Stuff and that.

Stuff. And yeah. That

Month: August, 2014

Getting stuff done

I’ve had a week that could best be described as interesting.

It started with a bit of a tickle in the back of the throat, segued into a fully blown cold, added in a tiny bit of hayfever (ok, maybe not a tiny bit – on Wednesday, I single-handedly decimated a small forest, deafened most of my co-workers and at one point, seriously thought I’d broken a rib. I am not the most lady-like of sneezers). Just to make things really interesting though, I woke up on Thursday morning with the goopy red eye…

I looked so damn attractive.

And it was the best I’d felt all week.

While I was more than happy to share the cold-related loving, sharing conjunctivitis really isn’t on, so I ducked into work, grabbed a heap of stuff I could do at home, sent myself half a dozen emails, delegated a couple of “must do today” jobs and worked from home for the day. Epic win. I didn’t infect anyone, got a shit load of work done (including finishing the damn paper I was writing that was giving me damn writers block, damnit. It’s submitted now. Thank goodness.); did a couple of loads of washing, supervised the housework, went on a field trip to Bunnings, made a loaf of bread AND made breakfast crumble (it’s just an apple and whatever I happen to have with a super thick layer of crumble on top. Warmed through and served with Greek yoghurt. Mmm mmm mmm.) It did turn out to be the allergic kind, not the festy kind, so that was a win.

So, while I was feeling all proud of myself and patting myself on the back for Getting Stuff Done, I sat back on my laurels and had a bit of a look around. There’s a lot of stuff that needs doing at home that I never seem to have time for – or, more commonly, it totally slips my mind (like high school enrollment forms, hrrm? And sorting out that tax thing that I’ve known about for three or four months that I need to finish in the next two weeks?) So, maybe I should put a bit more effort into getting myself a bit more organised (again. There’s a degree of deja vu to be had here…)

In a moment of nostalgia, I decided to re-visit the old Flylady website.

Some very important background information – I am not a naturally tidy person. In fact, I know FULL WELL where my children get the genes that mean you must enter a house and shed everything on the way in. (Not sure about the get undressed like a stripper gene – that must be their father’s responsibility.) And it is only down to a concerted effort on my part that Chez McGee is generally clean and sort of tidy most of the time. It’s not a natural state for me. Organised, more or less; tidy? Not so much.

Now, for those not in the know, the Born Organised, and the really quite happy with a certain level of disorder as long as the bills are paid and there is food in the cupboard; Flylady is a rather smug, definitely sanctimonious and more than a bit pious system for getting one’s shit together. It also goes without saying that there’s a special tool for each job – available special price very cheap in any colour you like as long as it’s purple waiting for you in the Fly-Shop. I persevered for quite a long time with the Fly-Business, however I was always mildly irritated with her and the whole process. I had kid(s), was working and studying and attempting to keep a house organised and not lose what was left of my mind. I realised that while I did actually want to live in a house where I was in minimal danger of death by landslide, I didn’t want some middle aged purple fairy leaning over my shoulder being all helpful in that slightly condescending way. It’s ok, jump in where you are, it didn’t get messed up in a day, we’re all fun loving, you have to love yourself. Yeah, hows about an everlovin’ smack in the chops, wench? (I’m not awesome at being Told What To Do, either)

It’s been at least six or so years since I seriously dabbled in Flylady –  I started working full time, and Flylady certainly didn’t allow for working outside the home, looking after children or doing anything but pottering about making things lovely back then. So I was being all ironic and that when I had a bit of a look at the website to see how I was getting along, and whether anything had actually sunk in.

Well…

I make my bed every morning, the dishes are done (and the sink is shiny) every night, I lay out my clothes most evenings,  I do in fact get dressed to shoes in the morning  as soon as I get up – BUT the doing of dishes is positively correlated with the Great Ant Infestation of 2011; I lay out my clothes because morning minutes don’t have as many seconds as evening minutes – and the getting dressed to shoes? Well, I walk the Hound before breakfast. And Flylady is still as pious and sanctimonious as she ever was (a reward for getting everything done in the morning – read the Fly-Mails. Pfft.) And while there is a token nod to those people who have to balance being not all that organised with working and having children, it’s still got a strong focus on the person who is at home during the day.

(I still hang out with a bunch of ladies I met when I first dived head first into Flylady, they’re orright. Yes, some of them do read this.)

Anyway, where next?

