Some days are diamonds, some days are dogs

The title is a slightly mangled quote from a John Denver song released in 1981. The actual lyric is:

Some days are diamonds, some days are stones
Sometimes the hard times won't leave me alone

I have no explanation for my brain’s interpretation of the lyrics, apart from possible confusion with David Bowie’s Diamond Dogs. This would be weird, but in keeping with the way my mind sometimes works.

The reason I bring this up is I have been in a bit of a funk all day, literally from when I woke up in the morning, fresh from a couple of unpleasant dreams. They weren’t nightmares (these are extremely rare for me as an adult), nor bad dreams per se, just…unpleasant. One I recall was being with co-workers in some sort of room and a woman from outside our work said something to me that the others could hear that was effectively, “I’m going to deal with you later, you troublemaker.”

I’m not a troublemaker, I swear! The dream never continued on to where the woman dispensed justice/clever put-downs and/or hit me in the face with a cream pie. Or it did and I’ve subsequently blocked it.

But it started me off feeling kind of lousy and I could not shake the feeling for the rest of the day. I can’t shake it now and it’s 9:46 p.m. as I type this. There are other things in the background that are weighing on me (which I’m not going to discuss here, because this is a blog, not a diary, so no dirty* secrets for you!) and they are no doubt contributing to the current funk. Maybe a good night’s sleep will help. Maybe I will draw a cat. Or dream about drawing a cat.

It’s not all bad, though. I feel I am making continued, if slow, progress on a number of fronts, so I say: Excelsior!

* secrets, as such, are not actually dirty

Snow business

I used to get irritated over snow. I even have a tag for this blog called damn snow. But now I just don’t care much about it and I have climate change to thank for it.

Let me explain.

The area around southwestern BC is temperate rain forest. This means it rarely gets too hot or too cold. But it does rain a lot. Like, for half the year a lot.

Except it doesn’t do that much anymore.

It used to be that winters were pretty mild—temperatures consistently above freezing—and we got lots of rain, days and weeks of unrelenting rain. You could almost smell the SAD coming off people as they glumly trudged around through one downpour after another, batting their umbrellas against one another on crowded sidewalks.

When we got snow, it was usually because it just got cold enough for it, meaning it was a heavy, wet snow. The cold wouldn’t last long. Sometimes it felt like minutes. And as the temperature rose, the snow would change to rain.

The rain would relentlessly pound away at the accumulated snow, making it into a slush sea and turning intersections into lakes, with the melting snow jamming up all the sewer drains. It made crossing the street a bit of an adventure. Not the good kind of adventure, though, the “Hey, my pants are soaked up to my knees” kind of adventure.

But for some time that hasn’t really happened. Now it’s more typical for snowfall to occur when it’s too cold to change to rain, and when the weather clears, it stays cold, so the snow melts slowly, instead of turning into vast oceans of slush under ceaseless sheets of rain. This is generally a nice change, because it is more pleasant to deal with slowly melting snow than slush rivers that swallow vehicles whole.

The downside is the snow can hang around a lot longer. I think back two years ago, to our last great snowpocalypse. I ran in the first week of December 2016. It snowed a few days later. No biggie, I think, I’ll miss a week while the snow melts away.

It did not melt. It snowed again. It snowed some more and we had a rare white Christmas. We had a white New Year’s Eve. A white Valentine’s Day. Every time the snow started to melt, another system would sweep in, and because it remained cold, it just piled on more snow.

It finally seemed that by early March the snow was going away for good—then it snowed yet again, making it three months where I could not run outside at my preferred locations because they were never not covered in hard-packed, icy snow.

That was a bit of a bummer. I adapted by running on treadmills instead. It hardly ever snows inside.

All of this is likely due to climate change. The winters here, usually mild and wet, are trending toward dry, with snow taking the place of rain. It’s not consistent, of course. This past December was wet and mild, but January was cooler and dry. Not cold—not until this past week, anyway— just dry instead of wet.

I can live with that. In fact, I like it. But I know it’s because the climate is changing and this is the new normal and the new normal is generally going to be Very Bad for humans and so I feel guilty for enjoying it.

But I still enjoy it.

So I no longer curse the damn snow, because while it can be more persistent than before, winters are overall a lot nicer than they used to be, even if it means we as a species are probably doomed. You take the good with the bad.

Mysterious book recommendations

Today I got my daily newsletter from Kobo with the usual list of enticements for me to peruse, along with a section specifically tailored for me, based on my reading habits/purchase history. Two small issues, though.

First, “recos”? No one uses the word “recos.” Or no one should, anyway.

Second, two of the books appear to be mystery titles. Or rather, the books themselves are mysterious due to their rather generic depiction. I thought it was because they are obscure books that have no ebook covers, but they appear to have covers when you click the serenely blank exterior of each to find them on the Kobo site. (For the record, they are Britain and Victory in the Great War and a collection of essays called The White Album. I’m not entirely sure why either is on my list of recommendations, but I can sort of see the logic if I chase after it a bit.)

