inasmuch as it concerns Vacuuming the Cat:
Procrastinate? Me? Never! That would be silly! Now, if you'll excuse me, I can't quite see my reflection in the basin of the kitchen sink. (Plus, there are cats.)
procrastination pasta carbonara and follow-up fried rice
Because I am very pleased with my kitchen prowess right now, and also because I'm not terribly eager to do the writing task I'm supposed to be doing, you get some food blogging outta me. (Not that blogging isn't also something I'm supposed to be doing. But I'm not supposed to do it before the other stuff. Nevertheless, here we are.)
We begin with pasta carbonara.
Up until recently, I'd only ever done the mock carbonara thing involving heavy whipping cream. This is due to a long-standing horror of egg sauce failure. My last attempt at cooking eggs low and slow over direct heat with the aim of a thick sauce/broth was TNH's bacon and egg soup recipe, which attempt resulted, despite my doing everything right I swear, in something better described as bacon and egg-drop soup.
But I had a bunch of bacon ends from Lucky's and I was determined to give proper carbonara a try for once.
I was emboldened by this recipe, which calls for egg yolks and not whole eggs. That right there lowered both the perceived difficulty level and the psychological barrier for me. I mean, I know I've done OK low-and-slowing egg yolks. Witness my favorite eggnog recipe. Witness my success with lemon curd. Of course, neither of those was a direct heat situation; I put the egg yolks in one of my big chunky porcelain tea mugs and set that inside a sauce pan: instant double boiler. Nevertheless, I felt this might work.
But I noped right the hell out of attempting to cook the egg yolks via the residual heat of the cooked pasta alone. That was raising the stakes way too high. I absolutely do not need to choose between "oh no, the egg yolks aren't cooked enough" and "oh no, the pasta's getting over cooked." So here is what I did instead. It took longer than the vaunted 30 minutes, but it was foolproof, and I value foolproof when I am the fool in question.
- Crack open your favorite variety of Annie's Macaroni and Cheese. I favor Shells & Alfredo for this, but any of 'em'll do. (Yes, I know I said "proper carbonara." Shush.) Set the cheese packet aside for later. You will use it.
- Cook the noodles al slightly more dente than you usually would. This gives you some wiggle room at the end of the recipe. It also means you don't have to worry about "stopping the cook." You might reserve some of the pasta water when you drain the noodles, as per the Dinner Then Dessert recipe linked above. I admit I always forget to do this. It's OK. The starch in the Annie's cheese packet makes up for it.
- Take that pot you used to cook the pasta and stick some sort of smoked/preserved pork product in it. I've been using the half-pound package of bacon ends you can get from Lucky's, which I only discovered when I began shopping their catalog online for curbside pick-up. (Thanks, pandemic!) Several slices of fatty bacon would work well too. Cook it over medium-low heat until it's crispy and has given up the grease.
- While you're waiting for your pork fat to render, separate three eggs. Set the whites aside for other uses. (I will give you a suggestion for this. See below.) Whisk the yolks together with the cheese package from your Annie's box, another good handful of grated parmesan, salt and pepper and whatever else you like along those lines (nutmeg? mmmaybe! cayenne? most definitely!), and I guess that's it. I tried to get away with two egg yolks; they got lost in the powder. Three egg yolks still gave me more of a thick paste then I wanted, so I splashed in some sherry just to make sure.
- Bacon done? Great! Take that pan off the fire. Scoop out the bacon with a slotted spoon and set it aside to cool; eventually, when it's cool enough to handle, you'll dice it up. For now, take your quantity of frozen peas and dump them into the grease. Stand back. It'll spit. It'll also cool down your bacon grease, making it safe for egg yolk. Slowly combine the egg yolk mixture with the bacon grease and peas mess, whisking all the while. With luck, this should form a sauce, and not that dreaded soup of fried egg lumps that terrifies us so. Add back the diced bacon.
- Now here's the heresy: Put that mixture back on the stove. Cook it over very low heat. (The pasta is not involved in this step. The pasta is sitting patiently in the colander, waiting its turn.) Stir the sauce a lot. Watch over it closely until you're confident it's thickening and not turning into particles. If it's too thick, add reserved pasta water, or more sherry, or milk, or cream, or any combination that suits your tastes, to loosen it up. Over time, as you move out of the danger zone, you can cautiously increase the heat and maybe not keep an eye on it every second.
- When the sauce is just on the edge of a visible simmer--like, with tiny bubbles starting to break the surface--and it's the thickness you want, it is done. Take it off the stove, add the pasta, stir it about 'til all the pasta is nicely coated, and devour it all in one sitting. You deserve it.
Note: My carbonara sauce keeps coming out distinctly brown. I blame the burnt bits of bacon. Also the rich orange yolks of the eggs I get from 63rd Street Farm (they're selling eggs throughout the winter this year, drive up and take 'em out the ice chest and put your money in the jar). This is why I keep adding cream and/or milk even though the use of egg yolks should obviate the need for cream or milk; it corrects the color a bit.
