Friday, February 28, 2014

Friday mega-review #43

A lot of busy weekends means a lot of Fridays when I don't sit down with the review. So:

Three weeks ago, I went with Chris and some of his work friends to get dinner at Dallas BBQ and then see The LEGO Movie.  We got drinks after.
Saturday, we decided to go through Chris's Top Chef cookbook. We ran around the neighborhood gathering gourmet ingredients, then came home, made some amazing panini, and watched some Game of Thrones.
Sunday I went to my writing workshop, then we made a phenomenal, but very time-consuming, pasta dinner.

Two weeks ago was Valentine's day, so I spent most of the day making a fancy dinner for Chris, and the rest of that time getting ready for Saturday.
Saturday was the US-Russia Olympic hockey game, and we had friends over to watch and eat dinner.
Sunday we went out to Long Island for a friend's birthday lunch (warning: music will ply if you open this), and then ran a bunch of errands.
Monday, I volunteered.
Thursday, we went out with friends to try a new restaurant.

One week ago, Chris and I, along with his parents, headed down to Virginia.
His cousin's baby shower was Saturday.
Sunday, we drove home.  It was a pleasant enough weekend, but long.
Tuesday, Chris's dad took me to a financial seminar. It was more of a refresher course for me, since I used to work in mutual funds, but it was interesting. That night was book club and barbecue.

And that brings us to today, which hopefully you will hear about next week, but given how hectic my Fridays have been, I make no promises.

I've also been picking at The Atlantic Migration 1607-1860, The Complete Father Brown Stories, and Bulfinch's Mythology, and completed The Scroll of Years and 36 Hours USA & Canada: Northeast. I gave up on the bib I started, worked a nice chunk of my temperature scarf, and tried to fix some issues with Chris's scarf.

What have you been up to?

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Thursday, February 27, 2014

The Happiness Project: Four Personality Types: Which One Are You?

It's no Meyers-Briggs, but it's interesting.
Cover of "The Happiness Project: Or, Why ...
Cover via Amazon

In January of 2013, Gretchen Rubin of The Happiness Project wrote this assay on four types of personalities:
Upholder—accepts rules, whether from outside or inside. An upholder meets deadlines, follows doctor’s order, keeps a New Year’s resolution. I am an Upholder, 100%.
Questioner—questions rules and accepts them only if they make sense. They may choose to follow rules, or not, according to their judgment.
Rebel—flouts rules, from outside or inside. They resist control. Give a rebel a rule, and the rebel will want to do the very opposite thing.
Obliger—accepts outside rules, but doesn’t like to adopt self-imposed rules.
I think I'm an Obliger -- even my internal rules are set up so I trick myself into thinking they're external. I printed out a chart for my New Year's resolution. I pretend people are actually reading this blog.  I always joke that if I ever go into business for myself, I'll need to hire someone to act like my boss.

Which are you?

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Wednesday, February 26, 2014

What fills your thoughts?

Here's another one of those questions to help us think about our passions:
What fills your thoughts in the quiet moments when you’re riding the train or lying in bed? What do you think about incessantly, what captures your imagination? Politics? Spirituality? Relationships?
Example of a 'typical' Mary Sue, with unusual ...
Example of a 'typical' Mary Sue, with unusual hair and eyes, a birthmark, detailed clothing, and a suggested mix of two species (human and fairy). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I guess we're back to the stories I'm either picking at or plan to write some day.  If I want to get out of my own head, I get into someone else's.  Yeah, you risk the whole Mary Sue thing, but that's what rewrites are for.

Let's play with some scenarios in my Being Human-meets-Clerks setup, since we're asked about politics, spirituality, and relationships. How about a vampire who still half-resents that he couldn't vote in a big election because he'd just died (and didn't live in Chicago, before you make the obvious joke)? How about a medium who was raised Catholic: can you reconcile ghosts with Purgatory? What counts as safer sex when you're a werewolf?

