watching the time as it passes in tomato-sized chunks
4thewords.com has made a huge difference in my productivity as far as word count goes, but I seem to have let it diminish my productivity in terms of time. Measuring my writing in terms of monster battles is not of universal utility. It's amazing how I can log two successful monster battles a day of babble-draft on the current Friday Fictionette and still not have a coherent story ready on time. Meanwhile, if I don't pay attention to time spent on writing tasks and, more to the point, time spent getting around to the next writing task, it's very easy to look back on the day and wonder where all the hours went.
So I've begun using the Pomodoro technique again. And that's making a huge difference in my productivity. Holding myself to four 25-minute sessions separated by breaks of no more than five minutes means I get a lot of work done in two hours. And since two hours isn't such a large percentage of the day, I have plenty of day left after those two hours to deal with household stuff, catch up on email and other communications, cook and eat and clean up after a meal, maybe play some quick video games, and still put in another two-hour writing shift after that.
When last I used this technique with any consistency, I used the app Productivity Challenge Timer. But its toxic attitude really wore me down, not to mention its extremely male-centric design. Eventually I stopped using it. I used Focus Booster instead, but the version I had installed was clunky, and upgrading meant either paying money or limiting myself to twenty "poms" a week. That's less than helpful when I'm trying to get up to eight a day five days a week. So I needed to find a new timer program.
I found Tide.
Tide is very simple. It shows you a peaceful image (it chooses them at random) and plays peaceful sounds (you choose by swiping between the five options) during your work session. At the end of your work session, it flips directly into break mode. At the end of your break, you hit the START button to do it again. After four work sessions, it gives you a long break. All times are adjustable. It has some other features about keeping track of your progress and letting your share it on social media, but I haven't been interested enough to mess with them. I'm mainly here for the session timing. The gentle sights and sounds are a pleasing bonus and a huge improvement over Productivity Challenge Timer's calling me a lazy slob, demoting me for insisting on a reasonable weekly schedule, and asserting that Male Is Default.
(To be fair, screenshots of PCT's latest version appear to indicate that the Man Doing Science in the Projects screen is now a Woman Doing Science. This means PCT currently has at least one non-male illustration of Humans Being Productive. Its attitude, however, has not improved.)
So there we go--one concrete action toward getting all the things done. So far, so good--in addition to doing my daily gottas, I actually spent some time today on a fiction revision and got this blog post done before roller derby practice. I get to play video games tonight! ...if I have any energy left for staying upright after derby, that is. Good luck me!
this time i'm taking notes
- 1,054 words (if poetry, lines) long
This is another Monday post announcing a Friday Fictionette that got released on Saturday, because I am a time warp.
The March 2nd release is titled "Taking Care of Bigfoot" and it involves that near-universal childhood discovery of what usually happens when you try to keep a wild animal as a pet. My brother and I learned that lesson when we brought home a small... king snake? I think? In any case, one of the many harmless varieties whose coloring mimics that of the venomous coral snake, giving rise to the rhyme that goes something like "Red touching yellow, dangerous fellow; red touching black, it's OK, Jack." (Exact words may vary by region and generation.) It was a red-touching-black snake. We kept it in a terrarium. We took it out occasionally for the thrill of watching it coil around our fingers. We caught live lizards and dragonflies and spiders for it to eat, but it didn't, and eventually the poor thing died. And our parents said, "That's what usually happens when you try to keep a wild animal as a pet."
(We had much better luck with the crawfish we saved from a weekend crawfish boil. We put it in an aquarium that at the time was full of guppies. Soon the aquarium was empty of guppies, and the crawfish was a good deal bigger. We fed it bits of hot dog after that, hoping it would grow into a lobster. It didn't, but it made a sincere and noticeable effort before going the way of all flesh--at least, the way of all fleshly beings on a diet of nothing but hot dogs.)
Not to spoil the fictionette, but I feel obliged to reassure you that no one's pet actually dies in this story.
Now I'm looking back at last week and wondering where it went. It's hard to remember. Most of the details are lost to history because my Morning Pages are illegible, for one thing, and for another, I utterly failed to make any blog posts at all. Maybe I can keep better track of this week before it decants into the weekend, when the Boulder County Bombers "All Stars" and "Bombshells" will each have their first away games of the season. (It will be in Cincinnati!) Once I get on the plane Friday afternoon, nothing much else of use is going to get done. So between now and then, I need to keep up with the daily stuff (so far so good), make time to work on flash-fiction revisions (today not so much), remember to account in my planning for time spent fulfilling other obligations (such as taking the Saturn in for its oil change and tire balance/rotation and also picking up a Boulder Food Rescue biking shift on the windiest darn day of spring thus far). Meanwhile, I'm going to try not to fall off the blog quite so dramatically again.