Suggestion for those egg whites: Use them in fried rice.
I follow the method laid out here and it has not steered me wrong yet. Today the rice was the leftover fried rice from last night's Golden Sun delivery, which means I had twice fried rice, which was fine. The bacon came from the latest Wild Pastures 10lb chicken-and-pork box (I was out of Lucky's bacon ends by now). The veg content included some cabbage I needed to use up, along with the usual handful of diced, rinsed salted veg from the everlasting frozen bag of preserved salted Chinese vegetables I've been slowly working my way through over the years.
Key points of Dwyer's method include the light soy sauce towards the end of the fry and the stirring in of the fresh green onions once it's off the heat. Those two elements of the method should be followed faithfully. (If you can't find light soy sauce where you shop, welp, you do what you gotta do. "Light" here means a specific flavor and color; it has nothing to do with diets or with sodium content.) But I can assure you that the result did not suffer one bit from substituting three egg whites for two whole eggs.Eat it all up with a spoon.
And now, I suppose, I should go do the writing I'm really supposed to be doing. Until later!
we pause for a deep dive into more fountain pen ink
This past week, I took advantage of my Morning Pages sessions and another batch of Postcards To Voters to further explore the newly arrived fountain pen ink. Let me introduce you to them all.
The excitingly sparkly purple-maroon I used in some of the stars and to highlight the candidate's name is Diamine Mystique. I don't think the splotches Goulet includes in their demonstration photos quite does it justice; that color-and-glitter combo is intense.
The teal stars and checkmarks were drawn with Noodler's Blue Nose Bear, described as "a light blue with a teal undertone, and the light blue fluoresces under UV light (blacklight)." (I have not yet had occasion to test this feature.)
The main writing on the postcards is in Visconti Blue. Not terribly exciting. It's a nice enough blue, I guess, bright and deep, a decent workhorse for, say, writing postcards to get out the Democratic vote, but still, it's just blue. (I'm not likely to get excited over the Pelikan Edelstein Onyx that was included in my random sample 8-pack, either. It's just black.)
The excerpt from my Morning Pages shows what happens when a converter full of Noodler's Liberty's Elysium finally overtakes the Blue Nose Bear left in the nib. Liberty's Elysium is another serviceable if unexciting (to me) blue. It's slightly toward the blue-green end of the spectrum, where the Visconti Blue leans slightly toward the indigo end.
There are some gray/silver stars on the postcard, but those aren't from the batch of ink I just ordered. That's what happens when I try to stretch the tail end of a bottle of J. Herbin Stormy Gray 1670, a shimmer ink, by dumping in the latter half of a bottle of basic J. Herbin Gris Nuage.
Hot tip about the Noodler's inks: Those 3-ounce bottles arrive hella full. Well past the screw-top threads and right up to the brim. I'm not sure if this is because the manufacturer is very generous with his ink or very stingy with his glass. I'm amazed the ink didn't ooze out during its journey to my high-altitude address. Anyway, having been messily surprised by this when I first opened the Blue Nose Bear, I was very careful about opening the Liberty's Elysium. I set the bottle on my desk and opened it very gently. Didn't help. Still wound up with bright blue fingers. Not that I really mind ink-stained fingers. It's kind of a fun sort of badge of honor. "I messed with inks today! Checkitout!" Still. If you would prefer not to have bright blue fingers, take heed. Open these bottles carefully and maybe wear latex gloves.
Here ends the Geeking Out About Inks portion of this blog post. And also this blog post, period. I'd intended to pivot through the political postcards into some political thoughts I've been having these past couple weeks, but at this point I rather feel like I've already used up all the words, time, and reader attention in today's blogging allowance. So I guess look for those political thoughts tomorrow?
bunny population increases by two and book population by one
- 2,600 words (if poetry, lines) long
Guess what today is? It's BOOK RELEASE day! Community of Magic Pens is out, and I have copies of my very own. See? I mean, yes, of course, I already had the ebook edition downloaded, and that was lovely, but there's nothing quite like the reality of a physical paperback, holding it in my hand, flipping to page 209 to see my story in print! Right there! On paper! That has that new book smell and everything!
It is a gorgeous object, this book. It's just perfect for reading. And it would look very nice on your bookshelf. You should totally go order yourself a copy. (Maybe two or three. They make excellent gifts.)
Now, you might notice that there's a bunny posing alongside that book in the photo. Two bunnies, actually, but Holland will insist on hiding behind Gemma and making himself hard to see. He's still a little wary of me since I had to give them both medicine over the weekend. Gemma, on the other hand, will come right up to the crate bars just in case I've got a treat for her. All is forgiven, so long as I bring her a treat.
