Wednesday, February 15, 2017

No Productivity Here

I recently put the Pocket app on my phone because I was hoping I'd be able to use it to find quality longform articles that I could bookmark and read when I'm doing stupid time wasting things I can't avoid like waiting for my tires to be rotated. I gave up on the Longform app because, at least the Android version is crap.  When I first "joined" Pocket, I just clicked on follow all the recommended feeds because, you know, whatever, and I was instantly dismayed to find that about half of all the articles posted are about "productivity." 

Listen, here's the secret to my productivity: put lots of shit on my calendar. If it's on my to-do list and there's a deadline, I'll find a way to get it done. I need to teach three classes, have office hours, drive to Madison, tutor, drive home, work out, and still have time to clean the bathroom?  I will be extra special efficient and everything will get done.  The danger for me is when there's only one thing on my list for the day. In that case, I'll find ways to fritter away the hours until I'm frantic because I'm running out of time to do the thing that I had all day to do.  I'm about a week behind in grading right now because on my two "light" days that I had in mind I would spent big chunks grading, I never actually did the grading because I hate it. So Friday morning I'll have to sit in my office and grade because that's the deadline I set by telling my students the grading would be done by then.

Anyway, this is all buildup to say that I resent all the "productivity" articles that essentially tell me to stop checking my social media and email. Fuck off, I'm a grown ass adult who knows this.

But, just for the record, I AM innately lazy and here are three of my tricks in my own personal war to fighting off procrastination and sloth. Not a single one involves turning off the internet or television.

1) 30 second rule: If it's going to take less than 30 seconds, just do it right now.  I don't WANT to file that stupid bank statement/EOB/tax document, but it doesn't actually take that long, so just do it as soon as it comes in the house. Since I have very little concept of how long 30 seconds actually is, I frequently end up doing chores that actually take minutes because I thought it would be quicker, but overall this prevents the little chores from building up into gargantuan tasks.

2) Write it down: If I really want to prioritize something, I need a written record of it.  This year, I'm focusing on about a dozen items and every evening I sit down with a spreadsheet and record my progress on those items. It really makes me realize that sometimes my priorities don't match how I spend my time and I then have to change my behavior to be the person I want to be. That sounds vaguely self-helpy and dumb, but there you have it. A daily reminder that I'm behind in X, Y, or Z will weigh on me until I address it. 

3) Tell someone else: I'm incredibly externally motivated and, as a people pleaser, I will do my best not to let someone down by missing a deadline. That's why I told my students when the grading would be done in my earlier example.  If I set my own internal deadline, it will probably never get done. But knowing that people are counting on me to get it done means something to me. 

But none of this is news, right? Because this is what adults do? 

Shut up, Pocket.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Echoes in Death by J.D. Robb

Of course I pre-ordered Echoes in Death because I will forever and ever read every In Death novel despite my endless complaining about how Robb has nothing left to say. I mean, I think that's true still, but I will have my Mr. Mira time and that's all there is to that.  Anyway, it popped up on my Kindle last week and I devoured it despite having three library books AND a book club book sitting on my desk that probably should have taken priority over this one.  I can't stop.
This book is a straight procedural. Even I was able to figure out the killer as soon as s(he) was introduced. It was literally the most straightforward of the In Death books yet. Many of my favorite characters weren't present and the futuristic elements that made the world building of the first few books so memorable just aren't there anymore. I don't know if Robb is done with this series, but it certainly seems like she is.

But there is something comforting about sliding into a cozy mystery on a February night. There's a skill in writing something as complex as a mystery in a way that even someone who is only half paying attention can follow along. So there's no great writing, no great actual mystery, but there's a world I just can't bear to leave.  So when Secrets in Death comes out in September, I bet I'll be writing a similar review because I won't be able to stop myself.