Hi! Lookit that, I blogged today!
I have been better at getting to bed on time. Go me. Going to bed at eleven feels luxurious. Now that I think about it, that might be where some of last week went: going to bed earlier but not getting up correspondingly earlier. Math, that spoilsport, says if you do the one but you don't do the other you get fewer hours in your day. Stupid math. Math is clearly why we can't have nice things.
YPP Weekend Blockades, March 3-4: welp, better find something else to do
As of 11:24 AM Pirate Time on Saturday, March 3rd, there is only one blockade on the schedule. Just one! There is a Brigand King attack on the Cerulean Ocean, and that's it. I don't even know if Tyranny will be defending. (They are not jobbing as far as I can tell at this time.) Seriously, after logging onto four oceans and seeing nothing on the schedule each time, I was beginning to wonder if this was another official no-blockading weekend. Had Easter come early? (No.) Is Easter in fact a no-blockading holiday? (I don't think so.) I guess people just aren't feeling very blockady this weekend. That, or they're all waiting to for the last minute to drop their war chests. I suppose we'll know in about half an hour.
We just got a client update on February 28th. The big news is, there's a new pet available on the Dark Seas! It's a wolverine. You may acquire them at Trading Posts in exchange for Faction PvP trinkets. There have been some updates as to how Faction PvP trinkets work, too. Read the release notes for details. Also, there's a new ship coming to all the oceans: the War Galleon. It will be debuting on the Ice Ocean for testing "soon."
Only other thing even resembling news I got for you today is the March Seal o' Piracy. (How'd you do getting your 2 expeditions for February?) For March, the limited edition trophy will be awarded upon your participation in four tournaments. You might consider jumping on that today if you're bored for lack of blockades; Saturday is a freeplay day for those popular mainstays of the tournament circuit, rumble and swordfighting.
Subscription Ocean Blockades
*** Saturday, March 3 ***
this fictionette heaved a great big sigh of relief and another of disappointment
- 1,022 words (if poetry, lines) long
- 1,260 words (if poetry, lines) long
All right! That's it! I'm all caught up! The appallingly late Friday Fictionette for February 16th is now up, and so is the mildly late February 23rd one. They go something like this:
"When in Rome" (teaser excerpt, full text ebook and audiobook), in which we explore the effects of photosynthesis on the U.S. tradition of Thanksgiving dinner, and also the international tradition of teenage rebellion and frustration.
I'm not entirely done with February's Fictionette work, of course. I've still got to type up, illustrate, and mail the not-yet-late January Artifacts; I should be able to take care of that in the next few days. And of course there's the late-but-low-priority Wattpad excerpts for most of February; ditto. But as far as Patreon posts for February go, I am finally up to date. I can breathe a little easier, having once more temporarily relieved myself of the weight of The Overdue. And I can look forward with excitement to working on next week's release. So that's fantastic.
Speaking of excitement, I feel like I misplaced some. Annihilation, the movie, was... just a really poor adaptation. I'm sorry, but I honestly think so. It was visually stunning but so, so incoherent. And the maddening thing about it was, most of the plot holes were so unnecessary. They could have been fixed simply by not abandoning the relevant elements from novel. While I admire the attempt to take a sprawling trilogy and turn it into one compact movie, combining elements and sometimes conflating separate characters to make things tighter for the big screen, 2-hour-ish format, it ultimately didn't work.
But what disappointed me the most--and, to be fair, surprised me the least--was the erasure of some of the things that make the trilogy the masterwork that it is. They sawed off the inconvenient things, which were powerful things, and replaced them with predictable tropes. The gloriously misanthropic biologist was replaced by a woman defined by and motivated by saving her husband and their marriage. The ineffable Area X was replaced by, more or less, a mere dragon to slay. The trilogy's relentless deconstruction of identity, its insistence that you leave your name at the border and wear your function as both camouflage and armor, is erased entirely; the characters have names, they share their backstories with each other, they form a camaraderie familiar from any number of SF horror-thrillers in the "hostile territory" subgenre. There is nothing here you haven't seen before, and that is where the movie ultimately fails its source material.