These two came home with us last week from the Colorado House Rabbit Society. We are "overnighting" them. I put scare-quotes around the word because it's not going to be just a few nights, or even a few weeks. We don't know how long it's going to be. In light of the current RHDV2 outbreak in the southwest US, COHRS is taking active measures to protect their herd of 130 rabbits waiting for adoption. They are dispersing them among their volunteers, so that should any of their bunnies tragically contract the disease, only one other bunny, rather than 129, will be at risk of catching it from them.
So we have furry house-guests until a vaccine becomes available (which it might never--one exists, but getting hold of it involves a lot of money and bureaucracy and at least one confirmed case in a domestic rabbit in the state), or until the risk of infection has passed (no sooner than three months after the last confirmed case in the area, I guess? The virus can survive a long time without a host), or until Gemma and Holland get adopted permanently (which can't happen during the COVID-19 pandemic), or... well, I don't know. We have furry house-guests for the foreseeable future. That's all we know for sure.
On the one hand, there's a certain amount of work involved. You know how it is with pets. Care and feeding and cleaning and love and attention and so forth. On the other hand, there's a lot of joy involved too. Also laughter. Bunnies are hilarious. I just watched Holland pick up his jingle toy, fling it across the crate, then go pick it up and fling it back, repeatedly, for about five minutes. His other favorite game is "Get the stupid oversized apes to chase me." He will play that game around and around the sofa for as long as the stupid oversized apes are willing to play along. Gemma is quieter but more trusting. She's getting very good at practicing "pick up!" with me. Then I'll set her down in my lap, and she will consent to sit there for a few minutes and even tolerate my combing her a little. This, when she hasn't even been here a week yet! It is magical.
It's amazing how much they relieve the solitude of shelter-in-place. I know John is smiling and laughing a lot more since they came home. And while I still seem to thrive more than not in this pandemic-induced isolation, I'm finding it unexpectedly delightful to have additional beings in my face-to-face physical space to interact with.
Between the bunnies coming home last week, the water falling from the ceiling, the domino effect of no sleep one night leading to no work the next day leading to no sleep as I try to catch on the work the next night, and of course some new issues to troubleshoot on my computer because of course there had to be (its replaced hardware is working fine, but now the speakers and microphone have developed a lot of snap-crackle-pop static and the webcam flickers badly)... last week was more or less a loss. I'm still trying to finish the Friday Fictionette for May 1. I made good progress on it this morning, though, so I feel confident saying it'll go up on Patreon either tonight or tomorrow. After that, I'll release the April 2020 Fictionette Freebie and tell you all about it.
Until then! Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go give the bunnies their afternoon salad. And also another treat.
NaNoWriMo Day 1: Introducing the Rebel Report
- 1,500 words (if poetry, lines) long
- 3,453 words (if poetry, lines) long
It's November 1! Everyone around these here bloggish parts knows what that means, right? Pardon me while I commit derivative doggerel:
Remember, remember, the first of November:
Character, story and plot;
It's now Wrimo season, so now there's no reason
to put off that novel you've got.
Only, I am not noveling this year. That's OK. I don't always. But I do always observe NaNoWriMo in some way. (This is what they call being a NaNoWriMo "rebel.") When the whole internet explodes in word sprints, word wars, writing prompts, and mutual encouragement, it's a great time to set myself some writing challenge or other, and that's what I'm doing this year.
My challenge to myself is this: 30 days of accomplishing every writing task on my daily list.
It's the same list I've been trying to accomplish for, well, years, I guess. Every day, let there be a session each of freewriting and Friday Fictionette progress. Every weekday, let there also be progress on some commercial fiction project (usually a short story) and the usual manuscript submission procedures, and let there also be a blog post. Like this one. Hi! And let every weekday begin with Morning Pages, because that's how I give my brain a daily tune-up.
Only, now that it's NaNoWriMo, let there also be no excuses. No missed tasks! No more "drat, I didn't get it done before derby" or "blast, I only have 15 minutes." As I keep telling myself, if I can't do a lot, I'll do a little; it's better than doing nothing at all.
This blog began as a way of tracking my progress through what was probably my second NaNoWriMo ever. After NaNoWriMo was over that year, I used it to track my writing progress in general. I blogged to report that, yes, I had showed up on the page today, too. Sort of an accountability thing. Regardless of whether anyone was reading. It was like Natalie Goldberg's trick of calling a friend's answering machine and leaving a message saying "I'll be at the cafe at 5:00 PM tomorrow to get some writing done. Join me if you like, but don't tell me whether you're coming. See you there, or not!" Having left that message, well, now she had to show up, didn't she? Same thing here: Someone could be reading, so I'd better uphold the commitment.
But of course I've drifted away from that focus over the years. I also blog about non-writing things, like roller derby and addictive clicky games. Or I'll go for weeks without blogging, even though I've been writing, because I just keep running all out of evens by Blog O'Clock. Alas.
