Blank Page Syndrome (And other things Of Interest)

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One thing I’ve figured out: it’s hard to get much writing done when you can’t sit down and focus on the writing.

Another thing I’ve figured out: when your house is full of craftsmen doing things, it’s hard to focus.

I actually have a full day today with nobody scheduled to visit the house to do something, unless the parts for the dishwasher came in and they call to get that thing fixed (we think we blew the logic board during the electrical work).

An amusing thing I realized last week: removing “my day job” from my schedule hasn’t made me less busy. In fact, where I used to have a standard work routine and a fairly fixed set of meetings. Now I’m constantly juggling the schedule to make sure things happen without colliding, so my calendar is a lot more complicated than it was before. Not a bad thing, but honestly not what I expected.

What did I expect? More time for writing and photography while I work on the things I wanted to work on. Reality: I can’t schedule the dishwasher repair across the water heater because the water will be turned off (how will we test?), and so each craft has it’s own dedicated day, and.. and.. and suddenly your entire week is sitting around watching these people do their thing, while asking and answering questions about the project.

But Tuesday the car goes in the shop to fix the heater/AC system blower. And Wednesday? Plumbers to replace the water heater (16 years old and ready to retire). Thursday is coffee with… Um, I can’t say yet. But it’s a project that I’ve been working on for months and I hope to be able to announce something about it soon. (and as I write this, there goes a chunk of friday, because the replacement windows have arrived, and they get installed friday morning..)

The joy of houses and technical debt

And next thing you know, the week is basically booked. What day will I go out with the camera? Um, friday? Thursday morning maybe? We’ll see.

If you’re keeping score, here’s what I’ve been doing since I started the sabbatical:

  • landscapers completely redo front and back yards
  • new garage door, complete with new WIFI enabled opener (with an app! of course)
  • completely rewire the house electrically: new service box, new outlets, new switches, seven new circuits run into the house, and the garage completely redone.
  • bathroom and kitchen faucets replaced, with a new garbage disposer in the kitchen and the drains redone
  • replacement windows where the double-pane seals have failed: two windows and the patio door
  • new window covers in the living room and bedroom
  • new water heater (this week)

Once the new windows are installed, we’ll bring back the window people and replace the coverings on four more windows. Not started yet is the HVAC, where I need to bring them in to evaluate whether we should upgrade the furnace or AirCo, and to talk about improving airflow in some rooms where the ducting isn’t working well (or doesn’t exist).

All of this is leading up to: paint and carpet in the main rooms of the house, my office, the living room and bedroom, and to have the exterior of the house painted. And once I hit that point, probably a pause: we still have laurie’s room, the study, and the spare bedroom to refresh, but all three need decluttering done before we can bring in people to work on them and we don’t want to disrupt Laurie’s school. And the two biggies: redo the kitchen and the main bathroom, both of which need a makeover.

But by labor day, I expect we’ll have much of the house refreshed and painted, new carpet in the main living areas, and all of the bones of the house upgraded or (at least) inspected. The kitchen and bathroom don’t have to be done right away, so we can schedule them when we want, and the rest depends on how fast I can sort through and trash or donate the years of accumulated clutter I want to get rid of… (and that’s the answer to “why didn’t you just bring in general contractor to manage all of this? that was my original plan, but in reality, most of it didn’t need one, and the kind of schedule they would have needed didn’t work with some of what I need to do to be ready for them in a timely manner. We definitely will hand over the bathroom and kitchen to the pros for those projects…)

WWDC and Swift

It’s not like I’ve been doing nothing; I’ve been spending a chunk of time going through WWDC videos and trying to get my head around various aspects of Swift and Cocoa. As my first year thinking about WWDC as a newbie Mac developer, it’s a different experience than as a user, where you watch the keynote and then glide over the guts of the new releases. I did, however, hit the time to get back to work point over the weekend where my brain told me it was time to stop watching video and start coding again, so after this is written, it’s back to Xcode for me (but, you know, when the mean time between phone call or question that has to be answered is 45 minutes,it’s hard to focus…)

Going through the videos gave me a good idea of what parts of the larger toolkit I can take advantage of for the app I want to build: Spritekit, Gameplaykit seem like good candidates, and bringing those into the mix help focus the design of the game on how to take advantage of them, which shapes the world building around the design. So even though I haven’t been coding, I feel like I’ve been able to make some key decisions moving the project forward. but the fingers are itching to start typing…

Blank Page Syndrome

I’ve found that the hardest bit of any project for me is the first piece: I find the blank page a very stressful beast to wrestle; but once I do, it tends to flow well. That first paragraph, the first function call — even the first phone call to the first contractor — can be tough because at that point all I seem to see are all of the possible reasons why it might fail or blow up in my face. And once I’m a chapter or a couple of routines in or I’ve made that first commitment, my brain switches to seeing where the success point is and I can go chase down the path towards it.

I have always been that way, I know I always will be, and I know I just have to sometimes kick myself in the butt and get going. It’s one reason I gave up my fiction writing: I tended to block very easily, and in reality, I realized I loved having written, but I hated writing, so I tended to avoid it too easily, heading down the path of infinite world building instead. I’ve learned a lot about managing this process over the years, but it’s managing it, not making it go away. And in some ways, it’s helped my career in various ways because one thing I seem to be good at is analyzing risk and interconnections and understanding how to mitigate or minimize those in a project.

But still… that first step off the cliff’s never fun. But the second step is where you realize you’re on stairs, and all you need to do is keep stepping…

The Treadmill

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Last week among other chaos nodes the treadmill arrived, which meant two very nice men showed up with a couple of really big boxes and spent about 90 minutes putting it together in the study. We also found there was a part missing, which means I can’t currently use the incline function, but they’re working with the manufacturer to get it and then they’ll return to install the missing thing.

Since then… it’s been kind of a bad week for the legs; I used it the first night for about 2 minutes and the knee complained, so I cut things short. And then I had some of the usual with the legs which meant some ice on the knees and limiting my activity, but last (Sunday) night it felt like it had mostly cleared up, so I hopped on for a quick and short walk.

Five minutes at 1.5MPH, which is only a tenth of a mile or so, but it was enough to get me sweating, which is a perfect explanation of just how out of shape I’m in right now, but this morning the knees feel and legs feel fine, and I was comfortable on the unit, so we can get this into the schedule (and remember blank page syndrome? The first time went fine, and so now we’re past it. Works for all new projects!)

The goal here initially is not to drive weight loss, and there are plenty of studies showing that exercise is a bad bet for weight loss, but to work on improving my conditioning and get my back to the point where I can take extend my mileage on a regular basis, and do it in a way where I limit my risks of injury. So it’s taking it slow and ramping carefully rather than pushing limits, at least for now…

(but still, I expect as I do, some of the weight will start leaving. Or I’m gonna be pissed…)

Of Interest

Health and Fitness

Apple, high-tech and App Development

The World Around us

Other stuff of Interest