Wednesday, February 08, 2017

February 2017 Five by Five

1) Weather talk: Yesterday it was 38 degrees. When it's 38 degrees in October, I think I'm going to die and I wear ten layers and cry about how cold it is. When it's 38 degrees in February, I forgo a coat and wear just a sweater and talk about what a nice day it is.
2) Zelda the Cat News: Zelda this winter is super needy. She cries at us when we're eating and we have to walk with her to the rug where she will flop down and demand pets. If you're sitting down anywhere in our apartment, be prepared for twelve pounds of fur and sharp claws to jump on your lap. I can't tell if she's cold and trying to get warm, if she's turned a corner and become a cuddly cat, or if she's lonely because we were around all the time during winter break and now we're working a lot and she misses us. Each of these theories seems implausible (fur coat, changes in personality seem strange, and we're still home an awful lot), but there you have it.
3) Blog News: Somehow my blog is disintegrating. The pics on the sidebar went away and I ignored it. Then the header went away. Now I need to figure out how to deal with it. *sigh*  I don't exactly know how the back end of this blog works, but I guess I should figure it out.

4) Valentine's Day Query: Dr. BB and I don't really DO Valentine's Day. I mean, we make each other handmade cards while sitting next to each other, but there's no chocolate, flowers, or balloons. We never really have made a big deal of this holiday (we are big into birthday, Christmas, and our anniversary).  Is this normal? Is this a thing that means our marriage is doomed or do other old married couples ignore this holiday, too?

5) Medical News of No Import: My sister had a medical event last fall. This resulted in me having to get some blood tests done (18 VIALS) to rule out some genetic things (hand waving over the details I don't really understand) and the results showed nothing. So that was not helpful to my sister in attempting to figure out her health issues at all. So that happened. 
That "large adult" cuff makes me laugh EVERY SINGLE TIME, Wisconsin, you know?

Thursday, February 02, 2017

January Sewing Project

I'm not going to lie. I've done this project several times before. But I've finally mastered it! I'm sorry to all those people who've gotten inferior baby presents, but this time, this baby is getting quality.
I got this pattern from One Yard Wonders and I keep using it because it just turns out right each time. There's a tactile blanket, a bib, and a drawstring bag. It's pretty boss, if I can be allowed to compliment myself. The flannel giraffe print was too cute to pass up when it was on clearance at Jo-Ann Fabric ($2.79 a yard with limited availability - go get some now!!).
I combined the striped and giraffe prints with this adorable monster print (keeping orange as the thematic color) and made a cube. I got this pattern from Handmade for Baby, but if I'm being 100% honest, the directions are almost worthless. I've only figured out how to make this with lots of trial and error and hours watching YouTube videos.  I also make my cube about 50% larger than the original pattern recommends.

I'm going to guess this cost about $30 altogether. Most of that cost was in fabric, a few bucks was on thread, the polyfill for the cube was $3 on sale, and I had scraps of ribbon for the blanket, so that was negligible. It took me about six or seven hours to do all together.

I'm also working on a dress I've been working on since November or so. I vow that it will be done by the end of February, so if you're looking for me between now and March 1, I'll be hunched over my ironing board and sewing machine. 

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Five Days at Memorial by Sheri Fink

Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Sheri Fink writes on what happened at Memorial Medical Center in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina and the aftermath in the riveting Five Days at Memorial.  It was heartbreakingly sad and if you've seen me in the last week, I'm sure I was depressed because this book made me question everything about everything.  It's brilliantly written, researched, and I'm going to recommend it to everyone.  I'm going to focus on the following three areas here, but I'm really limiting myself since each page brought me a new ethical dilemma: triage, infrastructure, and euthanasia.

How does one triage in an emergency? When you have limited resources, do you give the resources to the sickest, who otherwise wouldn't be given a chance a survive or the healthiest who have the best chance of survival?  If you're going to be all utilitarian about it, what is the greatest good for the greatest number? What does "good" even mean in medicine - more days alive, better quality days of life, less pain, or what?  It sounds like there were several triage plans in place in different hospitals in New Orleans during this crisis and that's because there are no studies about what is the "most effective" triage system.

Which brings me to the lack of emergency planning on behalf of every institution - the hospital, the corporate entity that owned the hospital, the city government, the state government, the federal government, the radio stations, and the military.  The hospital knew the generators would flood in even a modest flood.  The radio stations were throwing around the term "martial law," which was misinformation that led hospital employees to follow orders from random Coast Guard and National Guard soldiers.  Long before the storm, the city knew that massive flooding would occur if the levees broke, the Army Corps certainly knew, and who knows what the state knew because it's not talking.  I have a hard time blaming hospital doctors and nurses for decisions they made during the storm when they felt abandoned and there was no clear directive to follow.  Hospital employees aren't crisis hardened, they aren't survivors of war, and there's reason to assume that they should have known what to do.  And that's not on the individuals, but on the institutions.

