Hyperbole and a Half [the book], by Allie Brosh

I'd been planning to buy Hyperbole and a Half: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem, and Other Things That Happened since, I don't know, 2011 or so? Back when Allie Brosh first announced that she was writing a book. The book took longer to release than she'd anticipated -- late 2013 instead of late 2012. I did hear about it when it came out, and I planned to buy it, and put it in my Amazon cart, and then didn't buy it.

For six years.

This year, I went to order snow boots from Amazon, because I had been meaning to buy snow boots in person for three months and still hadn't managed to and decided I'd better order some before the next snowstorm hit since it was already too late for the current one. While I was buying the snow boots, I saw Hyperbole and a Half sitting in that forlorn "saved to cart" part of the shopping cart where Amazon puts things that you added to the cart and never removed from it but also never actually bought, either.

All right. Let's finally buy this book.

I am perfectly content to have waited 6 years to get Hyperbole and a Half because it means that 2020 Me got to read it for the first time, and it is wonderful. Sorry you missed out, Past Rowyn, but Present Rowyn gets to benefit from your loss!

Some of the essays in the book are on her blog, also called Hyperbole and a Half, while many are new. Some of my favorite blog posts didn't make the cut, to my surprise. The Alot isn't in the book! Clean All the Things is, though. The publisher focused on Brosh's illustrated autobiographical essays more than on anything else.

You don't need me to tell you this book is great: it was wildly successful and has over 4,000 Amazon reviews. It is an extraordinarily funny book: by page 13, I was laughing too hard to keep reading. Every time I caught my breath, I would look at the same page and start wheezing again.

Lut: "Are you okay?"
Me: "This may take me a while to read."
Lut: "Yes. Because you can't breathe."

This book does need content notes, though: some of the essays address mental illness, and not all of the ones that are about mental illness discuss it by name. She talks frankly about depression and about coping methods and the problems with her coping methods. Often, the way she writes about herself, or her past self, uses brutal or cruel language. It's clear that one of Brosh's coping mechanisms is "humor" and she wields it with extraordinary skill. But I'd find myself going D: at her own self-condemnation. I found her essays sometimes enlightening -- she does a fantastic job of explaining her depression -- and sometimes painful to see her being so hard on herself.

Did you ever have one of those teachers who had a great sense of humor and was also really sarcastic, and if they mocked a kid the whole class would laugh because the teacher was so funny? And you'd laugh too, but you also knew that the teacher was mean and abusive and you wished they would stop making fun of students? Brosh is kind of like that, except the only person she mocks is herself. It's much easier to take than the abusive teacher but I do wish she would be nicer to herself. o_o

Oh, and her dogs. She mocks them too. I'm okay with that, the dogs can't read.

The essays are illustrated by Brosh's own cartoons, which are colorful and childlike and perfect for her subject. The book layout is excellent: I'd wondered how her style would translate from web to book form, but it's put together beautifully. One nice touch is that the background color for the pages changes between essays, so it's easy to tell when essays begin and end from just looking at the fore edge. There's also plenty of contrast between text and background colors.

Anyway, there are a bunch of different essays and many of them are not about mental illness or being unkind to anything -- I don't want to give the impression that it's all self-flagellation by any means. This is a solid 9.5 book, I loved reading it and highly recommend it. I am a little melancholy that she's not written anything else, at least under her own name, since.

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Health Insurance and Other Stressors

This is the write-up about insurance that I mentioned never posting in one of my review posts. I finished it up and am posting it now. Contains mention of God & religion as well as insurance.

So back in mid-November, HR told me that my partner and I would no longer be eligible for health insurance through my employer, starting 1/1/2020, because I had been part time for a year.

I forwarded this to my boss, saying "Buh wha?" We had checked the employee handbook when I went part-time. Part-time employees had to pay the full cost of insurance, instead of 20%, but they were still eligible. I had been paying the full cost since January, when I went part time. Neither of us were aware of anything that had said "and after a year, we kick you off." My boss promised to look into this and get back to me.

A couple of days later, I ran over a big block of wood in the road. I wasn't sure if I'd hurt anything, but a warning light on the dashboard activated. Wednesday, while I was taking Lut to dinner after a doctor's appointment, a kind driver stopped at the light next to us honked and let us know that the front passenger tire was low on air. "Oh, that's probably what this warning light that I haven't decoded yet is."

We went to a Quiktrip to air it (they have free tire pump machines! Very convenient.) At this point, I finally noticed that I'd lost a hub cap, bent both wheel rims on the passenger side, and the low front tire had a slow leak. Lut reminded me that we were near a tire place, so I drove over there. The warning light had gone off, so that confirmed that the tire was what the car had been sad about.

The tire place had been purchased by Big O Tire since we were last there, and they were too busy to look at it that night or tomorrow. I made an appointment for Friday of that week -- since it was a slow leak and I'd already driven like 30 miles over the course of 24 hours, I figured it wasn't urgent.

I discovered I had a text message from my boss asking me to call about the insurance issue, which I figured was a bad sign. She'd texted that morning but I hadn't noticed until almost 5PM. I called her back and left a message, saying I'd talk to her tomorrow if she didn't get back to me tonight.

That night, I had insomnia, waking at 2AM with my thoughts full of the future: would I have to go back to full time work? How would I manage that? How would I manage if I didn't? How much would it cost to pay for private insurance for two ~50 year-old people per year, one of whom has cancer? What would it cost to have the car fixed? Why hadn't I waited to move into the turn lane until I was past that cursed block of wood in the road? Why am I so bad at this? Should I quit writing? My day job pays a lot better than my writing ever will. Etc.

I prayed to God for serenity and equanimity, because I have a gigantic retirement account and it feels like I should at some point be able to stop angsting about money and I would like it for that point to be now k thx. I don't even want to whinge about my problems because they are SO PETTY. "Oh no, I might have to work full time!" Girl, most of your friends already have to work full time and most of those that don't would be DELIGHTED to have the option to do so.

Eventually, I slept.

On Thursday of that week, I learned that my boss had talked to her boss, and they talked to HR and looked through the documentation. They were eventually able to discern that this was, indeed, a new policy at my employer despite the "Oceania has always been at war with Eastasia" attitude that HR was taking. The ACA doesn't require that the employers offer health insurance to employees who work less than 30 hours a week, and they had decided not to do so anymore. They'd also stopped covering domestic partners last year, although mine had been grandfathered in at that time.

But that was done now. Even if I returned to full-time work, the bank would no longer allow me to purchase insurance for my partner through them. I could get myself covered again, but that was it.

My boss said, "We know you don't want to work full-time. Find out what it will cost to insure yourself and your partner, and we'll get you a raise to cover the difference between that and what you were already paying."


I didn't know if the amount of COBRA would be more than my boss and her boss could convince HR to pay me, or how much discretion they have in salary. I also needed to look into the ACA exchange, in case that was more affordable than COBRA. I felt like, on the one hand, COBRA is supposed to be the same insurance I'm already getting and I'm already paying the full cost so it shouldn't be THAT much more? But everyone says that COBRA is crazy-expensive and my existing insurance premiums are low, so I just don't know. But it is good to know that my chain of command has my back. <3

The next day, I went back to Big O Tire to get the rims and tire repaired or replaced, as necessary. I showed up at 8:05 and sat down in their lobby to write and wait for the news.

Thirty minutes later, the mechanic walked in and handed me my keys. "The rims were just a little bent, so I hammered them back into place, and patched your tire. You're good to go!"

"Great, thank you!" I went up to the counter to pay.

"No, really, you're good to go. We don't charge to patch a tire."


Apparently RANDOM STRANGERS also have my back and I am absolutely going to this place when I need new tires. O_O

I went to the mall to walk and Panera to write for a few hours afterwards. Big O Tire hadn't gifted me with a new hubcap, naturally, and it struck me that I knew exactly where I had hit the block of wood and that must have been where I lost the hubcap. So I went back there and LO! The block of wood was gone but my hubcap was right next to the median . :D

I can't get it back on, and I'm not sure if the hubcap is slightly bent, or the wheel is, or if I'm just not being sufficiently forceful. I may go back to Big O and ask if they can puzzle it out, but it hasn't been a priority.

