Now, 24th May 2020

A Now page is a dated update about what I’m currently focused on.

Thinking about
I am one of the lucky ones. My employer mandated everyone who can work remotely should do so, as of March 16th. I’ve done ten weeks working from the table in my craft room and business has largely carried on as usual for my division. We have excellent healthcare and our employer pays the lion’s share of the costs. We don’t know when we will go back to our offices, but we have a corporate update every other week telling us we won’t go back until we can do so safely, and that it will probably be months from now.

Inputs
Biggest influences recently are Janelle Shane’s book “You Look Like a Thing and I Love You: How Artificial Intelligence Works and Why It’s Making the World a Weirder Place,” and Jason Fried & David Heinemeier Hansson’s book “Remote: Office Not Required.”

The first book made me look into data science and machine learning as a possible study avenue, so I’m watching PluralSight classes on data science. The second book I read because I wanted to check I was doing remote work right. Turned out there was a lot I could improve on.

Craft and Creating
My 1914 Singer sewing machine was made in Clydesdale, Scotland, between January and June of 1914. I oiled it thoroughly and used it to make face masks and drawstring bags. After hearing we will be home for months, I got a Babylock Presto 2 electric machine, and I’m amazed to see the innovations in a hundred years of sewing machine technology. The new machine will thread the needle itself! There’s a lever for that now.

I’m carving a cooking spoon for a friend in New York from maple wood. It is a right-handed spoon with a shallow bowl and a right-angle corner on one side to reach into the edges of pans and jars. Sawing it out took a while because I couldn’t go to Perennial and use their band saw.

Finished three dishcloths on my loom from kitchen cotton using a pattern with a pick-up stick, which is a new technique for me. After that I warped to make a pair of kitchen towels. Found a new way of messing up the warp by leaving it loose and floppy, fixed it and the loom is back in business again.

Started knitting a 1950’s inspired bolero from Mongolian wool I got from a Kickstarter last year by ULA + LIA. The wool winds well with no knots or tangles, which is a treat.

Husband has been watching Asian bread videos with subtitles, we have made carrot buns, caramelised apple buns, and tomato cheese buns so far, all were delicious. There’s still regular sourdough bread baking going on.

Summing up 2019

Did a lot of reading in 2019, 61 books in total, 48 were new to me, 13 re-reads, 5 on Audible, and 11 books left unfinished. 23 were nonfiction, 39 were fiction. I’ve noticed an uptick in the number of books I read per year, going to keep tracking that to see if it correlates to my level of burnout and stress. 2017-19 were big reading years, and stressful burnout years.

I bought my first sheep fleece in 2019, at the Kentucky Sheep and Fiber festival in May. Round Barn in IL processed it into 8oz of roving and 4730yds of yarn that looks like fingering weight. For the non-knitters, that’s about enough to make a sweater for a minivan. Planning a loose cardigan and a weaving project from that. The fleece was from a sheep called Blue 620, a cross of the Bluefaced Leicester, California Variegated Mutant, and Texel breeds, which I had never encountered.

Took a class at Perennial on 14th December, carving wooden spoons. I made my first spoon there and caught the bug, I have now made five and I’m still a long way from being good at it. I like the smell of the wood, the smoothness of the knife cuts, and the sharp, sharp tools. My Kevlar safety glove has saved me many times.

Lots of work travel in 2019, to Springfield MO four times, and Denver CO four times. I spoke at three conferences, Connectaha in March, KCDC in July, and CodepaLOUsa in August. I’m accepted to speak at Connectaha again, and I’ve submitted to KCDC.

I am wondering about the future of this blog. I’ve had one since January 2002. We’ll see what 2020 brings.

Notebooks

I work in a software company, but I couldn’t do my work without paper notebooks. I’m running several at once:

Five Year Diary

A gift from Paul six years ago and again last Christmas, this book from Levenger gives me five lines a day, for five years. It’s eerie to read back several years and remember what I was writing about, I’m about to finish year #1 of volume #2. I love the short snapshot format. I write this first thing in the morning for the preceding day, while I’m sitting in front of my light-box.

Gratitude Journal

I started this in August 2013, but made it a daily practice on September 1st, 2015. Only good things go in here, it is my second morning journal. I read some of Janice Kaplan’s book The Gratitude Diaries, and I liked her ideas. This feels like a good exercise to remind myself of good things when I can’t currently see good in my world. This is a Rhodia Webnotebook in a (now discontinued) Saddleback Leather cover.

