NaNoWriMo 2016 Diary, week one

Tuesday 1st November
525 words before work, 2009 total. Introduced a couple of shady characters I didn't have planned out before I started writing. Hoping to stick to my usual rhythm of 2000 words a day. Created a Pandora station seeded with Vivaldi to use as a writing soundtrack.

Wednesday 2nd November
Good writing session before work, took my Mac laptop with me to write at lunch and after work. Wednesdays are not going to be easy for writing, I have 3 hours in Tracy's Karate in Chesterfield for my private lesson, then group class, then sparring class. Two days in a row I have written 2009 words, that is weird.

Thursday 3rd November
My novel went meta, my main character is a journalist who is brainstorming what makes a good story. No writing at lunch today, had lunch with a friend at Olympia instead. I feel like I've written a lot of filler so far but some characters are starting to devite from my original plan. That's usually a good sign so I'm letting them go with it. No evening writing today, there was beer with dinner.

Friday 4th November
Today is pay day, and a vacation day, I get to novel all day. Since I slacked off yesterday, I had to cross the 5k mark before breakfast to get level with the NaNoWriMo standard for yesterday. Working on disrupting my character's lives today. Discovering a bunch of new composers via Pandora, Georg Phillip Telemann, Francesco Geminiani, and Tomaso Albinoni. Apparently I like Baroque classical music.

Saturday 5th November
Happy Guy Fawke's Night! Today is my bimonthly knitgroup at Stone Spiral Coffee and Curios in Maplewood AND the St Charles Crooked Tree Coffee House morning write-in. I wrote at knitgroup and more at home, getting into "mess up your character's lives" day.

Sunday 6th November
Wrote after church in Kaldi's on Carondelet, starting to move the pieces on the board and get into the meat of the story. No bad guy is 100% evil, they're just people with lives and dreams who just want to take a shortcut, or make life a little easier. It's the wrong choice for the wrong reasons, but that makes it fun.

Monday 7th November
No lunchtime writing today, and I get to see the sunrise, courtesy of the end of Daylight Savings Time. I wish we'd either abolish that, or stick on it year-round. Not a great day for word count.

NaNoWriMo survival guide

This will be my thirteenth time doing NaNoWriMo, looking at getting my eleventh novel finished. I have a plot, an idea, and some disasters to deploy, and even a way to include the Travelling Shovel of Death. I have a few tactics for surviving the event:

Donate to NaNoWriMo
If you donate, you are more likely to finish your novel. You also purchase good novel-karma and fund the deployment of guilt-monkeys (a crucial motivational tool). NaNoWriMo runs on donations, and even a $10 donation gets you a halo. You'd look great in a halo.

Output before input
No reading books, no watching TV or movies, no surfing the internet until your words are done for the day. My goal is 2000 words a day, with a 3k goal at weekends.

Bribe yourself
Pick a 50k prize for yourself, and do not allow yourself to have that prize unless you reach 50k. Husband bribed me one year with a season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer DVDs, which were kept with receipt in a cupboard until I hit 50k.

Practice tactical slacking
During NaNoWriMo, it is OK to order pizza instead of cooking a sumptuous handmade dinner with carved butter in the shape of swans and three fish courses. Figure out what you're going to give up to carve out time to write, and stick with it. Maybe your reward can be a visit by a cleaning service in December.

Write on schedule
My writing schedule is a bit before work, more at lunchtime, and finish up after work. Every single day. No exceptions. Figure out what your schedule is and hold fast to that commitment.

Separation of concerns
My novel lives on my personal Macbook Air in Scrivener format. Novel info lives in a Dropbox folder, or in a notebook and index cards. Novel stuff does not touch the work machine, or any other machine.

Have a roadmap
As of now, my plot is four pages of handwritten notes, 12 index cards (one for each chapter), and some loose notebook pages. I have a rough idea of where I want my novel to go, and what happens in the end. I expect the plot bunny to throw a wrench in my roadmap, but that's OK, I have enough to get moving.

Introvert in company
A local NaNoWriMo meetup, or write-in, is a great way to gather a bunch of introverts so we can ignore each other in company. Write-ins are also fabulous places when you have a plot problem, you can just say "Hey, my female lead is stuck in a mine shaft with a sack of rubber ducks and a shovel, how does she escape the cave trolls heading her way?" and get several answers.

Overnight Breakfast Glop

Can also be called "pudding" if "glop" sounds unappetising. This recipe uses the US tablespoon, which is a 15ml liquid measure. I put everything in a Blender Bottle to get everything mixed up, it works well. Also I don't have an electric blender. If you don't like the texture of tapioca pudding, you probably won't like this, the chia has a gelatinous texture when it's hydrated.