In early December, I got the Cobra packet. Now, bear in mind that my bank's policy says that employees get an 80% discount on their insurance, but employees pay the full cost of any family or dependent insurance they purchase.

Lut's insurance through COBRA was almost three times what I paid through the bank. My insurance through COBRA is thirteen times what I had been paying.

Buh wha?

Either the bank's "you pay all of family and 20% of your own insurance" is FLAT WRONG, or COBRA is charging an illegal amount more than the bank's payment. I am inclined to think that the bank is wrong rather than that COBRA is ripping me off, however, because COBRA's premiums were in line with the ACA premiums. My COBRA premium was actually lower than through the ACA, although assuming I could actually collect the subsidy I am purportedly due, it'd be cheaper to go through the exchange. I didn't check for Lut, because he gets Medicaid and is therefore not eligible for ACA subsidies. I have wrangled over whether or not it is worth it to continue to pay for private insurance in addition to Medicaid. The oncology clinic that we use (and which I love; I have a lot of experience with different medical providers at this point and the Sarah Cannon Cancer Center is far and away the best overall) takes Medicaid. But some of his other providers don't, and Medicaid doesn't appear to pay for prescriptions, and I just feel better if he's got private insurance as well.

So I took the COBRA packet to work and told my boss. She called me and told me that she and her boss had secured a 65% raise for me starting in 2020.

Yes, you read that right. My take-home salary will be SIXTY-FIVE PERCENT more in 2020 than in 2019. This is enough to cover the increase in cost from COBRA, the extra taxes that I will pay on the raise, and still have some money left over. It's not a LOT left over, because the insurance premiums by themselves will eat up more than half the raise, and state/federal/city/social security/medicaid will take another fifth or so. But it does more than make up for the hit I took from losing insurance.

My boss: "So normally, you'd get a raise at your annual review, but my boss wanted to be sure you knew that this was taking the place of that."
Me: "THAT IS FINE thank you."

Anyway, I feel like I prayed to God for serenity and He looked down at me and said "Aw, you poor thing, let me fix this stuff for you. There you go."

Thank you too, God. <3

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2019 in Review and 2020 Goals

December: "Insecurity" (novelette for The Reclamation Project )

The Mortal Prince and the Moon Etherium: novelette, complete
The Twilight Etherium: completed first-round edits, needs a second round
"Insecurity": short story, complete
The Twilight Etherium (draft started 2018, finish January 2019. Total length 102,900): 28,500. Draft complete, partially edited.
Spark of Desire: 91,200
The Lord, His Monster, and Their Lady: 48,900
"Insecurity": 8000 words
That's a total of 176,500 words, almost half of last year's total word count. Meh. On the upside, it's still 2.5 books completed.
I did more sketching than usual this year, which is still "not much sketching". I also did a handful of nice fan art pieces and one ridiculous illustration of Frost in lingerie.
Support Lut
He's still alive!  And doing reasonably well, although still too fatigued to do much activity on any given day.
General Adulting
On the home maintenance front, I continue to be a failure.
I got a quote on what it would cost to repair the garage and realized that having a garage is not worth that price to me. It's not even worth 25% of that price. Like, I might pay 25% of that just to not have a broken garage, but the truth is all the garage is to me is a place to store the bike I don't own anymore, and even if it were fixed I'm not sure I trust it enough to keep a bike there again. Even if I got another bike. Which I haven't really wanted to do. A lot of why I loved having a bike was because it's good transportation if you don't have a car. I have a car.
Home maintenance aside, I have done Excellent Adulting, including things like getting myself to the doctor for general wellness visit for the first time in many years, and twice-annual dental visits, and managing Lut's care and our insurance and renewing my driver's license and car registration and all that other adulty stuff.
2019 Goal Recap:
* Support Lut through cancer treatment process: Done!
* Do something about the broken garage wall: Nooope.
* Publish three books: Nope. Published two.
* Finish drafting three books: Nope. Finished two. Did finish a couple of short works, tho.
* Write a book in the 55,000-85,000 word range and which covers the entire original outline for the book: Nooooope. Spark was just 6,200 words over it, granted, but tbh I'd forgotten this one was on here until like October or something, and by then I didn't care.
* Post monthly updates: Done!
2020 Goals
~ Continue caregiving for Lut
~ Publish two books
~ Publish The Mortal Prince and the Moon Etherium
~ Finish drafting two books
~ Do enough maintenance on house to keep it from falling down around us
~ Make one color picture every month
~ Continue to track food & exercise
~ Post monthly updates. Check goal list when I post them.
Stretch goals:
~ Write a book in the 55,000-80,000 word range which covers the entire outline for the book
I failed on most of my 2019 goals and I don't feel like doing that again, so I'm just going to aim lower. Yes, I have published three books in a year in the past and I am sure I could publish three books in a year again. But I'm unconvinced that there's any real merit in pushing myself to do so. My revenue per year has been in the low 4 digits since I started publishing books, with 2015 remaining my best year for net income.  Even if my net income from writing was ten times higher, my 20-hour-a-week job at the bank would still pay better. The likelihood that someday I will make enough money at writing for it to replace my day job is slim, and those odds are very little impacted by whether I write 2 books a year or 3.
So. It's enough if I only write 176,000 words in a year. Or if I only write 100,000, for that matter. It's plenty.

I put art back on the goal list because I got to do a "year in art" thing back in 2015 and I want to be able to do that again.
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Me 2012

December in Review

Still using a spreadsheet to track calories/exercise/weight! Do you know what that means? It means I can actually compare last month's data to this month's data! SO EXCITE.
My calorie consumption for December is up slightly from November: 1919 vs 1903. My exercise level is up significantly, from 291 calories to 416. This may be an artifact of how I'm measuring it, however. I noticed Google Fit has a "calories per workout" option and started using that in December, and for most of November I was estimating based on minutes of activity instead. On the other hand, it might be real: I've been doing a lot of long walks at the Plaza while I hunt down Team Rocket and rescue pokemon from them. Guess I should get the full data export from Google and check that.
*clicks on various boxes, waits, clicks more, retrieves download, pastes into existing spreadsheet with formulas to make sense of it, frowns at columns, compares new header to old header, inserts four columns for stuff that Google added to the tracking, checks out month-by-month comparison*
So Google agrees with me that my amount of walking was way up -- my steps-per day went from an average of 5600 in November to an average of almost 9200 in December. I spent several hours dancing or doing other activities in lieu of walking in November, so the low step count isn't as meaningful as it looks.  But Google thinks my calorie count differential is smaller: 84 more calories burned per day in December, rather than 125. Fair 'nuf.
My five-day average weight at the end of November was 171.3.  At the end of December, it's 170.88. I should work on eating a little less so that I can get closer to my "lose 1 pound a month" goal, but I am content. I currently cook 1/4 cup of cream of wheat for breakfast, which is an extremely convenient amount to measure, but I could try switching it to 3 tbsp and see how that goes. I have nutella with it and cutting back on the amount of nutella I eat would save me 50 calories a day easily. Heh.
I still haven't gotten back to stretching or doing push-ups regularly.
I probably did some writing in December. Let me check. Yup, 4,900 words of The Lord, HIs Monster, and Their Lady, bringing it to 48,900. I was not in the mood to write last month.
The Business of Writing
I ran a Cyber Monday sale on six of my books, with no promotion beyond mentioning it on Twitter and Tootplanet. Surprisingly, actually sold some books during the sale: my total unit sales for December was 64 and more than a third of that was during the two days of the sale. Writing income remains low overall.
I started editing The Twilight Etherium again: I made an editing list, wrote a new opening scene, and am halfway through a new closing scene. Yeah, wasn't really motivated to do editing, either.
I did do the revamp of the outline on The Lord, His Monster, and Their Lady.
Not doing art, either. Literally, "sketching" was on my to-do list every week, and I never did it.
I am gradually getting back to cleaning on a regular basis again. I need to mop, but everything else has been done at least once recently, and clutter remains under control. I purchased a couple of freestanding shelves to put inside of cabinets, and these worked nicely to make the places I put them more orderly and the items easy to access.
I got Lut and myself signed up for COBRA starting in January.  I don't think I ever posted about the Great Insurance Debacle; I wrote it up, but my write-up talks about God and then I got too self-conscious to post it. Maybe I'll post it in January. The short version is "I'm still employed but work isn't providing insurance for me or Lut anymore."
I finally tried to find a contractor to replace the piece of missing siding by my front porch. I hired someone who was supposed to do this two weeks ago.  He has told me four times, on four different days, that he will show up and do the repair. He has never showed up.  The last time I tried texting him, I received a system message saying my number had been blocked. O_o (For the record, I have not so much as sent an irritated "where are you??" text to this guy, much less been mean to him. The last thing I successfully sent to him was "Ok!" in response to him saying when he'd be out.)
This is why I never get anything fixed around my house. -_-
Jen visited Lawrence for a week in December, so I got to see her and that was lovely. <3
I sent an email to a friend I haven't heard from in several years, just to say "Is this address still good?" I got an email back last night and sent a real email back, so that was nice.
I feel like this is a glum update full of "I didn't do very much", but I was perfectly cheerful for most of the month. I spent a lot of time outdoors, walking around, because that was what I wanted to do. I'm happy. I'm just insufficiently motivated to push myself into being productive when I'm not in the mood for it.
Goal scorecard for previous month
~ Helped Lut
- Caught up on on the one-time section of the to-do list
- Failed to get back to doing regular push-ups, stretching, or drawing. Can't bring myself to care much.
~ Made editing list for TTE and started edits.
- Revamped outline on The Lord, His Monster, and Their Lady, wrote some more of it.
Goals for coming month
- Help Lut
- Mop at least once
~ Do something art-related at least once a week. Anything counts, including 5 minutes of doodling.
- Finish edits on The Twilight Etherium and send to another round of beta-readers.
- Write more of The Lord, His Monster, and Their Lady
~ Set calorie goal to 1850 instead of 1900.
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Me 2012

