Just One Thing (22 August 2017)

Aug. 22nd, 2017 06:36 am
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It's challenge time!

Comment with Just One Thing you've accomplished in the last 24 hours or so. It doesn't have to be a hard thing, or even a thing that you think is particularly awesome. Just a thing that you did.

Feel free to share more than one thing if you're feeling particularly accomplished!

Extra credit: find someone in the comments and give them props for what they achieved!

Nothing is too big, too small, too strange or too cryptic. And in case you'd rather do this in private, anonymous comments are screened. I will only unscreen if you ask me to.


My History Caffeine

Aug. 21st, 2017 05:13 pm
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[personal profile] jack

As a teenager I never drank tea or coffee. I must have tried them at some point, but never felt the desire.

At university I started drinking both. I can't remember exactly, I remember having them as a ritual something to do when hanging out with friends. IIRC I drank instant coffee, and real coffee tasted too bitter.

And I think I reached a point where I needed coffee and got dopey and too tired to get up without it, either at university, or after I started working. Unrelated to the caffeine (I assume?) I also had student-y programmer-y sleep patterns, always wanting to sleep a bit later. I don't know how much that was inbuilt physiology and how much it was putting things off, including going to bed and doing things in the morning.

At some point, I started drinking real coffee for preference, and instant coffee tasted bad.

When I started dating Liv, I drank a lot more tea, because we'd usually make a pot together. And I started to feel like coffee was too abrupt, and tea gave a slightly slower caffeine release, and gradually switched to drinking tea almost entirely: I'd happily drink coffee if it was served somewhere, but didn't usually drink it at home or at work.

When I started dating ghoti, I started drinking coffee again, because she drank coffee more often and I liked companionably drinking the same thing. I started with mostly instant coffee, and to date, still mostly drink instant coffee, although I also like real coffee when I have it.

Now I tend to switch, drinking instant coffee at home (because it's quicker), tea at work (because I want a break from the screen to faff around in the kitchen for 10 min), and whichever I feel like if I drink something out.

I never really learned to like espresso based coffee, espressos taste much too strong, and all the mixed drinks taste weird. I used to like mochas occasionally. I usually like plain black tea with milk, or plain coffee, with milk.

Except when I'm abroad, I generally drink whatever's common locally if I'm ok with it at all.

I don't track how much I drink. It's probably quite a lot, because I drink it whenever I feel like, not at fixed times. But I used to feel like it was doing something weird, when I'd be completely wrecked when I *didn't* have caffeine, whereas now, I definitely need some, but if I get a drink within an hour or so of getting up, I don't feel completely zombified until then.

So I used to toy with the idea it'd be healthier to give up (ie. awakeness juice was just borrowing future awakeness and immediate gains were offset in future losses). But now it feels like, the status quo is doing ok.


A couple of people have commented that they have ADHD or suspect they possibly have subclinical ADHD or something related, specifically that mild stimulants make them feel calmer, even right before sleeping.

That's very me. I've never tried to avoid late-night caffeine have haven't noticed it having any affect on my sleep. Which inclines me to think the status quo is possibly fine.


The one big inconvenience in needing caffeine used to be when I'm away, especially at a con in a conference centre, but also, just anywhere on holiday where I'm out all day and don't have decent tea or coffee facilities where I'm staying.

I found it a big faff needing a certain amount of coffee or tea, but that not always syncing up with when I want to sit down and "have a coffee". And a crapshoot whether there'd be somewhere providing bog-standard coffee or tea cheap, or if the only source was a fancy coffee place. Especially if I'm in a rush, or it's all in a foreign language, or whatever.

At some point, I experimented with bringing caffeine pills. I'd studiously avoided them before since having caffeine without the ritual of drinking it seemed like it would only exacerbate the feedback loop of taking more and more to make up for potential caffeine-crashes. I still avoid them when I'm *not* away somewhere.

But I actually found it really helpful, it basically solved the problem for me. I usually need a couple of actual hot drinks throughout the day, usually one or two in the morning with breakfast and one sometime during the day. But otherwise, having a couple of pills in the interim, either physiologically or placebo-y, made me feel fine. I also remember to drink liquid. It made the whole thing a lot simpler.

I can't help other people though, especially tea drinkers in places where there's not much tea.


Which bits of those experiences resonate with you and which don't?

Most of my friends seem to default to tea *or* coffee, even though I remember by parents drinking one or the other depending on the circumstances. Do other people drink both at different times?

