“I only write when I am inspired. Fortunately I am inspired at 9 o'clock every morning.”
William Faulkner

author: Nicole J. LeBoeuf

actually writing blog

we have met the enemy, yadda yadda yadda
Thu 2015-06-25 23:59:59 (single post)

Being a terribly self-indulgent iteration of the steps by which a mind sabotages itself. This is how it begins:

  1. "Oh, crud! I overslept! The whole day is ruined!"
  2. "No, wait, it's OK. There's still plenty of day left. Not all is lost!"
  3. "In fact... heck, I could go back to sleep. There's still plenty of time."

Second iteration

  1. "Oh, crud! I wasn't supposed to go back to sleep for that long! I've overslept! The whole day is toast!"
  2. "No, wait, it's OK. There's still plenty of time. Let's not panic."
  3. "In fact, let's relax. Have a nice breakfast (er, lunch). Let off a little steam."

Third iteration

  1. "Crud! How did another two hours pass while I was just reading blogs/playing games over breakfast/lunch? It is now futile to get anything done today!"

...And so forth. Steps 1-3 repeat for some indeterminate number of times until Step 1 is followed by Step APOCALYPSE, which is, "Seeing as how it is futile to get anything done at this late hour, I might as well not try. It's not worth the stress. I'm sorry, but, good night."

What I'm trying to do is build exit ramps for this merry-go-round.

To be clear, there's nothing wrong with "It's OK, there's still plenty of time, don't panic." As a source of hope, Step 2 is quite healthy. The problem is Step 3, wherein Step 2 is used as an excuse to procrastinate.

I'm experimenting with an alternate Step 3, which goes, "So if I get started on my work now, I'll finish it early and have plenty time for other things, like spinning or practicing piano or playing video games!" Followed by actually starting the work, no matter how late the day's gotten. I mean, hell, no matter how impossible it has become to log a whole 5 hours of writing, I can always at least log a few minutes. (And, for the record, I did. This blog post is part of that. Go me.)

Practice, as they say, makes permanent. Unfortunately, I have a lot of practice finding excuses to never get started at all. Doing otherwise requires a certain amount of escape velocity. Doing otherwise repeatedly is damn difficult. Thus, Tuesday was pretty good, Wednesday was only half-good, and today... was barely any good at all.

Tomorrow will be better.

For our purposes, "tomorrow" starts now.

Cover art incorporates a photo of a Greyhound bus by Kevin.B on Wikimedia Commons. Click to see original photo.
this fictionette is only for the strong of stomach
Tue 2015-06-23 22:21:33 (single post)

So here's the Friday Fictionette I was supposed to post for June 19. It's called "All Creatures Great and Small," and it is, at least partially, about puking. (That's by way of your content warning. You may not want to read it while you're eating.) It's also about the creation of teeny, tiny, cute yet disgusting monsters after the manner of a particular fairy tale.

Today's work day went almost exactly as planned, down to taking five-minute spinning breaks out on the patio in between 25-minute sessions of writing. I'm spinning a lovely half-fleece of "black" (really a very dark brown) CVM lamb. At least, I think it's CVM. I used to have this written down on a card that I kept with the fleece, but the moths ate it along with a shameful amount of wool.

When I discovered the moths had gotten into it--this was last year when I was cleaning out the office closet at the old address--I went into Emergency Wool Rescue Mode. The first step of Emergency Wool Rescue Mode was wash it all right now. The second and subsequent steps were to allow it to freeze, then allow it to thaw, repeat until sure all moth eggs have been destroyed.

Despite the emergency washing, the wool still feels greasy. But it's nice. Lanolin is good for your hands, after all. And each flicked lock seems to stretch like taffy as I draft it into the twist. It's pleasant and easy work, and very rewarding as the yards and yards of thin single ply wind onto the bobbin.