Maybe It's Not About Me

Human beings don't have much in the way of instincts, but we do have some. We are social animals, and we act to protect members of our group because instinct says that a threat to the herd is a threat to us as individuals.  Like most instincts, it's a survival mechanism with a rational basis in reality which, nonetheless, does not adapt well to modern society. 
I am thinking about this today because one of the people I follow on Twitter posted a link to an article about the cruelty of certain politicians in PoliticalGroupZ and how this is a human bonding tactic: attack the out-group to bond with the in-group. A lot of the comments to the tweet were on the lines of this:
TwitterUser22018: 'I am not a terrible person! Why would you link to this article that says I am?'
But the article didn't say 'TwitterUser22018 is a terrible person.' It didn't even say 'all members of PoliticalGroupZ are terrible people.' It said that certain politicians and their teams, who are members of PoliticalGroupZ, were using cruelty as a bonding tactic. Maybe it doesn't work on all people who are in PoliticalGroupZ.  Maybe some people are members of the political group despite this and would rather it stopped.
Maybe it's not about you.
But it's interesting how many people felt that it was about them, and moreover that their reaction wasn't even 'this article's examples about A, B and C are wrong for reasons X, Y, and Z' but much closer to 'this article is mean and you're mean for linking to it.'  It's a visceral response rather than a rational one. The whole chain comes down to 'I'm in the same group with these people so I have to respond to things about them as if they're about me and it's not true about me and therefore it's just wrong entirely.'
As an example of 'attacks on one of my groups': I'll see articles about 'white women weaponizing their tears', using examples of white women who did something racist, then became publicly sad and upset at the backlash, portraying themselves as victims. White people in general get called out a lot for perpetuating the racism that still permeates American society. I could take these as personal attacks: I'm white! I'm not doing those racist things! 
Or I could just go: maybe this isn't about me.
Or I could think: maybe the reason I think it's about me is that I do those things and perhaps I should, y'know, stop doing it instead of defending my right to do unpleasant things, or caviling about how it's not really *that* bad, is it?
Of course, it's not always inappropriate to defend my group, or other members of it. I have to stand up for what I believe in. But it's good to stop and think about the reason for my reaction. And to remember: not everything is about me, and I don't need to make it about me, either.
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Pokemon GO: A Challenging Development

