A great Saturday

You know those days that are just terrific? That start slowly, one gradually awakening to the smell of roasted coffee, the patter of feet and hushed laughter outside the door? Lazing about until one is good and ready to work, and then getting good work done?

Today was one of those days.

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It felt like a day of accomplishment: house chores, progress on the thesis, discovering new play with le petit (rubbing for coins with broken crayons), and still having time to go to the local university library.

It was also a good day with my man: coffee together, giving each other the gift of free time, having a family dinner outing at Cornerstone, a local sushi/Korean restaurant, and catching up on Downton Abbey, a show that both mon mari and I are actually fond of.

downton abbey

It was a day where I’m not left feeling like things are left undone when I lie down to go to bed.

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On the brain…

Oh how I’ve been struggling to find that balance between work, my school work, house work, and getting in my 2 shows and fiction in between. In general, I’ve been lacking sleep and not really uber-productive or efficient in anything.

It’s a bum feeling, but it’s the truth.

What it means is, to do better at all the things I want to improve on, it will take real streamlining of wants, tasks and priorities. That’s harder to do when there are a lotta things taking up brain space. These days, there are a lot of things that come up again and again, that I’m pondering, above and beyond what I’m grappling with for my school work.

So, with no further delay, here are some of the primary objects of last month’s ponderings:

1. Easily the top one is Michael Scofield and Prison Break.

prison break team

Prison Break

 There’s just something about a highly intelligent (engineer) man motivated by love for his brother and the desire to help the underdog, plus lean good looks, plus wonderful (and wonderfully wicked and dark) supporting characters that makes for a wonderful show. 4 years after it was released but hey, we don’t have to wait for another week or months for the next episode.

2. VSCO Cam

Have you seen this app? It renders really gorgeous photos without being gimmicky. Speed is a small issue now, but the app is in its first iteration now and hopefully the developers will continue to update and improve this lovely camera app. Here is its promo video:

  3. Blues

As in, the music. Thanks to this awesome Martin Scorcese series on the blues, the music for which I found at our local library, I’ve been sort of entranced with the history and lyrics of the blues.

4. Caramel

Whether it’s sauce, latte topping, toffee, cheesecake, creme brulee or Werther’s, we love this stuff at our house. I’m saddened by the disappearance of Starbuck’s Caramel Sauce from store shelves.

caramel

5. Kamloops Farmer’s Market

Yay, it’s that time of year again. And the Kamloops Farmer’s Market is in full swing. Love getting salad stuff there every Saturday. There is this awesome Indian woman who sells spinach, fresh and crisp, in this pretty huge bag for $3. She’s just one of the staples I’m relying on this summer for some of our greens. Plus, Petit is older and making friends left and right, so after a market stroll we usually end up at the local schoolyard/park and socialize with parents+kids.

farmers market produce

For the love of pen and paper

A neat irony has recently sprung up in my life. It is that just as my commitment to blogging more on hopefully one (of 3) internet blogging platforms has been revitalized, so has an obsession in analog tools been stirred up anew. (What I’ve written below is taken word-for-word from another post of mine.)

I don’t know if it’s because I’m in the “going back to school” mindset (it’s only been, what, 11 years…) but lately I’ve been fascinated by old-fashioned pen-and-paper notetaking. I was in Invermere, BC last week and stumbled into a store that had Rhodia notebooks, and Chapters recently restocked the Moleskine line of 18-month calendar agendas with their classic hardbound, gorgeous black covers and elastic – just the feel of these quality notebooks in my hands has revived an old feeling in me.

Although most of my journalling and notetaking over the past 2 years has been electronic (MacJournal, Evernote, and prior to that on a PC, in MS OneNote), a recent search for old university papers uncovered boxes, literally 3 boxes, of my collected journals/writings/scribbles/doodles.

I had forgotten how colourful journalling could be. The freedom of lined/unlined/graph paper, to doodle here or sketch something there, the power of freehand writing and a thousand other things I was able to do by hand that I haven’t really done on my laptop – these things I’ve missed over the past few years.

So I was pleased to stumble upon this post in the Telegraph from last year about a mini-revival of “analog” note-taking that has emerged recently. Angela Webb of the National Handwriting Association is quoted:

We’ve seen a reverse of the trend in the last two to three years, and people are much more keen to handwrite now. Research is coming though from skilled authors who use handwriting to get ideas flowing and then move to the keyboard to develop them.

This jibes with what readers and writers from a couple of my favorite websites, Lifehacker and GearFire Productivity, have mentioned over and over: brainstorm and jot by hand, shape and finalize by type.

