From electronic to paper

I'd been using an electronic task list for keeping my to-do's, and it worked well enough, sort of. I got stuff done, but the list of completed tasks was flaky and didn't always display. The main list stopped updating, some tasks would duplicate, and it wasn't working well.

So I thought I'd try the paper solution. I picked up a pack of Word notebooks from JetPens. There was a Nock Co Hightower sat around from their Kickstarter campaign last year, and it all came together at once.

This has become my constant companion. The Word notebooks have a circle on each line that you cross out when the task is done. Work tasks and lists in the back, personal ones in the front, and a small set of things I should be doing all the time in the middle (drinking water after each caffeinated beverage, karate practice, some others).

The Facebook lists of movies that stayed with me, and books that had an impact on my life, are in there. The definition of what I want my role at work to be is in there, and a list of exactly why the client should want us doing automated regression tests (halving the defect rate for one). I always have my three favourite pens and something to write on. It's a happy orange colour you really can't miss. This combination, the paper to-do list, the orange case, and the three pens, works wonderfully. I get stuff done and I can see what's left undone. And when the notebook is full, I have a journal of sorts.

For this round, paper beats electronic.

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Come With Me Now BY KONGOS

I think with my heart and I move with my head
I open my mouth and it's something I've read
I stood at this door before, I'm told
But a part of me knows that I'm growing too old

Confused what I thought with something I felt
Confuse what I feel with something that's real
I tried to sell my soul last night
Funny, he wouldn't even take a bite

Come With Me Now by KONGOS

Been hearing this song lately and something about these two verses just grabs me every time.

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Just once

I'm done reading Jim Butcher's Codex Alera series because I tripped over yet another "infertile character gets miracle cure and magic baby and becomes a Real Woman® " trope that everyone writes and is so hurtful to the one in eight couples who are infertile.

Just once, would someone please write an infertile character who doesn't get the magic baby and figures out how to live life as a valuable and valued person. Stop assuming that not having a child cripples you so much that society has no use for you and nothing but pity.

I've never read an infertile character that isn't pitied and broken until she gets a magic baby, then everything is alright. Never. Not once.

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Second degree brown belt

Driving home, drenched in sweat, exhausted and grinning. I got my second degree brown belt today from Tracy's Karate today.

One of my resolutions for 2014 was to get this belt. Second brown is the 6th of eight belts (black is the 8th), and the first one requiring sixty self defense techniques (thirty new ones and thirty from third degree brown), plus all twelve kata I've learned so far. It's a lot to memorise. There are three brown belts, third degree, second, then first, counting down towards first degree black.

Tests are done in full uniform, which is heavy canvas pants plus a gi top. Mine is from the same weight canvas as the pants and feels like a winter-weight bulletproof vest. It's stiff and thick, hot and heavy.

Now I'm on to learning the 1st degree brown belt material. Thirty more techniques, but no new kata.

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The night before

My uniform is packed in a bag in my car, the karate pants sticky-rollered to remove cat hair. Calf compression socks and a hairband are under the pants, shirt and sports bra. My staff is lying in the footwell behind the driver's seat. I've got a spare mouthguard in the glovebox, in a hand-knit drawstring bag. Printouts of all twelve kata and sixty techniques are in my work bag, plus the handwritten copies of the stuff I've had the most trouble with.

Tomorrow afternoon I take my test.

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I've been reading the #YesAllWomen hashtag on Twitter in the wake of the shooting spree in California (Guardian article here). One tweet stuck out to me more than most, an account of when a group was asked "Men, what do you do to protect yourself from being raped or sexually assaulted?". There were no answers. Then the women were asked and everyone had an answer.

I'm a brown belt in Chinese Kenpo (2/3 of the way to black belt) with over five years of self-defense training from Tracy's Karate, an awesome place to train. This is some of what I do to protect myself from being raped or sexually assaulted:

When I walk from the car to my office and back, I carry my keys in my hand the whole way. A set of keys to the face would be a deterrent to an attacker.

Before I put my seat belt on, I lock the car doors. I lock them as soon as I sit down, and only then put the keys in the ignition.

When I feel unsafe, I walk the way I was trained when my karate studio was drilling us before a tournament, "Walk in there like you're going to rip someone's face off!" because walking like a victim feels unsafe.

I do a quick threat assessment when people walk past me and adjust my course if I see a potential problem. Even in the poshest of shopping malls.

The Schroedinger's Rapist article is still in my head five years after reading it.

Gavin de Becker's book The Gift Of Fear and Rory Miller's Facing Violence are both on my bookshelf, read and studied.

I don't listen to music when I walk, because I need to be able to hear what's around me in case it's a threat. Walking in daylight around Creve Coeur Lake last year felt unsafe when I was alone and I saw a lone male walking the other way.

I never hug the wall when I walk, because it makes you an easier target for someone waiting around a corner. I'm always several feet away from the wall because it gives you an extra fraction of a second to react and defend yourself.