I'm still enjoying Niantic's recent additions to Pokemon GO and the development of Team Rocket. It's been effective at getting me out of the house and exercising, even if I don't love that I'm often driving to the Plaza to get that exercise. It'd be nice if Niantic would make Team Rocket spawns more likely per pokestop in areas with few pokestops, instead of forcing you to a major urban center to find them.
One of the new additions is a new special research quest, "A Challenging Development", focused around finding and defeating Team Rocket. With the new quest came changes to the gameplay: when you defeated a Team Rocket grunt, you now got a Mysterious Component, and combining six Mysterious Components let you assemble a Rocket Radar, which you could use to locate the hideouts of Team Rocket Leaders.
I didn't focus particularly on finishing the tasks in the new quest, but I spent a lot of time hunting Rocket grunts and then hunting Rocket leaders anyway, simply because it was a fun new thing to do.  There are three different leaders: Cliff, Arlo, and Sierra.  In my first encounters with Cliff and Sierra, I lost the first few rounds with them, but I changed up my strategy as I saw which pokemon they were using, until I could defeat them. Arlo was harder still; I won once against them, after 5 tries, then ran into them again but with a different lineup. That instance, I gave up on on beating them after a half-dozen tries.  
Much later, I found out by chance that there was an actual set of tasks for "defeat each leader", but that I needed to get past the "win 3 Great Trainer battles" task first.  "Trainer battles" are PvP, and there's no proximity requirement for them: you can do them with anyone with whom you have achieved "Ultra" or "Best" Friends status. I have something like 50 people who meet this criteria. It is easy to arrange for battles with exactly 0 of them.
So I badgered three different people until they let me win one battle each with them (I could have done this with the same person but it would have required one person to have the time and patience to do this a minimum of three times, or several more if they wanted to actually battle and not just forfeit to me by bringing three 10 CP pokemon.)
Now I had assigned tasks to do something I'd already done (once in the case of Arlo, and several times for Sierra and Cliff): defeat each team leader.
On Saturday, I made my preparations by researching (a) which Pokemon work against which leader combos and (b) which Pokemon of the ones who work that I actually had. This was the list for Sierra:
slot one: KICKROCKET or the lucky SCIZOR
slot two
vs SableEye: BITE CRUNCH
vs Lapras: find another Sierra
slot three
vs Houndoom: ROCKETDEATH
vs Alakazam: BITE CRUNCH
vs Gardevoir: METEOR MERRY
"KickRocket" is a Blaziken (3rd evolvution of Torchic) with Counter (a fighting fast attack move) and Blaze Kick (a fire charged attack). Like RocketDeath below, good against multiple different leaders.
"Bite Crunch" is a Tyranitar with Bite and Crunch.
"RocketDeath" is a Swampert with Mud Shot and Hydro Cannon.
"Meteor Merry": Metagross with Bullet Punch and Meteor Mash. (o/~ We'll do the mash! We'll do the Meteor Mash! We'll do the mash! We'll mash you with meteors! o/~)
I marked Lapras as "find another Sierra" because one time I had lost like 6 battles to a Sierra-with-Lapras without even getting to see what her third slot held. I'd tried several different pokemon, to no avail. It wasn't even close. Moreover, the most accurate site I could find for <a href="">"how to defeat Rocket Team Leaders"</a> recommended 4 different pokemon vs Lapras, and I didn't have any of those and was in no position to acquire them.
With Arlo and Cliff, I had some confidence is my candidates for beating each of their possible line ups, however. I had spent my entire reserve of stardust by now, powering up various pokemon so that they could take on the leaders.
Battling Team Rocket leaders is weird in several ways. The CP rating for a Pokemon isn't nearly as important as having the right combination of attacks. Having a charged move that charges QUICKLY is hugely important: their fast attacks can often kill a pokemon before a slow charged move finishes building. Also, the Team Rocket leaders will use their shields (the grunts never do) on the first two attacks, so you need moves that charge quickly so you can burn through their shields. And the charged moves from the leaders are BRUTAL. I have more than once had a pokemon be one-shot by a leader pokemon with a "not very effective" attack.
Armed with this knowledge, I headed for the Plaza. With my existing Rocket Radar, I took on Arlo first and won. Woohoo! They were the hardest, I'd thought. I hunted Rocket grunts for a while until I defeated six and assembled a new radar. With this, I found Sierra with Lapras, and ran away. I went after Cliff instead, lost to his Snorlax, and then tried a few more combos against him and eventually won. I found five more Rocket grunts, at which point I'd been walking around the Plaza for around three hours and decided to call it a day. I could come back tomorrow, find one more grunt, and then locate Sierra. Without Lapras with her.
Sunday, I returned to the Plaza, got a new radar, and saw five Rocket leader hideouts in a four-block area around me. Great! Surely one of these will have Sierra.
The first one had Arlo. The next four had Cliff.  OK, guess I'll have to range a little farther.  There are two at the edges of my screen, in opposite directions.  I walked to the nearest: Cliff. I walked to the farthest: also Cliff.
All right then.  I was about 10 blocks from the big museum that has a lot of pokestops, at this point, and headed that way.  Ranging about the museum, the gigantic park next to the museum, and the art college campus on the other side, I found six more hideouts.
They all also had Cliff.
Is it Cliff day?  Did they change how the leaders work? Why is every hideout CLIFF?
By now it'd been almost three hours. I returned to my car, drove to a park half a mile away that has a lot of stops, and ran the Rocket radar again. None of the stops in range had any hideouts.  I threw up my hands and went home.
Because I'd done the raid hour two weeks ago, I had an EX Raid pass for the Plaza on Tuesday night. I drove down to the Plaza for that, and stuck around to look for Sierra again.  Of the three nearest hideouts, one had Sierra! Success!
She had Lapras with her.
Per my pre-made instructions, I went looking for another Sierra, and found one.
She also had Lapras with her.  I ranged farther out, and found a third Sierra-with-Lapras. Past the northern edge of the Plaza, I found Cliff.  I started walking to the library southeast of the Plaza, where I'd seen a Rocket hideout earlier (it was off the edge of my radar by now).  As I walked, I wondered if I was letting my one experience trying to defeat Lapras, plus the website of "only super-rare Pokemon can take on Lapras"  put me off too much. Maybe I'd stumbled onto a Lapras with a move set that neither Raikou nor Magnezone could handle. Maybe my Raikou and Magnezone were bad choices because their charged attacks aren't fast enough.  Maybe some other Pokemon could hack it. I researched Lapras specifically.
Lapras is an ice/water type. Sierra's may use ice or water moves, or a normal charged attack. Unlike some of the other Rocket leader Pokemon, It doesn't have any double vulnerabilites (ie, Ice and Water are not both vulnerable to any of the same types.)  Magnezone should be good against it, because it's vulnerable to electric and if Lapras is using ice attacks, it's weak against steel. Magnezone is a steel/electric and I have one with electric attacks. On the other hand, my Metagross is much higher CP, has a faster charged attack, and Lapras is just as vulnerable to my Metagross's steel attacks as to Magnezone's electric. OTOH, Water gets some resistance to steel. So it's not clear this would work. But I decided that if the last hideout didn't have a Sierra-without-Lapras, I'd at least try to take down one of the Sierras-with-Lapras that I'd come across. Once I knew which attacks the Lapras was using, I could bring in a Pokemon type that would handle it best.
The last pokestop had Sierra.  I brought in a team of Blaziken, Tyrantitar, and Metagross, the last two being each good at least 2 or 3 of her 6 possible Pokemon. She had Lapras with her.  I swapped in Metagross and -- behold! Metagross defeated Lapras!  
Her third pokemon was Houndoom, whom Tyranitar could not hope to defeat, so I had to try again with my Swampert in place of Tyranitar. But the new lineup won handily! YAY!
By now, I kind of wanted to go home: it was pitch dark, after 7PM, I was tired, and it was freezing. But I popped a star piece (which gives bonus star dust for 30 minutes) to collect the reward for defeating all three Team Rocket leaders. I could stay another half hour; it'd take 15 minutes to walk back to my car anyway.
There turned out to be three possible Giovanni hideouts on the way back to the car. As I neared the first, I realized I'd dropped one of my gloves after I took it off during the fight with Sierra. I turned around and went back for it, then walked again to the first potential Giovanni hideout. No Giovanni.  Second: also not Giovanni.  Third: GIOVANNI AT LAST.
As I'd been told, Giovanni is not as tough as his lieutenants, and I won with my initial lineup against him.  But by now my star piece had worn off and the reward for defeating him was a nice chunk of star dust.  With some resignation, I popped another star piece, and then stuck around for 30 more minutes while I hunted Rocket grunts for a repeat of the same mission.  It looks like you can start the quest new every month, and since I'd started it in November I get to start it again in December. Whee!
When my current star piece ran out, though, I stopped hunting and went home. But this is how I use Pokemon GO to convince myself to get a whole lot more walking in than I would otherwise. :D
This entry was originally posted at Please comment there using OpenID.