Go ahead and steal those ideas; I bet you'll come up with completely different answers than mine.

Now you go ahead and answer the question: what fills your thoughts?

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Tuesday, February 25, 2014

What makes you happy? #36

I'm picky when it comes to hugs. When I'm expected to hug people I've just met, or whom I don't know all that well, or whom I don't much like (and who doesn't much like me) but we're playing the game, there's a definite sense of "Who are you and why do you want to touch me?"

Wedding hugs
Wedding hugs (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
But in the case of a very few people, under a fairly narrow range of circumstances, hugs are great thing. There's a sense of safety and comfort and caring.

And maybe it's an introvert thing, or maybe it's just a lizard brain thing, but when it comes to people you barely know, are you safe? Do they care? How much comfort can they really give?

But the rare "good" hug? It's wonderful.
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Monday, February 24, 2014

I Don't Know What I Want... Chapter 7, Part 2

I Don't Know What I Want, But I Know It's Not This

By Julie Jansen

Chapter 7: Bruised and Gun-shy

Step 2: Explore Roadblocks and Opportunities

OK, you've made it out of a bad situation! But are you prepared should you find yourself in another one? 

Well, here are a few things you can do when a prospective job appears:
  1. Assess your prospective boss. The boss is on his or her best behavior during the interview, just like you are. So if anything seems wrong at that point, there's a good chance it'll be very wrong when the masks come off. The boss isn't just interviewing you; remember, you're interviewing the boss, too. It may feel weird, but a boss who is going to be good to work with will be all right with answering your questions. You can even check the boss's references! You've had previous employers he or she is likely to contact; why can't you contact previous employees?
  2. Assess the company's culture. It really helps to fit in with the company's culture. Consider what values or beliefs would be involved in your ideal company culture; dig in and see how close to your ideal the prospective company is.
  3. Assess the job itself. These are the questions you'd probably ask anyway: What is your measure of success? What do you expect from me? What happened to the previous person in this position? What will my top priorities be? And don't stop assessing once you're in the job. Your position may change as the company's goals shift. And if it changes drastically, you may no longer be suited for it, and either be laid off or tempted to quit. If you see red flags that this might happen, it's time to schedule your doctor's appointments, balance your budget, and chat with your network.

And now "Assess" no longer looks like a real word. Assess assess assess.

Friday, February 21, 2014

The Pocket Muse

The Pocket Muse: Ideas and Inspirations for Writing

Cover of "The Pocket Muse"
Cover of The Pocket Muse

By Monica Wood

Sometimes, I have a safety cushion of posts for this blog, so if something comes up, I'm covered.

Sometimes, things come up and I eat the safety cushion.

My copy of The Pocket Muse has been staring at me from its place on the shelf for a while, so I decided to use it to solve this problem.

From time to time, I'm going to write based on the prompts, and plug them in to the blog. I'll admit up front: if you see a Pocket Muse post, that means I didn't have a topical post ready for the day. But at least there's content, and I hope it's content you enjoy. Heck, maybe you'll like it better; if you do, let me know.

Now, if you're familiar with the book, you might notice that I skip occasional prompts. Some of these are more for breaking through writer's block, and thus won't really work for the blog format.  But I'll do as many as I can.

No writing today. Just a heads-up as to what might be coming up.
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Thursday, February 20, 2014

The Simple Dollar: Seven Things You Can Do Right Now (Without Any Capital) To Get Started On Chasing Your Dreams

Well, this is a largely helpful article, assuming you know what your passion is. If not, it's a little trickier, but Trent at the Simple Dollar accounts for passions you might not think count.

English: Podcast or podcasting icon Français :...
English: Podcast or podcasting icon
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Back in November of 2007, Trent gave us these seven steps, and I'm going to walk through them myself.

1. Set aside a block of time each day to work on it. This is something I need to do. I try to set aside time each day to work on this blog; I try to either do laundry or go to the gym [link] every weekday. I make time to eat. But carving aside time for my passion? Won't that let important things fall by the wayside in favor of "fun" things?

