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I figured it out – I think the reason I have so much trouble keeping an updated blog these days is because it’s not a conversation, the way it was when Diaryland and then LiveJournal were real communities. I’m not a diarist – I’ve never managed to keep a private journal going for more than a few days. But give me a chance to say “Hey, I found / learned / thought of this cool thing,” and a chance for others to respond – or for me to respond to their cool things – and apparently I can go on for years.

The thing I’ve been meaning to write here is that I am still liking the new job – but then it’s three months in and I always like new jobs at this early stage – and that I am enjoying the flexibility. Lately I’ve been working my ass off, on a project that involves talking to people in several other countries. Due to time differences, I’ve had telecons at 8 or 9 at night, and a few as early as 5AM, though I’m trying to avoid any more of those. The flip side is that my boss doesn’t care where I work, so I can do early calls at home then wander into the office, or go do an errand then finish working at home. For instance, this morning, ‘d set the alarm 15 minutes early so I rolled out of bed, made a cuppa, had a 6AM call with Poland, and then showered and came into the office.) I know there are people who prefer to keep work and home very separate, but for me, I think having my life be one continuous entity feels a lot more freeing – I can do what I need to do when I need to do it, and I feel like I’m regarded as a professional rather than a prisoner.

Ther thing that prompter this entry was coming across an Old English Christmas greeting in one of the Chronicles of St. Mary’s short stories: Glaed Geol and Gesaelig Niw Gear!
So OK, the Christmas part of that isn’t far off the Swedish “Glad Jul” – not surprising since as I understand it, Old English and Old Norse were mutually intelligible to a large degree. But check out the new year part: while in modern Dutch you’d say “gelukkig nieuwjaar”, I don’t think you’d be completely out of line in wishing someone a cozy New Year’s Day with “gezellig nieuwjaar”. See the resemblance? “Gezellig” is one of those words that often gets mentioned when people talk about words in other languages (like hygge or wabi-sabi) that have no exact English equivalent – but it looks like we did have it, we just lost it!

A bit of googling tells me we didn’t completely lose it; the meaning morphed from happy to pious to innocent to foolish and ended up as our modern word “silly” – and of course the Dutch words is likely to have changed over time too and at least one view says they’re not related. (In general, it’s much harder to Google etymology in other languages, because the references tend to be *in* those languages – or in another one altogether.)

Mirrored from Dichroic Reflections.

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Sorted into what they used to call “heads” in old sermons (gratuitous L.M. Montgomery reference there) so I don’t just meander confusingly.

I. Rowing and such
My shoulder has been bothering me this week, to the point where I didn’t erg Wednesday or yesterday. Nothing really wrong, I don’t think, just a strain that hurts enough that it seemed smart to rest it. This is not good, partly because of that race coming up next month, and partly because my blood pressure seems to be up lately and the only thing I know to fix that is to lose a few pounds (literally a few, just 5 or so seems to help). At least it wasn’t raining yesterday afternoon, so since I couldn’t row I got in a couple miles’ walk.

II. Yarn Crawl
Tomorrow is the Rose City Yarn Crawl! Or rather, it runs from yesterday through Sunday, but tomorrow is the day I’m going on it. I really, really don’t need more yarn – what I need is time to knit the yarn I have – but I enjoyed it last year, and the LYS is once again fielding a limo to visit several of the participating stores. It’s a bit expensive to ride along ($80) but I’m considering it as a birthday treat.

III. Birthday
Next weekend for my actual birthday (well, the day after) we’re going to spend a three-day wine weekend in Dundee, a town a little south of here where you can’t throw a stone without hitting a grapevine. I’ve been wanting to go for a while, so asked to make it this year’s birthday trip. There will be much wine tasted and probably some great food as well.

IV. Parallax and poetry
There is a really cool parallax effect I see when rowing on our lake, and I’ve been trying to get it into a poem, but it’s resisting with all claws out like a cat being put into a carrier. (Actually, our current cats are more cooperative.) I tend to row fairly close to the shore, especially in cold weather, because it feels safer. There’s a park on the far side of the lake, with some fairly tall trees near the water’s edge. When I’m close to them, the trees are all I see; as I paddle further away from shore, of course the trees sink into the distance – but magically a mountain rises up behind them. Close in it’s hidden by the trees and some low hills, but from further out you can see that the mountain is way higher than the trees. There is a fairly obvious analogy in this for daily life, too, about the big things being hidden by near-term petty concerns, but it might be too didactic to add that to the poem.

V. On a foodie note – cod is still not my favorite fish, but I can recommend this recipe for it with mustard-caper sauce. What a pleasant change, to try a new recipe that only takes about 15 minutes and very little effort to make. Ted suggested that the sauce might also be good on asparagus, as well as other white fish. One warning: that recipe is from Real Simple, who have an annoying habit of giving instructions for a whole dinner at once, with ingredients and instructions for each thing all muddled up together. The Bibb lettuce, red onion and cucumbers are for a salad on the side and are not part of the fish recipe. (We had Brussels sprouts with it instead, that being what I wanted to use up). On the other hand, the spaghetti squah we had the night before will not be repeated – it’s clear that winter squashes in all forms are not welcome in my household. Though I may serve this tomato sauce with gremolata again, only over actual pasta. I used a mix of canned and fresh tomatoes, but it would be better with fresh ones only – maybe Roma ones for cooking and an heirloom one on top.

VI. Knitting
I cast on another project last night, bringing my total WiPs to four. Annoyed at myself for this. I know lots of people enjoy having many projects in work at once. That’s great if it’s what you like, just not for me. I try to keep not more than two in work, because I like finishing things – I get tired of a project when it’s been in work too long. I don’t really seem to have that much time to knit – or don’t focus on it when I do – so having too many projects going just drags everything out.

Currently I’ve got 1) a lightweight sweater (Cecchetti) that has the body and one sleeve done, second sleeve barely started. The body on this went nice and fast, sleeves seem to be taking for-freaking-ever. Also, I put it aside with the advent of cooler weather, because it’s more of a summer sweater. Unfortunately I think the sleeves may end up a little tight. 2) a Dr. Who tie for my brother Hitchhiker necktie). Speaking of taking forever! I thought I’d knock this out in a week for his December birthday, but here it is March and it’s only 36” done. I’m into the narrower part, so it’s going faster now, but moss stitch is an unfortunate combination of slow to knit and boring. 3) Another, heavier sweater (Wisteria) – this one has the body done and I’m into the cabling at the bottom of the first sleeve. I’m still loving this one and would be happy to spend all my knitting time on it, but it has gotten too bulky to carry around to knitting outings or on travel, so that does justify one other project. Also, I’m sad that it won’t be done in time to wear this winter, because it’s beautiful. And 4) a shawl I cast on a few days ago, for no good reason but the desire to do something different. (All Things Oregon). I don’t know why. This is part of a local MKAL and it just looked like fun. Also, I’m doing it in rustic brown and beige yarns, so it will be different from any other shawl I own, while still going well with some colors I wear. At least the clues only come out every two weeks, so I’m hoping it won’t be too hard to keep up with.

Mirrored from Dichroic Reflections.

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A few weeks ago I reluctantly decided not to get a stand mixer. For the amount of baking I did, I just couldn’t justify spending $300 for one, vs $40 or so for a hand mixer. (I’ve only ever used a hand mixer, anyway: it’s harder to miss what you haven’t had.) So of course since then I’ve been baking up a storm, mostly things like banana bread that Ted can take for work for breakfast. (I also made an apple pie when the in-laws were visiting, but the almond flour / coconut oil crust I made for it uses a blender instead.) The hand mixer works OK, except for a tendency to glob butter up as a ball inside the beaters instead of actually mixing it with the sugar, but it likes to make a mess by throwing butter/sugar globules all around the kitchen.

I finally came up with a way to contain that mess this time – I put my mixing bowl in the sink! Much less mess. We’re going to the other house this weekend, and if I can find my straight-sided metal mixing bowls there, I’ll bring them back with me – I think that will help too.

Someday I will have a paying job again, at which point I can justify spending money for things I don’t really need, but at that point I won’t have much time for baking. It’s always something. (On the other hand, by that time I’ll be able to mix up banana bread in ten minutes flat, so if I can remember to start it long enough before bedtime so that it has an hour to cook, maybe Ted can still have his cake – and eat it.)