This month I intend to blog every weekday, because it's one of my writing tasks, and doing all my writing tasks every day is what I'm challenging myself to do this November. And I'm going to focus on reporting to y'all (accountability!) my successes and failures at this challenge.
Morning Pages: As soon as I was functional this morning. This wasn't immediate; I had an awful headache starting at about 4 AM--a rare thing these days, thank goodness--that made it hard to get moving after the alarm clock went off. Some days, just getting up and putting pen to paper is a righteous accomplishment.
Freewriting: Kept it short, because I had a lot of other things to do. About 10 minutes and 600 words. Writing prompt courtesy of the Writer Igniter.
Friday Fictionette Project: Finally pushed the one due last week out the door. Made it the Fictionette Freebie for October: "Living Undercover," in which we wonder if the sacrifices have all been worth it. Then started babbling out a draft for tomorrow's release. I've been suffering from a chronic Perfectionism Infection where these are concerned; it makes me take longer drafting the suckers, but at the same time, because the pressure of Must Get This Right heightens the avoidance factor, it makes it harder for me to force myself to sit down and do them. I'm going to try to--this sounds awful, but I hope you know what I mean--care less about quality. These are meant to offer readers a glimpse into my writing process while holding me to the challenge of producing a flash-length story-like object on a recurring deadline. They are not meant to be perfect. I have to remember that.
Submission Procedures: I never did report, did I, that my story came home from its "second date" knowing that there would not be a third? Alas. The Editors-in-Chief decided to pass on it. I still need to log that R in my database and figure out where to send that sucker next. I haven't done this yet, I wanted to get this blog post out while it was still November 1, and it's quite late tonight. So, under the rubric of "Do a little if you can't do a lot," I'm just going to log the rejection and leave resubbing the story for another day.
Commercial Fiction: By the same token, I haven't left myself a lot of time for this; I'll pick a story that needs revising, read it over, and jot a couple notes down.
Blogging: Why, so I have!
That's the Day 1 report--see you tomorrow. Happy NaNoWriMo, one and all!
i know i know just let me farm another 800 stone bricks ok
OK, so. Confession time. I'm addicted to smartphone app games, and I don't even have a smartphone.
What I have is a laptop running the Android simulator Bluestacks. I installed it several years ago when John showed me the game he was playing at the time, Two Dots, and I got hooked hard. Then I found out there wasn't a version for regular computers. This struck me as a great injustice. Surely every game on the smartphone had a regular computer version too, didn't it? Why not?
So, Bluestacks. It's come along way since then, through two full version numbers and into much better compatibility with more or less anything I try to run on it. And, to my chagrin, it's commercialized itself a lot more thoroughly. It's always had a for-fee mode, where you pay to get rid of the advertisements. It used to randomly play app trailers at me; no longer. Now it mostly contents itself with manifesting an icon of their Featured App of the Day in among my installed apps list.
But it's still got enough going on to get me into trouble.
It's got a metagame. It's got--whatever it's calling itself these days, what is it? Pika Land? Bluestacks World? In Bluestacks World, it runs periodic events where you enter a prize drawing by playing this or that app for ten minutes. Generally this is easy to ignore. I'm interested in none of the games, and I'm interested in almost none of the prizes. (It's a beautiful desk chair, ergonomic as hell, but entirely incompatible with my office environment.) So. Great! I'm safe! Except one day, the featured app was Two Dots. And, hey, great, I already play Two Dots, why not?
Why not, indeed. See, that's how they get you. It goes like this: The event that was running the time, "Deities of Egypt", asked you to play Featured App of the Day for ten minutes in order to open a divine scroll, summon the God or Goddess within, and, incidentally, get entered into the day's prize drawing. Well, now I've opened the Day 1 scroll. I've summoned Bast. Hooray! Guess I might as well participate in each of the following days, right? Just to see? Shame to give it up when I've gotten off to such a great start, right?
I am a filthy, rotten completist. Also a perfectionist and mildly obsessive. I did the Day 2 thing. And Day 3. And so forth. And I meant--I really meant!--to just leave the featured app running unattended for ten minutes while I did other things. Like, y'know, write. Except, a couple of those games, I clicked on. Just to see. And I found them oddly compelling. And I wound up playing them a whole lot. Dammit.
Guns of Glory had me addicted for two or three weeks before I got free. It's a resource-management kingdom-builder thing. It's also multi-player. I swore I wouldn't get involved in the multiplayer side of things. I'd restrict myself to upgrading my military tents and farms and stuff and not join an alliance. Not! Except then I saw an exchange on global chat (which appears impossible to disable) that went something like this:
"Alguien quiere unirse con nuestra alianza? Hay muchas ventajas en hacerlo."
And I was all like, "Screw your 'English please!' This is an international game! Deal with it! Just for that, I am going to join their alliance!"
