Jennifer suggested, and I agreed, that my “thing” for this year’s Thingadailies should be photographs, since I’m not good at them and a couple of weeks of taking them daily should help. Of course, she meant photographs of our foster kittens, like the ones she takes for House of Floof, but I figure I can take pictures of anything I want, since any photo will help me improve. Behold the first one I took of the month:
I call this silly stuffed penguin Seamus the Miracle Penguin. Normally he rides around with me in my car, but since my car is currently in the shop (see my last entry re: trees), he’s sitting with me while I work at home. Behind him is my work laptop, and the wallpaper image is a puffin from the Monterey Bay Aquarium. It’s a total coincidence, actually. The wallpaper image rotates through a selection of about 80 pics from the Aquarium, and this one just happened to show up while I was setting up the picture.
Seamus is a useful co-worker. Among programmers there is a method of debugging called “Rubber Ducking“, wherein you explain your code, line by line, to a rubber duck, or some other inanimate object (not sure why a rubber duck is the ISO standard here). I have no rubber duck, but Seamus has been very helpful.
Why is Seamus the Miracle Penguin? This is a question that my family and friends have pondered for close to two decades. I myself am not entirely sure either.
I miss college. For the few who don’t know, I went to UC Davis, where I studied Philosophy. Now, to get your degree in Philosophy, you need to get — at least at the time that I graduated — 80 units total of Philosophy courses. You needed a minimum of 124 units to graduate from the University. And the University sort of forced you to graduate if you accumulated more than 225 units.
I graduated with 96 units in Philosophy, and 224.5 units altogether. This means that the majority of the classes I took in college were all over the board: religious studies, sociology, psychology, oceanography, botany, chemistry, and so on. Really, I had no idea what I was doing. I would just go through the catalog each quarter and sign up for any course that looked interesting with no rhyme or reason, just curiosity. I had no plan, just overall curiosity. Was that a good thing or a bad thing? I don’t know, but I think that curiosity, in general, is a good quality to have.
But I do miss learning in some sort of structured environment. So I’ve signed up for some online courses. The courses I’m taking now are:
Getting and Cleaning Data, course three of the Data Science Specialization at Coursera. Why am I taking a Data Science specialization at Coursera? I’m not entirely sure. I’m enjoying it, but I’m finding it a bit overwhelming. The last course focused on the R programming language, which is used to analyze data and statistical information. Statistics was a hard course for me in college.
Question Reality! Science, Philosophy and the Search for Meaning. This is a fascinating class. A lot of the material is stuff that I already know, having taken classes in it in college or just through reading widely in a bunch of different areas, but I’m still learning. I’m enjoying this class. I’m a week behind, so this week I’m trying to catch up, but other than that I’m having fun. I will say, though, that the interface at EdX is clunky and not very easy to use.
Finally, I’m brushing up my Spanish skills using Duolingo. I took Spanish for three years during high school with a great teacher, but since I didn’t use it very much, I got rusty. I would try to use my Spanish from time to time, but never with much luck (one Spanish speaker I was trying to talk to asked me, in English, “What are you trying to say?”). But Duolingo is making me feel a bit more confident in my skill.
That’s a lot to deal with, especially considering that I’m working full-time and also writing regularly. I’m keeping track of it all and also what I’m doing with a combination of Remember the Milk and Habitica. The former keeps me organized, the latter keeps me on track. I am by no means a power user of either tool, but I’m getting the hang of them. Slowly but surely.
Slowly. But. Surely.
On another note, I’ve set myself a schedule of posting to this blog at least once a week. I know I’ve said that before, but this time I really mean it. I’ve even put it down on my Remember the Milk task manager.
So y’all may be wondering how I’m doing with my writing goals and my semi-life-reboot. Well, I don’t mind telling you that I’m having some trouble meeting my goals. Just after my reboot post, I slid into a depressive cycle, as people with Bipolar Type 2 are wont to do, and things just kind of… stopped. For a month or so. About three weeks ago, I figured I’d had enough of that, and finally took myself to see my psychiatrist, and she upped the dosage of one of my medications. I’m seeing results of that now, so hopefully I can get back on track.
So let’s take a look at these two sets of goals.
“Death Pact” to write a short story each month. Well, if I were on track, I’d have four stories completed by now. Instead, I have… none. I have, however, made significant progress on “Flash Drive”, a story I wrote last year in four parts. I also finished the first draft of a new short story called “Mechanism”, a fantasy story with some sci-fi elements. Once I get “Flash Drive” finished and mailed out to my mailing list, I’ll start revising “Mechanism”. I also will be revising “Teh K1ng in Y3110w”, a Lovecraftian pastiche that I wrote a few years ago. And “Burying Uncle Albert” needs some love as well.
Publish paperback version of The Winds of Patwin County. No progress on this one. I haven’t even looked into what it would take. I have several friends who’ve published paperback versions of their novels, so I have plenty of resources. I just haven’t felt up to it.
Publish Tales from Patwin County. This is a collection of stories I’ve written that take place in the same county. No progress here.
Finish first draft of Padma. Or, at least, the first draft of part one. This one isn’t going to happen by the deadline I’ve set for myself, but at least I’ve made pretty significant progress in outlining it.
Write and publish some non-fiction. No progress here.
Sell more fiction. I submitted one story, and got a rejection within twelve hours. I plan on submitting more, of course.
I added a lot of “Be’s” to my life a couple of months ago, and some of them I have managed to pull off and some of them I have not. That post basically outlined what might be called my “Personal Mission Statement”, though I sort of loathe that particular phrase.
I decided the other day, though, that if I was to have a “Personal Mission Statement” of any type, I wanted to be able to express it in one Tweet: that is to say, in less than 140 characters. So here it is:
Be kind. Be curious.
And that’s it. The rest is gloss. I mean, I intend to be healthy, creative, joyful, and so on, but these are hard to maintain when I’m in a depressive spiral. Kindness and curiosity are also hard to maintain, but they’re two traits that I can make use of to get out of my own head when I’m depressed, and that’s important.
Anyway. That’s my second Accountability Post. I’ll post more as the year goes on.
Winston Churchill’s “black dog” was the name he gave to the depression he suffered throughout his life. I like the metaphor. It implies something that follows him around, barking at him and nipping at his heels; yet at the same time it’s something he can master and take control of, because, well, it’s a dog.
So, I’ve decided that I need a metaphor for my own depression, something scary — because depression is scary, after all — yet kind of goofy, because I need to be able to mock it every now and then. Right now I’m thinking an ogre: specifically Sir Reynold’s Ogre, from my story “Sir Reynold Fights Another Ogre” (Story of the Week #11). Even though the ogre is powerful and scary to Sir Reynold, he eventually defeats it and moves on with his quest.
Or maybe not, because that story’s kind of weird. (Hard to believe, I know, but I have written a couple of strange little stories.)
So. I’m open to suggestions as I ponder metaphors to use for my own depression. Right now I don’t really need hints on how to deal with it; I just want to come up with a goofy metaphor that will help me characterize my depression and stomp on it when I need to.