stuff: I’ve been at Duolingo for French practice for something like 135 days in a row. Kelly-Jo and I will occasionally switch a conversation over to French, which is also helping. Mostly we do it when we want to talk in front of Cohen without him knowing what we’re saying (which isn’t something we’ll be able to do for long, as we’re teaching him a bit of it, and we’ll enrol him in French immersion when he’s old enough). Sometimes we’ll switch for fun. I’ve also started occasionally writing to people in French if I know they speak the language and I still have my phone’s keyboard toggled to French after I’m done my practice.

I’ve been using a meditation & mindfulness app daily for about three weeks, which is helping me to calm down and relax a bit. Some days are better than others as far as focusing on it. On a somewhat related note, I read Buddha is as Buddha Does by Lama Surya Das while I was on vacation, which mostly confirmed that I’m not a Buddhist. I mean, really interesting stuff, and I can get behind some of it (I would like to be more generous, and patient, etc.), but the book went off the rails for me when the author started uncritically praising a psychic healer. I mean, that alone doesn’t turn me off of Buddhism (especially since that guy was a Christian), but it was what I felt to be the most egregious example of the author accepting something supernatural at face value. And I’m not really down with that, or the idea of reincarnation, or enlightenment being some attainable state of being. At best I might find a washed down, secularised Western Buddhism more to my liking, but really I’m not looking for a religion so much as I’m interested in being a better person.

Well, this derailed quite a bit from the title.

I spent my actual vacation days in Sussex. I took the bus down Wednesday night, and got back at supper time today. It was reasonably relaxing. One night while Kelly-Jo and I were relaxing in her folks’ hot tub, we decided that we were going to try to restrict out shopping for a bit, to help get our budget a little more in order. So, the deal is that we’re not allowed to do any shopping between the end of vacation (now) and Hal-Con (30 October through 1 November). There are a couple of exceptions (essential items, and on-going subscriptions). If one of us breaks the restriction, they have to buy the other a nice meal while we’re in Halifax for Hal-Con.

My hope is that not only will we get our spending under control, and start to clear out some debt, but also that we won’t turn around one day and discover that we’ve let another 40 tonnes of shit we don’t need into our house.

There are probably some unspoken exceptions that we’ll need to work out (gifts, does whisky count or can I call that a grocery item, etc.).

I also want to increase my charitable contributions. I’m using the idea of a tithe as my goal. I want to take 10% of my income (after taxes, etc.) and donate it. I need to get my budget in order before I can do that regularly, although I’m sure I can do better than I currently do (my only regular donation is about 0.5% of my monthly net income, and my irregular donations are no where near where I want them to be).

This is, by the way, the wrong time to suggest where my hypothetical donations could or should go.

Anyway, there’s a few goals for me to focus on here. I mean here as in this site, not in a more general sense. Well, I mean it in the more general sense too, but let’s ignore that for a minute.

You’ve probably noticed, if you’ve been a regular reader for a while, that I’ve lost focus of what I’m doing in this site. I started off the year posting at least 5 times a week, and that steadily trickled down to twice a week, and nothing the past two. And that’s boring. So I’m aiming for daily again, even if it’s just a paragraph. I’m going to turn off autosharing of posts, and maybe even turn comments back on for posts (for a few days, anyway). But I also want to turn this into something of a lifelog, so I’ll also be posting articles that I’ve read (with an excerpt), noting which days I’ve exercised, when I’ve started or finished reading a book, what I’ve been eating, what I’ve been listening to, keeping rough track of my progress with things that I’ve been learning, etc. Some of that will be boring to you, reader. I mean, all of this might be, but thanks for toughing it out, eh?

Weekly wrap-up, 19 July

Today was date night. Well, date afternoon, really. Afternoons are easier to come by some times. Anyway, KJ and I went to Chess Piece, our favourite pâtisserie (OK, basically the only pâtisserie in town, but it’s seriously good).

We followed that up with a trip to Strange Adventures (our local comic shop), running errands and watching Adventure Time, because we’re good at dates. I’m not actually being facetious there, it was a nice afternoon.

One of our errands was buying a bike for Cohen. He doesn’t know yet, because why give a kid a new bike on a rainy day? We’ll let him know about it on Tuesday or so. Whenever it’s nice out next.

Let’s circle back to Adventure Time for a second. I read the Banana Guard Academy trade a couple of days ago. It was a decent enough story, with just enough weirdness thrown in to make it work as an Adventure Time story. That was after I finished reading the Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, which was well done. I’ll definitely read the next book in the series, and probably soon. Before that though, Moonshot: The Indigenous Comics Collection.

