Monthly Archives: October 2014

Whee, Halloween!

It’s so nice to be able to enjoy Halloween this year. Last year, I was still working at Costco, and while I don’t remember specifics, I likely had to work early the next day. Kinda makes it hard to enjoy hanging out with friends when you have to be asleep by 9pm. But this year, thanks to my vastly-improved work situation, I actually have a weekend! And can stay up late!

Well, I have the option of staying up late. Whether I actually manage to is a different issue entirely.

So yeah, I’m kind of excited. It’s Friday! I don’t have anywhere to be tomorrow! I can finally have a weekend to sit like a lump and play video games until I pass out! Whee, Halloween!

I am kind of bummed we didn’t decorate or anything this year. I have fond memories of carving pumpkins as a kid and roasting the seeds in the oven. Somehow, though, I don’t imagine it’s as much fun when you have to be the one sorting through the squick for the tasty bits. But hey, I still get to go to a party! And by party, I mean hanging out with friends in a last-minute costume thrown together from stuff I already own.

…What? Don’t look at me like that. Last week was the big costuming push, and I think it turned out pretty well. I get to slack off if I want.

So have fun doing whatever it is you plan on getting up to tonight. I know I will!

Two Steps Back

So I was at work today, slowly but surely chugging through a set of construction documents. I’m not the fastest in our office by any means, but I like to think that I’m getting better. Even if I do have to occasionally stop from comparing myself to my friend who graduated about the same time I did (they’ve been working in the field about a year more than I have, so of course our skills will have diverged). But as I prepared to set up the next drawing, I noticed that dimensions weren’t adding up.

The base plan, on which everything else was built, was wrong.

Needless to say, I was thoroughly annoyed. I mean, I’m already a bit self-conscious about how much time it takes me to produce a drawing set. Throw on top of that needing to go back and fix everything you already “finished?” Yeah, I wasn’t a happy camper.

Now, I know that it’s a good thing I caught this error now, rather than later in the CD phase. After all, if you’re building in an existing structure, it kind of makes a big difference whether or not your dimensions are accurate. And the longer you wait, the more costly mistakes get to fix. But since we use AutoCAD, I have to do all the updates by hand. Other programs, like Revit, allow you to build a digital model of your project, which is then manipulated to get the views you need. One of the advantages of this method is that if you make a change in one view (say, move a door on a floor plan), it automatically updates your other views (say, elevations or sections). AutoCAD doesn’t work like that. AutoCAD uses dumb lines, which, while they may have color and thickness data, are really not that far removed from dragging graphite along a straightedge (by comparison to something like Revit).

Anyway, yeah. I thought I was halfway done with something, but I wasn’t. I’m already worried about appearing “slow” to produce drawings, and this didn’t help. Time to put the Ranty Pants on and get the Drama Llama out of the stable.

Deep Nerds

I think of myself as pretty nerdy.  I read sci-fi/fantasy, play video games, and spend a lot of time on the computer.  I am also fairly introverted, shy around new people, and think of myself as relatively socially inept and awkward.  But holy cow, did Mile Hi Con remind me that things aren’t as bad as they could be.

You know that stereotypical nerd that makes us all cringe?  The one with no brain-to-mouth-filter, who thinks that everything they say is inordinately clever?  The one with no sense of personal space or voice modulation?  That deep, dark thing that we other nerds feel the need to emphasize that we’re not “like that” whenever we’re talking about our interests to someone who might not share them?

They exist.

I had thought that maybe, maybe these Deep Nerds were a thing of the past, where as it became more socially acceptable to be into “nerdy” things they would fade into myth.  Or that maybe they were always mythical, an exaggeration put forward by unfriendly parties.  But no, I stand corrected.  There still exists a class of nerd that experiences very little human contact, and because of this, is often forgotten until they wander out of their barrows and into the light of day to answer the siren call of a convention.

I’m being overdramatic, I know.  But like I said, I fancy myself pretty nerdy, and it was a shock to realize there are people that make me look like a social butterfly by comparison.  And you know what the worst part is?  I can see parts of myself in them.  As if “there but for the grace of friends and family go I.”  I can see how, had my path been only slightly different, I could have ended up among them, rather than pitying them from the outside.

Because as annoying as some of them are (and believe me, there was a really annoying one at the con), Deep Nerds are still to be pitied.  Much like Gollum in The Lord of the Rings (the books, you philistine).  And because of that pity, part of me feels bad for denigrating them.  But as tragic as the effects of having no social interaction outside the gaming group you’ve had since middle school may be, it doesn’t make them any less annoying.  And I feel bad that seeing people like that makes me feel better about myself.