We've been spending more and more time out on the patio since bringing home the deck furniture. John and I had breakfast out there together, along with our usual post-breakfast state-of-the-household chat. Then I brought the spinning wheel, fleece, and carding combs out, and they sat beside or on the table all day, ready for me to come out and take each five-minute break. When the five minutes were up, I could easily hear the Pomodoro Timer's "get back to work" whistle through the open office window. Neighbors passed by and waved, smiled, commented on the weather. Lawn mowers sent their buzz-saw serenades up into the sky, where small planes doing airport pattern work occasionally echoed that song back down.

Despite the heat of the summer, it's cool on the patio, cooler even than in the house. It's a very nice place to be--at least until the mosquitoes start their twilight hunt. I may start taking more of my work out there.

making the write decisions
Tue 2015-06-16 23:53:28 (single post)

There are no wrong decisions. This is very important to remember. I keep forgetting, which causes me no end of problems until I remember it again.

For a little while, I was working through the exercises in Creativity Rules! (A Writer's Workbook) by John Vorhaus. I never made it all the way through the book. Partially due to a feeling that the exercises were becoming less relevant to my particular practice, and partially due to some irreconcilable issues I came to have with the author's perspective, I fell out of the habit and eventually put the book aside.

Nevertheless, that book did introduce me to a couple of eternal verities that I have tried to hold onto. To wit:

  • All writing is good writing. Any writing is more writing than you had before.
  • Today's goal: Be a better writer than I was yesterday.
  • Writing means deciding, often arbitrarily, between infinite possibilities.
  • There are no wrong decisions.

It's that last bit I have to keep remembering. Of late, my freewriting sessions have devolved into circumlocution when they ought to be zeroing in on specifics. "The main character investigates too closely into some mystery," I'll write, "which results in he or she uncovering a Terrible Truth which they will always wish they'd never learned." OK, fine, but what's the mystery? What's the truth? Who is the character?

And that's where I'll stall out--I don't want to make any decisions. I'm afraid I'll make the wrong decision. I'll write myself into a corner. I won't know what I'm writing about. If the mystery and the terrible truth involve a corporate outfit, I'll trip over my total ignorance of corporate culture. If it's an IT environment, my memory of how that goes is more than ten years outdated. And that's before I consider the implications of what gender I make the main character, or what economic background, or what their particular role is in the environment where they are investigating the mystery, and...

And paralysis.

Which is silly, because, as I must constantly remind myself, there are no wrong decisions. Any decision leads to story. Different decisions lead to different stories. And no decision is final! Sure, each decision narrows the possibilities available within any one story. Once I decide to make the main character a trust-fund baby used to getting his own way at his father's bank, I no longer have the option of making her a woman who has clawed her way out from poverty and up the corporate latter. But after writing for twenty-five minutes about the banker's son, I can open up a new blank document, reset my timer, and write for twenty-five minutes about the self-made woman. Different decisions lead to different stories, and I can write them all.

So I just have to remind myself: Angst over arbitrary decisions is just another way to put off the actual act of writing. It's one of the sneaky ways Resistance and Avoidance manage to crash the productivity party. The moment I notice that I'm writing around the story idea instead of writing it down, that's when I need to convert all that circumlocution into a game of Mad Libs. "[Character] investigates [mystery] in [some corporate environment] and discovers [the horrible truth]... OK, make that 'college intern,' 'weekly meetings she's not invited to,' and 'demonic invocation.' Go! ... OK, now let's try it again with 'newly appointed interim director,' 'shameful inefficiencies concerning environmental studies,' and 'deaths being covered up in appalling numbers'. Wait, doesn't that sound kind of familiar? Who cares, play with it anyway."

Point is, it's a game of fill-in-the-blanks, and there are no wrong answers. Fill in the blanks more or less at random. Write about the results, in good faith and with actual scenes and characters and details. Then fill the blanks again, and write those scenes and characters and details.

Every decision is the right decision, so long as it's the "write" decision.

...And there's your cheesy inspirational slogan for the week. You're welcome!

a change of narrative
Thu 2015-05-28 23:36:54 (single post)

I've been kind of spotty in my blogging lately. It's kind of directly related to being kind of spotty in my writing. It gets kind of embarrassing to have nothing writing-wise to talk about (except the odd Fictionette) on a blog that is all about actually writing.