I suppose, if we want to get all meta here, the failings of the movie adaptation are rather an extension on the novels' exploration of the theme of identity, duplication, replacement and failed copies. But I can't give anyone credit for doing it on purpose. There were some subtle and not-so-subtle details in the movie that felt like a nod toward the theme of duplication, but I can't entirely trust these were meant and not mistakes. And if they were meant, they're cheats, because they're things the main character ought to have recognized and reacted to. I mean, if you make the abandoned house they camp out in have the exact same floor plan as the protagonist's house, but you don't have the protagonist appear to notice this at all, you risk your audience thinking not "oh, wow, that's creepy, how unsettling, it's a dark mirror version of that earlier scene," but rather "oh, for crying out loud, were you so cheap you had to reuse that set?"
In short: Pretty visuals, emotionally intense movie, earned its R rating plenty times over, and even sometimes manages to evoke the feeling of the way people fall apart when they explore Area X (the videos especially captured the creeping horror of the one we don't want to watch in Authority)... but in the end it was a mess of wasted opportunities. I am sad about what could have been and must console myself by rereading the books now.
YPP Weekend Blockades, February 24-25: tsia
Not a lot to say about this weekend's blockades. They're mainly on the Cerulean and Emerald Oceans, and they are listed here.
I'm not playing in the noon blockades because 1. I'm at a restaurant whose wifi has blocked the necessary port for logging on, 2. I've got two Friday Fictionettes to finish producing so I can stop being perpetually behind schedule, and 3. in less than an hour I'm going to go see the movie adaptation of Jeff VanderMeer's novel Annihilation and I am so! very! excited! about this.
But y'all should totally go have some fun. Enjoy!
Doubloon Ocean Blockades
*** Saturday, February 24 ***
*** Sunday, February 25 ***
Subscription Ocean Blockades
*** Saturday, February 24 ***
*** Sunday, February 25 ***
YPP Weekend Blockades, February 17-18: take it to parley already jeez
The Oceanmasters are unusually involved in this weekend's blockade shenanigans. Well, I say "involved," but that may be overstating things. Vilya holds Frond Island on the Cerulean Ocean, and they do not appear to be defending it against a small attacking fleet belonging to Admiral Finius. If your flag wants this prime unit of real estate, you know what to do.
On the Obsidian Ocean (Dark Seas), the OMs are facilitating an exciting Event Blockade scheduled to take place on Night Harbour on February 27th. It's Fresh and Bold's Bumper Boat Bonanza! No sinking, no canons, just bump-bump-bump yer sloops not-so-gently round the battle board. The first round is for fun and the second will be for keepsies. Visit the linked thread for scoring details, a list of prizes, and a list of the generous donors of the prizes.
But no need to wait until then for Event Blockade Fun. Blame Brenda is hosting a Mustering at Magpie where you can win a war frig and war brigs! The announcement thread with all the details is here, same as last week but now with bonus argue-drama mostly from some dude complaining that they're Doin Kades Rong and also something whiny something off-topic shipyards take it to parley already, jeez.
(SPOILER: They didn't.)
Emerald and Meridian are not without activity too; scroll down for the full schedule. Have fun everyone!
Doubloon Ocean Blockades
*** Saturday, February 17 ***
4:00 p.m. - Magpie Island, Obsidian Ocean
Event: 5 rounds, nonsinking
Hosted by: Blame Brenda
Subscription Ocean Blockades
*** Saturday, February 17 ***
*** Sunday, February 18 ***
does everything from posole to queso blanco
I was going to blog about cooking yesterday, but I was obliged to sacrifice yesterday on the altar of Overdue Household Administration Tasks. So you get the cooking blog post a day late. Here it is.
A few weeks ago, I woke up from a dream about cooking posole. It seemed like such a good idea that I resolved to do it for real. And I did! But also I made a mess of the kitchen. I used dried hominy instead of canned, since that happened to be what I was able to lay hands on soonest. And I thought, well, it'll plump up as it reconstitutes, but it'll soak up a bunch of broth as it does, so it's OK that there's not a lot of head room in the pot, right? WRONG. My poor old 4-quart slow-cooker overflowed all over the kitchen counter.
On the plus side, it was full of posole, which is amazing right after a three-hour roller derby practice. That almost made up for having to clean up a lake of ancho chili broth and pork fat right after a three-hour roller derby practice.