What is the relative caffeine in a cup of tea, a cup of coffee, and caffeine pill?

Does that status quo sound sensible or is there something else you'd recommend?

Worth It with Amanda Steinberg

Aug. 21st, 2017 09:00 am
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Posted by Mike Vardy

On this episode of the podcast, I speak with Amanda Steinberg. Amanda launched DailyWorth in 2009 to bring a fresh voice and an outsider’s perspective to personal finance and the Daily Worth website has made Forbes’s 100 Best Websites for Women three years running.

Amanda has appeared on Good Morning America, Today, CNN, and MSNBC, among others. Forbes named her one of the twenty-one New American Money Masters, Oprah Winfrey chose Steinberg for her inaugural SuperSoul 100 list, and Fast Company calls Steinberg one of 2017’s “Most Creative People in Business.”

We not only dive into the correlation between time and money but also discuss the relationship that people can have with the finances – particularly the relationships that women can have with money. In fact, that idea is explored in her book, Worth It: Your Life, Your Money, Your Terms. Automation and delegation come into the conversation as well, how to teach kids about the value of money early on, and other great tactics and tips that you can use to improve your relationship with money.

Relevant Links

After taking the Money Type assessment I found I was an Epicure with my finances. I’m not surprised. But now I have a means to be more productive with my money thanks to some of what Amanda shared in this episode. I encourage you to take the test and see where you land in the spectrum.

Thanks for listening. If you enjoyed the show don’t forget to subscribe so you don’t miss a single episode. Until next time remember to stop guessing…and start going!

If you’re interested in supporting the podcast and receiving exclusive content while doing so, you’ll want to check out the patrons-only version of The Productivityist Podcast on Patreon. Also, remember to leave The Productivityist Podcast a rating and review on iTunes, or on whatever platform you’re listening to. I read every single bit of feedback we receive. I want to make this show better and with your help I can do that.

The post Worth It with Amanda Steinberg appeared first on Productivityist.

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Posted by Mike Vardy

How To Be Productive When You're Sick and Tired_banner

We can’t be running at 100 percent for 100 percent of the time. We need time to rest, recuperate, and recharge.

There will be days when we feel under the weather (or worse). There will be days when we are wiped out from what the world has presented to us. We still have to show up, and, as Steven Pressfield says, “Do the work.”

If you don’t have a safeguard in place – some kind of framework to guide you through these days – then you’ll spend time cherry picking tasks at random and do far less than what you could do. Then when you’re feeling better, the tasks from those “less than optimal” days will have piled up and left you overwhelmed for the next several days ahead.

My aim with this piece is to share with you the simple strategy I’ve used (and still use) to stay productive when I’m sick and tired.

Here it is: The best thing I’ve done to keep me moving forward even when I’m not at my best is to filter my to do list tasks by energy level required.

Diving into Energy Levels

I tag many of my tasks with Energy-Based Modes so I can easily see what tasks require more energy than others. There are certain tasks that I know take more mental and physical focus. Here are some examples of tasks that require high levels of energy.

  • Writing a blog post
  • Writing a newsletter
  • Writing a film script
  • Learning anything new
  • Planning things
  • Research work

All of these tasks have been labeled or tagged with a term that signifies that it will take a lot of energy to work on them. I’ve tried several variations of terms, including the following:

  • High Energy
  • Deep Work
  • Full Focus
  • Primetime

You should choose a word or term that works best for you – something that will trigger you to work on that type of task. (Right now I’m using the term “Deep Work” because it not only represents an Energy-Based Mode for me but a Theme-Based Mode as well.)

If you want to learn more about TimeCrafting and Mode-Based Work, then check out The Productivityist Playbook. You can learn more about this digital product consisting of written, audio, and video materials here.

I never tackle these tasks whenever I’m tired or sick. I have many other tasks to choose from (often defined by the Daily Theme and then followed by one of the other categories of modes I have built and fostered over time). But I always look to low energy tasks as the first option whenever I’m sick or tired.

In fact, sometimes I’m able to dive right into the lowest energy tasks and simply work on those throughout the day. Tasks that fall into this mode include:

  • Reading fiction
  • Writing social media posts
  • Scanning receipts
  • Reviewing training materials on stuff I’m already learning
  • Listening to podcasts
  • Watching things in my Netflix queue

These tasks take very little bandwidth for me to accomplish. By labelling them as low energy tasks, I’m able to still get things done when I’m not at my best. Additionally, these are tasks that I’ve predetermined as tasks I need and/or want to do, so I’m still following through on my intentions and paying attention to them in the right way.