Which brings me to the last point on euthanasia. Yep, it's against the law. But if these employees genuinely believed that there was no hope of rescue and that their patients were going to suffer (remember, they believed this martial law nonsense), then did they have a responsibility?  Does a crisis situation change the rules about euthanasia? There was a very interesting discussion in the book on voluntary versus involuntary and patient-ordered versus non-patient-ordered that really made me question all my beliefs on this.  Obviously, I think involuntary non-patient-ordered euthanasia is just murder. But what if someone is in a coma and unlikely to recover?  They can't tell you what they want.  Obviously, having a living will is useful, but what if there's no electricity and no access to medical records?  I don't know. 

I found the entire book enlightening and stressful. I wondered what I'd do in that situation and I'm not sure I'd make any decisions different from those that the employees made, but I'm not sure I'd be able to live with myself no matter what decision was made. Those employees were stuck between a rock and a hard place and while I hope that all of those institutions are better prepared for an emergency today than they were in 2005, I'm not sure I'd be willing to bet my life on it.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

House Rules

We recently had folks over for dinner and we were sort of poking fun at people who have intense rules about visiting - shoes on or off, where to park, where to put stuff, blah, blah, blah - when someone asked me what our house rules were.

I offhandedly joked "don't kick the cat," but we all sort of acknowledged that we wouldn't invite people to our home who would kick the cat. If you're coming over to our place, you are probably a good person.  So I thought and thought and this is what I came up with.
It's never going to stop raining here.
1) Don't bring anything into the kitchen or cook in our kitchen. We have worked really hard to keep it gluten free and I don't relish the idea of someone coming in and accidentally contaminating it. If you want to bring things with gluten in them (this happens a lot at dinner parties), you may put it on the table or our bar, but not in the kitchen.  If something needs to be heated or cooked, one of us will do it.  Don't mess with our kitchen. 

I do think this makes me one of THOSE PEOPLE, but it's a question of health, so I'm willing to accept this as a name.

2) Don't let the cat in the bedroom. She's not allowed in there. Period. I don't care if you think I'm mean or abusive for not allowing her free roam in our small apartment. It's another question of health (in this case, mine - I'm allergic to cats and her dander in the bedroom would cause me to lose a lot of sleep). 

And that's it. I honestly can't think of another "house rule" that wouldn't differ from the vast majority of other people's house rules.  What are the rules if I come visit you?

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

In the Woods by Tana French

I'm a little bit embarrassed that I just now read this 10-year-old novel, but I've taken In the Woods out of the library about half a dozen times now and I could never make it passed the pretentiousness of the first paragraph. But I listened to the Overdue episode on it and Andrew and Craig rarely steer me wrong about books and they liked it, so there I was at the beginning of winter break, once more checking this book out. And there I was, still struck by the pompous, overblown, showy prose.  This critique is saying something, considering I'm in the middle of reading a Stephen King series (more on that later, I promise). 
On one hand, once I got through page 77 (seriously, I know the page number because it wasn't until page 77 that I didn't have a Post-it* on every other page), the ridiculousness of the writing somehow melted away and the book was a real page turner. Maybe I got used to the off-putting language, maybe the author used every annoying trick up her sleeve already, or maybe the editor only looked at page 75 and on, but after page 75 the book turned into a delightful little mystery. Sure, our main character was thick-headed, sexist, ageist, and kind of dumb. Sure, there was a major plot line that was absolutely unresolved at the end. Sure, there are some problems in the book.  But I enjoyed it and whiled away a few happy hours with my book and my cat on the couch.  But damn there were some up front costs.

British/Irishisms I had to look up: Marie bisuits, Mr. Whippy, Biro, Portakabins, narky, hurley stick, and bowsie.  Actual interesting things I looked up: Marie (Mary) Celeste and the playwright Ionesco.  There you have it.

*When I'm reading books, I jot down notes on Post-its for things I need to look up. Most of the time these things are words, but sometimes they're places, people, or events that it's sort of assumed the reader will know that I don't know.  I'm making more of an effort to tell you what I've looked up, but here's an example of what In the Woods looked like to give you an idea of what my library books end up looking like.

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