Still Groggy

I’m still pretty tired after the con.  It certainly doesn’t feel like it’s only Tuesday.  I’m tired, my brain is full, and I’m not really motivated to do much other than sit on the couch and surf the Intarwebz.  Luckily I don’t really have to do much else.  Agents of SHIELD is on soon complete with the new trailer for Avengers: Age of Ultron.  Yes, I know it leaked least week, and no I haven’t watched it yet.  Weird, right?  It’s like I have self control or something!

Anyway, that’s about all I’ve got today.  I’ve got some half-thought-out things to say about the con and fandom, but that may have to wait until a later date.

Post-Con Fugue

Mile Hi Con was great.  I had a good time with friends, caught up with some old ones, and saw a few interesting panels.  But I’m exhausted.  I’m not sure if it was the walking around in costume all day or staying up until midnight for the Rocky Horror Picture Show, but I’m beat.  So this is all you get from me today.  I’m still alive, I had fun, and I’m pretty sure there are pics of our costumes on Facebook.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I sleep need to go more some.

Twiddle Those Thumbs!

It’s weird, not having anything to do at work.

I used to not think it was weird; when I worked in a computer lab, a large chunk of my time was spent passing, well, time.  Whenever work popped up (tech support call, A/V event, etc.) I did it, but for the most part I was left to basically get paid to surf the Internet.  And believe it or not, that can get really old pretty quickly.

But I haven’t had that experience at my new job yet (that I’ve been at for all of two months).  The past few days we’ve had an odd lull, where the various projects we have are in various stages of review or waiting for feedback.  So yesterday, while I lamented the lack of time to finish my projects (not the kind I could do at work, of course), I allowed myself to get sucked into the black hole that is TV Tropes.  But I found myself a little perturbed, like I was worried that I should be doing something more productive.

Why does this sort of thing bother me so much more now?  I think it may be a combination of forces: recent events and documentation.  For instance: when I was working at Costco, there was always something to be done (well, almost always).  Finish stocking one pallet?  Move on to the next!  Answer one member’s questions?  Well, there’s three more behind them!  Done all that?  Time to start cleaning glass and dusting televisions!  Spending two years in that sort of environment does tend to instill a certain sort of work ethic, or at least guilt over not “working.”  At least it did for me; maybe if I had been there longer, I would have finished having my soul crushed by retail work and wouldn’t care.  But I’m still enough of a lapsed overachiever that I trended towards the guilt response.

In regards to documentation, one thing about my new job that I hadn’t experienced before is an itemized time sheet.  Every week, I have to turn in a spreadsheet with the names of the projects I worked on, what sort of work it was, and how much time I spent.  This makes sense, when you think about it: I spend a good portion of my time drafting various schematics and construction documents, and that sort of thing can be billed to our clients (directly or indirectly, depending on the financial agreement [above my pay grade]).  Of course the company would want a way to keep track of that.  But doing so has the side effect of making me very aware about just how much time I’m spending on various tasks.  And I’m still new enough that I worry if my “billable” hours aren’t high enough.

These two factors have made me much more conscious about the “lack” of “productivity” at work than I used to be.  For one, I’m much more in the habit of working constantly.  And two, there’s written evidence of just how I’ve spent my time.  So when there’s literally nothing to do (and I checked), it feels weird.  Like we’re all just waiting for the other shoe to drop.

And this lull probably is going to be short lived.  There’s a good chance that all the projects we have out for commenting will come back around the same time.  So while a part of me is eager to enjoy the downtime as long as it lasts, another part feels bad for doing so.

Demand Matches Supply

Have you ever noticed how no matter how much time you try and leave yourself to complete a project, you always seem to be rushing at the last second to get everything done?  Or is that just me?

I used to think that this was just a result of poor planning on my part, or another case of my inherent procrastination working against me.  But the more I talk to others, the more this seems like a fairly universal problem.  In fact it even has a name: Parkinson’s Law.

Plainly stated, Parkinson’s Law is the adage that “work expands so as to fil the time available for its completion.”  Time and again, I’ve seen this to be the case in my life.  Even if I deliberately set aside more time than I think I’ll need, I always manage to somehow fill it up.  Maybe I expand the scope of my project, or maybe I spend my time procrastinating.  But no matter what, it seems like things always get pushed to the last minute.

And if that’s the case, what motivation is there to start things early?  I found this to be especially true when it came to writing papers for school.  If a paper I wrote the night before got the same (or better!) grade than one polished and refined over the course of weeks, what reason was there to avoid putting it off?  After all, things worked out in the end anyway, right?

