The end of summer.

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the end of summer

Outside, the end-of-festival fireworks are sounding. Inside, and then again inside a home inside a virtual world, the end of summer draws near as well. That is, if you adhere to the symbolism of seasons in a place where they do not have to exist at all, and I do.

I was going to create a new blog only for my Second Life snaps, but I cannot be fussed. Instead, you can view my Second Life category of posts and subscribe to the RSS feed if that’s your bag.

If none of this is to your liking, pretend you “accidentally” peeked through a neighbour’s window just now. That’s all it is … a glimpse into someone else’s set of foibles and fascinations.

Credits (vaguely left-to-right):

  • Apple Fall Clifton Cast Iron Fireplace (white)
  • junk. wannabe boho. petal mirror. metal.
  • [ContraptioN] Music Box: Berceuse des Amoureux
  • [ARIA] Rosalind bent neck swan
  • KittyCats – Stromness (yes, I have virtual cats, too)
  • AF Interior Plant
  • AF Reading Pile
  • Apple Fall Joanne Crystal Lamp
  • junk. boho curtain.
  • Second Spaces – Cluttered House – charging station
  • AF Recycled Desk
  • Apple Fall Coffee & Muffin
  • -tres blah- Hodgepodge – Agenda RARE
  • Apple Fall Bea Reading Chair (Worn Leather)
  • Apple Fall Lightbulb Terrarium
  • Schadenfreude Dark Angel Dress Form RARE
  • Constellation Map – Cygnus Gacha
  • Apple Fall Charlotte Cabinet
  • +sanctuaire+ antique radio – walnut – portable
  • ISPACHI – The Arrival – Lamentation of Swans
  • AF Books
  • Apple Fall Leather Moccasins
  • MudHoney Zelia Bag
  • Sari-Sari – Assorted Mail
  • NOMAD // Wall Calendar
  • Apple Fall Books Occasional Table w/ Blanket
  • Apple Fall Boxed Supplies w/ Spectacles
  • Apple Fall Cotton Cluster
  • AF Rico’s Clock
  • dust bunny . small spaces kitchen . island cabinet
  • Lark – Croissants
  • MIASNOW Home – RUG LOTUS 10 ~black to brown
  • Trompe Loeil – Garden Bard Abode

This Week and Other Weeks

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Life

I have tried to write this several times now. It never goes well. I find unsettling analogies, or take refuge in bluntness, or just pretend the thing that happened didn’t happen at all so I can get through the first paragraph. But it happened. And it derailed the tail-end of my spring completely.

I keep thinking that I will be ready to write about it, and then I will, and then these entries (which were supposed to be weekly status updates, and nothing more) won’t loom in my to-do list like horrible chores.

But I am still not ready to write about it, the thing that happened, and so I’ll just say that at the start of May one of our cats died and he was so much more than “one of our cats” and it was so much worse than I imagined it could be and it continues to hurt every day and I don’t want to write anything more about it so we’ll just move on from here.

Okay? Okay.

The thing that happened disrupted everything. Because I let it, and because my everything was already so precarious. So any good tracks I was on, consider those derailed. Any good habits I had forged, consider those discarded.

Rage, even now, two months past, blindsides me. The smallest things irritate me past rational points. Most social media channels are unbearable not because they have changed but because I have. I don’t know if I will get my old self back.

I don’t know if I want my old self back.

The strangest part of grief is the compulsion to keep pressing myself against the serrated edge of his absence. I am mostly over that phase now but sometimes it comes over me, the need to prod that wound, like I still don’t believe it, so that the pain will make me believe it.

I still don’t believe it.

But I make myself believe it.

Before the thing that happened, I had planned to travel to the States in June to celebrate a milestone in my mother’s life. When the thing happened, the trip carried another weight: I needed to escape, both geographically and mentally.

And then right before I left our other cat had surgery for a fibrosarcoma on her back. She’s doing fine for now.

Grief and worry have a way of clouding memory but here’s some of what I remember of my life from the past few months.

Work

Not much to report on JDB1745, and this will likely continue through the end of the year. There will be small refinements to make but FunkyPlaid must focus on finishing his thesis now so we can’t undertake any major movements. I’m squirrelling away all sorts of ideas for the next phase of our project, and the more I do, the more I look forward to working on it.

