Day in the life

October 3, 2019

One thing I love about working remotely is that if I don’t want to see a single person all day, I don’t have to see a single person all day. The downside is that it makes connecting with coworkers a little challenging.

I had a meeting scheduled for 8am this morning – at least, I thought I did. I woke up at 730 (it’s my rest day, shut up, I’m tired), showered and coffee’d, signed on to the web meeting…and I’ve been stood up?

Then I saw that I hadn’t actually accepted the meeting invite; it’s colored as tentative on my calendar. So, am I the one doing the standing up??


Regardless, it’s not worth trying to track down my coworker – he’s in Spain, it’s 4pm for him, and if he wasn’t expecting to have the call today then there’s no point in having a call.

Because I reeeeeally wanted to discuss LinkedIn posting strategies at 8am this morning /s

Another bonus to working remotely – now that my meeting is off the calendar, I can squeeze in half an hour of yoga! After 6 miles yesterday morning and an hour of climbing in the evening, I need it…

Life, the universe, and everything · Writing

October 1, 2019

It’s 330pm, and my focus took an absolute nosedive…about 90 minutes ago. I’m going to blame it on the fact that I’ve gotten up before 6am two days in a row now, which I think might be the second time ever?

I did some quick yoga followed by a 5.5 mile run in a fancypants neighborhood that I haven’t tried out yet. There were lots of little side streets to explore; the only problem was that the main street to get there was suuuuper dark at 615am, and on the way back, once the sun was coming up, it was suuuuuper busy trafficwise. So I’m conflicted about adding it as a regular route. Maybe it’ll work best for weekend runs.

Today is also the first day of Preptober! I legitimately did not know that this was a thing until a couple weeks ago. But it makes a lot of sense, and I’m going to actually do it this year. In previous years that I’ve done NaNoWriMo, it’s been more of a, oh yeah, I signed up for this thing, I guess I should start…wait, what was I going to write about again? sort of thing. Which, needless to say…does not work so well. I’ve only finished Nano once, and that was a fanfiction story that ended up being more of a collection of scenes than anything coherent.

So, this year: I’m going to spend real time planning an original fiction novel, with a super ambitious self-publication target date of March 10, 2020, and use Nano to push out that first draft. I have a story idea, I have characters, and I have lists and lists of things to prepare!

I do love a good list.

Life, the universe, and everything · Writing

On motivation

I was listening to an older episode of The Bestseller Experiment while on a run the other day, in which one of the hosts was sharing the story of his wife’s battle with cancer. He said something that really caught me off guard, and really hit me. I’m paraphrasing, but it was along the lines of We only have a finite amount of words in us, so we have to write them while we still have the time.

I don’t know why that stood out to me so much; I usually don’t get inspired by sentimental stories from other people’s lives, and cancer stories are especially annoying (I don’t even like working on cancer projects; so few of them actually turn out meaningful, translatable data. No offense, cancer biologists…it’s just not my interest. At all).

Maybe it was the timing of it. I just had a(nother) mole biopsy come back a little funky, and have an excisional biopsy scheduled for this week that I’m not too thrilled about. It’s not melanoma, just a clump of cells that are high risk for developing into melanoma. I’m not worried at all about the biopsy or even the surgery. It’s just, two weeks of having to severely limit my activity; two weeks of constantly worrying that I’ll tear my stitches; two weeks of bruised skin and just-enough-to-be-annoying pain.

But the show host is right. There is a limit to how much we can get done in our lives. I’ve been promising myself for a couple of years now that I’ll publish my first book and start a career as an author. I promised myself that 2019 will be the year that I actually, for real, self-publish.

And here it is, the beginning of July, and I haven’t made (or attempted to make) any progress.

Because excuses come up. Other things that take up my time. Are those things important? Some of them, yeah – but a good number of them are just time wasters. Procrastinating. Watching endless YouTube videos because the thought of writing down words that I’ll ask someone to pay for is terrifying.

Well, July is my month. I’m going to finish a first, word-vomity draft of my first original fiction novel. I know I can do it; I need to do it. Who knows when I’ll run out of chances to try?

In any case, I can’t run, swim, climb, or even yoga for the next two weeks – now really is the perfect time!

Life, the universe, and everything

It is risen (it is risen indeed)

Today is my first Saturday off in a long, long time, the weather is gorgeous, I’m full of pent-up energy…

…and there’s not much I can do about it, because I have a 1.5-inch slice on the back of my neck and sutures that I don’t want to tear.

It’s at that super tricky stage – it doesn’t hurt anymore, so I want to turn my head and do an hour of yoga and go for a hard run. But I can’t, because sutures.

So, I spent the morning doing yoga-lite and cleaning the apartment (slowly); now I’m baking two loaves of rosemary focaccia bread, because why not.