Anyway, I’m not going to buy any of the RECOS because I have a virtual pile of unread books that would reach to my chin without adding even more. No, that’s a lie. I will buy more books. Just not these specific ones. Probably.

Pigeons: 1, SkyTrain: 0

The SkyTrain was delayed a bit when I transferred to the Expo Line at Waterfront station this afternoon, something that is happening more frequently, though with no discernible pattern. But today’s delay was a little different.

There was a track intrusion alert at Commercial-Broadway station and SkyTrain staff had to hold all trains until they could verify that the track was not, in fact, being intruded upon. Tracks hate it when you intrude upon them.

As it turns out, the cause was pigeon poop. Yes, pigeon poop.

I refer to the newly-remodeled Commercial-Broadway station as The Aviary, because the large pillars, with upward-pointing clusters of lights that are part of the new platform, have proven extremely popular for roosting among the local pigeon population. They have since added spiky wires to most of the good perching spots, but the pigeons have not been fully dissuaded from hanging around. And like the best of us, pigeons must, from time to time, relieve themselves. Being pigeons, they do this wherever they are perched, which in this case, is above and around the just-opened Platform 5.

It was more likely an actual pigeon triggered the intrusion alert, though possibly apocryphal stories suggest it was the poop itself, perhaps plopping down directly on a sensor in the track from above. In any event, it’s remarkable how these silly birds have become such a problem for the transit system.

This Daily Hive story posted earlier today notes that they are using pigeon birth control to reduce the problem by literally reducing the number of pigeons (over time). Plus netting, spikes and a falcon for good measure, too.

For the moment, though, the pigeons clearly have the upper…wing.

30 day check-in on 2019 resolutions

The first month of 2019 has passed. Let’s see how the ol’ resolutions are doing. Remember, I have 11 more months to make “course corrections” in the event of resolution recidivism.

  • Drop to 150 pounds. Realistically, I was not going to drop 17+ pounds in a month. I did drop 0.2 pounds, though. At that rate I will hit 150 by 2026. I may need to re-examine my current diet.
  • Write something every day. I am 100% on this so far, though some days have been a struggle. I don’t have any momentum yet, but feel I am on the verge, so I expect better in February.
  • Run at least once per week. 50% on this, so room for improvement. But I am running!
  • Read at least 52 books. I’m close to finishing my third book, so a bit behind. On the other hand, I went an entire week without reading, so I handicapped myself.
  • Eat better. Definite improvements here, especially with evening snacking. More improvements to come.
  • Learn and practice meditation. I have not started this yet. I kind of feel like I need to get a few other things sorted first, but maybe I’m just stalling.
  • Stretch. I finished reading a book on stretching, but have yet to stretch. Some preliminary “stretching” left me mildly alarmed at how incredibly inflexible I am.
  • Redo the Complaint Free World 21-day challenge. I haven’t formally restarted the challenge, but I am being a lot more mindful about saying negative things to others. I want to make myself and things around me better, and I know that bellyaching–though satisfying–is not the way to do it.

Overall a mixed bag, but nothing I would consider an outright failure at this point. I am cautiously encouraged.

Once more into the late night

Well, it’s late again and I was so tired after work (for seemingly mysterious reasons) that I ended up taking a nap at 9 p.m. for an hour or so. Now I am thinking less about writing and more about how nice that nap was.

Speaking of sleeping, I remember–to a degree–a sequence of dreams I’ve had over the last few nights. One was neat. I could fly. This happens rarely in dreams. In this particular flying dream it seemed not only could I fly, but that it was almost mundane to do so, no different really than flying.

But I was still the only one that could do it.

Flying would be very convenient. I could fly to work way faster than the SkyTrain gets me there, and I’d never have to be delayed by medical emergencies (which happened today–I even saw the person trundled into the ambulance on a stretcher. He looked young, appeared to be either sleeping or resting peacefully [but presumably not resting in peace] and had a blanket pulled up to his chest. I couldn’t determine what had happened, and details of such things never get released, so it will be a mystery for the ages). I would be at possible risk of lightning strikes during storms, though. And I’d always be paranoid about flying into power lines. Still, I’d accept the risks in exchange for never having a fare gate refuse to accept the tap of my Compass card.

The other series of dreams included me thinking about or looking over computers, including NUCs. I also did other everyday-type things. When I woke up, I wondered why my unconscious mind would construct a bunch of utterly banal activities for my dreams. If I want to sweep the floor or plan a grocery list, I can do that when I’m awake. Dreaming is for flying and other super powers. Take note, brain!

And now to see what said brain has in store for tonight.

A haiku on writing little and writing late

Late and sleep beckons
Inspiration eludes me
Time for crazy dreams

Once again I have waited too late to get any kind of real writing done (it’s post-11 p.m. as I type this), and I frittered away another non-hour session by listening to the gripes and concerns of co-workers. Plus some chat about Diablo 3 because IT is, let’s face it, full of gaming nerds.

