750 Words: The challenge of challenges

This will be interesting. I could not sleep and started stressing about getting up in time to ride to the train station for the 7a train, so I gave up the ghost at 4a and just got myself ready for the 4:54a bus. I am not sure how coding on the bus will go. It’s not as smooth a ride. Jiggly lap => jiggly laptop => rando typos.

I have no problem coding every day. I do not need the 100-days-of-code challenge to get me to do it. All I do differently when I decide on doing it is owning up to my contributions on Twitter. I also become a more active Twitter participant when I start a challenge. I also make sure that I commit every day when I am on the challenge. For some reason, once I announce to the anonymous world that I am committing to 100DoC, I feel the “pics or it didn’t happen” threat is taken care of with the little green GitHub square.

So no. My problem is not coding every day; my problem is staying focused on one or two projects. That’s the ADHD without a boss or teacher issue. When the boss looks at me in the mirror, I’m less focused. MeAsMyBoss should never have hired me:
Me: I want to do a little CSS grid in between Node tutorials.
MeAsMyBoss: Don’t forget that you need to fix your portfolio, apply for jobs, do your homework, and correct or improve past homework.
Me: And maybe even plan a bigger full-stack project since I’ll be asked to do one soon.
Me: RIGHT?! Let’s deal with our excitement and stress by eating all the things!

MeAsMyBoss also is more of a delegator. She’s not someone I could go to when I get stuck. She doesn’t ask me what I think I should do. I also don’t have this desire to do right by her. I don’t care if she’s proud of me or impressed with anything I’ve done. In fact, when she is impressed, she makes me come off as a needy narcissist. Don’t get me wrong. I love MeAsMyBoss’s twin sister MeAsMyRoommate. I can do solo living. I don’t just talk to myself; I orate. I’d rather have OtherAsMyBoss. I love a good boss—one I respect and look up to. When I have OtherAsMyBoss, I procrastinate less and stay on task more.

Alas, I do not have OtherAsMyBoss. Or I don’t for coding and web development.

Until then, I have to stick with MeAsMyBoss. Maybe we can teach each other. Maybe she’ll keep me from going with a new idea: “Katy, let that one rest in your journal. GitHub can wait.” And maybe I’ll remind her that I need different projects to satisfy the different—OH CRAP! BUS TRANSFER POINT!
(and who is the boss of “shove everything in the pannier get off the bus get the bike find the next bay load the bike get on the bus and carry on”? ME! Fueled by Spokesman coffee and a jolt of adrenalin.)
See? I have to have different projects for the different time chunks available to me. I cannot do tutorials on the bus because I can’t hear the announcement. Tutorials are better for the train when every stop is predictable. I prefer longer tasks like homework for when I can have a second monitor set up. My available times do not suit one project. What can you do? I don’t care. What can I do? That’s better. I can find a happy middle between one project that I can’t do during some of my free time and too many projects that just mean I get nothing done. I also give myself a break. There’s a difference between having unfinished projects because I dislike them and having unfinished projects because I want to learn all the things.

But I do think I am done with adding more challenges. I have 100 Days of Code (very disciplined with), 750 Words a Day (medium as it is second to 100Doc), and getting back to the gym (necessary as I’m a stress eater and am pursuing a career that puts many people in 90-degree angles for hours at a time). I think I’ve maxed out I can’t even satisfy my “get to bed before 10p” challenge even once a week.


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Meta data:

LOCATION: on the bus
AMPM: am

Commuter code: Day wun dun

I think I am onto something here. I will be taking the train 3 days a week, the commute is 40ish minutes each direction. Since there are two cycling legs in each direction, and the last leg is uphill and I’m carrying full panniers, I end up home and exhausted. If I get the laptop out on the train and work on only that project, that’s 80 minutes of work done. The train carriage has tables, and since I go against traffic, I get one to myself.

I’m having an “Ima jeenyis” moment: if I do nothing else—nothing—but come home so tired that I zone out and sleep, I got 80 minutes in. Granted, it’s not earth shattering code, but it’s required planning, problem-solving, and enough coding to make me happy. It is also a set time. No “Just one more …”. If I do that, I miss my stops. Another bonus for me is that before and after the train leg are cycling legs, when I can’t do anything but think, dream, and avoid motorized cages.

I hope as my body gets used to the new plan (What in slacker hell am I doing up at 5 and out on my bicycle at 6? And why does my bike suddenly weigh 25 tons?), I’ll be more productive at home IN ADDITION TO what I have done on the train. Right now I am spending some of my home-code time whining about my quads.

As I put 100 Days of Code to rest as I readjust my daily goals, this will keep me accountable for at least 3/7 days.