I’m also attempting to make a sourdough starter, for the first time in a few years. The last attempt…did not go well. Failure to thrive is probably the kindest way to describe it. This time around, I looked up a ton of instructions and tips first. I mixed together the ingredients, added them to a glass mason jar, and set it out on the counter to rise a bit before putting it in the fridge.

Half an hour later – it rose. It rose up to the lid; pushed the lid off the jar. It rose out of the jar, and allll over the counter.

Maybe next time I won’t add double the amount of yeast…

Life, the universe, and everything

Weekly wrap-up

Do you ever have those weeks where all of a sudden it’s Friday, and you can’t say what you’ve done all week because you have absolutely no idea?
I think I’ve spent the past two weeks doing nothing but emailing and having calls…but I’m not really sure. I wasn’t even that busy – I’ve been able to leave work on time every day – but the days have been so packed that by the time 5pm rolls around, I’m just tired and have accomplished nothing. Then that spills over to the evening, where all I want to do when I get home is veg on the couch and watch Netflix. I’ve written a grand total of 26 words this week, and even that was a struggle.
We’re barreling towards the April NIH grant deadline, so I have a ton of projects to set up and kick off; next week will be spent on the boring admin side of things.
I’m doing my taxes next week – with an actual accountant. I’ve technically had three different jobs at two different companies this year, and I’m hoping that my taxes aren’t as much of a mess as it feels like they are; but they could be a disaster, so. Biting the bullet and actually paying an accountant to help me with them this time around.
I also set up an eye doctor appointment to finally, finally get a new pair of glasses – I’ve had these since halfway through grad school. Time to upgrade and not look like a broke-ass grad student any more!
So, next week is shaping up to be just as packed as this week. I actually get President’s Day off for once in my life; but, just like in grad school, I have so much to do that it’s a holiday in name only. I can at least fit in my 9-mile long run in the morning, since Saturday and Sunday will taken up by sail training. Oh darn.
I need to make more of an effort next week to write whether or not I feel like it, and to make time for it. Because I’m never going to magically have tons of time or tons of energy at the end of the day. It’s either a priority or not, and I need to treat it that way.
So, happy weekend, and happy writing!
Writing · Yeah, science!

Sci-fi ideas from NASA

Last week, NASA released the topics for their 2019 Small Business Innovation Research program:
If you’re not familiar, the SBIR program is designed to encourage small businesses to participate in Federal research and development funding mechanisms, to help bring their innovative ideas to commercialization. Most Federal agencies participate, including the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, the Department of Defense, and, of course, NASA.
Why should you care (unless you happen to have a small business developing new technology…)? Well, the topic list is a great resource for science fiction writers, or really just any author who wants to include some advanced technology in your writing; especially if you don’t have a background in physics or engineering!
NASA is looking for cutting-edge technology that they’ll be able to use in the near and not-so-near future. Topics range from in-space propulsion technologies, to robotic systems, to life support and habitation systems. And because this is a contract-based mechanism, the descriptions of what they’re looking for is pretty detailed.
Are you writing about the crew of bounty hunters in the far reaches of the galaxy, and wondering exactly what sort of shitty ship’s systems your surly engineer character has to deal with? NASA’s got you covered!
Water Recovery and Stabilization of Human Metabolic Waste (Feces)
Human solid waste (feces) contains ~75% water by mass that is currently not recovered on ISS. Feces are collected and stored in relatively impermeable containers for short term storage (1-3 months) and disposed of in departing logistics vehicles. Quantified, this represents approximately 170 g per crew member per day of recoverable water, which translates to 0.68 kg per day for a crew of 4 and can total as much as 680 kg for a 1,000-day long duration human exploration mission.  In addition to water recovery, stabilization of feces is a critical gap for long duration human planetary exploration missions to Moon and Mars.  Water removal is a first step in stabilization and has the potential to decrease odor control technology mass. Technologies are requested to recover water and stabilize feces for use on long duration human exploration missions to Moon and Mars.
Simplified, low temperature, and robust methods for recovery of water from human solid metabolic waste are sought. Low temperature (<110 C) is desired to reduce the release of volatile organic compounds, avoid organic compound oxidation to CO and CO2 and their subsequent treatment prior to return to the cabin air. The range of technologies can include air drying, vacuum drying, freeze drying and alternative low energy methods. The cost for recovering fecal water, in terms of mass, power, volume and crew time equivalents must not outweigh mass savings obtained by its recovery. Drying and stabilization of feces can reduce odor generation and prevent microbial proliferation if the water activity level is less than 0.6. Technologies must be able to recover >80% of the water content. Captured water should have minimal free gas and be suitable for eventual delivery to a waste water tank. Purification of the water is not requested because it will be processed by downstream treatment systems. However, the chemical constituents of the recovered water must be characterized.  Technologies must be able to accommodate a wide range of condensable and non-condensable mass flow rates as the feces are processed and dried. Water recovery should be accommodated directly or with an assumed regenerative heat exchanger to recover energy prior to phase separation (as necessary). Systems must be capable of microgravity and/or planetary surface operation (moon or Mars) for 1 to 18 months at a time, with 11 to 18-month periods of dormancy, and with minimal crew maintenance. Compatibility with existing waste collection hardware is of interest. Planned fecal waste collection (Universal Waste Management System – UWMS) consists of individual defecations and hygiene wipes collected in gas permeable bags.  15-25 individual bags are contained in rigid containers that are changed out every 2-3 days.
That is probably more than you ever wanted to know about waste removal in space; but work some of these details into your writing and it’ll lend a solid (ha) dose of realism to your world.
Dig through the topics – there might be something in there that will give you the language you’ve been looking for to describe your tech. At the very least, it’ll give you a crash course in government-speak – this thing is nearly 300 pages, and most of that is totally useless and overly specific.
If anything sparks an idea, be sure to let me know – and have fun!