And so I did. And I went into the game's settings and changed my language to Spanish, and forced myself despite my embarrassment to converse in Spanish with the other alliance members. I felt very virtuous about this. I wasn't just wasting time on a clicky game--I was taking advantage of a great opportunity to practice my second language in a real-life situation! Yay! Brava, chica. Meanwhile, a whole new part of the game I'd written off as off-limits, because I'd planned not to do the multiplayer thing, was now accessible, and it was fun and rewarding.
It was also more demanding. Everyone else probably looked in on their estates every time their smartphone gave them a notification about whatever. I felt obliged to log in more often throughout the day so as to be a good alliance member.
And then, one day, another alliance declared war on our alliance. I logged on and my castle was on fire. My troops were all in the hospital--in shifts, because hospitals have a limited capacity depending on how far you've upgraded them--and healing them was using up all the food and wood I'd had earmarked for structural upgrades. No sooner had I recovered and built up more reserves than another attack came in. Basically, they were using us as a resource farm. It made the game a lot less fun and rewarding.
And then, one day, I logged in and discovered that my alliance's leader had stepped down from his position and made me the new leader in his place. And nobody had heard from him since.
I gave him the leadership crown right back, apologized for the confusion to whoever happened to be reading alliance chat at that time, and then I logged off. And uninstalled the app. With prejudice.
So that was my brief foray into kingdom-building resource-management multiplayer clicky-games. Well and good. No harm done, right? Except, before the death throes of my brief love affair with Guns of Glory had ceased, I had yielded to temptation in the matter of Merge Dragons.
Here we go.
Merge Dragons does pretty much what it says in the name. You merge three dragons of the same type, you get one dragon of the next level up. (Or you merge five to get two. This is important.) You get dragons by merging eggs. You get eggs by, among other methods, completing levels, during which you merge all sorts of things into other things. Meanwhile, your dragons flit about the landscape, harvesting stuff from the objects you've merged and occasionally spitting fire at what emerges. There's a vague story involving a quest to heal the much-beleagured land of Dragonia of the blight laid upon it by the evil zomblins (zombie goblins, don't think too hard about), but it's not really the point. The point is, DRAGONS. And GETTING ALL THE THINGS. And DISCOVERING ALL THE MERGE CHAINS. And completing all the random goals, like "merge 5 seeds of the prism flower," which involves fending your dragons off from your slow accumulation of necromancer grass tufts so that they don't prematurely harvest them into seeds which will turn themselves into prism sprouts before you can accumulate the five you need to merge, and also you have to do that sixteen times to achieve the goal. This is how I find myself attempting to basically tire all my dragons out, like fractious toddlers, by distracting them with rocks they can harvest for stone bricks.
Oh, and there are events. Events! In which you have three days to work your way through a very, very large level, healing as much of its land as possible and maximizing its resources to earn points to get special trophy dragons and prize objects to take back to your Dragon Camp. I may have left Bluestacks running for the entire 72-hour period so that my dragons could harvest everything while I was at scrimmage or asleep. Whatever. I'm not proud of this.
Thankfully, there is only so much you can play at a time without spending money. Each new level costs a certain amount of "chalices" to play; you generate one chalice every hour; you can only hold seven chalices at a time. When you don't have enough chalices, all you can do is hang out in Dragon Camp, where each dragon eventually runs out of actions and has to go to sleep for a bit.
But, still, it's amazing how much time one can waste clicking around even a moderately advanced Dragon Camp, even when all one's dragons are asleep. There are processes that continue in their absence. Seeds blow in on the breeze. Rain clouds spawn. Bushes spit out mushroom caps. There are two entirely separate merge chains for mushrooms, do you realize? It seems unnecessary. Oh, and if you progress through all the levels of mushrooms (of either type), or bushes, or prism flowers, or whatever, you might unearth A WONDER OF THE DRAGON WORLD. Exciting! I merged some high-level bushes and unearthed RUINS OF THE SKY PALACE. (Oh, hey, did I just generate a fourth chalice? Great! Time to play the next level!)
So that's the story. I am trapped in Dragonia. There is no exit in sight. Do not send help. Stay away, far away. For the love of little yellow dandelions and all that is good in the world, not to mention your productivity in general, also your loved ones' expectations that they continue to see your face from time to time, save yourselves.
but what is achievable is itself worthwhile, and worth celebrating
- 1,235 words (if poetry, lines) long
This week is off to a great start. I'm kind of being sarcastic here, but also not. Not sarcastic because I have been so productive! Even over the weekend! But also sarcastic because MOTHS. Awful, awful moths. Awful, awful levels of intense household cleaning required. So. Great start, week of August 13. Good job.
I should mention that last week's Friday Fictionette was released perfectly on time--and really on time, too, not just in the virtual sense but the technical one, before midnight on actual-factual Friday the 10th. It's called "Protocol for Visiting Witches," available both in ebook formats and as an audiobook. It's about right and wrong ways to do urban exploring. It's also about stories, and about who gets to be the protagonist. It will make you hungry for brownies. It might make you hungry for bad chowder and charred hamburgers, which would be OK but slightly baffling.