November in Review

The weight-loss program I've been using since January, RealAppeal, has switched platforms. I have seen a lot of "we're switching systems" over the course of my life, and I don't think I've ever seen one that was quite so perplexing and, well, terrible, as this one.
RealAppeal is shutting the old website down in mid-December, which they announced a couple of months ago. RealAppeal is not converting over the data. There's no support for individuals to export their own data, either. If you want your own data, you have the option of ... going through day by day and copying it out my hand? That's about it.
If you want to move to the new website, you can, assuming your insurance provider is willing to pay for an entire year of it, because RealAppeal is starting all classes over from the beginning.  
While they're winding down the old program, they're randomly consolidating classes on the old site, so you had the option of sticking it out on the old site while they rescheduled your classes over and over again, with new coaches, over a period of a few months, with the each consolidated class being at some random point +/- 10 weeks of wherever your original class was.
Basically, it's not a conversion from one platform to another. It's "we're blowing up the old platform and you can maybe start over from scratch on the new one?"
Also, my coach was given a new job in a different department and is no longer in coaching and has no way of contacting former students. So that was annoying too, but can't really be blamed on the non-conversion process.
The new website, in addition to not offering a way to export data (just like the old system), also doesn't have any kind of summary or reporting function.  The old website would at least summarize your last seven days of tracking, and you could scroll back through weekly reports to kind of eyeball things badly.  The new one only lets your see one day at a time. Ever. It also doesn't have as large a database of foods as the old site. The only advantage that it has in tracking is that you can sync it with a number of other tracking apps, pretty much all of which are going to be a lot better. Although your coach can't see what you enter no matter what, so the point to the RA site knowing whether you're tracking or not is unclear.
Oh, and I forgot the most astonishingly terrible decision on the new website: it insists on two-factor authentication for every session, and times you out after 15 minutes of inactivity. So if you're going to use the website to track, you have to submit your user name and  password, then on a new screen click "send" in order for it to send you a text, and then check your phone for the text and enter the authentication number in a badly-designed entry form, and NOW you can log the glass of milk you drank.  Be prepared to do all that again at lunch time!
There is no bypass or "remember this computer" or "keep me logged in for two weeks".  It's every single time you want to use the site.
The app at least lets you stay logged in for 30 days at a time but OY.
Anyway, as should be evident from my critique of the new website, I decided to sign up for another year. I am not sure how long I will stick it out on the new site, since the only thing I'm using it for now is the classes.  Maybe the classes will work from my phone and I can walk while they're going on again? The old app had stopped displaying video or sound for the classes after the first couple of months, so I've had to do them from home.
I looked around at tracking apps and was meh about all of them. Everything I saw offered "free" and "subscription" models, and I kind of wanted to be able to pay like $10 and own my own data and I didn't see anything where this was an option. Also, the tracking apps all emphasized features I don't care about or find actively obnoxious and counterproductive, like "this will nag you if you go over your calorie goal" or "gives you coaching advice". All I want is something that will add up my calories and tell me how much I've been eating/burning per day this month.
So I gave up and started using a Google spreadsheet to track. -_- This is also freeware, but at least Google makes it easy for me to export my own data. I could use Excel -- I own a non-subscription version of Excel, from the days before Everything Is a Subscription Service Now -- but then I couldn't update it from my phone. Also, I would be more tempted to use Access and build a database for it, and this way lies madness.
I thought the spreadsheet would be annoying because I'd always have to look up foods to find out how many calories they are and type in food names and such.  But I've been using the spreadsheet for about two weeks, and it's not been an issue. I usually check calories before I eat anyway, so it's not as if I was waiting until I logged food to find out.
I do kind of miss the old site's nutritional analysis, but it's not as if knowing that I never eat enough protein has induced me to eat more protein at any point in the last 10 months, so it probably wasn't going to in the future, either.  
According to the spreadsheet, my calorie consumption for November is ~ 1900, and exercise burned around ~290. I think this about the same as October, but I haven't tried copying out all my October data by hand in order to compare it.  I was eating much more than usual for my six-day vacation to visit Terry, and probably somewhat more during the three days of the convention. But I actualy continued to track while visiting Terry so I even have data for that, which is nice.
I fell out of the habit of both stretching and push-ups this month. Gonna see if I can get back to it next month.
My weight was pegged at 170.6 for several days before I went to Seattle -- seriously, it was weird, every time I stepped on the scale it'd be exactly the same weight, down to the tenth of a pound.  When I got back on 11/25, it was 174.4.  It plummeted to 169.9 by 11/30, and then went back to 170.6 as of 12/1.  Maybe travel cause me to retain a lot more water? Weight is weird, y'all.
Anyway, my average for the last 5 days is 171.3, so I'm gonna pretend that counts as "actual weight." That puts me down 13 pounds for the year, and down about 2 pounds over the last two months. So, pretty much exactly where I planned to be. Sweet.
I won Nanowrimo, writing 20,800 words of Spark of Desire to finish that book (at 91,300), and 29,200 words of The Lord, His Monster, and Their Lady (bringing it to 44,000). I stayed up a little late on 11/29 to finish winning Nano, and then spent Saturday writing no fiction whatsoever. My word counts per day were all over the place:
11/1/2019 : 4,559
11/2/2019 : 4,204
11/3/2019 : 4,753
11/4/2019 : 1,965
11/5/2019 : 1,208
11/6/2019 : 1,705
11/7/2019 : 400
11/8/2019 : 2,044
11/9/2019 : 1,121
11/10/2019 : 274
11/11/2019 : 1,584
11/12/2019 : 858
11/13/2019 : 2,675
11/14/2019 : 531
11/15/2019 : 3,463
11/16/2019 : 2,628
11/17/2019 : 4,714
11/18/2019 : 749
11/19/2019 : 277
11/20/2019 : 2,438
11/21/2019 : 130
11/22/2019 : 157
11/23/2019 : 0
11/24/2019 : 400
11/25/2019 : 1,839
11/26/2019 : 0
11/27/2019 : 514
11/28/2019 : 2,047
11/29/2019 : 2,796
11/30/2019 : 0
That 4,753 on the 3rd represents a new single-day high.
Also, I wrote over 36,000 of those 50,000 words -- more than 70% -- on just 11 days. Writing was much, much easier on days where I had no other plans. On the days when I was working, or visiting Terry, or spending time at the con, or taking Lut to an appointment, I often didn't break 1000. Actually traveling on a plane, however, is fine for writing. It's 3+ hours sitting with no Internet access and no excuse not to write. :D
The new NaNoWriMo site manages to be even less likable than the old one by having no mechanism by which to edit your word count per day. For even more amusement: the only reason I use the NaNoWriMo site at all is because has offered a discount code to NaNo winners for the past three years.  This year, however, there was a glitch in their NaNo sponsorship and so there's no 4thewords discount code for winners.  (Yes, NaNoWriMo charges prize sponsors for the honor of offering prizes, in case you're wondering why most of the "prizes" are pretty terrible.) 4thewords offered a 25% discount on their own site to everyone instead.  (2020wrimo, if you're interested. My referral code is LBQFV83845 if you're signing up for a new account and want some referral goodies.)
Every year, I go to the NaNoWriMo site and think "maybe this is the year that I will actually use any of the networking features that they keep trying to get me to use". And every year, I go "NOPE." Maybe next year will be the year I finally skip using the site entirely. <_< At the least, I'm gonna check with 4thewords before I sign up to see if they're sponsoring a prize.
The Business of Writing
I did NaNoWriMo in November. No business stuff got done.
See above.
I low-key attended the convention across the street, by which I mean "I spent 12-15 hours total at it, over the course of three days." And on the Thursday before it started, I spent the evening with friends who'd driven in for the con.  And I spent 4.5 days with Terry.  This time around, we just spent the time together instead of seeing other people. We did get out of the apartment each day for food and exercise, and I made him spend two hours on Sunday playing Pokemon GO with me and doing the Team Rocket event. Team Rocket continues to entertain me. The weather was nice on the 30th, so I spent almost 3 hours wandering around on the Plaza fighting Team Rocket grunts and a couple of leaders. 
NaNoWriMo was both good and stressful. I enjoyed focusing on writing and letting everything else slide for a while, Writing 13,500 words in the first three days of November was particularly fun. Trying to get enough ahead so that I wouldn't have to stress about the remainder while I was in Seattle was challenging, though. If I do NaNoWriMo again, I should avoid scheduling a trip during it. Attending the con is a lot of distraction by itself.
Oh, and I have a funny story about planning to do NaNoWriMo. I looked at my plans for November, and made up a schedule based on the days I'd be busy. And wrote a post called "NaNoWhyMo" because the schedule looked so brutal. 
Then, instead of posting that, I decided I would either do NaNoWriMo and be excited about it, or I wouldn't do it. If all I could think going into the month was "UGH NO", then I should just skip it. With this resolved, I realized that I was excited about writing as much as possible in the first three days -- days when I had no work or other plans. I figured that was good enough; I could be excited about starting the month and figure out the rest from there.
And that decision more-or-less worked and carried me through. 
Goals for coming month
~ Help Lut
~ Catch up on most if not all of those to-do list items that have been accumulating while I did NaNoWriMo.
~ Get back into the regular habits that I let slide because of NaNoWriMo (cleaning, stretching, etc.)
~ Make a list for the next round of edits on The Twilight Etherium and maybe start final edits
~ Revamp the outline on The Lord, His Monster, and Their Lady  and write some more of it.
That looks like plenty. I would like to either finish the next round of edits on The Twilight Etherium or finish the draft on The Lord, His Monster, and Their Lady , but doing either one is unduly ambitious at this stage. My estimate is at least another 46,000 words before the draft is done, and I am ambivalent about what to do with The Twilight Etherium next.
Also, I have found the outline for Lord  to be too vague; it's not nearly as useful as the outline for Spark was. And it occurs to me that I can fix this, and that there's no reason not to. So I'll do that.
This entry was originally posted at Please comment there using OpenID.

October in Review

My weigh-ins this month have been between a low of 171.4 and a high of 173.5, kind of randomly across the month. My weight this morning was 173.5, which is 0.4 pounds above my weight last month. Two days earlier was 171.8. I'm going to mark this down as "basically no change". Also going to try eating ~50 fewer calories per day next month. I am unconvinced that my weight is actually stable at the current level, but I've been eating food when I'm not very hungry. It won't be hard to cut back a little.