Anyway, it’s been a neglected art in my house, and I think it’s something I look forward to bringing back over the next year.

Now: I’m going to go out and hunt out a fresh, pristine, empty notebook that will be my companion for the next few months.

(Yesterday, I think I found a potential candidate: this Japanese import, Maruman Mnemosyne notebook from Jetpens.com.)

Maruman Mnemosyne Special Memo Notepad - A5 (5.8" X 8.3") - 7 mm Rule + Divisions - 24 Lines X 80 Sheets - MARUMAN N195

Obsessions of late

I missed a month or two of tracking latest interests. Here’s a rundown of current obsessions:

1. New perfume scents from Lush. I’m not into the patchouli/ylang ylang hippie vibe that I think represents a part of the image of Lush, but their recent perfume batch really draws me in. I especially like orange blossom.

lush perfume

2. Android, Android, Android. Need I say more? I’ve subscribed to podcasts and news feeds, just to get up to speed about the nifty platform and OS. Though a part of me feels that we certain DON’T need more choice when it comes to mobile devices, another part laments that it takes forever for new phones to get to Canada.

samsung android

3. Camera and photo-editing apps for phones. For this, I think Hipstamatic for iPhone RULES, but I’m now using Vignette for Android and it’s very very good. It’s made a lot of my photos look just awesome.

hipstamatic, camera app, photo

4. To-do-list apps and software. I love the idea of GTD, and was really keeping up with earlier this year, but if you drop the ball for a bit, I find the inbox gets too full, the next action items get delayed, projects and contexts get mixed up….. I find David Allen inspirational but the method isn’t for me. When I got the Android, I found Astrid, which is a very simple to-do app that doesn’t have so many steps, but that i) has customizable tags (work, class, clean) and ii) lots of notification options. The notifications is what helps me get on the things I need to do. Also, bonus, Astrid syncs with Google Tasks. Love it.

In the meanwhile, I’ve been reading the buzz on another gorgeous iOS app, Wunderlist, see below. Sigh. I don’t know if it would fit into my workflow, but the UI is beautiful. This and Egretlist are 2 I would like to check out but alas, no iPhone, no iPad (and I’m consciously glad of that fact for the time being) so I can marvel from afar.

wunderlist

5. Christmas. Tis the season but I was so caught up with a course and applications and work that I couldn’t get in the mood. After a few Starbucks Christmas drinks, watching “The Little Drummer Boy” with le Petit, and wrapping small packages for our cousins and family out East, the spirit has arrived. We await…..

Online community through TV fandom

So, I’ve never really been a part of a TV show fanclub or following and haven’t ever tracked a show”s fan blog or site. First, I haven’t had a TV for years so we’re never into shows when they are current, which is when such sites are usually at their most active. Oh, I’ve totally lurked around on the Battlestar Galactica Wiki and Dexter’s ShowTime page, but I haven’t ever really hung around  on a site exclusively devoted to ONE TV show. Until very recently.

I just found out about a show called True Blood, about 4 weeks ago.  I finished watching the last available episode of Southland (great, gritty, LA cop show) and was lamenting the lack of a next episode, and had nothing in my shows queue, and saw the True Blood link on the streaming site where we find our shows. I clicked it……and 4 weeks of limited productivity and vampire distractedness has since ensued, and it’s not even over yet.

It was my screaming desire to know “what happens next” by the time I got to the current season, as well as to know the backstories about the verrrrry interesting characters on this HBO series that took me to a very well-done site, Loving True Blood in Dallas.  The site is linked to a weekly podcast on  Talk Blood Radio that introduced me to another site, True-Blood.net.

These 2 sites are so fabulously conceived: both are so open to community interaction and have components that can be accessed via twitter, facebook, email, via the blog, via iTunes – I was taken aback at how really really comprehensive the sites were.  There are forums, spoiler sections, character and cast bios, interviews, video clips, galleries and even contests to win sundry and books. I mean, these aren’t network or corporate sites: they are sites for fans, by fans, devoted to ONE show.

They can’t be off the side of one’s desk, can they? It would take a long long time to manage the information and design and posts, I think, of such a site. It would practically be a full time job, I would imagine.

Also, there are so so many people that are engaged with the sites and podcasts, livestreams, etc. I see that people meet to discuss, dissect, swoon over, speculate, hash and rehash each episode, storylines, characters, the music, the costumes, the sets…….. it’s boundless, the topics fans can get into about a fictional TV (and book) series, and there is such fervency in the discussions.