I’m most of the way through Jared Diamond’s The World Until Yesterday too. There’s a lot of interesting bits to chew on in there, as he’s telling about different approaches to warfare, childcare, care of the elderly, etc in what he calls traditional societies, and some contrasting of that with modern industrial societies. He’s not really drawing any conclusions (at least not yet), but I think that’s the point. He wants to get his reader to think about different approaches, not to give them the answer.

Hey, have you noticed that it’s getting boring around here? (I checked Facebook mid-sentence, so clearly I have.) Just alternating between the two basic post types? Yeah, I need to do something about that.

I bought a guitar last week (but I don’t have it yet, and also don’t know how to play it). I also started meditating regularly, and doing yoga semi-regularly. I stopped using Snapchat, which I had only started using a couple of weeks ago anyway, because it just wasn’t doing much for me. I’ll miss Felicia Day singing to her coffee, because that’s essentially how I define my sexuality now. I mostly posted photos with terrible puns, which I can do just as well on Tumblr. I posted something on ello, because I remembered that it existed for a few minutes. I’ve got a website to build, and a D&D adventure to write. There’s that comic that KJ and I are working on. So, you know, I’ve been doing stuff, or will be doing stuff, some of which is creative and worth writing about here.

For now though, it’s a cool evening, The air is fresh. I can hear birds through our open windows. I’m going to read comics and generally have a nice night.

Weekly wrap-up, 12 July

Who wants to hide out with their air conditioner and Netflix today? Doesn’t matter, that’s all of my plans and I’m sticking with them.

I guess that’s only partially true. I’ve got D&D tonight, and right now I’m watching Crash Course World History 2 on YouTube. I’ll probably play some Civ later?

Speaking of Civ, I wanted to play that the other day, then discovered that I really don’t understand how to install proprietary graphics drivers in Fedora. So after ruining that install, I switched back to Ubuntu, which actually makes installing those drivers relatively simple. The year of Linux on the desktop will show up any time now.

No changes in what I’m reading from last week. I’ll note that The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms got good once I got three or four chapters in, then really good a few chapters after that.

Weekly wrap-up, 6 July

I’m a day late getting to this. Which is probably OK, because my regular readership here is small, and composed almost entirely of people that I know, and who I expect would be forgiving about that sort of thing.

Also, because I’m the only person that has any interest in the schedule around here.

Last week was quiet. I spent Canada Day watching documentaries, putting together Lego kits, and generally just hiding out from any overt signs of patriotism or national pride. Part of that included starting a rewatch of the original Cosmos, which I’m bringing up mostly because Kelly-Jo and I finished watching the more recent incarnation of Cosmos last night. Either one is a well done series. Both Carl Sagan and Neil deGrasse Tyson did very well at making the science seem accessible, and both versions were good about following up the more dire content with optimistic notes. I’ve seen criticism of the history in both (especially around the story of Hypatia in the first, and Giordano Bruno in the newer one), which is likely valid. I’m hardly an expert in the history of science, but I know enough to find fault with the depiction of the Medieval period in Europe as “the dark ages” and so on.

But Cosmos was always a tool to get people excited about science, not a serious work of  history, and both versions are certainly good for that. I prefer the original, mostly because Sagan’s presentation was, I feel, much more poetic. Which is something I think is true of Sagan in general. Go read (or watch) his pale blue dot bit and tell me it isn’t moving.

Before we get too far from talk of people who take liberties in their presentation of history, I’m reading the latest Jared Diamond book.

Here’s an update on the webcomic that my wife and I are starting. The site is built. I’ve done another draft of the first four scripts, and KJ has started doing the art. Still no release date, but neither of us are going to shut up about that once it’s out, so I wouldn’t worry about missing it.

I’ve got a kernel of another writing project floating around. It may live here, but I’m not sure yet. I’ve never been good at figuring out what I want to do with this space. Anyway, more on that as it develops.


Weekly wrap-up, June 28

I did a fresh OS install on my laptop. So I’m pretty much going to spend the next few days fixing problems that I only vaguely remember having from previous installs. Hoorah?

I don’t have much else to talk about this week. Kelly-Jo is a vendor at Animaritime, so it’s mostly just me and Cohen around the house this weekend. There’s been a lot of Lego work, which is one of the better parts of parenting.

There’s also been a lot of Chuck and Friends, which is not one of the better parts of parenting. You win some, you lose some.

Still reading Celts in the Americas. I’ve started into The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, which is OK, so far. I read Adventure Time: The Flip Side earlier in the week, which mostly just made me second guess why I’m reading Adventure Time comics that aren’t written by Ryan North, Danielle Corsetto, or Kate Leth. I picked up the Banana Guard Academy trade at the same time, and I just haven’t been interested in reading it. I’ll get to it eventually. Maybe I would’ve enjoyed Flip Side more if I had read the issues as they came out, instead of all together. But man it dragged on.