(I appear to have used up my quota of "kinda"s for this blog pot. So soon! How distressing.)

So today I'm going to talk about writing. About me and writing. And the ideal of writing anywhere.

It's a good ideal. It goes hand in hand with writing at any time. Basically, the idea is this: Be open to getting some writing in, even if all you've got are fifteen minutes in the dentist's waiting room.

Or, in this case, an hour and a half at the Longmont YMCA.

I was going to the Longmont YMCA because that's where roller derby scrimmage was tonight. And I was there super early because I'd come directly over from bringing John to the airport. Once upon a time, I went straight from the airport to practice in Longmont with what looked like oodles of time to spare, but instead I ended up in the worst and longest traffic jam ever on I-25 (seriously, it started at the I-70 exit for I-225, and it continued until at least the I-25 exit for Highway 52) and I in fact arrived about an hour late. So I learned not to count on the drive being reasonable. I also learned to take the E-470 toll road whenever possible, which is what I did today, which is why I got to 6:30 practice at about 5:00 PM.

I perhaps should have stayed in the car and did my writing there. But I can't get the YMCA's wi-fi hotspot signal from the parking lot (this is very important if you need to look up definitions for your freewriting word prompts; "paramnesia" is a toughie), and also the lounge by the pool was theoretically a more comfortable place to hang out with laptop and spiral notebook.

Which is how I came to be attempting to scribble in a comfy arm chair in a lounge overcrowded with disappointed kids hoping against hope that the lightning-related cancelation of their swim class this afternoon might yet be rescinded.

I can forgive the five-year-old (that's an estimate) who tried to run through my leg, and kept trying even after he got himself hooked on my ankle. Five-year-olds are not, as a rule, very aware. When they run, they are focused very closely on whatever they are running toward (or away from) at the expense of pretty much everything else, including quiet women sitting in armchairs trying to write.

I am less inclined to forgive the grown-ass men, or at the very least young men in their latter teens (once you get your full growth I'm no good at estimating, I just assume you're "my age," which is a very broad category as I reckon these things) who simply couldn't be bothered to avoid kicking me in the feet as they walked past.

"Apparently that's my superpower," I lamented to a teammate at scrimmage later. "When I'm out in public, I'm entirely invisible."

"Which is great if you're a spy," she replied.

"But not so great if you just want to listen to the band at the bar and not have passing drunks shove elbows into your gut."

"It's OK, though. You're infiltrating the scene."

I dig this suggestion. I would like to apply it to all future awkward social interactons. I'm not being ignored, disrespected, walked on and kicked. I'm successfully infiltrating the scene. Meanwhile, I am taking detailed notes on my marks' behavior, just like Harriet the Spy.

It's amazing what a change of narrative can do.

Original photography by me, playing in the dirt over by the soccer fields.
last week's fictionette and my week as an energy see-saw
Fri 2015-05-15 23:37:36 (single post)
  • 1,141 wds. long

Hello! It is Friday and here is a Fictionette. It is last Friday's Fictionette, but here it is nevertheless. It is called "Because You Weren't There," and it's kind of creepy and kind of sweet and kind of mythic. Basically it's about benign necromancy as a random act of kindness.

As usual, the title above links to a brief excerpt; from there, if you're so inclined, you can click the links at the bottom of the page to become a Patron and read the whole thing, along with all Friday Fictionette archives to date.

I just realized I've been doing this for more than 6 months. I guess it's been more like 8 months? I totally missed my half-year anniversary, y'all!

As for this Friday's Fictionette, it's about toys, siblings, grandparents, and always looking on the bright side of life. (Cue the Monty Python soundtrack.) If I am very diligent, it will come out tomorrow afternoon. The Fictionette itself is very nearly done, so that just leaves the technical details of making the cover image and the PDF and the audio and excerpts that go in various places. Watch for an update to Twitter and Facebook when it goes live.

I am also going to go see the new Mad Max movie this weekend. Mad Max is part of my childhood, y'all. I am totally down with seeing the franchise expand. Also, I hear Charlize Theron's character is making misogynists cry. I want in on that.

