Out of Practice

Mini Reunion, Clarion West class of 2014

I went to a mini reunion of my Clarion West class last night. I can’t believe it’s already been three years. (I forgot to get a picture early so two of my classmates aren’t pictured.)

I miss writing here or somewhere. I’m out of practice.

It’s very much a season of change right now. My husband and I are preparing to move. We have a couple of trips planned. I’ve been going through my belongings and making donate, garbage, and keep piles. We carted off a giant, heavy television to an e-waste facility yesterday.

Oh, that TV! There was history in that behemoth, and I no longer have to lug that history around. Of course there are loads more items to jettison, literally loads, but that was a big one. To motivate me, I have been playing a season of Hoarders in the background (on the newer TV) while I sorted.

It is already a warm, sunny day. All the fans are blowing. The dog is asleep on the couch beside me, on his blanket.

TIL – 2/6/16

I was listening to the radio and learned about the term: designated survivor.

A clearly defined line of succession has been established for when the U.S. president is … unavailable. And if everyone in that line of succession is likewise … unavailable … then a person is arranged to be the designated successor. For example, during the State of the Union Address, pretty much everyone in the presidential line of succession is in attendance. If something were to happen to everyone attending that event, then the designated survivor would become Acting President.

During the event, the designated survivor is given presidential-level security and waits out the time at an undisclosed location.

So that’s a thing I learned today on the drive home from the gym.

(Yesterday) I Learned – 2/5/16

I learned that smooshing half a ripe avocado on toast and adding a little bit of salsa, shredded cheddar cheese, and sliced black olives is very tasty.

I also learned (still listening to the audiobook) that the number one thing that makes a house look messy is cluttered surfaces. A solution? Take a page from FlyLady and focus on tackling “hotspot” surfaces in 15 minute bursts. (See this article for additional tips)

I think 15 minute bursts would work better for me than what I’ve been doing, which is ignoring the problem and waiting for a mythical free day to do it all at once.

I’ve become an expert at tuning out the “mess” frequency, but I can usually trick myself into doing something for 10-15 minutes without overanalyzing the situation. (Note to self: consider applying this trick to writing.)

When I got home from work last night I performed the burst trick on the island counter in our kitchen. It’s not completely mess free, but you can see an improvement. Daily mail continues to be my Kryptonite. I especially hate thick envelopes from the credit card companies which contain nothing but ads or credit offers because I feel like I need to shred any identifying details, so it involves separating regular paper inserts from the pre-filled forms and taking the to-shred pile downstairs and stacking it another box… Ugh.

And then there’s the half-finished projects and stalled hobbies and fancy cookware I rarely use cluttering up the rest of the place…

Basically, I live in the house of good intentions. And that’s fine, as long as those good intentions get organized once in a while.

TIL – 2/4/16

Still listening to the same audiobook about making the most of your 168 hour week.

Today I learned about a resource for reporters, Help A Reporter. You can sign up as a Source or as a Journalist. There is a free version and a subscription version.

I also learned about the importance of asking yourself: What does the next level look like? And then from there, reverse engineering the accomplishments you would need to have achieved to reach that point. Do you have to publish a certain number of scholarly articles in specific publications? Do you need to know how to use certain types of software?

In figuring out the accomplishments, consider attaching a number to the goal. Increase income or profits by x. Publish x more than now. Decrease time spent on audio editing by x. Whatever. Be thinking of tangible outcomes and what the next level looks like.

Today I Learned – 2/3/16

Day two and it’s already getting hard to think of things.

I listened to about an hour of the audiobook I mentioned yesterday on my commute. Today’s theme was focusing on core competencies during your day job and finding ways to minimize, ignore, or outsource tasks that take you too far from those core competencies.

Today I Learned

I’d like to try to learn something every day. To that end, here is what I learned today:

Instead of saying you don’t have time to do something, try saying that the thing isn’t a priority. When you say you don’t have time, you are putting the responsibility on someone or something else. For example, reword “I don’t have time to read to my child at night,” to “it’s not my priority to read to my child at night.” Well, is that true? And if it’s not true, why do you let other items steal that time away from what you’d really rather be doing — especially when those items might be busy work like checking Facebook or email? If it is true, maybe there’s a reason that reading isn’t a priority, like the books aren’t very interesting. So … now you know to get different books.