Trent suggests getting up early to do these things.  That won't be happening -- unless you decide sleep is my passion (it is not).

2. Figure out what you’re most passionate about. What would you happily hop out of bed at 4 AM to do? Well... pee and go back to sleep doesn't count. But for the sake of argument, let's say audio drama podcasts.

3. List every way that involving yourself in this passionate thing could lead to income. This is straight-up, no-wrong-answers brainstorming. So, let's see:
  1. I could write and produce my own podcast, hoping it monetizes
  2. I could design merch for podcasts I like, and sell it to them
  3. I could audition for a role on one
  4. I could see what kind of clerical work they need done
  5. I could start a blog about my favorites and try to monetize it
  6. I could start a podcast about podcasts and try to monetize it
  7. I could organize a convention around audio drama podcasts
I bet there are other ideas, but these are just the ones that come to mind over the course of a few minutes.

4. Figure out what extra skills or material would be needed for each of these avenues. Going back to the above list:
  1. I would need actors, equipment, and contracts. I know people with equipment, and Chris might be able to help me with contracts. I doubt it would make any money for a long time. I need to write more scripts.
  2. I would need to improve my drawing and design skills a lot. I might also need either a drawing tablet or some expensive art supplies.
  3. I would need a connection (most of the ones I follow are made up of very tight-knit groups) and access (many are recorded far away).
  4. See #3
  5. This would mostly just require a time commitment and a round with Hmm.
  6. I would need some of the resources of #1, but otherwise it's similar to #5.
  7. I would need a lot of connections, probably a decent nest egg of money, and an extrovert's personality. And that's just to get started. I'm thinking no (but if anyone else wants to steal this idea, I'm in!)
5. By process of elimination, whittle things down to one choice – or a small handful of choices that easily complement each other. #5 is a clear winner.

6. Do some “dry runs” with the absolute minimum of financial expense and share them with friends who are willing to criticize. Yeah, I could do that. Just a matter of keeping on top of them and then writing about them. And then monetizing. Hmm.

7. Get started, promote what you do, and learn more. Well, what do you think? Should Is tart this blog? Would you read it?

Run  through the process yourself.  Maybe you'll find some new way to monetize your passion.
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Wednesday, February 19, 2014

The strength of being an introvert

When I want to do something, I do it.  I don't need a posse.
Introvert: Turtle or Porcupine?
Introvert: Turtle or Porcupine? (Photo credit: sbpoet)

I wrote that note to myself ages ago, when I decided this was a topic I could write about.

I wanted to join Girl Scouts when I was little. I didn't know anyone in the troop when I started. I didn't need my mom to sign on as a leader.

At one point, I was the only person on my high school's Forensics team (that's speech and debate, not CSI, if you were wondering). Sometimes that meant I ate lunch with another team. Sometimes it meant I ate lunch with a book. Either was cool. I like books.

Even when I was lonely, it wasn't "I can't do this, I'm alone." That never occurred to me.

It serves me well now.  Chris goes out for drinks with friends? Cool, I take my Kindle to a restaurant he doesn't much like (or heck, one he does). I don't want to see that movie? I'll go see this other one and meet you after. Boys' weekend for him means a bus to DC for me. My membership to the Met only included me. I have, on various occasions, bought myself wine, flowers, or chocolates.

Extroverts don't seem to comprehend how I can do that, how I can just go to a movie, or a restaurant, or a vacation by myself.  It's embarrassing, it's lonely, it's not any fun.

And if you're an extrovert, it very well may be lonely and no fun. Beats me. I find it peaceful and plenty fun, but that's a classic Your Mileage May Vary thing.

It's not embarrassing, though. At the movies, they assume you're meeting your group inside -- assuming they care. On vacation, they assume you're there for a conference -- assuming they care. And restaurants? Well, they may care a bit more, because tables for one do look a little awkward. Doesn't really bother me, but I still have a tactic I use frequently to avoid it:

Sit at the bar.