The current daily schedule that I'm trying to stick to involves breaking up my daily work into a morning shift and an afternoon shift separated by a long lunch break during which non-writing obligations get done, leaving the evenings guilt-free for playtime and goofing off (and roller derby). The days when I stick to it go great. I get lots done, I feel awesome, and I get plenty of sleep because I'm not up until stupid o'clock trying to clean up my to-do list. The days when I don't kind of suck. I get nothing done and I feel depressed. (But at least, lately, I don't stay up until stupid o'clock on those days either, because I've learned that if I don't get enough sleep then guess what kind of day the next day will be?)

You'd think, given those two types of work days, the choice would be simple. "Cake or death?" "Cake, please." Right? Except the good, productive, diligent sort of day always seems to be followed by a day when I can't seem to get out of bed or get anything done once I do. I've had an upsy-downy sort of week that way, and it's frustrating. Like I only have enough energy to have a good work day every other day; the day afterwards is spent paying for it. If the rest of my life outside of writing could accommodate, I'd move to an every-other-day schedule in a heartbeat. But I really don't think my other obligations and activities will allow for it.

So for now, the only real solution I have for the low-energy days is to apply more willpower. And maybe keep a close eye on myself for any clues to making things easier.

But enough of that! Putting this week to bed now and looking forward to the weekend. Mad Max, roller derby, and getting caught up on Fictionettes--woo!

cracking the ice and climbing back in
Tue 2015-04-28 23:43:24 (single post)
  • 5,391 wds. long

Today was the first time in mumble-mumblety weeks that I managed to squeak out some work on the short story revision. Finally! That's what I call literary excitement.

It had been so long that I was honestly daunted about coming back to it. (Not that the project is anything less than daunting at the best of times, mind you.) I spent more hours this afternoon than I care to admit simply putting it off and putting it off. Which meant that everything on the day's agenda slated for after work on the short story was also getting put off.

Finally I just opened the darn project and read what I had written on the new draft so far. This, as always, magically led to me making notes in the margins and tweaking the text. For the better, I hope. Cleared up a logical progression here, headed off a potential point of confusion there, stuff like that. When I put it away this evening, the draft had progressed only two paragraphs or so beyond the point where I'd left off mumble-mumblety weeks before, but the overall word count had dropped by about 100 words. And of course there's simply having cracked the ice on it today, which means it shouldn't take me all day long to get into it tomorrow.

Which is good, because tomorrow I have volunteer reading in the morning and roller derby in the evening. I will need to be exceedingly on the ball about getting my work done in between those things. Hooray for the Pomodoro Challenge Timer! Despite its being studded with Default Dudes, it does help.

It has recently been upgraded, in fact. It now has a feature called "Don't judge me." If you check that, it stops nagging you. That is, it doesn't repeatedly whistle at you if you don't hit the button immediately. It just whistles once when it's time to start your next work session, and then it leaves you alone. Also, activating this feature deactivates achievements and rankings, so that you don't get messages about having been demoted for taking a week's vacation (or a week's trip to Indiana in order to live, breathe, eat and sleep roller derby, which is like a vacation only much less restful).

Of course I immediately checked it. Sometimes I have a darn good reason to be a minute late coming off my 5-minute break. Also, once, when I started up the app and opened the WORK screen, but didn't immediately click START POMODORO, it began blowing on its coach whistle non-stop while I scrambled to shut down Bluestacks. This was embarrassing. With "Don't judge me" checked, that is unlikely to happen again.

On the other hand, with "Don't judge me" checked, if I remember to click SKIP BREAK but then forget to click START POMODORO, well, there I am without a timer and not knowing it because the app isn't going to let me know about it. This is a thing that happened. I think I actually worked longer than I would have otherwise, though. "Gee, aren't 25 minutes done yet? ...oh."

I don't know. I may yet deactivate the feature in the end. For now, I'm happy to have the app's timer functions and stat tracking without its "motivational" nagging habits (which I honestly don't find that motivational).