Paraphrased from 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think by Laura Vanderkam

I like this lesson because it forces you to admit to yourself that there are some things you feel like you should be doing, but don’t want to do and so it’s easier to say “I don’t have time.”  Better to admit that you could probably find the time, but the reality is you just don’t want to.  Save yourself the guilt and work with the priorities you actually intend.

On shortcuts, ruts, and shifting perspective

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As I grow older, I find myself taking more and more shortcuts. Not that shortcuts don’t have a purpose. If you know what you want, shortcuts are great and can keep you from wasting time. But the grease that makes each shortcut so effective is an underlying assumption I don’t question, and that’s a problem.

Because of these assumptions, I don’t stop and ask myself, “Why I am doing this?” I assume that because I’ve always done it this way, I might as well continue. Move on to the next thing. I have a hectic schedule and there is so much to do that it has been simpler to fall into a routine that reinforces the shortcuts.

I wake up, I sit in traffic, I arrive at work, I react, I take a break and eat the same foods, I respond the same way, I watch the same shows, I go to bed.

Sometimes I notice how beautiful it is outside. I am distracted by a news story. But I feel as if I haven’t been thinking enough, absorbing enough. I skim the surface of my day like a flat stone skims the surface of a pond. This is not learning. This is memorizing stimulus and response.

I have been trying to be more mindful of the present, to focus on my attitude, to devote some part of the day to chipping away at long-term goals. It is uncomfortable to stray from routine and inject new practices. Even describing it here, the words come out stilted and forced.

How do I reboot myself? How do I step off the path I’ve created without everything falling apart?

I know what I am supposed to say. First I need to decide what I want and then I need to make a plan with milestones and achievable targets… but focusing on the end result seems so final and heavy and static. I want my approach to be more fluid.

I know the power of small changes made over time, how they compound, but I’m not sure I am ready to commit to a single end result. I have an idea that instead of the traditional list of “where I want to be in five years” I should ask myself continuously:

Will this action/thought process result in a positive effect over the long-term or  in the short-term?

And then focus on making the long-term choice. For example, I’m hungry. Should I eat this donut that is here in front of me and looks delicious or should I cook myself an egg, even though that will take more time and I don’t really feel like it?

If that question forms the spine of my decision-making, it is easy to choose the protein over the sugar fix. Instead of focusing on the reward, I am going to go back to the beginning and focus on the process.

I’m not abandoning goal-setting altogether, but let’s be real. I know generally where I would like to be five years from now. And if instead of focusing on a plan of attack and feeling guilty all the time when I wake up and am not that ideal version of myself, I can go down into the weeds and focus on the daily practices and choices that will move me closer or further away from who I want to be.

Now that I’ve put it like that, it isn’t so different from setting a goal and working towards it. But this way I can play mental tricks on myself and reduce it down to a single question.

Writing it all out like this, I see the contradictions, but it all comes down to this: I have goals, I take shortcuts that don’t move me towards those goals. I don’t respond well to consciously feeling like I have to do something, but then I fall into patterns where I do things for no reason beyond it’s easy.

This would be a multi-staged process, but I will attempt to tweak these behaviors first:

  • Be kinder to myself
  • Apply the question about long-term vs short-term benefits to shortcuts
  • Trick myself into making better choices as much as possible.

Think it’ll work?

 

New Twenty-Sided Sorceress Audiobook

I’m really excited to share I’ve narrated another book in Annie Bellet’s The Twenty-Sided Sorceress Series. Book three, Pack of Lies, is now available. Here’s the details:

Pack of Lies: The Twenty-Sided Sorceress, Book 3 by Annie Bellet

packoflies

Let sleeping dogs lie. Wolves, on the other hand…

Recovering from a broken heart and coming to terms with her family history, all sorceress Jade Crow wants is to resume running her comic book store and gaming with her friends. With a town full of strange wolf shifters, a 150-year-old peace accord hanging in the balance, and the justice who broke her heart back in her life, Jade’s plans go out the proverbial window.

Wolves are killing wolves, innocent human lives are caught in the crossfire, and not everyone in town is who they appear to be. As the bodies stack up and the doubts build, Jade and her friends race to find the true killer. And then Jade’s evil ex-lover makes another move….