Sketchbook

After the five year diary and the gratitude journal, I do some sketching in a Strathmore wire-bound sketchbook until I fill up a page. 28 days straight as of December 20th. There’s some progression in my doodles and I’m finding I want to draw things from sight, not by memory, so I’m staging a few objects there, including a small model of a person, a wooden bead, and a piece of driftwood from my parents.

Diary

This is the all-purpose book I carry around with me, I leave 3 pages blank in the front for an index and hand-number the odd pages. When it’s full, I put a full index into Indxd and make a written index of highlights in those first three pages. It holds song lyrics, quotes, diary entries, musings, answers to questions, notes from talks I attend, notes on books I’m reading, sermon notes, this is my catch-all. It’s another Rhodia Webnotebook in a Gfeller cover periodically treated with One Star Leather balm, which has saved it from a leaky water bottle.

Work notebook

My daily companion at work, this travels with me in a waxed canvas clutch. Meeting notes, status updates, doodles during meetings, lists, all the work-related note-taking lives here. I use a Clairfontaine 1951 notebook in a custom leather cover from Graham Keegan. I’m on the third one of these and I managed to put this one into the holder upside down. I’ll need a new notebook soon because it’s well over half full.

Task list and Mood Log

I use a Word notebook for task lists with personal tasks in the front and work tasks in the back. Twice a day, at lunchtime and around 5pm, I put a mood rating in a second Word notebook, from 1 (hideously awful) to 10 (best day ever). I average over the week and keep an eye on the week-to-week trend. Walking into your annual check-up with metrics gets a doctor’s attention. These two travel with me in a Nock Hightower case.

End of day notebook

This is new, an experiment from Shawn Blanc’s Elements of Focus course, which is a free video course with small assignments. One assignment is to leave myself a note with what thing I should do first tomorrow, another assignment is to list what I accomplished today, and two things I’m grateful for. It’s going to be interesting to compare the gratefulnesses with the gratitude journal over time. This is a 3×5 Calepino notebook.

Handbag notebook

This is another Calepino notebook in a One Star Leather cover that lives in my handbag. It’s for out and about notes, things I think of while driving, songs I want to buy when I get home. I don’t write in it while I’m driving, but I have pulled off the road into a store car park to jot something down.

Nine notebooks, and all of them have their own purpose, I didn’t realise it was that many. I have a preference for the Rhodia and Clairfontaine papers because they can handle a fountain pen. I’ve already filled a Mood Log, a Task List, a Handbag Notebook, two volumes of Diary, and two Work notebooks this year.

Learning a sketching habit, day 14

I want to be someone that sketches on a regular basis. I have drawn something in my sketchbook every day for the last two weeks. Nothing is a masterpiece, but I’ve been experimenting with letter forms, faces that show emotions, lots of spirals, some cartoon roses and tulips, suns, squirrels, and it’s been good.

For my experiment in forming a habit, I’m doing this:

  • I scheduled a time each day to sketch. First thing in the morning, after I write my 5 year diary and my gratitude diary (make it a routine).
  • No fancy Art required, spirals and circles are OK (make it so easy you can’t NOT do it).
  • Mark an X on a visible calendar on the days I sketched (visible feedback on new habit).
  • Planning to keep this up through January (habits take 66 days to form).
  • Planning an art supplies shopping trip between Christmas and New Year, maybe getting some colours to play with (anticipation of future reward)

The stuff in brackets is advice I’ve read on James Clear’s website and eBook on Habits.

I’m reading through Mike Rohdes The Sketchnote Handbook when I need inspiration. Next sources will be Danny Gregory’s Art Before Breakfast, and Betty Edward’s Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain.

Now – October 26th 2015

I used to do snapshot posts a while ago of what was on my mind and what I was working on. I read Shawn Blanc’s Now page, which refers to Derek Sivers Now page, so I’ll put mine up periodically. Link in the sidebar or these posts. I’ve added a category of Now so I can find them again.

Reading: (updates and archives here)
Travis Bradberry, Jean Greaves “Emotional Intelligence 2.0” (working through this in work with two people I’m mentoring)
Kate Fox “Watching the English, second edition” (a slow read)
Marcus Aurelis “Meditations” (feels like this is the source book for a lot of others I’ve read)

The To Read queue is getting unweildy, I might use Blinkist to knock some of these out if they’re available.