The weekend gig is more intense project-wise over the summer, plus many folks are away on leave, so I feel more isolated than usual. I continue to struggle with the balance of wanting to throw myself completely into a job and only being there three days a week.

Writing

The guest post I wrote for Cat Rambo’s blog on motivational tools for writers was published. The timing was darkly amusing; my own writerly motivation had ground to a halt.

But now I am recovering, and I am currently working on two projects:

  1. Assembling some short stories together into chapbook form.
  2. Writing a short comedic piece for the Book Festival. Illicit Ink will present a show called “Happily Never After” for Jura Unbound and I’m thrilled to be a part of it.

Wellness

Misfit changed their app and I no longer have a weekly tally of points, so here I’ll start tracking how many days in the last week I hit my fitness goal: 2. Not great.

In April, May, and June I was around the 2-3 days per week mark. One day in May I somehow managed almost twice my goal and my personal best since I started using my Shine by having a normal workday but tacking on a social event in the evening that was 1.5 miles away.

So yeah. I need more exercise.

Media

Reading

Since the end of March I’ve read some good books, fiction unless otherwise specified:

  • “The Bees” by Laline Paull
  • “Reasons to Stay Alive” by Matt Haig (memoir about depression)
  • “We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves” by Karen Joy Fowler
  • “The Crossroads of Should and Must: Find and Follow Your Passion” by Elle Luna (figuring out what you want to do with your life, then following through)
  • “All My Puny Sorrows” by Miriam Toews
  • “Station Eleven” by Emily St. John Mandel

And that leaves me at 11 books this year. I will have to seriously hustle to make my goal of 50.

Listening

I am giving Apple Music a whirl. So far I love the playlists it suggests for me but it doesn’t have built-in scrobbling capabilities like Rdio or Spotify. For those of us who love tracking what we listen to with Last.fm, that is a disappointment.

My top artists for the past three months:

  1. Chouchou
  2. Ratatat
  3. Louis Armstrong

A friend made a Neo80s mixtape (mixCD?) that I’ve been enjoying too. Lots of M83, White Lies, HAIM, Grimes … really good stuff.

How do I not have a podcast section? I’ll fix that now. My top podcast listens for the past three months (and I am stealing the blurbs from their websites):

  1. Judge John Hodgman: You might know John Hodgman as the PC from those Apple commercials but those are the least of his comedic accomplishments. His podcast is laugh-out-loud funny as well as also thoughtful and interesting.
  2. RISK!: Listen to real people tell true stories. Sometimes hilarious, sometimes disturbing, always intriguing. Like The Moth’s more worrisome cousin.
  3. Mystery Show: I never thought I would care enough about Jake Gyllenhaal’s height to listen to a 40-minute podcast about it. Then I heard Mystery Show.

Playing

  • 80 Days (videogame, tablet): I am not good at this game, probably because of the timed element, but I keep going back to it for the interactive story parts. I still have not made it around the world in 80 days. Will I ever? Who knows.
  • Splendor (boardgame, 2-4 players): FunkyPlaid taught me how to play this and I think I like it. It feels similar in some ways to Dominion, which I love and don’t play nearly enough. I’d like to play it again.
  • Gone Home (videogame, desktop): I finally purchased this on Steam when it was on sale and played through in a few hours. The plot and execution were both excellent, and the experience was worth much more than the price I paid.
  • Fallout Shelter (videogame, tablet): I tried. I really did. But I got so bored.

Watching

Television

FunkyPlaid and I finished “Les Revenants” at the end of April and went on to “Orphan Black”. The first two seasons were so good; the third became unwatchable for me. We stalled out partway through and finished up the season of “Outlander” instead. As of last night we are on the second season of “House of Cards” (US version).

I stopped watching “Game of Thrones” after the infamous episode with Ramsay and Sansa’s wedding night. With that source material and that cast and that budget, there is no excuse for lazy writing. Later I heard that the show has diverged even more from the books, so that’s probably it for me.

Film

I finally saw the film “What We Do in the Shadows” on the plane ride to the States, which was even better than I thought it would be. If you like mockumentaries and Flight of the Conchords, don’t miss this.

Stage

Internetting

I Faved This

You Faved This

Ink o’ the Week

Daily carry

  • Pilot Iroshizuku Ku-Jaku: I raved about this ink before and my excitement has not abated. It is a perfect ink in my Lamy 2000. If you are looking for a saturated blue-green with ridiculous amounts of shading, try this one.
  • Pilot Iroshizuku Yama-Budo: This is in my new Pilot Metropolitan, a gift from a pen-loving friend, which surprised me with how well it writes. Despite the fine nib the Yama-Budo provides a nice shading between dark fuchsia to light burgundy. It is an elegant ink.

Wish list

Photo credit: my Instagram.

This Week

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Sunday morning in Scotland: seen on my walk to work. (Hi, I'm back!)

Life

I missed you last week. Every time I sat down to write to you, my to-do list glared back, so I wrangled that instead.

The big event recently was FunkyPlaid’s reading weekend. Halfway through it I had the bittersweet realisation that it was our fourth and final time away with this great group of history scholars, sharing ideas and laughter. Although I remember being very nervous about going away with a bunch of strangers that first year, I got over it, and I know these moments will stand out in memory when I think back to this time in our lives.

Even knowing this was my last reading weekend, I struggled to stay present. We all talk about being present a lot, and yet so much of our modern lives are constructed around the opposite. I read this article and it hit me pretty hard. Sometimes when I allow myself to think about those last years in San Francisco, I realise just how not-present I was, and how many times I flaked, sometimes for health reasons but also sometimes because I overcommitted even when I suspected I wouldn’t have the energy or time to follow through.

The consequence is that now I miss all of those flaked-on friends desperately. I daydream about zapping myself back in time to un-cancel just once, whatever the plan was, it doesn’t matter.

So at the risk of lecturing you (because I’m lecturing myself just as much): Be present. Enjoy what you have while you have it. It goes by so fast.

Okay, that’s quite enough mushy talk.

I am halfway through the wellness programme, and feeling better in a general sense. My immune system has seemed stronger, but I haven’t figured out how to measure that other than “I don’t feel sick most of the time.” I’ll take it.

Misfit Shine activity points: 5269 and then 5533 out of 7000, compared to 5059 of two weeks ago. I started running again, so that helped. My running confidence is next to nil so I’m starting all over again with a 5K training regimen.

Work

FunkyPlaid and I are slowly cleaning the JDB1745 location data together, which consists of looking up each place-name mentioned in the transcribed records and figuring out which type of place it was (parish, county, town, etc.) before standardising it. It is about as thrilling a task as you might imagine. Good thing we make each other laugh.

I have a couple of weeks off from the weekend gig, which couldn’t have come at a better time as I am feeling pretty burned out.

Writing

Have you heard of the Magic Spreadsheet? I am vaguely allergic to those words together but I heard about it via HabitRPG — which I will write about at length someday — and gave it a shot. The premise is simple, building on the “streaks” concept of positive habit-building: write every day, and don’t break the chain.

The power of the Magic Spreadsheet is that there are many other writers tallying their word totals and streaks alongside yours. If you are at all competitive, or if you really dig shaming yourself, I recommend this method of motivation.

As of this moment, I have written 9,031 words in 2015. That number is about one-third of what I wanted it to be at this time. Instead of thinking, “Hey, I haven’t been writing as much lately,” I have the numbers staring me in the face. That’s powerful motivation right there.

Thank you, Magic Spreadsheet.

Food

I made chocolate pudding with chia seeds. It tasted like chocolate pudding with slimy seeds in it. But I shall not be deterred! I’m going to give it another shot. Chia seeds are good for me, after all. Also, I like eating bee pollen but I’m not sure I should be doing that. Some say it is a superfood but I cannot find the science that confirms this. It seems pretty mean to steal pollen from bees for no good reason.

Media

Halou, one of my fave bands ever, is playing in San Francisco this June. I can’t attend but I’ve got to get the word out.

I’ll spare you my top listened musical artists for the past two weeks because I have been listening to my workout mixes and nobody needs a list of Journey songs. (Except me.)

Still reading “The Bees” but now I admit I am reading much slower than I have to in order to keep the book from ending. The hive is such a wonderful escape, especially on cold and snowy days. FunkyPlaid also surprised me with Iain Banks’ book of poetry, which I dipped into delightedly just yesterday.

Recently, a friend reminded me how much I enjoyed Fallen London so I started playing it again, and am now even more curious to know if I would enjoy playing Sunless Sea. How can you not love a game with the tagline: “Lose your mind. Eat your crew. Die.”

FunkyPlaid and I finally finished watching season two of “Pushing Daisies”. I am glad that it’s over because I had started to grow weary of some of the characters, which was my problem with “Dead Like Me” as well and made me wonder if something about Bryan Fuller’s shows makes extended time with the characters difficult.

Remember “Night Court”? FunkyPlaid and I were chatting about it and decided to re-watch the very first episode. My word, it had a charm about it. Part of that has to do with some of the naivety of the plots: a judge who liked stage magic and unorthodox approaches to the law! A philandering husband almost shot and killed by his enraged wife but they work it out in the end! But part of its charm was how far off the rails I know that it went in later seasons. I don’t think I can watch all 193 episodes but I wouldn’t mind seeing a few here and there as a palate-cleanser.

I saw “Focus” in the theatre and enjoyed it, but I wouldn’t recommend it. Mostly it left me confused with which genre it wanted to be. Gerald McRaney was tops, though.

Ink o’ the Week

March’s Ink Drop from Goulet Pens brought me my new favourite ink: Pilot Iroshizuku Ku-Jaku. As soon as I saw it in the sample vial, I knew it would be a daily carry ink. Look at that shading!

Pilot Iroshizuku Ku-Jaku. #ink #fountainpen #nofilter

A photo posted by Halsted M. Bernard (@cygnoir) on

This Week

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Bob.

Life

If I had one wish, it wouldn’t be a clever or altruistic one. I’d like to say that it would be, but I know myself better than that. If I had one wish, if that genie popped out of that Nutella jar and asked me what is the one thing I would want more than anything else in the whole wide world it would tumble out of my mouth before I could stop it because I have dreamed of it for decades.

My wish would be to own a train car.

Not just any train car: my train car would be magic because it could be hooked up to any train in the world, and it would be completely self-contained: it would have a library, hideaway bed, galley kitchen, observation loft, and of course an aquarium. Why an aquarium? I do not exactly know, but it was in the first designs of the train car when I was a little girl and hasn’t been revised out of them since.

I think about this magic train car, and my wish, every time I board a train. Sometimes while on the train I think I’ll doze off and wake up and be in my magic train car, and the sheer thought of it is enough to keep me smiling for hours. 

I hold onto bits of magic like this a little closer when weeks like this one happen, full of loss: friends losing parents, family members losing relatives, much-anticipated plans falling through. And then Sir Terry Pratchett died.

I’m so upset about this last part that I don’t even want to write about it. Some blog, eh? 

Amidst all this, there were some bright moments. The Writers’ Bloc meeting in Glasgow was fun and productive, and I met up with two other friends during the week as well.

Week 4 of 12-week wellness programme has not been going so great because I’m horrible at giving up all the foods I’m supposed to give up (hummus, I’m looking at you). However, I have successfully given up white potatoes, no small feat in a country basically made of chips.

Misfit Shine activity points: 5059 out of 7000, compared to 4208 of the week before. Improvement! 

O, and I chopped off more of my hair. Rather, I paid someone to do this in a fancy way. 

Work

JDB1745 required more than a bit of project management this week, which involved reworking our Trello project board and getting some stuff out of my brain and into Slack. Are you using Slack? I never want to work on a project again without it. Those endless email threads give me the wobbly dread feeling in my gut; I just know things are being missed and there isn’t any way to get them back. Centralising all of it makes me so happy. 

The weekend gig was smooth until literally the last two minutes of my last shift, which almost made me miss my bus but I hustled and caught it … except it wasn’t going anywhere because the bus had broken down. That’s the kind of week it has been.

Writing

I still haven’t managed to write the last book-club posts, but that’s because I’ve been scribbling notes on an idea I have for an ARG-ish thing. I also started a piece of flash fiction that is turning into a tribute to Terry Pratchett.

Food

I finally renamed the “Hobbies” section. I don’t even know what that word means anyway. But I do love food, and talking about it, so here we go.

Marks & Spencer in Waverley now offers gluten-free sandwiches! This means my train food is not limited to weird crawfish salad with chilli dressing! (Why is that so popular?) I had a chicken sandwich on the train to Glasgow and I was like a normal person and everything. Well, as normal as I get, anyway. Very exciting.

Union of Genius has become my favourite restaurant in Edinburgh. Their soups and salads are delicious (and many are gluten-free), but that isn’t why. They offer something I haven’t seen on a menu before: a “suspended” coffee which is a pre-purchased coffee for someone who cannot afford it. You just add this to your order, pay, and add one to the tally on a small chalkboard. They do this with soup, too.