So that was good. Also good was doing my daily freewriting and fictionette prep work both days of the weekend, and also this morning. Productive! And I've got more stuff planned for the evening. I have a handful of rejection letters to log. I have a manuscript to send out again to a new place. I have several flash stories to revise for submission. This week is going to be great.
Except for the moths. Great.
Understand I am not talking about the kind of moths that sit on the wall with their painted wings splayed for all to admire. I'm talking about that bane of every fibercrafter's existence, the clothes moth. I had an infestation shortly before we moved two years ago, resulting in the loss of a heartbreaking amount of my stash, and now I've got another and it sucks. This time, thankfully, they don't seem to be getting into my fiber or yarn. Welllll, not this year. Last year they obliged me to thow out a couple bags of mohair a friend had given me, which was sad, but the infestation seemed to leave the house with the fleece. I did a bunch of medium-intensity cleaning in the area, just to be safe, and then winter came on, and the moths stopped appearing.
They're back this summer. They're all over the house. I squish them when I see them, and then I race into the office to peer at my black lamb fleece and my alpaca and the rest. Everything looks fine, so I breathe a sigh of relief. I assume the moths are being attracted to something else. Maybe the gunk in the sink. Maybe they're not clothes moths at all. I don't know.
Then I tidy the sheets on the futon in the office Saturday afternoon and I find honest-to-Gods larvae.
That's it! High-intensity cleaning commences. This will be my bible. With it, and through heroic, methodic, thorough effort, I will erase the scourge from my life!
It's not like I can drop everything and flash-sterilize the whole house in a day. Realistically, I can only manage high-intensity cleaning at the rate of one small bite each day. And each day, though I do my best, I know I'm missing something. So each day I repeat my mantra: Perfection is not attainable. Improvement is. I said this to myself lots of times yesterday as I wiped down a bookshelf's every surface with diluted vinegar, as I vacuumed the crevices and cracks with every attachment on the Dust Devil, as I cleaned the dust from every book before putting it back on the shelf. As I laundered the sheets for the futon in hot water and dried them on high heat. As I cleaned the futon frame. As I vacuumed the futon itself and tumble-dried the pillows on hot. Perfection is not attainable, but improvement is. And isn't it nice to have that fraction of the house clean?
Today's small bite continued cleaning efforts counterclockwise around the office walls. I emptied the brick-and-board bookshelf of all books and took it apart into its component pieces and got ready to wipe and crevice-vacuum and clean every book and--
I found the infestation.
Each of the bricks has a piece of felt glued to whatever side contacts the boards. That felt was moth-eaten. That felt housed masses of moth eggs. That felt was Ground Zero.
Today's cleaning got serious. The bricks went outside. My clothes, full of dust from moving the boards and bricks, went in the washer immediately to prevent my carrying viable moth eggs elsewhere through the house. The carpet where the bricks had been got vacuumed multiple times, once per hose attachment and then, after blotting with the vinegar-water solution, once again. Everything came off the top of the file cabinet because I wanted to increase the radius of my "small bite." The boards got wiped down with the vinegar solution. Where felt was stuck to the boards, felt was scraped off with a chisel--to hell with the wood finish. As much felt as possible got scraped off the bricks and the bricks went into the oven. New felt went into the oven too, at a temperature of 170 degrees (our oven's "keep warm" setting), to pre-treat it before gluing strips of it onto the thoroughly treated bricks (which got vinegared after they came out the oven, just in case.)
The books are still stacked up waiting to be cleaned. The bookshelf components are still waiting to be put back together. Once you glue new strips of felt down, it takes time for them to dry. If I put the boards on too soon, the felt will get stuck to them. So the office is currently a mess.
But this particular infestation is gone.
I'm not done, mind you. I won't be done even once I put the bookshelf back together. For one thing, there is probably another infestation in the bedroom; the brick-and-board bookshelf in there is simply the other half of what's in the office, all of which was next to that very first infestation at our old address. It would make sense for moths to be colonizing and feeding off the felt on those bricks, too--and it would explain why moths keep showing up in the master bedroom and bath. And even if that weren't the case, good anti-moth hygiene says you do preventative cleaning across the whole house radiating out from the infestation site. So the days to come will also have their small bites of high-intensity cleaning.
It's going to feel very good to have it all done and behind me.
Perfection is not attainable. Improvement is. And improvement is very, very satisfying.
of flesh and blood, born to make mistakes, yadda tunefully yadda
Well. After that big, passionate, weary oasis manifesto yesterday... I went and got all caught up in following today's news cycle and didn't write for beans. Not a biscuit. Not even a little green apple. Nothing. Then I went out to Buddha Thai where I kept reading the news obsessively and also ate my whole damn plate of drunken noodles in one sitting. This led inevitably to evening food coma.