Pack of Lies is the third book in The Twenty-Sided Sorceress urban fantasy series.

Moving sites, changing redirects, dusting off old skillz

Photo Credit: Folly Blaine

Photo Credit: Folly Blaine

After a day of wrestling with DNS changes and FTP, refreshing my UNIX and phpMyAdmin skills, I’m ready to relax and say that my experiment was successful.

Long story short: Yesterday I created a new web site for follyblaine.com and I moved all of the pointers and files and references to this new location. It basically went fine, except for my impatience and several hours of panic that happened while I attempted to troubleshoot a problem that could only be solved by waiting.

In college I studied dramatic art and psychology as part of my degrees, but my part-time job was in the computer lab and I am still grateful I had that opportunity. It was there I learned about navigating through my files and folders at the command line, using chmod to change permissions, how to troubleshoot technical issues in general, and if you make backups before you begin you can always restore later, so why not experiment?

All of this came in handy yesterday.

Long story longer:  As of Friday, typing follyblaine.com into your browser would have taken you to a site hosted on Blogger. (It was really just a name that pointed to a blog hosted on blogspot). I created a brand new site elsewhere, and I wanted to redirect follyblaine.com to point to the new location.

So I had to remove the domain name redirect inside Blogger (Settings > Publishing > click an X to kill the redirect on the Publishing page), go into my web host  where the name was registered and remove the DNS records that pointed to Google (deleted the custom A and CNAME records that I added once upon a time) and that killed the redirect so typing follyblaine.com into a browser would take you nowhere. Cue panic. (Even though this was expected. For a brief time I couldn’t remember a vital password and I thought I’d lost some files, but I hadn’t.)

Then I went to my web host’s Control Panel and played with redirects and mirrors, which basically brought the site down even harder (I accidentally killed my staging site for a while) and didn’t get me what I wanted.

See I’d built the new site on another domain (follyb.com) and wanted to move everything to follyblaine.com, but using mirrors still kept my staging domain associated and I wanted all the options to redirect to follyblaine.com, so I had to keep going even though I was tempted to keep the staging domain forever and say screw it.

I followed instructions in this guide and this one a little.

I updated General Settings in WordPress to point to http://www.follyblaine.com, I used Secure FTP to physically move files from the staging folder to the live folder. I replaced all references within WordPress and its database to point to the new domain name (since I had created it under a different domain name.) And I then I waited overnight for the DNS changes to propagate across the Internet.

More panic happened at the point where I calmly relay to you that I “waited overnight,” because honestly I didn’t know how long I had to wait and I wasn’t sure if I’d permanently broken everything forever.

I didn’t.

To pass the time I drank a couple of beers and watched a movie. (It’s important that you follow these steps exactly.)

When follyblaine.com finally came up this morning, it was resolving to the new location. I had to disable a caching plug-in that was still pointing to the staging domain, but then I reenabled it and it worked fine. So far so good!

I’m sure there will be kinks to work out, but it looks as if I’ve actually done it. After waffling over this action for a year or two, I have finally gained full control of follyblaine.com and installed it entirely on my own web host. With only one day of low to mid-level panic.

By the way, I am not planning to migrate old blog posts to this new site. But if I was, Blogger has a way to export that data in an XML file so I could have. If you’re following along at home, this would be an option for you.

Huzzah!

 

 

Welcome

My name is Folly and I am interested in a lot of things. If I met you in person I might tell you that I get bored easily, but it’d be more accurate to say I am easily distracted, and there are a lot of things to be distracted by–

–such as gadgets. I love my Nikon camera and learning about lighting techniques. I also enjoy narrating audiobooks and short stories. My day job involves technical troubleshooting and data analysis.

I have written some fiction. I would like to write more.

I created this site to organize all the loose threads that have been pulling me in different directions. My hope is that if I lay them all out in one place I can pin them down on one end and then follow them through to their inevitable fiery conclusion. Or buy more thread, and weave something? Spin some yarns?

This is already falling apart. You might even say it’s UNRAVELING.

If I haven’t frightened you off, you might as well check back later and see if whatever-this-is gets better. No promises.

 

 

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