Maybe I just don’t have a good concept of how much time various tasks take to complete.  Or maybe I overestimate my ability to stay on task.  Or maybe both.  Maybe I’m just completely inept at planning and execution.  Or maybe everyone is just as incompetent as I am, they just hide it better.

All I know is I have what feels like quite a lot of sewing to do, and not enough time to do it.

Don’t Worry, I Still Have My Hat

The night is fast getting away from me. Mile Hi Con is this weekend, and my costume is not nearly complete enough. In fact, I’m probably going to miss both SCA practices this week to make sure I get everything done. And here I sit, at my computer, ostensibly performing “research,” when it’s suddenly much later than I anticipated. Such is life, I guess.

What is Mile Hi Con? Well, it is a science fiction and fantasy convention, where fans of nerdy things can congregate and share their love of popular culture and get a chance to see some of their favorite creators.

Being so close to Halloween, it’s also a great excuse to put on a costume with a group of friends.

You may have heard of the various Comic Cons; Mile Hi Con is much more laid back. The past few years (when work, school, or finances haven’t put the kibosh on it) my friends and I have made an effort to go and hang out, often with a group theme for our costumes. The past few years we’ve been pretty fascinated by Steampunk (think Victorian science fiction: Jules Vernian flights of fancy, magnificent efforts of steam engineering, airships, brass, and of course, goggles), so we’ve often gone with that as a general idea. I made myself a pretty sweet lab coat last year, complete with papercraft goggles with a working iris lens.

This year, the Steampunk craze continues, but with more focus. It turns out that some of the Guests of Honor for the con are going to be Phil and Kaja Foglio, the creative team behind the wonderful webcomic Girl Genius. So we’re going to be going as characters from the series: Jägermonsters!

Now, we’ve done specific characters from the series before (as one of our first group costume themes, acually), but decided that having a bit more flexibility to work within a theme would be more fun. And it has been! It’s really interesting to see everyone’s slightly different approach to the project, with some focusing on makeup and accessories, others on costuming and clothing. I personally have been leaning more towards the latter, making myself a nice military-esque uniform (complete with epaulettes and pants piping!). But I may yet experiment with some temporary hair color, and maybe even nail polish, which is certainly odd for me.

Anyway, I’ve put off work for long enough. Might as well get to the productivity-ing-ness.

Stop Moving The Goalposts!

As much as I love this time of year, it does get difficult for me when it’s full dark by 6h30.  And of course, Daylight Saving Time just exacerbates the problem.  In a little more than two weeks, the sun will set a full hour earlier, for no apparent reason other than a misguided, habitual attempt to “save energy” or some nonsense.

For as little as I spend time outside, I am apparently very sunlight-driven.  If I don’t have ambient light when I wake up in the morning, it freaks me out; I can’t use blackout curtains, otherwise I tend to wake up in the middle of the night with no idea what time it is, which means I start freaking out about missing work/school/whatever.  Combine this with the fact that it’s very hard for me to fall asleep once I wake up, and it’s a recipe for badness.

In a related way, I assume that when it’s dark outside it’s time for sleeping.  Whether I want to or not, I start winding down as it gets dark, which makes it really hard to do anything remotely productive when it’s dark before I even get home from work.  Once it’s dark, I don’t want to do much else except read and play video games.  The day is done, and so is the day’s work.

And to top it all off, I start to get all wonky without enough sunlight.  The time I spent working in a windowless office was especially bad, since I would occasionally get to work before sunrise and leave after sunset.  But my exposure to sunlight, even indirectly, has a noticeable effect on my mood.

I complain a lot about not having much of an internal concept of time, and I wonder if these habits and preferences are related to that.  Is my body taking its timing cues from the sun, whether I want it to or not?  That would make sense, but it doesn’t make it any less annoying.  My inborn productivity drive isn’t the greatest to start with, so anything I can do to trick more motivation out of myself is kind of important.  It’s just hard to do so when your body is telling you it’s time to go to sleep.

Another Late Post

The night kind of got away from me, yet again.  A variety of forces kept me from getting to the project I wanted to, and it’s making me feel kind of down.  That’s not to say I didn’t get anything done, just that I didn’t make progress on things I needed to.  So I think I’m just going to go to bed.  My brain is starting to lie to me, and that’s a sure sign I need to do something to kick it out of the rut.  And given how my options are either “work on project” or “get a good night’s sleep,” it’s probably better to do the latter.  I just hope I still have enough time to finish what I need to, even if it means skipping practice this week.