Anyway, I'll be using the app a lot tomorrow.

sneaky hobbitses is thirty-nine now precious
Thu 2015-04-23 23:59:59 (single post)

Totally spaced that today was coming up, since a whole bunch of other April dates have overshadowed it, but--today is "no longer 'almost'" day. Which is to say, I am no longer almost 39. I can own that number, y'all! Woot!

I had rather a hobbit's birthday. Have I got that right? It's been a while since I've read the source text, but, isn't it hobbits who have the tradition that when it's your birthday, you give other people gifts? It was kind of great. I had occasion to bring flowers to one person and cake to another. The reason for the cake was a lot happier than the reason for the flowers; nevertheless, bringing people nice things is fun. Flowers are pretty. Cake is tasty. I like hobbit birthdays.

I am less fond of the stereotypical attitude toward women's birthdays: "remember the date, but pretend to forget her age." Feh. Other way around for me. I don't want a big deal made out of the day--I prefer to let it sneak by people like Bilbo with the ring on--but I do want full credit for every year I've been alive, please and thank you. In tabletop role playing terms, those are experience points. Respect the experience points. They get funneled into awesome stats.

My parents called, of course. Dad mostly wanted to hear that I came through the tournament without breaking myself this time. I don't think he fully realized that this absurd new hobby his daughter picked up comes with a real risk of injury until I sprained/tore my ACL early this year. I could hear him sort of pull up short when I told him about the MRI and diagnosis and recovery plan. Like, woah, shit got serious, I'm suddenly not OK with this. I think he needs more reassurance now because of that. Oh, and my brother texted. That always makes me smile.

I did give myself a present--well, I tried. Events of the day intervened in the implementation of the intent, but the intent was good. The intent was to figure out how best to schedule my work days so as to make them comfortable, productive, fun, and as little stressful as possible. And, well, I came up with a good schedule, but the universe reminded me that, as they say, life is what happens when you're making other plans. That's OK. The plans can be reused for many days to come.

The plan goes something like this: Two and a half hours of writing in the morning, ideally from 8:30 to 11:00, then two and a half hours of writing in the afternoon, ideally from 2:30 to 5:00. Tying the writing sessions to actual times on the clock helps it all get done before derby or other evening activities, and it gives me permission to tell people, "I'm at work right now." True, sometimes I can't bring myself to say that, mainly because some requests are too important to turn down. But most of the time those random things that come up can be put off until the lunch break, which I've made deliberately long precisely to accommodate those random things along with the more predictable day-to-day household administrative duties.

So that's my plan for tomorrow. That and maybe a nice evening out. We'll see what I'm up for.

It's hard to think about being up for anything when you're dead exhausted. Tonight's roller derby scrimmage was a bit under-attended, what with the Bombshells being just back from Indiana and the All Stars preparing to go to Idaho. We had only enough skaters show up to field a single line-up for each team over and over and over again. It was a great endurance work-out, but we all got tired and sloppy toward the end of the night, and that can get scary. When it seems every jam is ending in a messy pile-up, and everyone's getting a bit of someone else in the face at high speed, you start wondering how long before someone sustains actual damage. So I was glad when they declared the third period over while the tally remained at the bruises-and-scratches-and-aching-muscles level.

Which is a long way of saying I go collapse now, K? OK.

i blame the snooze button
Thu 2015-04-02 23:45:31 (single post)

Sometimes I don't know what to say in these blog posts. I get to that time of the night where I need to cross "actually writing blog" off my daily to-do list (or, to be precise, check its checkbox on my list of HabitRPG "dailies"), and I find I don't have much to say. Not that I've ever let that ultimately stop me, as my nearest and dearest have learned to their chagrin. But that's arguably part and parcel of being a writer. You can't let "I don't know what to write" stop you from writing.