Makes 1 serving as written.
Prep time is 10 minutes BUT you have a 30 minute pause in the middle, AND this needs to be left for at least three hours to let the chia seeds do their thing. Or leave it in the fridge overnight.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup of almond milk (or your milky substance of choice)
  • 2 tablespoons of Organic Gemini tigernut smoothie mix
  • 2 tablespoons of ground flax seed
  • 1 tablespoon of maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon of chia seeds

Optional ingredients, choose one or two:

Put the milk into a Blender Bottle and add all the ingredients except the chia. Mix well. Add the chia, mix again, and leave in the fridge for a half hour. Mix well, decant into another container, and put back in the fridge. Clean the Blender Bottle immediately or stuff will cement onto it. Leave for three hours, or overnight. Eat the following morning with a spoon, top with fruit or nuts if you like.

I found chia recipes when I was looking for Paleo alternatives to oatmeal, and it is surprisingly filling. This glop has a lot of texture from the ground flax, chia, and tigernut, you need to use a spoon instead of trying to drink it.

(If you're not using Amazon Smile and making Amazon donate to National Novel Writing Month, please consider doing that.)

Now, 25th July, 2016

Thinking about
My lightening talk on Risk Analysis and RFC 1149 for the first Asynchrony Labs internal conference on Friday 15th July. This is the first talk I've done where I've been recorded. There was applause, I survived.

Stimuli and input
Peter Drucker's article Managing Oneself from the Harvard Business Review was published as a small paperback. It is the first book I remember reading with a highlighter pencil in hand, and I wrote notes as I read. Interesting book, I prefer a much shorter feedback loop than 9-12 months. My librarian soul shudders at marking up a book, but a work friend described sharing a book between their siblings, each one marking up with a different colour, so that the book becomes a conversation between them.

Craft and unnecessary creating
After a long stretch of hats and scarves, I'm working on toys. Made two of the My Little Slug pattern for work, a hedgehog for me, and an elephant toy for a friend. Looking at a mouse next, from Rebecca Danger's book 50 Yards of Fun.

Now that I'm finished with The Focus Course (well worth, it but way easier if done in a group than solo), the morning drawing habit can come back. I've missed it.

Exercise and health
I deadlifted 95lb for 8 reps, two sets. I've never been a weights person, but it is a good workout. My personal torturer switched me from Sparkpeople to MyFitnessPal, because you can share the food diary way more easily. I confessed to the Tim Horton's maple donut before he saw it.

Embarking on an experiment to have a set breakfast for a week to see what effect that has on my weight, if any. One sweet potato, and one roast chicken patty, protein and carbs.

Cover band names

Every once in a while you hear a phrase and think, "That would be a good band name." These are my current favourites:

  1. No Visible Cow
  2. Flying with Cats
  3. Angry Hatstand
  4. Unexploded Balm
  5. Decaf Piranha
  6. Teacup Hierarchy
  7. Grumpy Old Queen
  8. Suddenly Ducks
  9. The Vindaloo Fiasco
  10. Gremlins Ate My Towel

Now, 4th June 2016

Thinking about
Scala. I'm new on a team doing a Scala project and learning how to write code and tests. It bothers me when training for Scala spends half the time saying how dumb and awful Java is, there's no need for that. I felt a lot better about Scala after a day spent doing mob programming working on a REST endpoint, and then explaining my Hello World Scala code to one of the other QAs on the team. I'm back in beginner mode and it was jarring at first.

Stimuli and input
Reading The Lean Startup by Eric Ries, feels like Agile software development for businesses.

Shawn Blanc's Focus Course is starting a June camp where a group of people goes through the course day by day. I'm looking forward to that, I stalled on day 12 on my first time through. I have a new Baron Fig notebook and some time set aside to get the course done.

Craft and unnecessary creating
Picked up Doodle Drawing by Sarah Skeate and Craft-a-Doodle by Jenny Doh, using both books to create cute aliens and monsters on sticky notes. I'm using Sharpies and ballpoints.

Been baking a lot of scones and rock cakes, refining the recipes to get something tasty. Went strawberry picking the last weekend in May and made jam, only the second time in our marriage we've done that.

Exercise and health
I am a first degree black belt in Chinese Kenpo! You can call me Shodan, it means "beginning level." My instructor is refining the 120 techniques list down to ten or so that really work for me, and I'm back to getting sparring lessons.

Recipe: Rock Cakes

Why yes, I am pathologically incapable of following a recipe as given. I assembled this from several recipes online and tweaked it to work with US measures. I made two batches, my other substitutions are below. This is a good recipe for using up small amounts of dried fruit and nuts leftover from other recipes.

Rock cakes, batch #2 , with diced dried orange peel & cherries #baking

A photo posted by Alison Hawke (@quantumtea) on

Ingredients:

  • 8oz self-raising flour
  • 3oz brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon of baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons of spice (Penzey's Cake Spice and Baking Spice worked, get something with nutmeg in)
  • 4.5oz unsalted butter (1 stick and 1 tablespoon)
  • 5oz or more of dried fruit and or nuts
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon and 1 teaspoon of milk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Makes 16 rock cakes. Set the oven for 350f.

Mix the flour, sugar, baking powder, and spice together. Cut the butter into small slices and rub it into the flour mix until it looks like breadcrumbs. Add the dried fruit and mix well.