Anyway, I was pretty blown away and it’s made me think a lot about the way in which we can meet and form our tribe(s) in this day and age. I think this is resonating with me this much because it’s actually something I’m feeling pretty strongly about lately and other than one person at work, I don’t have anyone I can confabulate with about the episodes as they are aired.

So, at least until the furor around and I’m sure after, the long awaited Sept. 12 finale winds down, I will continue to be avidly devoted to these 2 sites.

Vive la online community!

Getting an iPad, or not

I really enjoy reading Leo Babauta’s pieces about minimalism and productivity. He wrote a short post a while back that REALLY struck me, about why he WON’T be getting an iPad:

But I didn’t need an iPad last month or last year, and I will venture to guess (I could be wrong) that I’ll be just as happy, fit and productive without the iPad.

……..I’ve resisted buying an iPhone for several years because I don’t need one (despite their ultimate coolness), and the iPad is another way cool gadget I don’t need.

Wow. If it were only that simple.

At the end of 2009, I really really struggled with not upgrading my Telus cell phone to a new Android smartphone, which in the end, I didn’t, considering the cost and more importantly, that  I came to agree that my current professional, home and social lives wouldn’t be qualitatively improved because I had a cool new HTC gadget. But that decision took me 6 weeks of consideration and changing my mind and back and forth – it was that hard for me to “let go” of wanting the next cool thing. This is also a bug that I and millions of others have when it comes to Apple products. In fact I have an inner debate about once a week about purchasing an iPad.

It’s true that we don’t NEED a lot of the tech gadgets that we have purchased over the past 2 years, and the ones we have in our house serve our existing needs. As we are trying to make more conscious choices about living sustainably and having a smaller footprint, we really need to seriously consider the principle that we can be “just as happy, fit and productive without” ___________ , whatever the item may be.

(However, this doesn’t mean that we won’t, in fact, be acquiring any more Apple or other gadgets – but it means that I intend to try and be more sensible about it, try and stagger each product to the natural end of its lifecycle before I pick up another one.)

Current obsessions

This month, here are some things that caught my interest, took up my time, whirled around in my mind and some, my senses:

  • lavender – fresh picked from our horticulture garden and filling our office corridor
  • learning to tweak WordPress
  • nectarines and peaches – ahh, lush and quenching
  • social media research
  • communications theory
  • Ted talks
  • itching to go to a professional development conference
  • Thomas Perry novels
  • MOApps – the company, the products, its founder

Picture perfect

Been a long while since I’ve added anything.

There have been lots and lots of things going on, as in, a trip to NY, as in, a vacation, as in, my dad went to Korea and the the Holy Land. But seriously, I’ve been VERY lazy and BBBBAAAAAAAAD not to journal or blog.

However, I have been playing with my new app of choice: Picasa.

I LOVE it. I don’t know why I prefer it over iPhoto, which of course as usual, has the most gorgeous UI. But I like the flexibility to organize and view things in folders and move them around, as well as to group items and see them by event. Picasa 3.0 is also so integrated with Mac, at least in terms of keyboard shortcuts, contacts, plug-ins. that I am happy to use it as my new digital organizer of photos.

As well, I like it’s cool extras: making collages, uploading to other web services, framing and doing minor editing right in house. I still like other services like those offered by BigHugeLabs or by this neat little app called Poladroid (really, try it, you’ll love it) for fun and interesting stuff for free, but for basic stuff, Picasa is just great.

Something to take away for the day:

Obsessions

Current obsessions:

1) Patricia Briggs’ Mercedes Thompson books, 1- 5

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2) bags with lots of pockets and organizers

3) hair p​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​roduc​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​ts​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​ ​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​ever since I got my hair cut short

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4) downloading eBooks onto our new netbook

5) customizing and tweaking Chrome

I don’t know why, but I am absolutely loving Patricia Briggs’ Mercedes Thompson series on Audiobook. I’ve read the first 4 of them, listened to #4 and now #5, but now want to hear all of them again – with characters so wonderfully crafted, sexy but scary male characters, convoluted plot turns, and the depiction of a world “peopled” with werewolves, walkers, fae, vampires and other supernatural beings in a way that isn’t comic, dramatically overblown, purple-prosed overly erotic or dripping with adolescent angst. The books are wonderful, the stories riveting, and I really admire Mercedes Thompson. Other than Thomas Perry’s Jane Whitefield books, there has never been a series that keeps me so hungry for the next book after I read the last page of the most recent one.