I’m a gadget fan generally, but when it comes to organising, I am definitely analogue. I like a good list. I like the satisfaction of Crossing Stuff Off. I like the way sitting and writing a list focuses my attention for five minutes and helps me work out what I want to do that day (of course, I often don’t achieve it because I get a little carried away with the list writing sometimes  and get down to the most minute level of detail.) So, it is with quite a bit of anticipation, I’m investigating the concept of the Bullet Journal.  This appeals to me on so many levels.

1. It’s list making

2. I can buy stationery (Moleskine…)

3. It’s epic mega list making with indexes and everything

4. I like lists.

So, today, while the Offspring did sport, I sat in the local cafe with a skinny latte and a yo-yo and set up my first ever Bullet Journal. I’m only using a $3 grid exercise book to start off with, but I can see already that it should work quite well for me. It’s very similar to how I operate at work, so should be extremely well translatable to home. Every time I think of something that Needs Doing, I’m writing it straight into the monthly task list. I had five or six jobs to do today, but as I was out for the afternoon, I ran out of day. So two of today’s tasks have been transferred to tomorrow’s list already.  I’ll report back after a month when I have more of an idea about how it’s working out for me. I’ll still have my micro-management lists for the crossing off of, but hopefully this will remind me of those pesky jobs I need to keep on top of so things don’t go horridly wrong! And if it does in fact work out as well as I suspect it might, I may buy myself a fancypants book to journal in!

 

Ok, there were a couple more books in the mix as well…

Ok – the first book was called Lexicon, by Max Barry.

It was fucking brilliant.

For me, the dead giveaway of a good book is when I don’t want to do anything else but read my book, and when I was reading that book, that was all I wanted to do. The story and the world within it were so different to anything I’d read before – and while completely outrageous, at the same time you could believe it was plausible. It opened with a young Australian guy being kidnapped at the airport on his arrival in America, gets a needle in the eyeball (ew) and is generally dazed and confused –  when all he wanted to do was catch up with his girlfriend. On the other hand, a second story starting somewhat earlier involving a really young girl who is doing card tricks for money and she ends up at a special “school”  where she learns to use power of words to persuade people to give her what she wants. It’s insane.

There are people that you come across that have things and get things and have things just fall in their lap, and you wonder what it is exactly that they’ve done to find themselves in that position. And reading this book makes you wonder if it’s true… The story crosses from the past story thread to the future one and back again until they intertwine so completely you’re reading one story again. There’s guns and chasing and violence and conspiracies and it’s non stop. Savage and brutal and completely merciless.

I didn’t realise that the Max Barry that wrote this was the same one that wrote Jennifer Government and Syrup. Both books I read a long time ago, but I don’t really remember them all that well  – might have to look them up again, hmm.

T’other book I read was the latest Jim Butcher – Skin Game  – this is the fourteenth (or fifteenth) novel in Mr Butcher’s series about Harry Dresden, Chicago’s only Wizard detective. Although, I’m pretty sure that he’s not listed in the phone book any more, what with all the Winter Knight stuff, and living on a haunted island and the like. It was pretty cool. I like them – they’re quality trash and make for awesome winter afternoon reading material (as an aside, is it always winter in Chicago? Or is it just that the last few books seem to have been set in winter?) Not a lot else I can say about this one, really – if you’re going to take up reading them, start at book one. There’s a LOT going on that won’t make a heap of sense unless you start at the start. So, if you like a bit of biffo smacko, bit of magic, bit of actual nasty vampires, few demons, not too much of the sexuals and kissy bits (so it’s probably good for young lads who like that sort of supernatural thing but aren’t keen on  the lovey dovey bits)

Not sure if you’ve noticed or not, but I appear to have got myself into a bit of a funk-ish writer’s block-ish kind of spot (which is currently not being helped by laptop keyboard misbehaviour. I’ve given it a spanking but to no avail. And a jolly good shaking. May need to get the compressor onto it. Or a new one. A new one would be nice). This blockage is extending to other areas – including the writing I get paid to do, so I am sitting here, trying to bash the keyboard into submission along with the blockage of writing… 

Man, this keyboard is annoying me! My imaginary husband is on the telly again, so I might just succumb to the pain in the arse that is writers block and this equally painful damn keyboard and go enjoy a bit more of the technicolour biff while I work out what on earth I am going to read next and suss out whether it’s the computer or me that’s got issues…

The Diogenes Trilogy

One thing I must say since motoring through Game of Thrones – the idea of binge reading a trilogy back to back is no longer as disconcerting. Particularly when the three volumes together are a mere 1,400 pages. That’s child’s play, I tell you, child’s play!