I promise to do better tomorrow. Promise!

The things you draw

Apologies if you expected to see one of my drawings here. You’re probably better off, given how out of practice I am and also the fact that I was never really great at drawing to begin with.

Anyway, this image can be seen on the BenQ site in the monitor section. This diligent young man appears to be using a graphics tablet to…work on his MacBook Pro’s desktop wallpaper.

“If I enter the right hex code, this color will be perfect!”

The long way to not doing something (Writing Edition)

At least I didn’t wait until 11:56 p.m. to start writing tonight (it’s 8:26 as I type these words). I have been re-reading parts of Road Closed, my still-unfinished 2014 National Novel Writing Month novel. And I have to say, I rather like the parts that I’ve read. The story, told from the perspective of Christian Warren, a 20-year old alcoholic college student trying to right his life, is engaging, he’s appropriately self-deprecating and never comes off as “woe is me.” He feels like someone you could sit down and listen to tell stories. Which is good, because the whole novel hinges on him telling his story.

Road Closed has mutated a fair bit from its inception as a writing exercise based on a photo prompt. By the time it became a NaNo novel, I was writing it using WriteMonkey on a Surface Pro 3 (and on my home PC). After getting a MacBook Pro sans Touch Bar in late 2016, I found Ulysses and switched to writing the story using that. As Ulysses is Mac (and iOS) only, this meant I could only write on the MacBook, which was maybe not the best idea, given I still had my home PC at, well, home.

Then Ulysses switched to a subscription model and I’ve made it well clear what I think of that.

After that I moved the story over to Scrivener, which has the bonus of being available on Mac, Windows and iOS. Problem solved, novel finished, royalties and accolades flooding in.

Well, not quite. There were two remaining wrinkles:

  • My fear of Scrivener eating my work based on past experience where Scrivener ate my work
  • Disparity between the Mac and Windows versions. I upgraded to version 3.0 on the Mac in November 2017. At the time the 3.0 PC version had just released as a free beta, with the final release due “soon.” Now, in January 2018, version 3.0 for Windows is…still unreleased (they are now pretty sure it will ship sometime between April and June of this year). While the Windows 3.0 beta continues to be available to use, I am hesitant to put anything other than test material in it, mainly due to the bullet point above, with the bonus of seeing how much more likely beta software will eat my work.

So although the story is in Scrivener, I haven’t really done much with it. In theory this could change in a few months when the Windows version finally catches up.

But then I actually dusted off Ulysses on the MacBook (the earlier non-subscription version still works) and was entranced by its simple, clean interface all over again.

But as I mentioned, it’s now subscription-only and Mac-only.

And I started mulling over various scenarios:

  • Get a dock for my MacBook Pro to hook it up to my PC monitor and peripherals so I could use it to write on a larger screen (and with a keyboard that won’t jam up from motes of dust)
  • Get an actual desktop Mac. The choice here is simple: the Mac mini, because Apple literally has no other model that isn’t an all-in-one like the iMac, or horribly outdated, like the 2013 Mac Pro.
  • Build a Hackintosh, either using an Intel NUC (advantage: very tiny and can sit unobtrusively on the desk while my PC remains under it) or with something full-size that could also serve as a replacement for my current PC (probably not a great option for a host of reasons)

After this mulling, I realized what I had actually done was concoct a grand series of excuses that all led to one thing: Not working on the actual novel itself. Whatever software I use is just a tool. I had become the equivalent of a person tasked with hammering nails into a board and could not choose between three slightly different hammers, so the board remained nail-free and perhaps something sad or awful transpired as a result. Maybe a dollhouse collapsed. I don’t know. But dithering over what piece of software to use is not going to accomplish anything useful that I can see, unless the future completion of my novel somehow starts a chain of events that accelerates global warming or something, and the world is better off if I never finish it.

So consider this an addendum to my New Year Resolutions:

  • Pick a program and hardware platform to use for my writing, then continue to work on–and finally finish–Road Closed. My self-imposed deadline for this decision is Friday, January 25, 2019. Writers work better with deadlines, right? I predict great success!

We’ll find out in six days.

Addendum: This post was written on the MacBook Pro, hooked up to my 24″ monitor, using the CTRL keyboard and a Logitech Marathon 705 mouse. To get this working, I needed:

  • The Apple HDMI dongle. This includes:
    • HDMI port to connect to the monitor
    • USB 3.0 Type-A port to connect the receiver for the mouse
    • USB Type-C port for the power cable so the laptop isn’t running off battery
  • To plug in the USB-C cable for the keyboard directly into the other USB-C port on the MacBook, as it would not work on the USB-C port on the HDMI dongle

It’s not pretty, but it works and almost makes me forget how terrible the keyboard on the MacBook is. The setup looks like this: