The Shower is an Idea Box

I’ve seen others joke about this as well, but I personally find I do most of my serious thinking when I’m in the shower. Many of my best ideas come to me in the shower. In my most recent shower, I spent some time thinking about why that might be.

The obvious conclusion is that it’s because none of my internet connected devices are waterproof. The shower is also typically a place where it is okay to be alone and not talking with family. Finally, there’s the whole “white noise causes relaxation” thing. Plus, the hot water is very comfortable as well.

The formula goes something like this: lack of distractions plus lack of isolation plus white noise generator/physical comfort = ideas.

I find myself considering discarding my cell phone, or at least my smart phone. I wonder if I should go back to a dedicated e-reader that has no browser or social media on it (currently, I use my iPad as my e-reader). But the idea is tinged with fear, because that enemy boredom lurks just around the corner.

I remember what it was like in the pre-times. I remember how boring it was to wait for something if I didn’t have a book handy. Hell, I think my entire childhood could be described as long bouts of boredom punctuated by moments of terror and excitement.

I’m not sure I have truly experienced more than 30 seconds of boredom since 2008.

The problem is, I can’t escape the idea that solid thinking/ideas time and boredom may be inextricably linked. By feeding ourselves mental input every waking moment, we never give our minds a chance to contemplate, to consider, to formulate new ideas. It’s so much easier to repeat someone else’s ideas if all you do is consume things all day. I find myself doing that more and more as I get older. Or, I find myself developing opinions like “well, my social tribe says X about that, and I don’t have time to think deeply about it, so I guess I believe X too.” That makes me uncomfortable. I don’t like outsourcing my opinions and beliefs like that if I can help it.

What next? I guess I work on overcoming my fear of boredom, and build moments of boredom back into my life here and there. I feel lit can only benefit me mentally, intellectually, and possibly even emotionally.

Time to think. What a luxury that sounds like!


Self-Employment Staying Power and Knowing When to Call It

My pal Dan had a post that really spoke to me over on his microblog today. Dan’s a great, multi-talented guy that I’ve known for something like 25 years, and I was really happy to see him taking up blogging again like me.

And then there are days like today. Where you feel like crap, but not crap enough to just bail. You almost want to convince yourself that you feel a little bit worse that you do to give yourself permission. But you can’t. You just have to grit your teeth and do the damn work.

Dan Beeston

I really feel this comment. Being self-employed has this paradox at the heart of it (and I know Dan is self-employed too). On one hand, you are your own boss. On the other, it feels like every client you have is a boss, and we often have dozens, if not hundreds of clients that we work for in small amounts in order to stitch together a full time living.

It’s easy to blow off a day of work when you feel like utter dogshit, but the hard days, the really hard ones, are when, as Dan says, you feel like crap, but not crap enough. Sometimes it’s hard to know which the day really is. But I’m getting better at knowing when I’ve hit the wall.

You can keep working after you’ve hit the wall, but the quality of work is shit. This past week was incredibly stressful for me for a variety of reasons, and by Friday morning, I knew I had hit the wall. I had my hours in, and I could have gotten ahead on things, but what I really needed was sleep, and lots of it. So I got it, and I slept good chunks of the weekend. Today, I feel much better than I did last week, which is good, because the work never ends.

Days like the ones that Dan describes above are sometimes sign posts on the road towards hitting the wall. Getting to know your limits is an important part of this self-employed life. Nobody’s going to tell you to take the time off but yourself. So I say to my fellow freelance types – take care of yourselves. Nobody is going to do it for us.


Recent Reads

Couple of books I’ve finished recently.

The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch - not really a great cover, but okay!

I finally got around to reading The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch. I was actively writing when this book came out to great acclaim, so rather than eagerly read it to see what all the excitement about, instead I shunned it under the mistaken principle that if something was popular, it couldn’t actually be any good.

Dear reader, I was wrong. This book is really good. Everyone has opinions about it. Each time I’ve mentioned that I was reading it, I’ve been on the receiving end of cannons full blasting opinions and thoughts on the books, characters, and general series. It’s gotten to the point where I’m not sure where the opinions of others ends and my own begin. But isn’t that always the case with being online these days?

My primary interest, at least at first, was reading it as a source of inspiration for the fantastic RPG Blades in the Dark by John Harper. I’m about a year into my first campaign of Blades in the Dark with my Dads Play D&D group, my longest running group at this point. It’s very clear from the start that Harper took a healthy amount of inspiration for Blades from Lamora. The names for things are subtle shifts, but the power dynamics are very familiar to any player of Blades. The focus on thievery in a decadent city is all there. Sure, Harper updated it from medieval Venice to a Victorian one, but it’s there. It was great seeing the inspirations laid bare.

What I didn’t expect was how much I would enjoy the prose itself. There are some lovely turns of phrase on every page. A wit apparent, you would say. Clear talent. Earlier this year, I said I would read nothing but easy, schlocky reads, and those were fine to start me out, but I was still hungering for something more. Lynch’s talent was readily on display, and while the book maybe faltered a little in the latter quarter, it was a fine, fine meal. I enjoyed it very much, and I look forward to not taking seventeen bloody years to get to the next book in the series. I wish Past-Me hadn’t been so very very stupid.