It doesn't help that tonight I can't seem to hold a thought in my head much longer than it takes to chew and swallow what's in my mouth. Roller derby ate my brain, and only food can give it back. Tonight's scrimmage was especially brutal, because it was an interleague scrimmage--BCB's Bombshells versus the combined might of Castle Rock 'n Rollers, South Side Derby Dames, and I think High City Derby Divas were in there too. (Look, I don't know, once the whistle blows all I see is hips and shoulders and helmets. Especially the helmet with the star on. Sometimes all I see is the helmet with the star on, and not useful things like, say, jersey colors, and I try to block my own jammer BECAUSE THAT'S WHAT I DO DURING TEAM PRACTICE.) Anyway, it was a great outing. We had a rotation of two blocker line-ups and three jammers, so it really worked our endurance. It was great practice for our upcoming tournament. The opposition hit hard and didn't give an inch. All of which means I am now gobbling down egg fu young and cold sesame noodles as fast as I can shovel it in my mouth.

Anyway. When I first started blogging, my thought was, it would hold me accountable, because 1. I would not blog unless I had written that day, so 2. if I didn't blog, it meant I hadn't written. Which at the very least kept me in subject matter. If I'd written that day, I probably had something to say about how the writing day had gone.

But now my rule is to blog every weekday. In theory it should work out to about the same thing, because I'm also supposed to write every weekday. Well, every Tuesday through Friday. Although it's looking like I won't be doing farm work on Mondays, so it might be time to consider Monday a writing day. (Or I could continue preserving Monday as a Get Shit Done day. I rather like that idea. There's shit that doesn't get done unless I have a weekday that isn't a writing day.) But the sad fact is, there are days I don't get any writing done at all.

Like today. For no really good reason at all.

And then, unless something really momentous happens (like, say, closing on the sale of our home of 15 years), I wind up without much to say.

Well, I suppose I could say something like,

I slept until ten and I wished I hadn't, because what with one thing and another I wound up with no time to do Morning Pages before the representative from The Cleaning Fairies arrived. She walked through the house, took notes, asked questions, and concluded that the job would take two staff members and three hours for a total of $240. So, nine a.m. to noon on Saturday the 11th. Armed with this knowledge, I called back our buyer's agent and scheduled her final walk-through for one p.m. on the 11th. Then I realized I couldn't both be there and be at the Longmont YMCA to take my turn at training the Phase 1 skaters, so I double-checked with John that he could be there instead. He said yes. After that I spent rather a while on the phone hammering out details about the mortgage because it turns out the sale of our place lets us make a somewhat higher down payment and thus take out a smaller loan, and also get explained to me how it works that our condo owner's insurance policy is now bundled up in the mortgage payment too. Once all that was done, I failed to be productive until it was time to leave for scrimmage. At least I got to my Morning Pages, if only by 4:00 p.m., and used them to hash out with myself what the next few days are going to look like. That is, what they'll look like if I actually manage to get out of bed on time.

And I suppose I just did say something like that. But it's boring. It's full of minutiae and administrivia and excuses. Worse, it has very little to do with writing, and this is the actually writing blog, dammit. I would prefer to have a writing day to report on.

Hopefully that will happen tomorrow. If I get up on time, that is.

the wide world of Android apps, as illustrated by Default Dude
Thu 2015-03-26 23:54:24 (single post)

Some years ago I was introduced to the Pomodoro technique for time and task management. I tried it out. After a while, I drifted away from some of its tenets--like, tracking how many 25-minute sessions, or "poms," I got done, or considering interrupted poms forfeit, or logging my distractions, or limiting myself to 5-minute breaks between poms. But the basic idea stuck with me: Set a timer, work during the timer, take a break after the timer goes off.

The timer application I got in the habit of using was Focus Booster (which I see has come up a few version numbers since I last downloaded it). I think at the time the Pomodoro people were linking to it. It's designed for the Pomodoro technique, in that it alternates work sessions and breaks, whose length you can define separately (default 25 and 5 minutes, respectively). But I started using it for just about anything with a duration of 2 minutes or longer. It came in useful for physical therapy, for instance.

I never quite got around to installing Focus Booster on the ASUS laptop when I moved all my work off the Dell. Either I just timed myself off the computer clock, "I'm done at 15:45" kind of thing, or I maybe possibly perhaps didn't actually get my timed writing done at all. *shamefaced*

Meanwhile, in a seemingly unrelated part of my brain, I'd just gotten the news that there will be no new levels for Two Dots rolled out to the Facebook app. This made me all kinds of unhappy. I don't have a smart phone, I don't want to have to get a smart phone--and, thanks to John's smart phone, I managed to get addicted to Two Dots during our train trip to New Orleans back in December. We'd take turns attempting levels, passing his phone back and forth. I was so happy when I found out I could play it on my computer via Facebook--and so sad to learn the game designers would not be supporting it on that platform anymore.

