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Life

Turning into a Cat

I think I’m turning into a cat. You know how cats have favourite places to curl up or “be” that last for a few days at a time, before they move on to somewhere else? I’m like that with writing. For a while I was writing at Evernote, then a text editor for a little while, then Notion, and now I’m back at Google Docs, where I’ve been writing on-and-off for years.

Google Docs is the easy option for me. It satisfies the paranoid part of my brain that says “what if the computer goes bang in the middle of your Pulitzer prize winning blog post?” – because it saves every word as I write it. Of course this is predicated on the idea that what I’m writing has literary value (I’m humble enough to realise that I’m only a legend in my own lunchtime).

It’s Sunday morning. The clock is just ticking past 10am. I’ve been up for the last hour – emptying the dishwasher, clearing the kitchen up – the usual chores around the house. I didn’t have a shower this morning, and now feel grubby. I usually have a shower every morning – it helps wake me up. I’m not going anywhere or doing anything today, so thought “what’s the point?” – it’s not like I smell or anything. I will admit to washing my face with soap and cold water after brushing my teeth though – to try and wake myself up. It sort of worked.

I need to head out to the corner shop soon – we’ve run out of bread. It’s kind of difficult to make toast without bread – almost as bad as the time our middle daughter made a cup of tea for her Mum after we ran out of teabags. She didn’t let the lack of tea stop her – proudly delivering a cup of hot watery milk. She was only about seven years old at the time.

Anyway.

Time to go find my shoes and socks. At least it’s not raining today (yet).

Categories
Life

Unused Holiday, Rain, and Fake Followers

It’s been a strange sort of day – and it isn’t over yet.

After a very strange dream that I can’t remember a lot about any more I slid out of bed at about 8am, had a shower, shave, brushed my teeth, got dressed, and wandered into the junk room to begin work. On Tuesday mornings we have an “all hands that can make it” video call – just to say hi to each other – to combat sitting alone at home for hours on end.

I made a comment about perhaps taking a few days off this week (it’s half term), and spending time with my daughters. Within a couple of hours of the call a holiday request had gone in – and by this afternoon had been approved. It kind of makes sense – there are projects afoot at work, and when they begin the chance for time off will vanish – much as it did for the last year, leading to the mountain of untaken holiday still sitting there.

It’s still raining. By my reckoning, apart from a brief bit of sunshine on Saturday morning, it’s rained pretty consistently for the last twenty years. I should really see about building a boat out of what’s left of the shed. I checked the weather forecast earlier – there’s a 60% chance of rain all-day every-day throughout the week.

It’s “pancake day” in the UK today. I’m not sure if the kids have found out yet. If they do, one or other of us will find themselves standing in the kitchen for an hour later, pouring batter into a frying pan, trying to look like we know what we’re doing.

I wonder who invented pancake day? I wonder if it has something to do with an overrun of milk somewhere, and a crafty scheme to get lots of people to use theirs up ?

In other news, a lot of people have started following my blog at WordPress just recently – 99% of them marketers and business owners. They follow, never read, and never comment. I wonder what they think they achieve when they follow blogs? According to the stats, across Tumblr and WordPress I have several thousand followers. In reality, I have about twenty regular readers, and of those, only two or three interact in any meaningful way.

It’s lies, damn lies, and statistics.

I read a post by somebody I know fairly well on Tumblr recently about being dropped and blocked by friends online. I used to really take it to heart when people either unfollowed or blocked me, but have slowly hardened up over the years. I suppose I came to realise that somebody falling off the radar is rarely about those they follow. I miss a lot of people who don’t post any more – more than they know. I sometimes wonder about reaching out, but then talk myself out of doing so just as quickly.

Anyway.

I think I might need to go and find the packet of cheap chocolate biscuits, and put the kettle on. For reasons.

Categories
Life

Reorganising my Life

For the last few months I’ve been experimenting with an online swiss-army-knife called “Notion”, that allows you to record notes, compile databases of information, and so on. It has a wonderful interface, and can be transformed to solve most use-cases – a veritable rabbit hole that promises all sorts of productivity games. I started using it for more and more bits and pieces of my life – storing blog blog posts, writing articles, keeping code snippets, and so on.

And then it went down. For almost an entire day. With no updates from the management team. At all.

So yesterday evening I started migrating everything away from Notion. Initially I thought about returning to Evernote – and even tweeted about it – but then faced an uphill battle in terms of importing existing posts without having to laboriously re-format writing for hours. After trying several different workarounds I gave up, and turned my gaze to Google Drive.

Sure, Google Drive has it’s problems – nothing’s perfect – but for most of the things I do, it’s “good enough”. I’ve migrated all my old blog posts across, all of my technical notes, and all of the other bits and pieces that were stored in either Notion or Evernote. Google Drive has become my “one place to rule them all” – for now.