*Digs toe in sand, blushes, shuffles away humming Human League duets*
So anyway, the Friday Fictionette for July 28th (to do with a city that only comes out at noon and the only girl in town who can see it) will be out by Monday the 31st, at which time the Fictionette Freebie for July will get released and the Fictionette Artifact for March (yes, I'm still way behind there) will go out in the mail. That's the plan. That's my story. We'll see how well I stick to it.
OK. Off to see what else blew up since I've been napping.
what we call a great start to the week
Oh, and speaking of making up for things, I slept in today. A lot. I needed to make up for the weekend, in which I failed to get pretty much any sleep and so I failed at pretty much everything else. So. Hi! I'm well rested now!
Tomorrow is party day. Tomorrow is get up, make the ambrosia salad, make with about half a workday's worth of writing, and then make with the partying. Yay party.
Apropros of just about nothing at all, did you know that the latest version of the Android emulator Bluestacks (2.7.320.8504) is actually compatible with Neko Atsume? OH MY GOD IT'S FULL OF KITTIES. I finally got a picture of Ramses the Great today. This makes me feel so accomplished I cannot begin to tell you.
whatever gets you out of bed in the morning
I think I'm finally getting back into the everyday swing of things. Got up on time, did my daily writing deeds, dynamited huge chunks out of Mt. Overdue, uploaded the Wednesday volunteer reading recording on time, and went to an optional derby practice because why not.
Then I came home and ate yummy crock-pot shepherd's pie. Look, it was yummy. I had half the potatoes I was supposed to and no carrots, and I cooked it too long so that it came out looking sort of all-over brown in every part and that includes the peas, but it was yummy. Then again, I'm easy to please. It's full of meat and potatoes and mushrooms and onions and tomato paste and beef broth. I'm not likely going to complain. Besides, it was after derby. After derby, you can put a plate of pretty much anything in front of me and, five minutes later, the plate will be sparkling clean and I will say, "Thank you, that hit the spot. By the way, what was it?" So. Don't take my word for it, is what I'm saying.
So it was good day. Still didn't get everything I wanted done, but getting up on time helped me come mighty close. I would love to say that I leapt out of bed like a young Ray Bradbury who's so overcome with eagerness to write that I just! Can't! Stay in bed any longer!!! That's how he describes himself in Zen in the Art of Writing, anyway. I always envied him that. For years I felt like a fraud because I couldn't describe my mornings that way. What saved my self-esteem was becoming cynical enough in my old age to begin to doubt his self-reportage.
Anyway, no, though the prospect of writing (or, rather, getting all the writing done) was what kept me going all day, it was not what got me out of bed in the first place. No. That honor goes to the frickin' weekly extreme jigsaw sudoku.
Heaven help me, I've fallen off the wagon and landed face-first in my old addiction to that website's sudoku competitions. There's a new batch of puzzles every day and a midnight deadline to submit the solution and that, skaters and gentlefen, is all it takes to turn a casual passtime for me into an obsession. MUST INCREASE MY WINNING STREAK TO 350.
But it doesn't just push my gamer-acquisition-achievement button. It also pushes my mechanical obsession button. See, I made myself this .xcf document (like .psd only for the Gimp rather than Photoshop) with a layer group containing all the different jigsaw shapes, a layer group where I put screenshots of all the puzzles for the coming week, a text layer with the exact leading and kerning needed to put the digits right in the screenshot cells--and because it's a text layer, I can select-all, copy, and paste my solution directly into the website's submission form--and, most importantly, there's a huge library of paths which make selecting all the 2s in Box 3, Row G and Column 8 a matter of five keystrokes and a couple mouse-clicks. It is very, very clever and it is terribly satisfying to use and OK, I need to get out more. Granted. But I'll give you a copy if you want.
Last night, just before going to sleep, I was reading solving strategy articles, trying yet again to understand the point of X-Wings. I never quite understood before. I mean, what could they do that double box/line reduction and double pointing pairs couldn't? But this time around it finally clicked (Oh! It has nothing to do with boxes! It's purely about the columns and rows! I get it now) so I Alt-Tabbed over to the puzzle I was working on to test my comprehension. And, wouldn't you know, I spotted one. For the first time ever, I spotted a goddamned X-Wing in the wild while there were still candidates for it to clear.
It was very late at night. I was pleasantly drowsy and tightly swaddled in the blankets. I decided that, having spotted my X-Wing (on the 6s in rows G and H and columns 3 and 8), I'd process its candidate removal in the morning.
So although I'm vaguely embarrassed to admit it, it's dog's honest truth: It was the thought of finally getting to remove sudoku candidates by the X-Wing strategy for the first time that got me bounding out of bed on time.