I've made some progress on eating more meals at home. I've been going to Costco to get ravioli, which both Lut and I like, and I made potatoes with fake crab, Swiss cheese, and broccoli on Tuesday night. (This is a combination I used to get at a baked potato place and have always liked, and Lut will also eat it.) Also made mac & cheese with sausage and sausage penne alfredo. It's all pretty simple stuff and most of it is not healthy, but it saves me picking up fast food for Lut every day and/or going out to a restaurant. Our income has been less than our outgo for several months in a row, so I am trying to rein in expenses as much as eat better.

I can't get updated Google Fit numbers for the month yet, but my guess is that my walking was down for the month, due to a combination of factors:
  • Inclement weather
  • Less likely to go to the Plaza to walk for two hours when I'm trying not to spend $10 at coffee shops
  • Spending more time cleaning at home leaves less time for exercise, and I haven't bothered to log time spent cleaning.

Looking at this trade off -- less exercise but more money and a cleaner house -- I'm okay with this.

I've also kept up with stretching four times a week and doing push-ups three times a week.

I'm sitting here thinking that I track a bunch of stuff in multiple places -- in my bullet journal, in Google Fit, and in RealAppeal's app -- and maybe I should move my bullet journal to a spreadsheet so that I can do analysis on it. But the last time I tried using a spreadsheet for this purpose was my old Activity Log, which I abandoned because it was so unwieldy.

Perhaps what I really need is a database.

Perhaps this way lies madness.

I worked on Spark of Desire this month, and wrote ~25,000 words. It's now about 70% done. I am content.

The Business of Writing
I did not do much business-related writing stuff. I submitted four books for a Draft2Digital/Overdrive promotion (all my "first of two" books) that will sell them at a discount to libraries. I like libraries.

I also collected rejections for Bookbub promotions on A Rational Arrangement, The Sun Etherium, and Demon's Lure. These are the only three titles I'm still submitting for promos, since The Moon Etherium and Silver Scales both lost money on the promos I bought for them. Whenever I get a sequel out for The Princess, Her Dragon, and Their Prince, I'll start submitting it, though.

No editing this month. Meh. Editing. I thought of something I wanted to change in The Twilight Etherium and scribbled it down, and of course I have a bunch of first reader suggestions. No motivation, though.

My bank gave us free tickets for the zoo on one Sunday, and I did a whole bunch of sketches while I was there. I also drew a random marker piece for Inktober, did a few gesture drawings, and made a mock-up for the cover of The Twilight Etherium. So out of the 9-10 times that I put down "sketch" on the to-do list, I did so five times. I remain amazed that I am more motivated to clean than I am to draw.

Day Hobby
I have amusing news about my day job!

About a year ago, my bank reorganized and my department went from "we do reports for the loan department" to "we do reports for every department of the bank". This includes getting weird requests to do reports on systems that only ten people use and that I've never even heard of, much less used or have access to. Then we scramble around trying to find the system and figure out how to get access to and then try to find some documentation so we can find the information needed for the particular request. It is an ADVENTURE.

Anyway, several hundred people in various positions were impacted by this reorg, and basically everyone got new jobs with slightly different responsibilities from their old ones. Since this happened, management and human resources has been trying to reclassify the old jobs in the internal rating system. They finally got new job titles and job descriptions to everyone this week.

My new job title is "Reporting Engineer." FANCY.

The job title & description entitle me to a raise, although no one knows what yet and it won't be until next year. But more amusingly, the job is salaried; as of November 4, I am officially no longer an hourly employee and no longer have to use a timecard, for the first time in twenty-two years.

At many places, "salaried" or "exempt" is a fancy way of saying "we want you to work a lot of unpaid overtime." My bank is pretty good about not more than forty hours a week from their exempt employees, as a rule.

However, I am part-time. I work 20 hours a week. I am not going to work more than twenty hours a week and I don't care what they call my position or how it's paid.

This was almost my first comment to my boss and her boss when they told me about the change, and they laughed and went "Yes, yes, we know! We're not sure how this will work but we'll figure it out."

So I don't know what my new salary is going to be, but I'm not worried about it. I can't be the only salaried employee at the bank that ever dropped to part-time for life reasons, there must be some precedent. Still, it is a funny kind of situation. You never hear about part-time employees who don't get paid by the hour!

Actually got out to see Corwyn and Kat twice this month. And saw Jen once when she was back in town to visit folks. Unprecedented!

I have been bummed out by some personal stuff for the last few days. I have three different "short & chatty" style services look at a lot: Discord, Twitter, and Mastodon/TootPlanet. I'm starting to wonder if I should stop looking at all of them. I like the one-on-one conversations on Discord but I don't know if the rest has value for me or if I'm just doing it out of habit and boredom. If I'm bored, I could read a book. I barely talk on any of these services, so the impact of my absence on anyone would be minimal.

Scorecard for prior month
~ Help Lut & general adulting: I AM SO ADULT yes
~ Keep up with the weekly to-dos: I have done this! I am falling behind on the to-do a little: it's gone from "one thing that I keep rolling over because I don't do it" to two, and there are a couple of others that are in danger of getting rolled over this week. Also, of the items that are scheduled to recur aren't being done as often as I'd like. (Sketching! MY NEMESIS.) Still, this is a pretty good track record for "doing the things I need to do."
~ Finish 25% of a new book and/or edit: I wrote about 25,000 words of Spark of Desire, which is projected at around 100,000, so hit this almost exactly. Have not been motivated to edit at all.

Goals for coming month
~ Help Lut/General adulting/keep up on the to-do list
~ NaNoWriMo!
~ Visit Terrycloth Nov 20-25. ❤️

I am excited about starting NaNoWriMo tomorrow! I have Fridays off so I'm not working for the first three days of NaNo. Because I like to front-load my NaNo, I'm setting my goal for those three days at 12,500 words. That's 4166 words per day: chosen because it is (a) about the most I've ever written in one day and (b) will get me to 25% done with NaNo by day three.

The rest of the month I'm not so sure how I'll handle. I've got work some days, and I might show up at the local relaxicon on the weekend after next, and I'm visiting Terry at the end of the month, and also there's Thanksgiving in there and appointments for Lut and whatnot. Still, I've done NaNoWriMo every year for the last three. It's not that hard.

Plan A is to finish Spark of Desire, since it's close to the end, and then go back to working on The Lord, His Monster, and Their Lady. But if I write some added scenes for The Twilight Etherium, or if I decide to start a different book, that's fine too.

I'm also going to let myself count "notes made while figuring out plot points" towards word count. I dislike the way NaNo's emphasis on Word Count Over Everything encourages me to wander around in the weeds, lost and flailing and writing things that have no value to the story just to make The All Important Word Goal. I am glad this process is of value to other people but it's not of value to me. Anyway, hoping that giving myself credit for notes will encourage me to wander around in the weeds *figuring things out off-camera*, and not trying to incorporate that aimless wandering into the narrative in a way that I will just have to un-incorporate later, through painstaking edits. :D

Anyway, NaNoWriMo is the reason I'm posting my month-in-review now: I'm clearing my schedule for November so I can focus on writing fiction.

So who else is doing NaNo this year? This entry was originally posted at Please comment there using OpenID.
Me 2012

Tidying Up

For the last month or two, my house has been clean, by my standards.

I do not meant to brag here. It is important to note that "my standards" of cleanliness are (a) low and (b) do not include problems with my house that I lack the motivation to address. For instance, the kitchen and bathroom linoleum both need badly to be replaced. The bathroom linoleum was sliced open several years ago to install a floor under the toilet (there wasn't one), and the kitchen linoleum was ripped up in the middle by a screw sticking out from the bottom of a rolling chair and us not realizing what the problem was until WAY TOO LATE. The carpet is sixteen years old and has tons of stains due to sixteen years of life with cats. It, too, should be replaced. There's mildew in the grout of the shower that no amount of scrubbing will remove; it just needs to be dug out and replaced.

But even when you can hire people to do these things for you -- and I could -- it's a serious undertaking that cannot be done quickly and easily. I'm still trying to get myself to call contractors for the far more important maintenance to the outside of the house. (The paint is peeling and at least one shingle is missing from the siding.) The minor interior stuff doesn't rate.