I need to stop playing with shiny new toys on the internet, and just live with the core few things I trust. At the moment that’s all the Google apps – from Mail, to Calendar, Keep, Drive, and Photos. Just recently I’ve been using Google Meet for family video calls – it’s every bit as good as Zoom or Facebook Messenger, and is free.

Earlier today I walked into town with my youngest daughter on a grocery shopping expedition. The first in several weeks. We get most of our food delivered via local farms and produce delivery businesses – but there are certain things you can’t easily get for them – important things – like peanut butter, and chocolate spread.

We’ve been ordering some things in bulk from Amazon “subscribe and save” – and had been thinking about buying instant cappuccino in a huge tin, but after doing the math, it turns out buying small boxes of instant coffee when it’s on offer is cheaper than buying in bulk. I hate it when brands do that kind of counter-intuitive idiocy. They must think people were born yesterday (perhaps some people don’t think when looking at prices).

Anyway. Dinner will be ready in a minute. Time to go set the table.

Categories
Life

Tuesday Lunchtime

I had been entertaining the idea of escaping at lunchtime, and going for a walk. A few miles out in the fresh air on my own with a podcast in my ears. The weather has other ideas – it has rained pretty consistently all morning. We are forecast snow next weekend.

I have half an hour of my lunch break left. Half an hour to fall down an internet rabbit hole and get nothing done. Spotify is busing playing “Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters” from a random playlist chosen to fill the silence.

I switched out the theme of my blog before work started this morning – simplifying it enormously. I’m not sure why. I have a suspicion that most people live in the WordPress or Tumblr interfaces, or email subsciptions anyway – they don’t venture to the web to look at much any more.

Writing over at Medium has kind of dried up for the moment. Probably a good thing, because writing when you have nothing to write about is death to creativity and inspiration. I have no doubt I could churn out cookie cutter articles like many citizen journalists seem to, and make a tidy living from it – I’m not sure I would be able to live with myself though. I would rather tell personal stories than parrot manufactured idiocy.

I’m drinking too much coffee at the moment. I imagine boredom has a lot to do with it. Perhaps I’ll get some ginger tea, and substitute out coffee for a few weeks. While thinking about health, I weighed myself this morning. I’m up three pounds from where I was a couple of months ago. I wonder how quickly I can drop it again? Watch this space.

Categories
Life

Hacking Anxiety and Loneliness

I’m not working today, so have spent much of the day juggling home school assistance with efforts to encourage my eldest daughter to step outside her self imposed seclusion. She arrived in the lounge late last night on something of a downer, so we spent an hour firing ideas at her like a machine gun.

Long story short – she has a blog again, and has been dipping a toe into online chat rooms (or rather, lurking in online chat rooms, petrified of taking herself off mute).

She’s currently sitting at her computer, trying to write a first blog post. It’s painful watching her – I had to walk away. It’s interesting how some people (read: me) can empty our head into the keyboard and magic a thousand words of nonsense almost at will – and some find the extraction of each and every word tortuous. Anxiety doesn’t help.

I think she’s planning on writing about her struggles with anxiety, lock down, and life in general. I helped get her setup with the blog, and write the about page – the first “real” post could take some time. If you have a minute today, go visit Daisiella, and click follow – getting some immediate feedback will hopefully help her see that there is a world out there, and get her over the start line.

Categories
Life

Falling off the Blogging Bike

It’s not so much a case of “falling off the blogging bike” any more – more a case of “has anybody seen the damn bike?”. Or maybe “can I even remember how to ride it?”. It’s not like I’m pushing away for any particular reason, or even that I’m “pushing away”. Life is just happening.

Was it John Lennon that said “life is what happens while you’re making other plans” ?

I’m a bit annoyed with myself, to be honest. I started to reach out to a few people online recently – following a few new voices. After an evening of “being brave”, I’ve hardly been back. I hope those I followed don’t think badly of me. Perhaps this afternoon I’ll carve out some time to go read and comment on their recent posts.

I’m sitting in the junk room, sipping coffee, and listening to Sara Bareilles. I should be working on some writing for the work website, but inspiration seems to have deserted me – hence writing this post instead.

Oh – random update – I hung a new door last week, armed only with a chisel, a screwdriver, a hammer, and a sanding machine. There’s a back-story here – once upon a time our eldest daughter had the room with the door that needed replacing. She once kicked it off it’s hinges in temper, and I patched it up. A few weeks ago one of our neighbours advertised a door to anybody that wanted it – of the same design as the broken bedroom door. My other half got the kids to go and fetch it, and it’s stood in our hallway until this week. Here’s the thing – door frames are very rarely square, and doors are often cut to fit the door frame they are in. I had to re-shape the frame, the door, re-position the (new) hinges, and re-position the locking plate in order to make it fit. I did mention all I had was a chisel and a sander, didn’t I?