I think this should be available everywhere, for anything.

Media

Still reading “The Bees”. I’m such a slow reader these days.

My top artists this week:

Season two of “Pushing Daisies” is not as enjoyable as season one. 

Ink o’ the Week

I’m sorry, but I can’t hear you over the sound of J. Herbin’s 1670 Stormy Grey in my Lamy 2000. What does that sound like, you ask? Nothing, silly! Ink doesn’t make noise. But it’s beautiful.

This Week

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Green smoothie lantern.

Life

When I was a little girl, I had a dresser drawer that was filled with small things, buttons and badges and beads, rubber animals, seedpods, scraps of paper. Among my favourites in this drawer — if I was forced to choose — were these teardrop-shaped faceted beads with an iridescent sheen that looked like they belonged in a minuscule chandelier in tiny Versailles. 

It is a mystery to me how this week I found myself transported back to a memory when, as a child, I stood on tiptoes to peek inside this drawer and pick out one of these chandelier beads, hold it up, and watch the light dance around the room. 

It might have been a glimpse of a dangling earring, reminiscent of the sparkly treasure. It might have been that, in a week full of family upset and distant tragedy, something settled into place in the tangled nest of wires I call my brain. I don’t know what that something was yet, or I don’t have words for it, only the feeling of that moment with a piece of plastic and refracted winter light.

Snap out of it: we’ve got a status report to write.

Week 3 of 12-week wellness programme introduced me to oil pulling. (Please do not click that link if you are squeamish.) I have not noticed any health benefits so far but something that disgusting has got to have at least one health benefit. I am hoping for two, even. Also I tried to reduce my caffeine intake further but roasted yerba mate tastes like ashtray coffee. The best I’ve been doing is getting more sleep and drinking the hell out of my spinach and kale smoothies.

Misfit activity goals met on 0 of 7 days. Let this be the nadir of my exercise motivation.

My friend Julia and I have exactly opposite days off work but this week the stars aligned! She came over and we made lunch together (pan-seared pork loin, chickpea and dill salad) and then chatted the daylight away. That visit plus plenty of Skype time with family kept me in higher spirits than last week.

Work

The location authority structure is in place and location data — such as it is — has been loaded into JDB1745. Now comes a whole bunch of cleaning up transcription variants and other fun stuff. I am looking forward to this a little because I’m much better at focusing on a task like this than I am on straightforward data entry.

The weekend gig involved a special treat this week: I participated in a Wiki-edit-a-thon. My fellow editors and I worked on improving articles about several women in STEM careers. We spent a few hours researching these women’s biographies and CVs and ensuring that their Wikipedia entries were up-to-date and correct. The edit-a-thon inspired me to take a more active role in Wikipedia than I have in the past. Did you know that only 13% of Wikipedia editors are women

Writing

No blogging this week. (I haven’t forgotten those last book-club posts!) Mildly more fiction-writing, but I had a legitimate how I love writing moment this week, which felt wonderful. I love my lumpy, crummy drafts.

Hobbies

What even goes here? 

Media

Still savouring every page of “The Bees”

I mostly listened to podcasts this week and not music, but I did rediscover a mixtape (can we even still call them that?) that FunkyPlaid made when he left for Scotland back in 2003. Like that shiny bead, the songs yanked me back to before I had ever set foot in this country, wondering what she got that I don’t got and other self-absorbed, younger worries. Plus, FunkyPlaid just has great taste in music.

This American Life’s two-part series on policing in America is excellent.

So far as the tubular pursuits, FunkyPlaid and I finished our season one re-watch of “Pushing Daisies” and are on to viewing the second season for the first time. Exciting! 

I also watched the first two episodes of “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” which is a must-watch if you enjoyed “30 Rock” or if you have a heart.

I’m saving the latest season of “House of Cards” for when I am not so twitchy because Frank Underwood makes me so tense.

Ink o’ the Week

High off the pink excitement from last week, I tried another from that Goulet Pens’ Ink DropDe Atramentis’ Red Roses. I should have used a wetter writer, because my Pelikan M205 isn’t showing all the lovely variation I’m sure it has. But it is pretty, a darker red than the Caran d’Ache Divine Pink, and scented like roses. The scent wears off quickly but it feels very fancy while I am writing with it.