On the current work front, the exciting news is that I hit 50K words today, the minimum my publisher asked for. I still have a chapter on “facilitating” and a half chapter on “project management for process initiatives” to write, plus some stuff Ted suggested I add to my chapter on managing processes in a system (1), so I told my editor that the question would not be whether I could write the 55K words they’d prefer, but how much past it I’d go. I think I made him nervous – his immediate response was, “Please try not to write more than 65K if possible! …Or at least not much past.” (I have a funny feeling that nobody reading this is at all surprised that I can write more words than the minimum needed, but since this is my first time writing a book, it’s all new territory.)

—-
(1) Not redundant with the chapter on Project Management; this one is aimed at someone who’s a department manager trying to keep track of several process improvement projects at once and keeping all of them in alignment.

Mirrored from Dichroic Reflections.

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If I’ve been quiet around here lately, it’s been partly because I was sitting on a big announcement until I was able to make it public.

My book, to be called Fundamentals of Business Process Management, has been accepted by AMACOM, publishing arm of the American Management Association) and will be published in Spring of 2014. And yes, that means you can go buy it in Amazon :-)

I’m pretty excited about this, as you may imagine. AMACOM was the first place I sent my proposal, so it was a shock to have the editor write back expressing interest in just two weeks. I think they are a great fit for my topic. They want it to be substantially longer, though, and to cover all the basics, so I have a bunch more writing to do. (I can do that, I’m pretty sure – there are some places where I just said “now you do this”, where I can add instruction and examples on exactly how to do it. I wrote the whole first draft in a month and a half, and I’m already 2k into the expansion. The trick is just to add words that actually need to be there, rather than filler.)

SQUEEEE!!

Mirrored from Dichroic Reflections.

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I just deleted a few vague sentences on topics that might be good but probably shouldn’t be talked about in public yet. This even vaguer vagueness is as close as I am comfortable coming to squeeing in public at this point.

It’s like “Squee” “(shush!)” “But squeeeee!” “No, no, no, mustn’t jinx anything!” It’s very confusing, and makes it hard to ask about what to do next. I am coming to have much sympathy for Jewish pregnant women, who according to (Ashkenazic?) tradition are not supposed to bring home anything for the baby until after it’s born, just in case. (And no, my squee-age isn’t that, and no, I don’t have a job or even any interviews yet. Sorry for the intentional vagueness, but I am really not good at just shutting up entirely. If I ever have actual good news, I will post it unambiguously as soon as possible.)

However, for good news that is definite, my in-laws are coming over tonight, since they’re in town, and will be our first dinner guests in this house. So that’s exciting. I’ve got a roast in the oven, and tulips in the tulip vase. The cats are becoming much more comfortable around us – I wonder if they’ll come out at all when there are strangers in the house.

OK, off to do a little more revising and a bit of last-minute house-keeping.

Mirrored from Dichroic Reflections.

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Yes, really.

The subtitle is “Creating the Best Life for Animals”. The early chapters, on dogs and cats and horses, will teach you how to handle your pets, though you’ll also learn a bit about motivating your kids and yourself on the way. When she gets to the later chapters on cows and pigs, though, she’s talking about large stock farms, and there’s a lot of good, tested stuff on making changes stick and on getting the behaviors you want from human employees that would apply in any business.

So far my favorite bit is actually about sow stalls: “the building contractors were running the show, and they built what was good for building contractors, not animals. No company or organization should allow a contractor to dictate design.” In my experience that applies to consultants on business projects or processes, as well: no matter how expert the consultant, their systems need to be customized to the company’s own needs, and people who know the company culture need to be making the final decisions on what to change.

(I’m adding a tag to say that this is related to the book I just wrote, because that’s one of my main messages: understand the basics of a process system, and customize it for your business.)

Mirrored from Dichroic Reflections.

a new stage

Feb. 4th, 2013 08:04 pm
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Well. Time for another new thing.

Last Wednesday, I more or less finished my first draft; there are a few small sections I need to flesh out (brief explanations of Six Sigma, Lean, and CMMI) but otherwise I think I’ve said most of the things I wanted to say. Thursday through yesterday, we spent moving boxes, taking things out of boxes, or putting them into other boxes.

So today I start my first revision. I have no idea how to do this, except for feedback from Ted’s review of the first two chapters (titles: “Introduction”, and “Processes: why bother?”), but I suppose the only way is to plunge in. It’s 11AM; I’ve procrastinated all morning already, for values of “procrastination” meaning “called the bank about some fraudulent charges they found, cleaned both bathrooms and the kitchen, and worked out”. I don’t know how to measure progress, either, but that’s probably not hugely important.