Train tanty & commuter coding

First, the tanty:

I’m earning a little coin doing some part-time work far away. Not quite in a galaxy, but damn near close to being one. To get there, I could drive. I have. It works. If I leave at 6am, I get there at 6:30 and workout, shower, and relax before I start working. The traffic is minimal and while it’s three times the distance from my house to Austin’s CBD, it takes less time to commute to this almost-galaxy at 6a than to the CBD at 8. But no matter how early I get up and how fast the commute is, it’s still driving. I’m also coming home in school traffic. I get nothing done. Who does? Who on earth gets anything done while driving? Oh yeah, the phone users. Let’s not start a rant about them.

I’ve sussed it out. I used to live in a city with a decent rail system (yo, Brisbane!), and have had to get used to Austin thinking it’s a city but having only one train. ONE! Two cars and running hourly on one route. I wouldn’t call this a rail system. I’d call it a functional amusement park. Austin, darling, you’re hardly weird by not embracing rail. Your hippies, hipsters, and pseudo “weirdos” are in cars (often solo) and clogging up your roads. It’s not Californians’ fault. We are backwards thanks to decisions made by people born and raised here. But go on blaming California. It’s more a sign that you’re bad at math.

Now the coding:

Now, to get to work, I cycle 30 minutes, take the train for another 30, then cycle 15 more. Coming home it’s slower due to the time of day and a serious uphill commute. I have 30 minutes in there to open up the laptop and tap tap tap. I could work on existing code and projects, but since my desk is my lap, and I have no space to write AND I have no give on the time I can unpack and pack, I thought the best thing for me to do is either read about coding, data science, and how-tos, blog about them, or do easy mini projects to keep my mind occupied on the train.

I initialised a repo on GitHub just for this. I have no general plan other than to commit whatever I’ve done. I may start and delete. I may copy something from one project over and take it back. I may just have little bitty things or one larger thing built in itty bitty steps. I think of this repo and 30 minutes (x2) as my version of train sudoku or crossword puzzles. It’s less about the final code than it is just to code. Anything.

I think my only rule will be to work on JavaScript (nilla or jQuery) bits that I can add Sketch App work to in order to balance the logic with the creativity.

And now I have spent this first chunk on a blog post that starts with a tanty ranty. Ah. Venting Tssssss. All good. My boat; my rules.

750Words d5: the nomadic life (from prompt)

I started this blog ages ago. Years. It moved from Typepad and before that Blogger. It started as a blog to manage my history with the foster greyhounds I had. As my life changed, the blog did. Its subtitle is critters, coding, commuting, and chaos. As I search for a job and focus on a career change, this has been heavy on the coding side (sorry, but programming doesn’t fit my love of alliteration). Now that I’ve started my 750words challenge, I will have other topics. There are other sides to me, dammit! No. Not that side. Don’t look.

I believe this one covers commuting, chaos, critters, and coding, but more chaos and commuting:

Prompt: (not my words) If you could live a nomadic life, would you? Where would
you go? How would you decide? What would life be like without a “home base”?
I have often thought about selling my house and living in a van. I would never give up my critters, so I’d have some limitations, but isn’t a house just as limiting? I find myself struggling being anchored in Austin. I love Austin, but I know and love more people outside of Austin: Dallas, Minneapolis, Brisbane, Melbourne. Having a home means I can’t leave it without organising a petsitter or worrying about my stuff.

Stuff stuff stuff. I won’t be the hypocrite who bitches about stuff without remembering that she is encumbered with stuff herself. Thou shalt not be a twat. (By the way, I like the way Australians say it, rhyming with flat and not rot.) I have large dogs and want to continue to have them. I also have cats. I think it’s possible to have them with me. It requires discipline, but wouldn’t having a smaller place make that easier?

Where would I live and how? I think I’d use a travel trailer to allow me to drive into town or the city. Other things I would want to have and, yes, I feel are necessary:

I would want both a motorcycle and a bicycle. Maybe I’d have a truck to pull the trailer that would also have a place for me to haul the motorcycle. The bike would be also in the bed. Maybe not a truck but a strong SUV. I’d balance the eco hell that a truck or SUV would be with the bike and motorcycle, and also not using so much energy and water at home. I think a tent would be fun (a small one) for the times I’m where the night air is more pleasant than the trailer.

I’m too young to piss off and wander, so at this moment, I would want to be able to pick up and go to Dallas where my family is or leave Texas for other jobs that are short-term. Maybe use many addresses and be on many temp agencies and wander. I could not make this work without internet. First of all, I am trying to become a programmer. I can’t imagine being disconnected. I also would live the nomadic life to have fun, not to say “feckoff” to my friends. On a grimmer note, if I go missing, I’d want my stuff pinging like mad so that the police don’t find too gross of a Katy cadaver.