But within the confines of "cleaning that does not require special skills", the interior of my house has become increasingly neat over time. It is weird and also pretty great. I've been thinking about what has made the difference, and I think it's a combination of factors.

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up
I read one of Marie Kondo's books back in February. I never made it through KonMari'ing all of my possessions: I did clothing and jewelry while I was still reading the book, and over the next few months I culled my books and papers, and finally started with the "hobbies" category by culling my art supplies. I also cleaned out my pantry. That's as far as I got; there's large categories of stuff that I never culled. I have a huge collection of items I wear for cosplay that's untouched, for example. Same with my board games. I am not sure you could get me to part with most of my board games, but there are a few that I got for free or never liked, and would be willing to donate.

So there's still a lot of clutter in my house. The back of the front hall, where I keep the litterboxes, is pretty cluttered, mostly with junk. There's a ton of stuff in the basement that we never use, but since we also never use the basement itself, I can't bring myself to care. There's a pile of unframed artwork (none of it my own work; it's stuff Lut or I bought or had gifted to us). I actually got up and hung the framed-but-not-hung artwork, because the reason that stuff wasn't hung was "Lut is usually sleeping when I think about doing this" and this was a rare occasion where he wasn't.

But the culling I did get through freed up a substantial amount of storage space, and most of the house is no longer cluttered at all. As I write this, the only things on top of the coffee table next to me are my phone and my drink. The display area of the entertainment center only has the tchochkes that are supposed to be there. The end table holds a coffee table, a box of tissues, and two pieces of actual clutter: a computer part that Lut hasn't installed and some paperwork on living wills that we still haven't gone through. I should put that on my to-do list and see if that helps. Anyway, the point is: these surfaces aren't clean because I just cleared them off this weekend. I don't remember when I cleared them off. Months ago. I decluttered them and then they just ... stayed that way.

This, I think, is probably the biggest benefit of KonMari. Once you get rid of stuff you don't want, you lose the urge to fill that space back up with stuff you don't want. Alternatively, I may just have lost most of my interest in physical objects as a byproduct of the digital age. A lot of things that I once owned and stored in physical form -- books and music spring to mind, and art supplies to a lesser degree -- I now purchase and use in digital form. Usually from some service that stores the digital copy, for that matter. Which has disadvantages, but it does takes up a lot lessr real-world space.

The biggest factor here is Rovan, my robot vacuum. I talked about him in my August update, so I won't re-hash that here. But having a robot vacuum to keep the floors clean is great. I never realized how much a vacuumed floor does to make the whole house look cleaner. Rovan will vacuum the floors while Lut and I go out to eat, or he'll keep me company while I clean. And it's just motivational that vacuuming is no longer a thing I need to do. The time I would have spent vacuuming, I can spend on something else. Plus, Rovan does a better job of vacuuming than I did, because he can easily get under the table in the den and that area was so hard to reach with the upright.

And there are other things that help too. I got a microfiber mop several months ago and was startled by how much less annoying mopping is now. Mopping has gone from "super annoying, time-consuming, and requiring lots of prep" to "like sweeping." It's not even a fancy mopping robot or anything! It cost, I dunno, $10? It's just much better at picking up dirt without requiring all the floor-soaking and bother of a standard mop.

The To-Do List
I have a folder in EverNote labeled "Bullet Journal". Bullet journals are a combination to-do list and have-done list: most people use them to track their schedule, what they want to do, and what they did do. They are also supposed to be physical journals and a lot of people draw in decorations or use scrapbooking supplies to make them beautiful. Mine is virtual and not physical, and it is inelegant but useful.

I have used it on and off: for a week in 2016, and a couple of months in 2018, most of June this year, and every week since the start of September. I have a system I like for it now. At the top, I put my schedule: everything that needs to be done on a specific day. This is stuff like work and appointments. For a long time, I didn't put work down because I didn't need a reminder about what days I was going to work. But I do sort of need a reminder that "I worked at Day Job for 8 hours this day and that's why I didn't do a whole lot else."

The next section is one-off items: things I am only supposed to do once that week, and it's generally things I'm not going to have to do again. This is things like "schedule a doctor's appointment" or "buy tickets for Seattle trip" or "renew driver's license". It doesn't matter what particular day I do these on, as long as I'm just supposed to do them sometime that week. If I fail to get one of these done, I roll it over to the next week.

The last section is recurring items that I will do multiple times throughout the week. Next week's recurring section is:

Write 5% of something / edit Twilight Etherium
Push ups 3x
Stretching 4x
Cardio 5x
Sketching practice 2x
Log 4thewords 7x
Cleaning 2x

I put a ~ before each item for each time I do it. When I've done it [x] times that week, I cross it off. "Cleaning" is on this list, and surprisingly, "cleaning" is one of the things that gets done. If you're wondering what item is least likely to be crossed off: it's sketching. I always thought I liked sketching but whenever I think about doing it, I nope out. I don't know why. Part of it is that I started doing gesture drawings and I hate gesture drawings. But I could literally do anything for drawing practice and it would count, yet I can't get myself to do this consistently for even an hour a week. I think I should start taking out my markers to do art practice, because that is more fun.

Anyway, pretty much every week, I spend a couple of hours cleaning. A couple of hours is a lot of cleaning. I don't count loading or unloading the dishwasher as part of this task, because even though my dishwasher is sixteen years old and I have to pre-wash everything, the dishes are not much of a time sink. I usually tend to them while I'm making food and it's not a big deal. Washing clothes alone doesn't count, BUT doing the laundry AND folding and putting it away does count. Washing clothes is something I stay on top of because I'm not gonna fish dirty clothes back out of the hamper to wear them and I run out of clothing after two weeks. But it is very easy to leave a giant pile of clean clothes on the couch instead of putting them away, so I let dealing with that part count as one unit of cleaning.

All kinds of other cleaning stuff counts: decluttering, organizing, sweeping, mopping, scrubbing, etc.

And it's gotten to the point where I will look at the "cleaning" to-do and have this conversation with myself:

Me: "What do I actually need to clean? The house looks pretty clean already. I guess I could mop the linoleum? Or clean the bathroom? But I just did that last week."
Also Me: "I think normal people do those chores every week?"
Me: "Oh. Huh. Well, it's not gonna take very long when I just did it a week ago, so sure. Why not."

I am not the sort of person who mops every week. Or at least, I never used to be. Mopping was the kind of chore that I hated and did maybe once a year, if that. It used to be that decluttering was always the top priority. The first think I had to do, every time I went to clean, was find places for things and get them put away before I could do anything like dusting or wiping down surfaces. Often the amount of clutter overwhelmed me, to the point of "I don't know where to put any of this so I'm not even going to start." I never cleaned regularly before.

Now I look at the stuff I have lying around and I'm like "I like all these things and I'm happy with where they are. This is good." I don't have to pick up the floor before running Rovan. I don't have to clear the counters before I wipe them off. I can just start cleaning. I am pretty sure this is another side benefit of KonMari.

Anything Worth Doing is Worth Doing Badly
I think I've mentioned this before, too, but a big part of my cleaning philosophy is that it's better to do a lousy job now than to plan to do a good job later. This is the philosophy that says "you can vacuum just the most trafficked-areas of the house and ignore all the parts that are hard to get to. Because why not? Most of the dirt is in the places where people walk and the vacuum can reach easily anyway." It is the exact opposite of FlyLady's "just clean the sink, but clean that sink REALLY SUPER WELL" I'm more like "eh, wipe down the stove and don't worry about the stuff that's baked on and won't come off easily." It's the 80/20 rule, here seen as "80% of the dirt takes 20% of the effort to clean." So I just don't deal with the last 20%.

The bizarre part is that, having done this for a while, I am starting to deal with the last 20%. This week, I cleaned the walls of the bathroom. I don't think I've ever cleaned walls before! For the record, the walls did not appear to be dusty or have any kind of coating on them that needed to be cleared off, so I think "cleaning walls" is really only a thing you need to do to remove scuff marks and other obvious dirt. The moldings, on the other hand, had a lot of dust.