Here goes! (But first, some food.)

Two minutes later: Nope. I just remembered that I have a new book out from the library on my topic, and I need to read it to see what I can learn from them, and what I can offer that isn’t in that book. So first, research.

Mirrored from Dichroic Reflections.

house!

Jan. 18th, 2013 02:02 am
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our counteroffer was accepted yesterday, so I guess we have a house! We won’t close on it until next month, though. We’re still keeping the lake house, Rowell, and plan to go there on weekends, so we wanted something nice but small here. This one is a new townhouse; two bedrooms and a den.

So now we have shopping to do! Our furniture is in the other house, so we need to buy most of the furnishings for this house. There are just a few things we’ll bring up, like a rocking chair or two and some of our extra bookcases. (That’s “extra” in the sense of “they probably won’t all fit in the other place”, not in the sense of “we don’t have enough books to fill them.”) We’ve got all the kitchen gear to augment what was provided in the Dutch flat, like my good knives and Dutch ovens, and all of the dishes, cups, pots, sheets and towels we had to buy the Taiwan flat. So we have duplicates of those things, since what we’d had from before was kept in the US while we were abroad. (Our old sheets and towels are getting ratty and are about due for replacement, though.) Meanwhile, our stuff from the Netherlands just arrived in the US today; it will be delivered to us in a few weeks when it gets through Customs. We plan to just lay out all the kitchenware and linens on the floor and just divide them all up: “this pile to the lake house, that pile to the townhouse, that pile to the dump, this list of things we still need”.

But we need to buy all the big stuff: beds, dressers, sofa, dining room table, and a rug for the living room. Should be fun (I hope).

Meanwhile, yesterday I counted pages as well as words; since starting a week ago Monday I’ve got 37 pages done, so I’m feeling like this book is something I can finish. Whether it ever gets published is another story, of course.

Mirrored from Dichroic Reflections.

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So far, I’m really loving the writer’s life, or at least the parts of it I’ve experienced. I love working alone, getting to write about what I think is important, deciding for myself what things are important to do, which ones constitute goofing off, and how much goofing off I actually need to stay happy and productive. I love working at home, not feeling like I’m on display in an office – I don’t have to listen to someone else’s music, to loud discussions of sports I don’t watch, or to someone else’s phone conversations. I love being able to eat whatever I want, when I want it. I was going to say that I love being unscheduled, but that’s not right – I love getting to choose my schedule to a large extent, to decide if I prefer jumping between projects, going off to shop or work out in the middle of the day and coming back to work later, working early or late. I love that I can decide what kind of desk I want or if I’m more comfortable sitting on the sofa with my laptop in my lap or lying on my stomach on the floor (actually, it’s hard to type that way).

I realize that it’s very possible that I’m enjoying this so much because it’s new; I always do love starting a new job, before any part of it has gotten boring or annoying. There are also a lot of less pleasant parts in a writing life that I haven’t experienced yet: dealing with queries and submissions; waiting for months to get any response; trying to fit in writing around a day job, and of course, the always-popular worrying about money. I’m hoping to be able to avoid that last one, mostly, but of course that will eventually require full participation in the next to last one, the Day Job. (In my case it may just be The Job, as opposed to The Hobby Book.) It may also be that I’m enjoying this so much specifically because I know it’s temporary; unless and until we get around to doing that year of travel, this may well be the only months before retirement when I won’t have to deal with showing up on time, staying later than I want to, spending most of my waking hours in an environment that’s too hot or too cold or otherwise doesn’t fit me, sharing space with assigned officemates, or else frantically search for my next job. I’m really not looking forward to doing submissions – not so much because of rejections, but because of the slog of it all and the long periods of waiting for any answer at all.

But a lot of it is real, too; I don’t like sitting up properly at a desk, and they never fit me well anyway, and I don’t like feeling that I’m on display all the time. I like sitting sideways in chairs, or lounging on a sofa, or sitting on the floor. Also, offices don’t work well with my eating patterns; I do like to eat breakfast, but not until I’ve had a couple hours for my stomach to wake up. For the last two years, I haven’t had access to a refrigerator or microwave, so I’ve been limited in what I could bring in for lunch. Also, I haven’t been able to buy some things I like to eat, because of being in a different country. I like being able to knit when I’m on the phone or thinking rather than typing.