I don't let people walk behind me because it creeps me out, and I'm more vulnerable to an attack from behind me. I have at least three self-defense techniques to use on attackers from behind, plus a reflex elbow strike or rear kick that would do serious damage to an attacker, and I still will not let people walk behind me.

My husband always knows where I am. We pay for AAA membership even though both cars are in great condition, because they respond fast to a lone woman calling for help if I ever do need it.

There's an alarm system on the house and I've practiced the scenario in my head of what to do if an attacker got inside, which room to go to, and best ways out.

I took the women's self defense seminar when my karate studio offered it, because I wanted a friend to come with me who was attacked by the St Louis Botanical Gardens so she had some defenses for next time she was threatened.

The phone number of St Louis County Police is in my contacts list, along with a couple of other municipalities police departments.

Once I'm in the car, I don't open the windows, and I double check the locks when I stop at traffic lights. I never open the windows for people begging or collecting for charity.

Strangers coming in to my house must show me ID, and I try to schedule them for times when my husband will come home before they leave.

There are a few tops and one dress I cannot wear outside the house, and I rarely wear shoes I can't run in, or kick off and run barefoot.

What do you do to protect yourself from being raped or sexually assaulted?

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I’m worth more than that

I've been in software quality assurance since 2005, and working as a quality engineer for the last year, which is an unusual skill set. For my current position I need to be able to program at a decent level in C# and Java, know HTML, CSS, SQL, git for software versioning, JavaScript and browser dev tools for debugging, and a host of other skills. I get paid well for this and I'm good at what I do.

By contrast, I've been knitting for upwards of thirty years. I'm experienced in all yarn weights from bulky to laceweight, cabling and lace knitting are favourite techniques, and I have a specialisation in knitting socks that actually fit people. I can also spin yarn, giving me a greater understanding of my materials to the extent I can identify some breeds of sheep by the feel of their fibre alone (Jacob, Wensleydale, and Gotland in particular). I've travelled to gatherings of fiber enthusiasts both in state and as far away as Maryland, and I can identify the most likely yarn shop to have what I need in minutes. I produce upwards of twenty finished projects a year.

So when someone says "Can you knit that for me?" or worse, "can you knit two of those by Christmas," I want to reply like this:

Sure, I can knit that for you. My hourly rate is $60/hr and that's a minimum of 40 hours work, so it'll be $2,400 for the labour, plus materials cost, plus an annoyance tax for you thinking my time is worth pennies per hour. Since it's your first time, I'll discount that to a mere $4,000 instead of the regular $8,000.

I'll expect that $6,400 before I get started, and I'll bill you later for the materials. Cash only. Have a nice day.

As a software quality engineer, people value what I do and I get paid accordingly. As a knitter, people greatly value what I do yet assume my work is worth a pittance way below minimum wage for the hours I spent. This is not going to fly with me.

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I just got back from a business trip, and I may be slightly addicted to Evernote. Since the client we were visiting issues iPads to new employees, it made sense to take a work iPad with me instead of a bulky, heavy laptop plus power brick, and I've been using Evernote to work on some shared work documents.

What makes the iPad indispensable, and turns it from a nice toy into a usable tablet is the Logitech keyboard. While the Samsung Tab Pro 10.1 tablet with Polaris Office has all the functionality of the iPad and then some, the fantastic Logitech keyboard doesn't yet exist. Logitech says in May the ultra-thin keyboard folio case will arrive, but only for the Tab, not the Tab Pro. The Tab Pro 12.2in size can be bundled with a keyboard case, but is that too big? I'm not sure.

In every meeting, people pulled out an iPad with keyboard and started tapping away. I'd love to do the same with an Android tablet, but sadly I can't yet.

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Looking for the Holy Grail of cardigans

Looking back through my past knitted projects, there's a few things I need in a cardigan that are not easy to find in combination:

  • Knit in pieces, then seamed, for project portability
  • Set-in sleeves look better on me than raglan ones
  • Worsted weight
  • Can be knit in less than the amount of yarn I have available
  • Pockets a definite plus

I have four sweater lots of yarn, two Vermont Organic Fiber Company O-Wool Classic (light blue and a mid green), some turquoise Rowan Calmer, and some Brooklyn Tweed Shelter in a plum jam colour. The last one is the only yarn I can easily get more of, the others are long discontinued.

The first one meeting all the criteria is Jackaroo, by Amy Herzog, which I'll be starting this week. The others I've found are New Towne, Seamair, Grenadine, Golden Vintage, Larch, Basic Black, and Anne's Cardigan.

Once I have this cardigan done, I want to do a sweater, either Afterlight or Custom Fit, both Amy Herzog designs.

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Moved in

The DNS change has propagated, the blog survived the export/import process, and all is well.

Feedly has no idea where this is, which may be a problem, but I think I can live with that. I've added the links to relevant RSS feeds in the sidebar.

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