And the baked-on stuff on the stove is starting to come off when I wipe it down. I scrub at it just a little each time, and a little more of the gunk comes off.

So I feel like I am half-heartedly working my way towards full-hearted success? I'm not sure how that works.

Working Part Time
Back in January, I switched from 30 hour work-weeks to 20 hours. The extra time off is a huge help in keeping on top of everything. It reminds me of Koogrr talking about dealing with chores and creative work while he was on medical leave: "I feel as if, as long as I'm not working, I actually have time for all the other stuff in my life."

I don't have much to elaborate on this point, but I don't want to understate its importance. Not just that I have the time off, but that I am used to working much more. It's far easier to repurpose time that I am not used to thinking of as "free".


I don't know which of these points is the most important factor, and I don't know how long I will keep this up. I've only been doing the weekly cleaning for two months, and it wasn't until October that I started to feel like it was overkill -- as if my house was sufficiently tidy that I didn't need to dedicate a couple of hours every week to cleaning.

I think I might well backslide, but I have the feeling the benefits of decluttering are going to be permanent. My desire for more possessions is pretty minimal these days. If I don't have a purpose and a place in mind for something, I don't want to acquire it. This entry was originally posted at Please comment there using OpenID.
Me 2012

4thewords! is a writing-gamification site. As of October 29, I will have been using it for exactly three years. I can track the length of time because it has a daily streak counting every consecutive day you've logged 444+ words. As of this writing, mine is at 1091. Yes, I have an unbroken streak starting the day I began using the site.

That's not as impressive an accomplishment as it sounds: the site allows you to use a consumable -- "stempos" -- to repair broken streaks or to extend your streak into the future, if you plan a vacation. I used a lot of stempos when Lut was in the hospital in 2017, and I've used them on occasion before or since. Most often I use them when I forget to log words rather than when I write; I do most of my writing offline and then log my words later.

4thewords is now, and always has been, a subscription-supported site. Like many games these days, it has two in-game currencies, one of which, core crystals, is mostly purchased with real money. The subscription cost is therefore a little wonky, because 4thewords runs periodic discounts on crystal packages. There's a 25% discount for Nanowrimo participants, for example (current code is wrimo19), and Nanowrimo winners get a larger discount; I think last year's was 40%? Anyway, if you're paying month-to-month and never buying crystals with a discount, it's $4 a month. If you use the Nanowrimo winner discount code and buy a huge package of crystals up front, it'd be more like $60 for three years.

While my favorite business model for a site is something like Dreamwidth's, where the paying customers are sufficient to support free accounts for those who can't afford it, I much prefer a subscription site to one based on advertising, or pay-to-win games. And 4thewords does offer a free 30-day trial, so you know what you're paying for by the time you give them money.

I've written about this site before, I know, but not in a while, and I wanted to post about it again because I really like te game and want it to do well. I don't always love the choices the 4thewords developers make in terms of gameplay, but in terms of company philosophy and the way the developers interact with their customers, I've always been impressed. It's a tiny company making a niche product -- I think there's one coder, one illustrator, and a few part-time writers -- and they are all good people who care about writing and want to make a tool that will be useful and fun for their customers. And they listen to their customers!

One example: when I started playing the game, you created an avatar. You could pick male or female, and there was a bunch of gendered clothing and hair styles. You couldn't make a male avatar with long hair, for instances.

A few months ago, they re-did some of the art and renamed the body types. Now, instead of "male" and "female", there are body types "1" and "2". All the clothing options are available for both body types, and the only changes are to accommodate the different base shapes. (Although body type 2 still has a tube top around the breasts as unremovable underwear, while body type 1 gets to be shirtless. It's a kid-friendly site, my solution to this would be to put both models in a tube top, but I am not gonna fuss at them over it.) You can save up to three different outfits, and you can change all the options between outfits, including the body type.

What I love about this change is not just that they made it, but that they made it without fuss. A lot of times when gaming companies are told "you could be more inclusive about [X]", developers responds with defensiveness. They don't want to be criticized for choices they made without realizing they were choices. "I didn't INTEND to be biased and that means I'm not and everyone does it this way and why should I change?" And 4thewords went "Oh, yeah, it would be better with some changes and that will take some work, but we'll do it."

Over time, they've added some enby NPCs to the game, too. It's nice. I feel seen.

The site did its "official launch" several months ago (it had been in paid beta for most of the time that I've been playing), and they re-did the whole main story line to be more cohesive and interesting. They run a lot of mini-events for various things -- there's a Love Week around Valentine's Day, and a Tico Week for the Costa Rico Independence Day (the company is based in Costa Rica), and they always do an event for Pride. The biggest event is for Nanowrimo in November, with the Camp Nanowrimo events in April and June being also pretty substantial. So now -- right before Nano -- is a good time to get started, especially if you plan to do Nanowrimo.

They've made a lot of gameplay decisions that I really like, too: the game has a much larger variety of monsters to fight, and a lot more of them that are small and unintimidating. I've written this post on the site and have defeated several monsters with word counts of 100, 300, or 600 today. They added a 10-monster queue, so that you can pick everything you want to fight and not have to think about it while you write. You can also toggle "auto-start next battle" on or off, so that if you want to fight the whole queue in on sitting, you can. And if you want to set up the queue all at once but only do one battle in a writing session, you can do that too.

One of my favorite little changes is the "pasting in words" behavior. There's now a setting you can change for whether words you paste in always add to your wordcount, or never add to it, or ask each time if you want to add it. This is great if you want to add a story you wrote a long time ago to the site without having it mess up your stats on the site. Since I paste all of my writing into the site, I have left it on "always add to word count". But I've thought about adding things I wrote years ago, and this will be a nice feature if I decide to do so.

Just so this doesn't read like 4thewords advertising copy, I will mention a gameplay decision I do not love.

Shortly after I started playing in 2016, 4thewords added a "wardrobe", with customization options for your avatar. This was with separate from the "inventory", which included miscellaneous crafting bits as well as weapons and armor that affect your combat stats but not your avatar appearance. As with other games that have a separate "inventory" and "wardrobe", the inventory was gameplay-only and had no impact on appearance, and the wardrobe was appearance-only and had no impact on gameplay.

In April 2019, for the CampNano event, they added monsters that you could only fight if you had particular wardrobe items equipped.

Not inventory items. Wardrobe. The appearance-only stuff that had never before affected gameplay.

Why. Why would you do that. The whole point to having two separate sets of items you have to manage is because they do DIFFERENT THINGS. If you're going to have both of them affect gameplay why are they separate? Just. ARGH.

They have stood by this decision and certain monsters in some areas continue to require you to go to your wardrobe and equip appearance items so that you can play the game. I still don't understand. Bleargh.

However, it's a pretty minor thing; I haven't even gone to the areas with wardrobe requirements in the months I've been playing since they were added. And it only bothers me because it's a nonsensical mechanic to add; it's not that it makes the game harder or easier.

Overall, if you like writing, I definitely recommend It gives that little bit of extra incentive to write, and that never hurts. I have a referral code: LBQFV83845. If you use a referral code (anybody's code, doesn't need to be mine) when you sign up, you get 44 core crystals, enough to pay for a month of subscription (in addition to the free trial). Right now, they're running a special where you get an extra 14 days of subscription time, which means it'll carry you through until the end of November so you'll be able to use your Nano winner code to buy more crystals before the free time runs out. :D (I remember being very annoyed that I had to buy $4 worth of crystals without a discount so that I could keep my streak in 2016.) Full disclosure: I get bennies for people using my referral codes, too -- right now, 66 core crystals and 14 extra days of subscription time. But I didn't write a 1500 word post to get freebies. I wrote it because it's a great game and I want other people to enjoy it too. And also for the developers to do well and keep it going. n_n

Oh, and to defeat a bunch of monsters in 4thewords.  That too. 

I mean, it's called "4thewords" not "4thedeathlessprose". Every word counts!

This entry was originally posted at Please comment there using OpenID.