It may not work when it comes to fine dining (or it might work fine, but with a different menu), but half the places I regularly eat at in my neighborhood are either gastropubs or bars with especially good pub food. Pull up a stool, order a beer, try the nachos, or buffalo mac and cheese, or chorizo puffs, or tuna tartar, chat up the bartender if s/he's not swamped. If the bar is empty, they're glad you're there at all. If it's full, they can't tell who's with whom. Maybe you'll strike up a friendship with a neighbor. Maybe someone of your preferred gender will slip you his/her digits. Maybe you'll just enjoy a good book and a good beer.

But you'll come home knowing you had a good time even when "everyone else" was too busy to hang out.

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Tuesday, February 18, 2014

What makes you happy? #35

Running errands can kind of suck.

But being done running errands can be really satisfying.

Especially when you manage to be efficient, getting the most done in the fewest stops.

And then you get a good parking spot once you arrive home, so you don't even have to carry your bags that far.

You come inside, you put your things away, you collapse on the couch, and you're done.

It's a good feeling.
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Monday, February 17, 2014

I Don't Know What I Want... Chapter 7

I Don't Know What I Want, But I Know It's Not This

By Julie Jansen

Chapter 7: Bruised and Gun-shy

All right. We're still working our way through the different work situations, and as the title right there says, today we start with "Bruised and Gun-shy". This particular chapter seems to be geared toward folks who have dealt, or are dealing, with a toxic work situation.

Jansen does suggest that sometimes, getting professional help may be a good idea when it comes to the beaten-down feelings of this work situation.

But now, we have our first activity of the chapter

Step 1: Complete the "Bruised and Gun-shy Self-Assessments"

Note: I have no idea why "Assessments" is capitalized but "shy" is not.  This is how it was written in my text, and the copy editor in me wants to write a giant [SIC] all over it.


Since this work situation doesn't really apply to me, I'm just going to give you the questions and challenges of this assessment, and if it applies to you, share with us!
  • Were my values truly being met in that particular work situation?
  • Which ones were?
  • Which values were not?
  • Look back at the job or work situation that caused you to feel Bruise and Gun-shy and assess what you have learned about your attitudes.
  • If you're having self-esteem issues, find a project at work, or a consulting gig outside work, where you can use your strengths.
  • Reflect on what you've learned about yourself, especially regarding feedback about specific behavior or skills. Find ways to improve.
  • Did you deal with difficult people? How did you handle it? How might you have handled it better?
  • Are you energetic and motivated? If not, brainstorm a few ways to fix that -- they don't have to have anything to do with work.
  • Set some goals that will help you be more optimistic.
  • Brainstorm some ways you can regain your professional commitment, should it be waning.
  • Identify a few work-related positive changes you can make right away.
  • What about the actual work interested you?
  • What didn't? Why?
Does your self feel fully assessed? 

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Thursday, February 13, 2014

48 Days: Can I make money as an introverted writer?

Oh, that's a good question.  And in January of 2013, Dan Miller of 48 Days took a swing at it.

Writing (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Miller responds to reader/listener question about whether someone who loves writing but is completely worn out by people can actually make money from the writing.

Miller's answer is that he loves writing, but his writing is designed to push people towards the things that actually make him money: speaking events, coaching sessions, and product sales. Uh-oh.

Fortunately, he reassures the questioner, he only does these people-facing events a handful of times a month. The rest of the time he is free to write in solitude.

That's great for Miller, who's super-established, but when I read the blogs of other writers, I don't see four days a month, scattered.  I see six-week whirlwind tours that leave the writer exhausted and, frequently, ill.  Sure, then they might get the rest of the year free, but how much of that time is spent recovering? Even extroverts need to time to clear out the Con Crud.

What do you think? Where's the sweet spot?

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