Of course, my schedule isn’t completely up to me, because life isn’t like that. The best and most productive thing for me would probably be to get up when Ted does, work out right away, shower, write for a while, do errands, and then write some more. I don’t need to be rigid about the schedule, but I think generally being on one will help me to stay productive. The afternoon session might be interspersed with making dinner, if it’s something like a stew that takes a while, or with a break to do a little cleaning or other stuff around the house. I can’t do that, though, because we’re in an apartment and I’m worried that the rowing machine might annoy other people if I erg too early, so right now I get up with Ted (or rather, when he leaves), write for a bit, then erg and shower. Sometimes there’s other stuff I have to do or want to do early, so I get to the writing later – today I had to go drop off the check for earnest money, because we’re making an offer on a house, and it made sense to do other errands then. So I got up, showered, did some revising, went out, came home, erged, ate lunch, and then got to the writing (and now I’m taking a busman’s holiday from it while writing this).

Excuse me while I go trim my toenails, just because I can.

Mirrored from Dichroic Reflections.

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Guess what? I’m about to be a pain in the ass.

Not a major one: after all, you’re under no compulsion at all to read anything I write here, much less to answer my questions. Also, Google is my friend and I promise to JFGI before asking the easy questions. Still, there are a lot of cases where opinions from those of you who write would be awfully useful as I start this gig.

1. I’ve already warned Ted that nagging will not increase my productivity (he doesn’t mean to nag; I’m just all-too-easily annoyed, and also he doesn’t have great control of the “tone” he’s conveying). Nonetheless I will need to keep myself accountable. I’ve started a spreadsheet for number of words per day, with space for notes on other things accomplished (for example, today I priced new copies of the ISO standards, did a bit of research on other books in this field, and did a lot of start-up organizational work on file structure and format that I won’t need to do most days). I’ve got over 1000 words today so far (that includes my outline and a list of basic ideas I want to convey) and it’s only 11:30, but I still need to work out. Also, I suspect that this is an initial gush of words I’ve been saving up and that they’ll come harder later on.

I found this discussion from Justine Larbalestier very useful, and I already knew that every writer is different, but I’d still like to hear ballpark ideas of what constitutes a productive writing day, especially from anyone out there who writes nonfiction.

2. Tools: I’ve got MS Word (and Excel for counting words), and I’ve used Google Docs for a few things in the past. Given that John Scalzi refers to Word as his default word processor and Google as his current one, I’m pretty sure those will do for me. Nonetheless, I’d love to hear from anyone who’s had good experiences with Scrivener or other word processors for handling large documents. (Don’t bother sharing your horror stories about Word; it’s been the editor of choice for every company I’ve ever worked for (except one that used Word Perfect), and I’ve written a lot of tech documents. I’m pretty sure I’ve already had that bad experience you’re talking about.)

I’d also be interested in tools you find useful for tracking or encouraging productivity.

3. I’ve heard all kind of wonderful stories (and some distinctly not wonderful) about writing groups, from writers of SF and YA (and especially YA SF). Do nonfiction writers do that? I do have some good expert beta readers, for when I get to that point.

4. Again for nonfiction writers: How much do you do before you start querying? I’ve gotten hold of the newest Writer’s Market, so I can see that I need to submit an query, outline and sample chapters, not a whole MS. I think what I should do as a newbie is to get more written anyway, because it would be terribly embarrassing to get an acceptance and then not finish the book, so I’m thinking I ought to have my initial chapter (tentative title “Process: What’s it good for and why bother?” complete and at least skeleton versions (or extremely detailed outlines) of the others. Does that seem sensible?

I’ve also added another task for this week: I need to find the local library and get a card! It appears that I need to read a couple hundred dollars worth of books on similar topics before I get too far, not only for research but also to make sure I’m not just writing a duplicate, and it seems kind of silly to spend that much as background for a book that may never earn it back. (Though those books may come in useful for when I go back to work, if any of them are any good.)

Hmm. 689 words blogged, compared to 1032 written for work and no meters logged on the erg. Time to end the blog entry. (Also, my wrist is a bit better, but blog entries impact it just as much as the ones I’m supposed to be writing. Too risky.)

Mirrored from Dichroic Reflections.

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