The disappointment was enough to spur me to try just one more time to install the Android emulator BlueStacks on my laptop. I'd tried to get it to work back in December, but either the application froze on initialization, or once it launched it felt klutzy and laggy to navigate, or I couldn't figure out how to get Google Play to let me install Two Dots in the first place ("You don't have any devices!" Damn straight I don't--that's why I'm trying to install an emulator!). Well, this time I managed to get it to work. BlueStacks itself seems to have rolled out a more stable and fluent version earlier this year, for one thing. But the main thing is, I flailed harder at Google Play until I stumbled across the process for linking my "device" (i.e. BlueStacks) to my Google account. I'm honestly not sure how I got there. I logged into Google, I logged out, I Alt-Tabbed over to Firefox, I came back, the dialogue box was waiting for me.

So now I'm happily playing through the Two Dots levels all over again, eagerly anticipating the happy day when I finish level 185 and keep going. Cave levels! Jungle levels! More dots! More!

I'm also happily discovering the world of free Android apps. Oh my gosh, y'all, is this why everyone loves smart phones? All the apps! For doing everything.

Maybe for timing poms?

I was completely app-happy by now, so I went looking for timer apps. And I found the Pomodoro Challenge Timer. It's like Focus Booster with more stuff: the ability to define projects, to track poms completed on each project, to define both short breaks and long breaks, and, best/worst of all, a tendency to nag you until you get to work. Seriously. When it's time to get back to work, it whistles at you. Like a sports coach. If you do not promptly click the START POMODORO button, it whistles at you again and displays the message, "Any reason why you're not working?" Nag, nag, nag! I'm not sure it motivated me per se, but it amused me, and I played along. And I logged five poms today before I had to do other stuff to get ready for tonight's roller derby scrimmage.

Did I mention it has achievements? It has achievements you can unlock. They are very sarcastic. Today I worked for at least two hours in a single day using the Pomodoro technique, thus unlocking the coveted "One foot off the couch" achievement.

Anyway, all that stuff comes with the free version. If you pay a whopping $4, you unlock Pro mode, which gets you a few other perks.

My only complaint about the thing, really, is about its front page design. The WORK button is illustrated by Iconic Construction Man! The PROJECTS button is illustrated by Iconic Science Guy! The ACHIEVEMENTS button is illustrated by Iconic Triumphant Business Dude! Like, would it have hurt to make one of these three Iconic Dudes a Dudette? How hard is it to insert a Rosie the Riveter type figure, or Marie Curie? For the love of little bran muffins, people!

It's a little piece of discouragement that looks me in the face every time I fire up the app: Male is the default pronoun, and Man is the default human. (Yes, even in women's sports. The number of times I've heard a roller derby coach or trainer tell a bunch of women on skates to form a "four-man wall," or describe the goal of our pack sprint as "no man left behind," exceeds my patience for keeping score. And don't get me started on "if you can't do a boy push-up, do a girl push-up!") "Everyman" really is a man, by whom women are expected to feel adequately represented and with whom women are expected to seamlessly identify. We shouldn't need to see female protagonists or pictures of women using the products we enjoy; of course that male cartoon figure stands in for everyone. What, don't you have any imagination? Are you really so selfish that you have to see pictures of yourself everywhere you go? (Meanwhile, when a woman is on the cover of a book, just for instance, or invited to speak at school, boys are expected, even obligated, to tune out.)

I'm sure the developers made their Iconic Humans men because they just didn't have a good reason for making any of them women. Now, if the app were primarily designed to help Mommy time her baking, or her children's time-outs, that would have been a good reason to include a picture of a woman. Or if the app was rewarding the user's hard work with pictures of sexy supermodels. Good reasons like that, see?

("Because about half of the population is women" never seems to be a good enough reason. See also.)