Knitting:
Second of two hats as a wedding present for a friend
Orange Feather and Fan scarf
Really need to finish the Jackeroo cardigan, it has POCKETS. So many pieces of women’s clothing are lacking a functional pocket.

Thinking about:
My 2015 NaNoWriMo novel plot, with AI and genetic algorithms, my 11th NaNoWriMo novel
A Core Curriculum I’m building (inspired from this Shawn Blanc post) using a Levenger Circa notebook
How to start and maintain a daily sketching habit
How to learn enough JavaScript to create a simple, deliberately broken website
How to run a team of 30 software QA people in 3 offices across 2 states without micro-managing them
Stoicism
Creativity

Workouts:
Strength and endurance training at the gym, definite improvements since June in lunges, wall-sits, planks and kettlebell swings (20lb weight)
Training for black belt in Chinese Kenpo at Tracy’s Karate, several black belt techniques still left to learn.

Recycled Firefighter Inspector review, v1 and v2

Recycled Firefighter makes wallets and notebook covers from fire hose that’s been taken out of service. It’s run by Jake, a firefighter in Kentucky, and he sews a lot of fire hose. Some products come with a back story, a note explaining which fire hose was used and why it was taken out of service. These hoses have served anywhere up to 20 years before failing a safety test and getting tossed out.

The Inspector is Jake’s notebook cover for Field Notes size notebooks. I’m using mine for a Word Notebooks mood log and my task list. This is the version 1 Inspector:

Recycled Firefighter Inspector notebook cover, v1.

Recycled Firefighter Inspector notebook cover v1.

It’s edged with Mil-Spec (military specification) black nylon webbing. It has a slightly stretchy pen holder on the front cover made from the same material that’s used inside for the two flap covers. Mine is made from yellow fire hose that’s seen serious use, it’s got scuff marks on it and some dirt for character. There’s a scuff on the spine, but I’m not expecting that to develop into a hole because this fire hose is thick and tough.

I’m not a fan of pen holders on notebooks, so I’m not using that part, but it easily accommodates my favourite pen, a titanium Mover from Will Hodges at Tactile Turn. The yellow is easy to find in my backpack, and I’ve used an eminently replaceable Field Notes Band of Rubber to hold it closed, but it’s not necessary. I like that this cover has no parts that can wear out, or get loose and saggy. My notebook is safe inside.

This is the v2 Inspector, and the orange just pops! I think this is a much younger piece of fire hose.

Recycled Firefighter Inspector notebook cover, v2.

Recycled Firefighter Inspector notebook cover, v2.

This version has a leather pen holder, I can get my Mover pen in but right now it’s a tight fit. The biggest difference between the two is that the v1 had two flap holders on the inside, and the v2 has just one, made of leather, holding the back cover of a Calepino notebook (far better paper for fountain pens than Field Notes, mine came from CW Pencil Enterprise). The v2 also adds an elastic strap to hold the cover closed, that is sewn into the back of the cover and would work like a Moleskine or Rhodia strap. The Recycled Firefighter tag is on the outside of the v2, and on the inside of the v1. The v2 is smaller and thinner, and feels about the same weight.

This is the two of them, side by side:

Recycled Firefighter Inspector notebook cover, v1 and v2.

I plan on using both, but I think my favourite is the v1. A hybrid v3 where you add a second notebook flap to the v2 (and ditch the elastic strap? Please?) would be about perfect, but for my use, the v1 feels like it was built to withstand a tank attack, where the v2 has a moveable part (the strap) with a shelf life. Also, I could fit two notebooks in the v1 if I wanted to, and the v2 can only carry the one.

The finish on both is excellent. The sewn lines are straight, there are no loose threads, the ends of the webbing are melted so they can’t fray. The leather smells great, it’s not too thick and it’s soft. Go support a firefighter, get something made by hand not by machines, and help salvage some fire hose.

Craftsy drawing class

I picked up a Craftsy class, 10 Essential Techniques for Better Drawing by Patricia Watwood, and this is what I produced for lesson three, where she’s talking about composition lines, block in lines, and contour lines.

Craftsy drawing class, lesson 3.

Above is my drawing with just the block-in lines to show where the angles and edges are. Below is the finished drawing.

Craftsy drawing class, lesson 3.

I have another 7 lessons to go, I’m liking the format and this is one of my better drawings yet.