Sirloin or Siri

I know I said my next post would be a travel post, but I have to talk about the ridiculous dream I had last night.

Today is election day, the first since I’ve lived at my current address. So of course I dreamed about trying to find my polling location.

I went to this huge school gym and asked the poll worker there if I was in the right place. He said that he couldn’t tell me; I had to figure it out on my own.

I asked how.

He said he would show me.

This he did by setting a sirloin steak (well done) on the table. He then made a slice with a butter knife from edge to edge, in the center, along the shorter line. It wasn’t even a slice, really, since he was using a butter knife. It was more of a mark.

He made two more cuts, all about an inch apart.

Then he got out a compass and protractor, and measured the length of the lines and the gaps between them, as well as the perimeter of the steak.

Then he pulled out two more steaks, because you have to have an n of three to be truly accurate.

I was supposed to go home and do this myself. Then, with the resulting measurements, I could consult a chart and determine my polling location.

So of course I told him that that was really stupid and wasn’t there a better way? A list that he could just look up?

He said of course it was stupid, and that’s why the voting system in this country is so messed up.

…I blame this dream on the dental work I had done yesterday, which involved cauterizing my gums with a laser so that my mouth tasted like the gross charred bits on a steak. I have no better explanation.

Anyway, it turns out that you really can just look up your polling location online. I was half expecting them to turn me away this morning, but the list was accurate and I was in the right place.

No steaks required.

Life, the universe, and everything

I started this blog with such good intentions – I had posts written and scheduled, a whole backlog of haikus, so many plans!

I also had so much more time, having quit my awful day job for a freelancing gig.

Since then, I’ve taken on a new (and way better) day job, but with that came, well, a whole lot of work. Fun and interesting work, yes. I still have a super flexible schedule. It’s just taken me forever to settle into a routine.

Actually, I’m not sure I’m quite there yet.

I’ve also done a ton of traveling this fall: a trip to Miami to talk about my contract in person; New Orleans with some friends for amazing food and jazz (although I spent the entire car ride home on my laptop trying to finish up some proposals for a deadline); a quick work trip to Madison (my first time in Wisconsin); a trip up to Boston and Cape Cod, which was supposed to be for a half marathon – but just days before I came down with a terrible cold and couldn’t run. I would have tried to walk it, except a nor’easter blew in on race day with forty degrees, six inches of rain, and 30mph gusts. That was a recipe for pneumonia.

Deciding not to run was actually a super hard decision – yes the weather was shitty, yes I’d totally slacked off on training – but it was going to be my 14th race in my 10th state!

In the end I’m glad I made that decision, because I might actually have died otherwise; but during those three hours I spent sitting in a warm, dry coffee shop coughing my lungs out while waiting for my running buddy to finish the race, I thought a lot about what exactly I want to do with my future.

I felt like I’d given up on this blog and my dream of a writing career, just like I’d given up on the race. Never mind that I had perfectly legitimate reasons for not running, and that it was the best decision.

The truth was that I hadn’t been prioritizing running; and I haven’t been prioritizing writing.

If I really want to do this – and I do – then I’ll make the time. I won’t worry about having a perfectly curated blog with intentional, regular posts. I’ll just write. Build that habit, get that consistency going.

Apologies in advance for the mess that you all will be subjected to!

In that vein, I am also doing Nanowrimo this month. Do I think I’ll actually manage 50,000 words? Probably not. But I’m going to do as much as I can, because every word will get me closer to finally finishing that first novel.

I won’t post any of that word vomit here, don’t worry! I will do regular updates on my progress, however, as well as some travel posts. I’m traveling a ton more in November and December, and maybe a couple people will find it interesting?

Maybe not. Who knows.

Next post: a quick review of my trip to Boston!

Tonight: planning a trip to San Diego to crew the oldest sailing ship in the world, and some add-on days to my work trip to Madrid (I honestly don’t know which trip I’m more excited about!).

And then – writing, writing, writing!