Not for the first time, I was reminded it was probably time to upgrade to a 6-quart slow-cooker. And I was reminded again when I found myself shopping at McGuckin a couple days later. They have a nice selection of slow-cookers in various sizes and brands. But I did not bring home a slow-cooker after all. I brought home a multi-cooker. (We pause now for the audience to go "ooh" and "aah" appreciatively.) I admit it: I am weak and easily tempted and also susceptible to the fear of regrets. As in, "Yes, the multi-cooker has a bunch of functions I probably don't need, and it costs about a hundred dollars more than the crock-pot I'd planned to buy. But if I do just buy the crock pot, will I come to regret not having bought the multi-cooker instead? I mean, define false economy. Besides, it's got pressure-cooker functions. Haven't I always kind of sort of wanted a pressure cooker? NOW'S MY CHANCE."
That very night, I used its WHITE RICE function to make rice. Badly. (I've gotten better since.) The next day I used its SAUTÉE, BROWN, and SLOW COOK functions to make the tea-braised chuck roast recipe at the end of this article.
But what I've used it for most frequently is cheese.
The multi-cooker does not boast of a cheese-making function. It boasts instead of a yogurt-making function, which is apparently for cooking the yogurt-to-be after you've mixed in the live culture. I didn't actually use that function. (Also I don't like yogurt.) But the yogurt-making instructions start off by having you heat your milk using the SLOW COOK function, which is also the first step in making paneer. So.
I never manage to drink a whole bottle of milk before its expiration date. "That's OK," I tell myself, pretty much every time. "I'll just make paneer with whatever's left." And then, pretty much every time, I put it off. And I put it off. And then next thing I know, it's too late. The milk has not only begun to self-curdle, which by itself mightn't be so bad, but it has also started turning surgical-appliance pink, and I'm not touching any pink milk that didn't come labeled STRAWBERRY, thanks.
But since acquiring this multi-cooker, I've made cheese multiple times. No putting it off at all. Partially, that's because I'm still all excited about using a brand-new kitchen appliance. But, more to the point, the multi-cooker makes the process simpler. I mean, not the entire process. The whole routine of getting out the cheesecloth and setting up for draining the curds and pressing them into a mold and draining them some more, that doesn't go away. But the multi-cooker does obviate the anxious half hour of running into the kitchen every five minutes to make sure the milk isn't boiling over. It also heats the milk up more slowly and with less potential for scorching.
I probably could have done this in my old 4-quart crock pot. But the idea just never occurred to me until I read the hype on the box the multi-cooker came in. "Does everything from rice to yogurt!" It is possible that a creamed corn experiment gone wrong had left me irrationally averse to heating milk or cream in a slow-cooker. The yogurt instructions reassured me. (I might actually try the slow cooker creamed corn thing again this summer, come to think of it.)
So I've made paneer in the multi-cooker. I have also fried paneer in the multi-cooker (using the BROWN function) preparatory to a sort of random-greens version of saag. Additionally, I have made queso blanco, which is what happens when I leave the curds draining too long so that the finished cheese is a crumbly mess that's fantastic on tamales. I've even experimented with pouring the whey back into the cooker, changing the function from HIGH temp to LOW, adding a tiny bit more acid, and then waiting to see whether this would produce ricotta/ricottone. IT DID. I got like a whole tablespoon of ricotta.
What the heck does one do with a tablespoon of ricotta? Bake a very tiny lasagna? Fill the world's smallest calzone? Stir it into the next batch of macaroni and cheese? Or something else?
TO BE CONTINUED! ...or not, depending.
belated fictionette announcements made in the dust of the wagon i'm running to catch up with
- 933 words (if poetry, lines) long
- 959 words (if poetry, lines) long
- 898 words (if poetry, lines) long
Hi! Pretend it's Friday. Pretend the Friday Fictionette for February 9 just went up. (It isn't, and it didn't, and it actually went up on Saturday just before our roller derby double header got underway--thank goodness there's public wifi at the Boulder County Fairgrounds now!) This is the blog post that ought to have gone up right about then, announcing the latest release.
We good? Good. So...
The Friday Fictionette for Friday, February 9 is "Electing a Chair" (ebook and audiobook for Patrons, teaser excerpt for all) and exemplifies the GIGO principal at work in the perfect obedience of enchanted household objects.