Legends & Lattes by Travis Baldree

Last night, a mere few hours after finishing Lamora, I picked out one of the cozy fantasy reads I had downloaded on my Kindle app – this one called Legends & Lattes by Travis Baldree. It was a recent topic of discussion on my Discord, and dear friend Jenn Reese noted that she was in the high 100s in line on the waiting list. This got my attention–these days, I’m intrigued by anything that is showing popularity, as opposed to old, envious me. I opened the book, intending to browse the first few pages, not really expecting too much.

Reader, I finished the book in two and a half hours. Mind you, it’s a short one–far shorter than Lamora, but I had plans last night. I was going to watch some dumb movie or spend time idly browsing shitty internet content. Instead, I found myself sucked into the tale of the orc Vy and her attempts to open a coffee shop. Low stakes, they said. I was concerned that the book would have no tension or conflict, but that is not at all what “low stakes” means. It just means that this isn’t a fantasy novel about saving the world. It’s about the fate of a small business! And I adore that. More stories about retiring adventurers opening small businesses and making friends along the way. I have another title called Orconomics on my list to read next. I’m looking forward to it. If it’s half as good, I’ll be happy.

February is the hardest month for me to survive, and I suspect deep down that it’ll be the month in which I die. We’ve never gotten along. It’s when the light in the world seems dimmest. This February is not much of an exception, although today is sunny and nearly 60 degrees Fahrenheit, so maybe it’s giving me a bit of a respite.

Mostly I experience February with an overwhelming sense of exhaustion. It wears me out and I find myself wanting to sleep 10, 11 hours a day or more. The past few days have been just that – long stretches of sleep broken up by bouts of reading. Throw in a hot shower every other day for some concerted thinking time, and that describes my life right now, minus some very stressful work days.

February is also the month I find myself least content with my lot in life. My dreams are rife with purchasing strange, enormous houses, or tales of travel gone wrong. February is when my wanderlust becomes an irresistible itch. The only thing that keeps my in one place in February is that my son is still in school.

But! We’ve made all the arrangements for a trip in March to Florida. That’s right–it’s time that we pay tithe to the Mouse. My son has patiently waited since 2020 when we had originally planned a trip to the Kingdom, and we can put it off no longer. I expect to purchase myself a very expensive lightsaber that I get to assemble myself, so it won’t be entirely to his sole benefit. It’s not my usual kind of vacation, but I’ll make do. Honestly, getting to take the kid places he’s never been before is almost as fun as traveling solo.

So, I shall grit my teeth and endure February as I have 44 times before, and at the end of the dreary month, we have a lovely trip as a reward. Life is pretty good, when I’m not burdened down with hallucinogenic dread from my Seasonal Affective Disorder. Today is a part in the clouds. I’m going to make the best of it until I can’t. What else can we really say to do?


Happy Wild Animal Sighting of the Day

On my way back from running an errand to my parents’ place, I drove past the Wakarusa Wetlands. I’m used to seeing red tailed hawks, marsh hawks, crows, ducks, and herons out there, but what I’m not used to seeing are bald eagles.

I spotted two mature bald eagles in a tree just off the road, overlooking one of the large ponds. Seeing bald eagles in the area generally isn’t too hard; you can usually find them on the Kaw River over on the other side of town, where they hunt the carp that are plentiful. Seeing them at the wetlands isn’t something I can recall ever having happened to me before.

Back in Colorado, I used to chase the local bald eagles with my camera. Never got a great shot of any of them, much to my chagrin. They were very skittish birds, and prone to flying away if I got close enough to fill the frame on my Olympus camera. Bird photography seems to do a lot better if you have a blind, but I’ve only gotten to use one a handful of times.

Anyway, it instantly made my day as do most wildlife sightings. I swear, if I lived some place like Costa Rica or Alaska, I might die of happiness. Wildlife is the best thing for a dreary February.


Reevaluating Goals for the Year

Over the last few weeks, some of the fun and spark of joy in painting miniatures has evaporated, and I’ve had to give it some thought.

I think setting myself a goal of painting one miniature per day is the reason why. I’ve started painting not because it’s fun, but because I have a goal, and nothing takes the fun out of something like treating it like a job. So moving forward, I’m removing that goal from my mind. I’ll paint when I want, what I want, and I’ll be doing it for the pleasure of it, not because I am putting myself on some kind of stupid sigma grindset.

Doing something repeatedly is a good way to get better at it, but doing something as a chore is a good way to start doing it very sloppily.

As far as blogging, I’ll keep that up. Setting a goal of doing it every day is still helpful. And yes, sometimes I make a shitty post here and there, but they can’t all be winners, and hardly anybody is reading this anyway. Mostly, I’m using it as a means of excercising my writing muscles, so it doesn’t really matter what I write. Only that I do. But if it becomes a bore of a chore, I’ll drop this goal too.