In a separate bowl, mix the egg, milk, and vanilla extract together.

Add the egg mixture to the flour and stir until you have a lumpy, sticky dough. If you need to, you can add a teaspoon more milk.

Put a dollop of rock cake into each of 16 muffin cups, sprinkle the tops with cinnamon sugar.

Bake at 350f for 15-20 minutes. At the 15 minute mark, see if you can push the top of a rock cake down. If you can, they probably need another 3 minutes.

These two batches helped clear out a bunch of stuff from the pantry, and also tasted good. Not too sweet, a little crumbly, and full of interesting flavours.

Substitutions:
Instead of white self-raising flour, you can use whole wheat flour or whole wheat pastry flour and turn it into self-raising flour by adding 3 teaspoons of baking powder and 1/2 teaspoon of salt.

Add a half cup of ground flax seed to the dry ingredients.

Mix and match your dried fruit. I used 4oz baking raisins and 2oz walnuts for batch #1, then 5oz diced dried orange peel, 1oz baking raisins and 1oz dried cherries for batch #2

Rehydrate a teaspoon of dried orange peel, add it to the egg mixture.

Now, 23 April 2016

Thinking about
Ways to do my job that accommodate being a practitioner as well as a manager. I slid into a part-time gig on my old team, working under the guidance of my former apprentice and that feels fantastic. It took a couple of weeks of being there to feel back in the swing of things, but I now have a team home, I have things I can accomplish, life is good. I love the mentoring part of my job, and the interviewing is fun too, but I need to be useful on a team.

Thinking about honesty in communications, and speaking simply. When I write test code, I try to make it simple and use variable names that make it obvious what I'm doing. When I talk, I usually go for the small words, unless I want to explain what idempotence or skeuomorph means, and they're useful and relevant to the conversation. No using big words without explaining them!

Stimuli and input
Finished some long outstanding books this month, Meditations by Marcus Aurelius, and Art for Breakfast by Danny Gregory. I started Creative License, also by Danny Gregory.

I chewed through The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything by Fr. James Martin and Mindset by Carol Dweck. Started The Servant Leader by James Autry, and Smarter Faster Better by Charles Duhigg, I'm seeing common themes across several recent reads.

I believe strongly in the growth mindset, that your attributes, thinking process, intelligence, and skill are all malleable and improve with effort. I will give people who are learning a lot of help, but for people who will not or choose not to learn, I have little patience for them.

Craft and unnecessary creating
My sketching-every-day habit continues, over 150 days straight since I started in November 2015. I picked up some watercolour paints and I'm experimenting with painting, colour, watercolour pencils, and a water brush. I've started sketching real things in my craft room, not just cartoons, and I got myself a life-size skull model to work from. I named it Skulliver. It makes a good model for knitted hats.

Knitting is back in rotation, the tendinitis pain is almost gone now and the gift box is filling up.

Exercise and health
My body fat percentage is down by 2% since last June, which feels good. I've also lost 10 pounds. I can bench press 50 pounds now, not the 40 when I started, and deadlift 60 pounds for 10 reps.

I have a date for my karate black belt test in May! That's both exciting and terrifying.

Books to re-read

I was that child in school who read the encyclopaedia, cover to cover, Aardvark to Zulu. I got six books a week from Ipswich Library every Saturday while my parents did the grocery shopping, I read my way through the children's library and branched out to adult science fiction before I left for university. This site has over a decade of reading logs and there's been a definite shift towards management and leadership books in the last two years that coincides with a job title change to director. I am always studying.

There are some books that have earned the status of "books I want to re-read regularly." It's a short list.

Colin Urquhart "My Dear Child"
This book is by an English author, I found it when I was first dealing with clinical depression, and it is a reassuring read. When I can't see how God could exist, this book tells me that he does, and he cares.

Chris Baty "No Plot? No Problem!"
I love this book. It's encouraging and funny and everything I love about National Novel Writing Month in book form.

James Martin, SJ "The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything: A Spirituality for Real Life"
I'm not a Catholic, but this book feels like it was written for me. It is comforting and challenging at the same time, but not condescending or guilt-inducing. A friend at work recommended it and I'm thankful she did.

Todd Henry "The Accidental Creative"
I never thought of my job as a traditionally creative one, but I make my living by thinking and solving problems. I spend a lot of time in my head at work, and this book has lots of practical suggestions for using my mind and my time in better, more productive ways.

Marcus Aurelius "Meditations"
Reading this book feels like I am reading the source material for several other books I've read. This translation feels like a collection of sentence fragments in places, but there's a lot of good advice in here.

Stephen M. R. Covey "The Speed of Trust"
Trust is important to me, I want to be trusted and I want my trust to not be broken by others. This book explains a lot about why trust is important, and how to build trust.

Robert Sutton "The No Asshole Rule"
I've loaned my copy out to someone, but this is a fantastic "how not to be an asshole" manual. The comments from readers of this book became Sutton's "Good Boss, Bad Boss," another good read.