I think we’re all beyond stir crazy now. We’ve been holed up in the house together since late autumn. Little annoyances have begun to pull at the loose ends of each other. The children often contribute nothing in terms of help around the house, and then expect everything in return. It’s not going to end well for them.

Categories
Life

And, Exhale

I watched the inauguration of Joe Biden as the new President of the United States yesterday evening, and then fell down an internet rabbit hole this morning watching Angela Gorman and Katy Perry on YouTube.

It feels like the United States has suddenly exhaled – and much of the rest of the world has too. While watching footage of the celebrations yesterday evening across America, I remembered news coverage of the election, and of a young mother celebrating in the street with her daughter as Biden was projected the winner – with tears streaming down her face.

It turns out hope is pretty damn emotive.

Of course it’s easy to think of those I know – who so wished for this outcome – as “everybody”. We have to remember that seventy million people voted for none of this to happen. I guess it’s their turn to suck it up. I do wonder if the Trump experiment will stop any sort of republican get into power for a very long time though. People have long memories.

Over here, after having a conservative government for many years, several generations of younger people eventually forced change, and we ended up with a socialist government for the better part of a decade. Of course now those younger people have gotten older, earned their money, and no longer want to share it – they have become conservative, and now don’t want any part of the socialism they pined for during their youth.

I remember my Grandfather once telling me that politics goes in cycles every eight or ten years – that history repeats itself again and again – that change is driven by the young.

I’ve never quite understood why people feel the need to take sides in any sort of debate. I sometimes watch political debates on TV, or read news stories, and wonder quite what happens to people – to fall in step with their “gang”. It reminds me a lot of people with faith in the various religions – being told what to believe, what to think, what to value.

What happened to people having their own mind? What happened to watching, reading, and deciding for yourself?

I think the most maddening thing I commonly see is people complaining that the news is biased – when what they really mean is “anything that doesn’t agree with what I think is biased”.

Anyway.

While writing this, a little voice perched on my shoulder, whispering “you shouldn’t really write about politics and religion, you know”…

Categories
Life

An Unexpected Staycation

I have the rest of the week off work!

Because I’ve worked at the same company for years, I’ve pretty much maxed out the holiday allocation – accruing 25 days per calendar year. We have to take Christmas, Easter and so on from the allocation, but still – it amounts to about 4 weeks during the year. On top of that, we are allowed to carry over up to 5 unused days – or up to 10 under extraordinary circumstances.

Long story short – after working on big projects two years running, I arrived at the start of this year with over 30 days in my back pocket.

I’m almost giddy with excitement – it’s still only 9:40am – I’ve tidied the lounge up, cleared the dishes in the kitchen, emptied the dishwasher, and put two loads of clothes through the washing machine already.

I have no plans for the week, short of spending time helping our youngest with home-school work when she needs it, and (apparently) recording a work-out for her PE coursework later. I imagine she’s going to turn into the coach from Glee this afternoon, and laugh at my pathetic attempts to follow instruction.

I’m sitting at the dining room table, surrounded by piles of folded laundry. It seems stunning to me that even though we have gone nowhere and done nothing for months, the washing machine is till being run into the ground every day. I’m starting to wonder if the bottom of the laundry basket is entirely mythical.

Categories
Life

Sunday Night

It just occurred to me that I should write something on the blog. Somehow I’ve fallen away from writing nearly every day, to writing every few days. Perhaps the promise I made to myself to read books, watch movies, and spend time with my family is working.

I’ve been reading “The Queen’s Gambit” over the last several evenings – I’ve nearly finished it now. It’s every bit as good as the TV series, but perhaps I still have rose tinted glasses – the TV series was incredible. The next book on the heap is Ready Player Two – which seems like a re-tread of Ready Player One. I’ll reserve judgement until I’ve read it properly – I snuck a little of it at Christmas while sitting quietly in the lounge one night.

We’re still working our way through the box of movies scribbled on raffle tickets. We watched “Eurovision”, and “Bumblebee” last week.

Last night we organised a quiz on Zoom for family and friends. It was fun – a lot of the older family members had never been on a webcam before, so doing tech support for the first half an hour was a bit of a struggle. We got there in the end. As always, the “after party” was probably more fun than the quiz itself – the drinks and snacks came out, and we all got to say hello to people we had not seen for years in some cases.

Anyway.

I have a book to go finish reading. I’ll write again soon!

p.s. the other blog at Medium is doing really well. It’s a bit scary.