Setting goals for fun things is tricky. That’s my first lesson for 2023. I’m sure I have a lot more coming.


I Like Big Kaiju And I Cannot Lie

I managed to get my eyeballs on a screening of Shin Ultraman and the first half was pretty much what I’ve always wanted in a giant monster movie. Honestly, I don’t really care about Ultraman himself. I’m here for the beastly boys.

The integration of the human characters worked so much better here than just about any other kaiju movie besides Shin Godzilla (which I also loved). When the extraterrestrials started showing up in the second half, I was much less interested, but boy was the first half excellent. More giant rubber suit monsters in my life, please.

One of my earliest memories that I still retain (or perhaps at this point it’s just a memory of a memory) is sitting and watching Toho pictures with my Dad. On Saturdays, we’d watch Star Trek, do yard chores, and watch 60s and 70s Godzilla pics. In those very early days (I had to be 4 at the oldest), my Dad spent a lot more time with me than I remember him spending later. I hope I spend a lot more time with my son–I like to think that I do, thanks to having a non-traditional work situation. I wonder what he will remember fondly about the time we spent together?


Things I never expected to forget

I am feeling rather old and melancholy today. Here’s a list of things I have unexpectedly forgotten:

  • The names of my elementary school teachers
  • My first crush
  • When I decided it was time settle for the life I have
  • What it felt like to run as fast as I can
  • What it felt like to be young enough to not know any better
  • How to be earnest without feeling ashamed and guilty about it
  • The sound of my father’s voice and laugh

If only I’d been a blogger in my youth, then I might remember all these things.


More Gobbos. You Never Have Enough

Miniatures 32-36 – I painted them in a rush last night, trying to get ahead again. I find I don’t like doing anything a little bit each day; I prefer to batch in a couple of hours I guess. I really love these sculpts, but they’re entirely too much work to paint. So many straps and stuff, some of which I didn’t even bother with, as you might see.

I am not sure I like this skin tone color on them. Too late now, but will probably try other colors in the future.


The Gremlins Midnight Conundrum

One thing that has bothered fans of the Gremlins movies (especially the ones that overthink things like me): what exactly defines midnight? It’s not a natural phenomenon. Do gremlins trigger this by reading clocks? What’s the deal? How do you know for sure when they think “midnight” is?

Yes, I know I’m talking about a franchise of movies about malicious green puppets. No, I don’t care.

I realized this past week that I have a solution that circumvents the conundrum entirely. The true solution to the midnight conundrum is that it’s all bullshit–just an old wives’ tale that nobody ever had a chance to disprove. 99% of all Mogwai undergo the metamorphosis into the gremlin life stage. Gizmo isn’t prudent and wise and a picky eater or whatever. He’s just the mogwai equivalent of a caterpillar that refuses to molt and just gets really huge. He’s a genetic freak and he deserves our pity. He will never know the joy of shanking some housewife and cackling like he’s on laughing gas. So sad!

If I weren’t retired as a writer, I’d write a semi-serious take on a world in which Gremlins were a real thing. If Peter Watts can do it for The Thing, I don’t see why I can’t for Amblin movies.


What happens when CGI becomes perfect?

We saw Avatar: The Way of Water today. I don’t think I want to say too much about the movie itself. I think you already know if you are the kind of person who will enjoy a movie like this. Judging from the box office success, most people at least were willing to go sit through it. Personally, I liked it okay, and thought it was an improvement on the first. Sarah called it Toxic Masculity: The Movie and she has a fair point. Teenage boys and their testosterone is apparently a cross-species thing.

The main thing I’ve been thinking about is how seamlessly the special effects work was, and how quickly I forgot I was watching a movie that was almost entirely rendered on computers. As a child of the 80s, I’m used to being able to immediately spot most SFX shots because for the longest time, true verisimilitude was beyond our technical reach. To do CG water in a way that is indistinguishable from reality, I would have thought impossible even just a couple of years ago. Clearly fucking not. The water in this movie absolutely astonished me.

There were still a few seams here and there. Probably some rushed shots. Shots that weren’t able to use motion capture in particular jarred me a bit in places, but it’s a testament to the tech and the craft of the people working on these films that I was able to forget I was looking at CG for 90% of the run time (conservative estimate).

So we’re what, maybe a couple of years out from special effects artists being able to perfectly emulate anything they want, anything the directors and creative team can imagine. We’ve been getting there for a while, but I really wonder what the future of visual arts looks like when this is possible. Is it a good thing? If you had asked me in my animation obsessed twenties, I would have said absolutely. That’s before I learned how soul-crushingly awful it can be to work in that special effects industry.

I can’t help but think about what the human cost is of films like this. It’s not like James Cameron is known for being a great guy to work for. Still – what sights we saw today. How amazing was it that I believed it so thoroughly. An alien world has never felt so real. The sight of the pristine wilderness of it and what the “sky people” brought me to the brink of tears.

I’m grateful for getting to see it. I hope my enjoyment didn’t come at too high of a cost for the workers.