The Diogenes Trilogy is by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child. This series features Aloysius Pendergast and Vincent D’Agosta, plus a heap of other characters that have been in earlier books (in hindsight, I probably should have started at the start because some stuff would have made a lot more sense, but no matter – they certainly made enough sense without the earlier ones, and there was enough back story with most of the characters that it was pretty clear). Brimstone (the first one) is fairly creepy and weird with people dying in suitably gruesome fashions; the second one  (Dance of Death) – was pretty good, and left you hanging to read #3 (The Book of the Dead). I would have to say that Brimstone and The Book of the Dead were my two favourites, with Dance of Death coming in third. It’s probably a bit difficult to go into too much detail about the stories themselves without spoiling things. Plus, I read the three one after the other, so a couple of the side-stories have got muddled in my mind. Now, there’s loads of homages to other famous detectives and detective fiction – for me, this was an added thrill because I’ve been reading crime n death since – well, since I grew out of the Famous Five books when I was a kid (I moved on to Sherlock Holmes, Agatha Christie, Ngaio Marsh and the like), and Preston and Child have filched entire characters (with due credit!) from other crime novels. And the odd scene that is reminiscent of crucial moments in other books (spoilers if I go any further, so I won’t – suffice to say I was sort of not expecting that particular ending, and I’m almost not sure that the ending won’t be reminiscent of the one it is copying. Clear as mud, yes?)

This isn’t the first time I’ve read books written by two people, but in these, you can almost tell which sections are written by one, and which by the other (don’t know which is which, however) and there’s one I do prefer over the other – I liked the Pendegast sections, and the D’Agusto bits, and not so much the Nora parts. But that’s me and my own particular preferences. But the three of them were a cracking read and I’m not sure what I am going to read next to be honest… Something different, maybe?

Silkworms

One of the many books I got stuck into while spending 14 hours on public transport was The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith.

Now, I didn’t hate it. Not by a long shot. And I’ve read a LOT worse. It also won’t stop me from acquiring Book #3, either. BUT what I have said before and I’ll say again – JK Rowling needs a decent editor. More on that later…

The Silkworm is set in the world of literary editors and small publishers and that sort of thing and involves the demise of a rather unpleasant chap who has written an equally unpleasant book about a whole heap of not particularly pleasant people, none of whom are particularly pleased.

Cormorant Strike is hired by said writer’s wife to find him when he goes missing, and the bulk of the story is Strike looking for Quine and dealing with the people in his life while trying to a) find out where he is and then b) find out who it was what dunnit. The police are exceedingly dim and frustrating in this book – I am used to my British bobbies being a bit more on the clued up side. American police, however – Sheriff Roscoe P Coltrane I am looking at you. Actually, I suspect the policeman in this book was using the aforementioned Sheriff as a role model. Yes. That bumbling.

There’s a decent amount of tension between Strike and Robin, his secretary and the relationship between Robin and her fiance, Matthew (who is a bit of a dick, and reminds me vaguely of an ex boyfriend so I am inclined to dislike him on principal without his dislike of Robin’s job and employer.) is a bit fraught and full of “he doesn’t understand me” but I get the distinct impression Robin doesn’t talk to him about it, plus Matthew is a dick.

Now, there’s not really a lot I can say about the book without giving away the entire plot. So instead, I shall whinge a little about the padding. In A Cuckoo’s Calling, JK Rowling banged on and on and on about how damn HAIRY Cormorant Strike is. This time, not so much about the hair – but on and on and on about his leg and how damaged it was and how woe was him. Toughen up, princess. Get a cane and use it. No need to go on and on and on and on and on and on about it. Some of it was really good, really well written and really tight. Then there were bits that were so – I dunno.

Sometimes, when I was studying literature at school, I would think hey, maybe this part of the book is just there to move the plot along from one place to another and there’s really no deeper meaning. That’s sort of how I felt with this – that the writer was trying to impose meaning on something that really was just moving the plot along from one point to another. I found that a little frustrating (it’s like when people use words that don’t mean quite what they think they mean which makes them come across as a bit try hard and stupid.)

So yeah, didn’t hate it, didn’t love it either. Definitely will read the next one whenever it comes out. They don’t totally suck, but there is surely an editor out there who can trim between 50 and 100 pages from these books. With some of the fluff cleared out, I reckon they have the potential to be a cracking read. Just not yet.