It's disappointing. Not enough to keep me from using the app--today's use of the Pomodoro Challenge Time was indeed useful!--but enough to itch every time I use it. And this is just the mildest example of what is called microagressions.

Which is a bummer of a note to end on, but it's past midnight and I'm out of clever exits. So. In sum: Two Dots is fun, the Pomodoro technique works, and human beings come in a wide variety of genders and colors that are all worth acknowledging. Do better, app designers!

(Oh hey! Also, I have downloaded Hybrid Stopwatch and Timer. Just in case it's ever not awkward to sit in the infield and time a skater's 27-in-5 with my laptop.)

i mean if you can fit every kind of weather in just one day
Wed 2015-03-25 23:44:38 (single post)

Today we got every kind of weather. We got hail and rain and snow and blissfully warm sunshine too. To fit all that into a single day takes a strict timetable, I imagine. "Hurry up," said the weather coach. "We have a lot to do today. And no chit-chatting between drills! Move it, move it, move it--"

Or maybe Colorado was presenting its meteorological portfolio to a prospective employer. At the job interview, when the Rocky Mountain Front Range was asked "What's your greatest weakness?" it probably answered, "Inconsistency." Or perhaps, "I have a tendency to try to do everything at once. But I make up for it by being a great multitasker!"

I had foolishly, optimistically thought that we needn't turn the heat on ever again this spring--in fact, ever again at this address, as we're moving in about two weeks. (Two weeks! Shit-bird, that's scary-soon. I should be making check-lists and writing an inventory of stuff-still-to-be-packed!) But it got cold while the snow was driving at 45-degree angles this afternoon, and it got cold on the drive home from roller derby practice this evening too.

Tomorrow is supposed to be warm and sunny, just like yesterday (and the day before, and the day before that) but more-so. Tomorrow, Colorado will wake up with a hangover and declare that it doesn't remember and has absolutely no desire to be told what it got up to on Wednesday the 25th. It's just too embarrassing.

Speaking of roller derby (as I always am), Bombshells team practice failed to kill me. It didn't try all that hard, mind; it only lasted two hours instead of three, but more to the point, it's the environment in which I've been practicing for almost three years. I'm comfortable there. Which is not to say it goes easy on me either, but it's the level of practice I've grown used to. I'm more accustomed to its demands. Whereas yesterday's All Stars practice was a shock to my system. Everything was faster! stronger! harder! longer! and done by people who are so much better at this stuff than me. It's intimidating.

But yesterday's the only taste I'm going get of it, just a dip of the toe in the pool, until next week Thursday. The All Stars are going to the Dust Devil Tournament this weekend in Tucson, Arizona. I was added to the team far too late to go with them, which is just fine. Frankly, I need another week of Bombshells practice just to remind my body, after its enforced two-month "vacation" from skating, what regularly practicing is like.

And it's not just practice I need. I need to adjust my entire lifestyle. Well, that's a bit strong. I mean, I need to get into better self-care routines so that my body is able to handle not just a higher intensity of physical activity when it comes time to skate, but also my unreasonable demand that I do more with my days than just skate.

Just look at all the different kinds of weather that can fit in a single day. If Colorado can do that, I should be able to cram all my writing projects into a day that contains roller derby, right?

But the body is a machine that needs regular maintenance. I haven't been taking very good care of mine. I've been up until all hours and staying in bed late with headaches and exhaustion because of it. Which then leads to a failure to eat right or hydrate sufficiently.

This has been less than ideal for my ambitions to productivity. It probably also has something to do with the way this past weekend laid me out flat.

Preliminary steps to fix this include getting up at 8:00 AM--no excuses!--regularly feeding myself breakfast and a good multivitamin, drinking a glass of water for every cup of hot caffeinated tea, having no caffeine past five in the afternoon, and getting to bed no later than midnight.

I have not been very good at that last thing. Days aren't long enough to start with. I can't get nearly as much done in one as I'd like. Naturally I'm reluctant to let one come to an end.

But this one is coming to an end now, because new good habits have to start sometime.

Goodnight, everybody!

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