Clearly, I have no desire to go off the grid. I admire those who do, but I know my limitations. I am not skilled enough to fix things on my own. I’m also getting older and my knuckles would be furious with me.

I don’t think I have to wander to far away places just to live a nomadic life. Nomads lived together. They did not all live solo. They needed the skills the others had. I am sure I would park it as often in a metroplex as I would out west. Yes, west. I don’t see myself traveling east as often. Not never. Just not as often.

Honestly, I would be happy to live this way in Austin and not far from where I am now.

What would the inside of my trailer be like? Ok. This far into my writing, I now realise that I want to have a pick-up with four doors. I’d want my pets up with me. I’d want as much covered as possible. I’m hoping there are 4-door trucks that don’t make me look like a jackass. When moving, I’d want my pets up with me. Once hooked up, I think the cats and hounds would be fine in their little car-partment. You cannot tell me that the people in NYC don’t have cats and dogs. I have the hounds for it: greyhounds. The saluki would need more room to run, but choosing a place where a park is near is all that I’d need. They’d need walking, but so would I. Cats? They’ll be okay wherever. They have each other and lots of windows. It’d be fun to get them leash trained.

Eating is the easiest part. I keep it simple. I do not have this desire to make enviable meals nightly. I’m fine drinking my meals and going out here and there. Or keeping it simple at home with nearly ready-made salads.

These are the challenges I see:
workspace set up

The workplace would be solved with a decent coffee shop where I got wifi and wasn’t too far from where home was at the time.
Craft items would need to be in storage. That could help keep me focused. FINISH A DAMN PROJECT! Swap out as I do. Yarn squishes, so easy peasy.
Books are a bigger challenge. I’d have to let go of many of them. Keep ones by people I know. I’m sure I’d have a storage unit, but I’d hope one that is only 5 by 5.

I’ve thought about this a lot, not just after finding a writing prompt. My mom is now living the van life and is somewhere in New Mexico. She uses my place as a homebase. I also see that it’s a lot of work the older the van. I am not sure I’d want to go that old. If I sold my house, I wouldn’t buy a new trailer and truck, but I’d get ones that were not as old. I also think that maintaining a truck and a trailer would be easier than an all-in-one, but that’s just me talking out my ass. Or typing out of it.

I think I could and really might do this. I can’t afford the kind of house in Austin I would love (midcentury or older). I also hate leaving my pack when I travel. I hate yard work. I don’t ever want to entertain more than an individual, and even then prefer to meet at the movies or a restaurant.

So what is stopping me?

Hitting a wall

It’s not the wall. I’ve hit the wall on a long bike ride in the Dandenongs. Nothing a fistful of raisins couldn’t solve.

This is just a wall. One of many walls I’ll encounter along the way. This wall was made out of house guests from Australia, a greyhound that nearly crashed after a dental, a dad whose “let’s see” surgery ended up being “let’s get this lobe out”,  and all of this with a house full of hounds (mine, two fosters, and a doggie-sit) and more coming (and going) as friends travel.

I quit being able to think. I opened up a project and just stared at it. I would have been more familiar with Russian. I do not see any reason beating myself up over this. I could stare at the screen for another hour and get nothing done, or I could acknowledge that I have enough on my mind and come back another day and make something worth committing to GitHub. I chose to wait.

It’s not that easy to return from chaos, though. The good habits I was building have crumbled. It’s as though I was on a vacation and left my work behind. A real shit vacation. Think bad cruise with salmonella and no working toilets. And pirates. And flying sharks.

I spent two days working on a new plan (revamped, not really new). This time around, I’ve budgeted time for reading, needle work (embroidery and knitting, not heroin), and exercise. I’m ahead of the game with exercise. I’m cycling and/or running every day, and if I don’t have time for a long ride, I make sure I cycle when I commute and take the long way home to make up for it if the chore is too close. Today my chores were only 1.5 miles away, so I added a 9-mile loop to make up for it.

Tomorrow I’ll see if this new plan works. No. Tomorrow I’ll just do it. If it’s not perfect, I’ll see how Wednesday is. I’ll figure this out. I’ve done harder things. I’ve had bigger walls. Assess, tweak, wake up the next day and begin again. Aways, we begin again.

Ride to Work

Every year there’s a Ride2Work day around Australia.

  • . Every year I do not ride on the one bloody day that symbolically represents leaving the car at home and getting on the bike. This drives me batty because on the days surrounding Ride2Work, I am riding to work. I support the idea, obviously, and can’t believe that I can never ride to work on Ride2Work day. If you don’t believe in jinxes and have never owed someone a Coke, then this is it. I’m jinxed.