Psst, here I am, hiding down the back of the couch…

Yeah, I know. Been a while. I think the last post I made was toward the end of June. I was all set to write a nothing much post about nothing much, and WordPress was misbehaving so I didn’t end up writing anything. It’s been a little chaotic in the McGee household, what with one thing and another, and I’ve been a tiny bit busy doing write-y things at work as well. However, I have managed to squeeze in a bit of reading. Quite a bit of reading as a matter of fact. It was helped by spending a ridiculous amount of time on public transport for a week while I did some training in Big Smokey (two trains and a bus to get there, a tram and two trains to get home. Nice. One train got delayed for an hour – which made the hour I’d allowed to get from point B to point C slightly more necessary than I expected. I do NOT feel the love for the Myki either. Whole other story that, though. But it was 13 hours all up on the train)

Anyway, on to the books… in no particular order, I have read…

  1. The Silkworm – Robert Galbraith
  2. Brimstone – Preston and Child
  3. Skin Game – Jim Butcher
  4. Lexicon – Max Barry

Also in no particular order, one was bloody brilliant, one was quite good, one was what I expected and the other was a complete disappointment. But I think I’ll do  a separate post for each because well, I don’t know why really. Partly because I was going to write a bit of a six month, new financial year how’s ma resolutions going, hey, so I might do that and do the books over the next couple of days.

Right, here we go.

Resolution #1 – keeping my feral leftie mouth shut whilst still leaving my feral leftie heart beating rather messily on my sleeve …

So far, so good. Not killed anyone, made my viewpoint clear with facts rather than rhetoric. Been screamingly angry at the way the current gubbermints think it’s appropriate to treat unemployed people purely because the people in the IPA and the people who watch A Current Affair think everyone who is unemployed is a bludger and rorting the system, so should thusly be treated as such. Or die. Preferably the latter. As should old people and sick people and children. But hey, theywill cease to be a problem when the climate implodes.

Resolution #2 – Writing writing writing.

I’ve been doing that. I’ve even been doing a bit of actual writing but nowt for public consumptions. And reading. They go together.

Resolution #3 – working smarter at work and at home

Well, look over there, nice shiny tractor coming your way. I have been Busy. I don’t know if working smarter is right, but busy, meeting most of my deadlines, not only found my assertiveness pants but put them on and USED them. Home front has been a bit choppy, so to speak – but nothing’s been disconnected and we haven’t starved. So yeah… ok.

Resolution #4 – learning to say ‘no’

Actually, I did do that. In spades. Without raising my voice, while making people take me very seriously at the same time. And I am preparing to do it again, without fear or favour!

Resolution #5 – Reading

Yep. Doing that. About 22 books so far. I’m not going to make 50, but I am pretty pleased with my efforts. This brings me to another mini-rant about the gubbermints. Piracy is a bit of a thingy in Australia. We’re willing to pay a reasonable price for media we want to watch/read/use. We are not generally prepared to put up with being screwed over by Uncle Rupert and forced to pay through the nose for the privilege of watching stuff *after* everyone else has. So, the gubbermints cure for the pirates is to make the ISPs punish people who download movies and stream tv shows. Yay. Now, I’m not one to stream shows or download movies. I can wait. I don’t steal music either.

Books, however…

Now, don’t get me wrong, I still hand over cold hard cash for books from time to time. BUT if I buy a paper book, once I’ve read it, it’s mine to do with what I will. I can pass it on to someone else, I can make paper planes from its pages, I can use it to prop a wobbly table leg. When I buy an electric book – it’s not that much cheaper than a real one, I can’t give it to someone else to read without doing complicated things to it, and all I can do with it is leave it to clutter up my hard drive. That’s not fair. So I um borrow books from strangers, then loan them on. Piratically. And with a reasonably clear conscience.

Resolution #6 – exercise

Totally winning at that one. Just ask the Hound! I’ve missed less than a week since the beginning of December when I started walking. Although I’ve added having to catch a train at sparrow fart to my list of reasonable excuses (along with torrential rain, thunder and lightening, and hangovers.) From the week after next, and hopefully next week, I am going to be getting myself to work under my own steam – walking until it gets a bit lighter of an evening, then cycling (assuming of course I can get the tail light to stay on my bike). That will mean I will be covering around 8km a day which is really rather good.

So, on the whole, I think I am going ok with the resolution business. Nothing like making achievable plans, hey.