OK. So. The post about cooking is coming tomorrow, if I don't totally fall off the wagon again. 'Til then!
YPP Weekend Blockades, February 10-11: Blame Brenda for the birds
Not a lot going on in the blockade game this weekend--just one each on Emerald and Meridian. If you have other things to do with your Saturday evening (like, for instance, heading over to the Boulder County Fairgrounds to watch friendly rivals BCB and FoCo duke it out over the course of a roller derby double-header), you needn't fear your FOMO syndrome acting up, 'cause you won't be missing out on much. (Meridian's Most Wanted may beg to differ, but the Brigand King they're attacking is at minimum strength, so we're talking barely one or two rounds until sunk, y'know? And the timing is such that you could probably just sneak off and job for them during the afterparty, which will be at Pumphouse Brewery/Red Zone in Longmont this time around.)
(And now I have done my bit of PR for bout weekend. You're welcome!)
In other YPP news,
- On the Ice (Testing) Ocean, there were no entrants in the semi-annual Fort Royal Shipyard Shoppe contest. Therefore, OM Demeter has taken the shoppe over herself and will enable it to provide those ships which are too large for mere stalls to handle.
- On the Obsidian (Dark Seas) Ocean, Blame Brenda continue to develop their plans for Magpie Island, and you can keep up to date with those plans over here. They've made good on their intent to introduce a new naming theme. It's for the birds! To be more precise, "A (collective noun for particular bird) of (something to do with the stall)." Example given: A Gaggle of Gold (bank). Meanwhile...
- ...they've scheduled a small-ship event blockade for next weekend (Sat. Feb. 17) with FRIGS AN' BRIGS FOR PRIZES as long as everyone plays nice and sticks to the designated pay cap of 3k/segment. Blame Brenda intends to continue hosting events of this nature for as long as they hold Magpie Island.
That's about all the news folks have seen fit to post to the Puzzle Pirates Forums, so I guess I'm done here. See you online, or see you at the Fairgrounds!
Doubloon Ocean Blockades
*** Saturday, February 10 ***
stomach churning heart palpitating ARGH but otherwise just great
Hi. Wow. So, I haven't blogged under the auspices of the Actually Writing Blog for like two weeks now, maybe more. I won't bother making excuses. For the most part I don't really have a good explanation. Or rather, I do, but, as explanations go, they are well-trod subjects that would be boring to rehash. Failure to adequately absorb the impact of roller derby practice on the rest of the week, I guess, plus a large helping of avoidance. Recursive avoidance. That's where you avoid doing the thing that's no big deal, because the thing you're really avoiding comes right after. Then you start avoiding the thing before the no-big-deal thing. And so it goes, like a row of dominoes, until you don't want to get out of bed at all because starting your day will start the one-thing-after-another chain of things inevitably leading up to the thing you're dreading. The thing I'm dreading, of course, because that's who we're talking about here. Anyway, it took me several days of dread and exhaustion to finally just say, fuck the chain of things, let's just skip to the dreaded thing and rip the gods-damned band-aid off.
Also there were multiple dreaded things. Most of them are now done, and aside from the "anxiety! is this what a panic attack feels like? How interesting" aftermath, I'm feeling a lot better now.
So! Actually writing. Since the start of the year, I've written five new flash-length stories! I made the deadline for each week of the 2018 Codex "Weekend Warrior" contest, and I'm looking forward to submitting every single of them for publication in the near future. A couple are almost perfect just as they are, and need only a little tweaking before being publication-ready. (Just my opinion, of course; the editors I submit them to will have the final say.) The rest could use some real revision and probably expansion--not everything needs to be 750 words or shorter--and will probably get submitted a little later in the spring.
I did not make the deadline for the "4x4 contest" on 4thewords. I came very close, but in the last 24 hours of the contest I proceeded as though I had 48 hours remaining, which is because when the good folks behind 4thewords say "January 31 deadline" they don't mean through the 31st, as I would have expected, but rather until. But hell with it. The point of revising the novel isn't to enter its first 4,000 words into a contest. It's to have a fully revised and finished novel which may be entered in the contest that really matters, which is to say, publication. So I plan to come back to it in, I dunno, March I guess? March is the traditional month of NaNoEdMo, so that seems appropriate. Also that gives me the rest of February to decide what to do with my five fresh new flash tales.
So... that's the latest in writing. Tomorrow there will probably be stuff about cooking. (I've been cooking.)