    What’s wrong this year? In the past it’s usually been appointments or some other reason I have had to take the car or have to use the train the entire way. This year, I miss Ride2Work day and the entire promo week and month, since I’ll be back home in the US. I hope to at least be car-free on that day. I might have to make sure I’m in Minneapolis or Austin on that day.

    I’ve been working in Redbank, which is far away in many ways from home. I cannot ride the entire way. I’ve had to ride either to the city or to a friend’s house in another burb to catch the train. It all depends on the weather, my mood, the night before, etc. The city is a 30-minute ride; my friend’s house, a 50- to 60-minute ride.

    Until now. There is now a way to ride all the way from home to work. My goal is to do it. I don’t usually ride a roadie since I carry stuff like this computery fluff stuff; a knitting, embroidery, or crochet project; and a magazine or book. I never know what my train-time entertainment will be. I believe in choices at all times. All this means is that I am yet another woman with baggage. Literally. In fact, a woman told me yesterday that she liked my saddle bags. See? Cycling gives you good looking saddle bags. Much better than my slang ones.

    I’ve sussed out my ride. I rode just under half way to work, and coming home, i rode just under half way back. All I need to do is fill in the middle bits and connect the two:


    If I can ride the entire way to work, the pressure is off to ride the whole way back, since I’m in Queensland, where it’s pitch black at 5:30pm.

    If you look at the ride back, you’ll see that I pass a prison. This is a great reason to pedal faster, but I really don’t see escapees thinking “Oh, I’m free! Now to bikejack some fool and pedal to Rico’s hideout.” I ride right along the fence that informs me that I’m by prison property and to stay out. Oh. Since you say so. I was so tempted to jump over and picnic next to the razor wire. I did see a few inmates. Wallabies. Hardened wallabies, so don’t go thinking that they’re all cute.


    This is also the prison where that charmer from Alabama spent some time reflecting on his honeymoon and diving skills.

    So wish me luck. My goal is to go the entire way on my Gazelle before trying it all sporty, snazzy, and Lycra-y on my roadie. How dedicated to commuting am I that I know the brand of my commuter bikes, but not the roadie?

    And a greyhound photo or two before I go. It’s been cold here. We don’t have heat, so we snuggle. It’s been 5 degrees Celsius INPHUKKINSIDE. There are not many of those days, and they warm up to 19 by midday, but man … It’s snuggle time.



    Catching up

    A little over a week ago, I quit Facebook. I don’t know how long it’ll last. I have done this before and went for six weeks. I started to miss it. I think this time I’ll last longer. What is the difference between now and a few years ago? Ironically, more social networks.

    Okay, there’s a pet peeve of mine. When did this new stuff become “social networking”? Hasn’t the phone been a social network for ages? And what about the local bar, haunt, pub, dog park? But you know what I mean. A few years ago, there was pretty much just the Facebook/Myspace options with a smattering of Twitter. Now there’s Get Glue, Instagram, Pixable, Words with Friends, Draw Something, etc. I’ve quit only Facebook. I think the difference is that Facebook lets me know too much about people.

    Zygote? Really? That was worth more than the measly three coins. Do you not agree that I should have received a bonus five?

    Knowing too much about some people. Oddly, the people I miss on Facebook are the people all those sociologists would say aren’t my “real friends”. You don’t realise how much you don’t know about people until you know them in real life AND on Facebook. I missed not knowing the little things, which are what we catch up on when we catch up, right? But I am not catching up with people because I don’t miss them. I know what they did, when, and where. I basically got off Facebook so that I would miss my friends and want to catch up.

    Ah, but I have a problem there.

    Many people I enjoyed on Facebook were people I met through blogs, comments, etc. People I don’t really know too much at all. I got to know them more through Facebook, and since I am never in their city to catch up, I don’t feel that void. I have seriously thought about rejoining but under a new email AND with the caveat that I don’t add people I see face-to-face ever. We’ll see. I have found that since I rarely watch TV and am now off Facebook, I’ve written more lengthy emails and have posted twice on this nearly extinguished blog.

    I used to spend my time on the train on Facebook to spare my limited time with Manboy, but now I’m emailing and writing this post.

    If you ride, walk, or jog as part of your commute to work, I cannot tell you how great a wireless keyboard and iPad (or any tablet, I’m sure) are.

    I’m a tweetin’.

    And now I’m a bloggin’.

    And this is my morning office. The early trains away from the city do not pack a crowd. It’s usually just me by the time I get to my stop. Earlier in the ride, I’ll have the pleasure of several tradies and a smattering of drunks who waited for the first train to go home. Honestly, they’re much more entertaining than the suits I see when I catch a later train.

    So. Catching up. It’s what I do when I quit Facebook.