Ray Bradbury would be ashamed of me. But I don't have to care.
factors in a personal productivity revolution
- 4,668 words (if poetry, lines) long
I have here, in my hot little hands, a brand new printed-out draft of "Caroline's Wake." It's about 1500 words shorter than the version I submitted last year, and, I very much hope, a stronger story. It's not quite ready to submit at this time, but give me a couple more hours to scribble in between the double-spaced lines of the print-out, and it will be.
Today is Day 3 of Actually Getting Writing Done on a Reliable, Workerlike Basis. Seriously, this week has been fantastic. I've been getting my morning shift done in the morning, and I've been using my afternoon shift to create publishable story copy. It is amazing how awesome it feels to transform writing from a guilt-inducing monster into a life-affirming achievement.
I'm not entirely sure what made this sort of productivity and dailiness feel convincingly possible this week and not, say, last week, or last year, or eleven and a half years ago when I quit my day job. But I can point to a few things that could be said to have helped.
Dropped all expectations of content writing. I got cut from first one Examiner gig and then the other, and I decided I was ready to let them go rather than fight to get them back. Examiner only paid according to some secret metric of eyeballs-on-page, which came to about $20 every third month. I was doing it because it was an outlet for babbling about stuff that interested me, not because it paid well. Which was sily, because I already have an outlet for babbling, and that's this blog here.
But this change also occasioned me reevaluating the desirability of having a content writing gig at all. Content writing obviously cuts into my writing time and capacity. Every writing hour spent on Examiner or Textbroker is an hour I'm not thinking up and writing down stories. And while a good content writing gig can be a reliable source of funds, the fact is I'm fortunate enough to have a well-paid spouse who enthusiastically supports my career goals. I can afford to take not just my writing but my fiction full-time.
And if I put all my writing hours toward writing, revising, and submitting short stories, I'm likely to actually sell a few. It's a better use of my time all around.
Which is not to say that I won't be tempted by a decent content writing gig. I did just submit a sample of my writing to a respectable organization that's looking to build a stable of web writers and editors. If that goes somewhere, well, I'll figure out how to schedule it in at that time.
Rearranged my timesheet template. I log my writing on a spreadsheet every day. That's how I know when I've done my five hours. This week I totally revamped the daily template, and it's ridiculous how much this helped. I suppose a well-organized brain is a productive brain.
I used to have my spreadsheet separated out into categories of types of writing: fiction in this block (short story, novel, freewriting), content writing in that block (Examiner, textbroker, other), miscellaneous over thataways (Friday Fictionettes, etc.). Then, if I was feeling decisive, I'd babble out a sort of schedule for the day in a column off to the right, which I might or might not look at again all day.
This week I overhauled it such that the schedule was baked right into the timesheet. Everything I expect myself to do in a work day, it's there, and in order. All the nonsense and clutter is gone. It's just Morning Pages, the Morning Shift block, the Afternoon Shift block, the actually writing blog, done. If I want to be more precise, there's room to type a description--for instance, "Short Fiction" today is described as "finish 'Caroline's Wake' to printable draft" for the first hour and "take your pen and finalize that draft!" for the second. But for the most part, my plan is just to do the next thing until I come to the end of the things.
There's still a line for content writing in the Afternoon Shift block, but mostly it just gets crossed off.
Began enforcing scheduling constraints. Before, I would get lost somewhere between Morning Pages and freewriting, or between freewriting and fictionette, and I might never come back from my long break in order to start the afternoon shift. Having reorganized my timesheet, I can now use it to determine where I break and for how long. Basically, if I'm in the middle of a block, I keep working Pomodoro style until I'm done with that block: 25 minutes on, 5 minutes off. If I get to white space, I can take a longer break for a meal or for playtime, but I have to have a concrete idea of when I'll start the next block. When that time comes around, I absolutely must get back to work.
This is not rocket science. This is what I always should have done, and what I've always known I ought to do. Somehow, this week I'm actually doing it. Amazing. I'm going to attribute it in part to the overhauled timesheet, and in another part to something else:
Reevaluated how I spend my break time. I hate to admit it, but I can't actually fit an hour of Puzzle Pirates into a 5-minute break. I can't even fit an hour of Puzzle Pirates into an hour. It's like football that way. Or roller derby. The clock may say that an hour of game time passed, but it took a lot more than one hour of real time.
The weird thing is, these little self-contained puzzle games are starting to act like both a reward and a trigger. That is, they not only function as "Yay, you worked 25 minutes straight, you get a cookie," but also as this Pavlovian signal that it's time to get back to work. Finishing a "pom" means I get to play a puzzle. Finishing a puzzle means it's time to get back to work.
So, these are things that have helped. (Also, getting up early--I keep aiming for 8:00, but as long as I'm up by 9:00 I stand a strong chance of finishing my morning shift by noon.) But what also helped was simply knowing that it's been more than a year since the rewrite on "Caroline's Wake" was requested, and that's just ridiculous, and the ridiculous shit ends now. And so it does.