If you’re looking for a way to classify these tasks so that they stand out as lower energy tasks, here are some ideas:

  • Low Energy
  • Shallow Work
  • Brain Dead
  • Downtime

Some of the tasks I’ve listed as lower energy ones might seem inconsequential to you. An example of this would be watching things in my Netflix queue. But if you’ve read my piece on Netflix productivity then you’ll understand that by having this task in my to do list, I’m able to recognize it anytime (whether I’m sick, tired, or otherwise) as an intention and I have put in place great way to pay attention to it as well.

Now let’s explore how to categorize tasks in this fashion using various platforms and methods of keeping a to do list.

How to Do This in Popular To Do List Apps

Being aware of what tasks take less energy than others is all well and good, but you don’t want to have to try to remember this information when you are sick and tired. You want to be able to look at your to do list and simply see what ones do. A powerful to do list app can help you do that.

While you can use Reminders on iOS to do this (by creating lists related to energy), it’s not exactly a powerhouse to do list app. There are plenty of other apps that fit the description to a powerful to do list app, but I’m going to focus on the three that I use most in my client work: Asana, Todoist, and Trello.


The best way to illustrate what tasks take different levels of energy is to use tags in Asana. You can either create tags that are the same colour to indicate energy level and use different colours for each type of category of mode (theme-based, resource-based, activity-based, and time-based). If you’ve not explored TimeCrafting’s aspect of mode-based work yet, then you can use one colour for the high energy tag and another for the low energy one. Try to use colours that are indicative of the type of energy if you do this – so choosing a vibrant colour for high energy and a drab one for low energy would work well.

The great thing about using tags for this type of filtering is that you can create a favorite with the tag so it shows up in your upper left sidebar. To favorite a tag, simply click on it in a task and then star it when you are in that view (as shown below).

If you’re using a paid tier of Asana and want to leverage the power of custom fields, then you may want to create one for energy levels. This will allow you to sort tasks with the custom field instead of the tag view. (I’d use this method if you already have a lot of tags per task and you’re not really using custom fields all that much – or if you want your team to start using energy-based modes to work through their to do list.)


I use Todoist for my own work these days and use Asana for all of the Productivityist team tasks. So it’s really important that I filter out tasks by energy level in this app. I do this by creating labels for the different types of modes I need or want to work in and my energy-based modes. (Deep work and shallow work – are my most-used labels.)

I use the colour green for my energy-based modes and only have two labels for them: DeepWork and ShallowWork (stylized this way because Todoist puts an underscore where spaces between words would be). The majority of my tasks in Todoist has one of these labels attached to them. I only use these two energy types for labels because anything that doesn’t require high or low energy is not easily identified as something to work on based on my energy levels. I want polar opposites with energy-based mode labels. It removes most of the guesswork that I could get stuck on.

I use filters like crazy in Todoist. Two of my filters are query-based and they both present me with a view of my deep work over the next 15 days and my shallow work over the next 15 days.

Here’s my Deep Work filter:

Deep Work Todoist Filter

And here’s my Shallow Work filter:

Shallow Work Todoist Filter

I could expand that view to 30 days if I want, but I’ve found that seeing a good half-month view of my tasks based on these kind of parameters strikes a balance that fits me just right. The great thing about filters in Todoist is that they re incredibly customizable and you can personalize them to the way you need and/or want to work.

(I actually work by my list of filters 90 percent of the time. If you’re interested in hearing how and why I do this, drop me a line at askmike@productivityist.com and I’ll be happy to dive deeper into that with you personally.)


Trello is arranged a bit differently than the other two apps that I’ve mentioned (although Asana now has boards as an initial project view as well) but that doesn’t mean you can’t set things up in a way that allows you to view your tasks by how much energy they will take to complete.

One way to do this is by using labels. That said, Trello’s labels are a different animal than Todoist’s. For example, Trello doesn’t allow you to add labels to anything other than cards. That means that if you want to view tasks by label in Trello, you need to treat cards as tasks.

If you’d rather use the labels for something else in Trello, then you can set up your list in Trello to use cards containing tasks organized by energy level. I’ve shown you how to do this below in the High Energy card for my Flagship Course project in Trello.

Energy Based Modes - Trello

As you can see, each card here represents a mode of some sort based on the categories of modes I use in my  TimeCrafting methodology. Each list is a project, and each card is a mode that I use. Each checklist inside the mode-based cards contains tasks that I’ve classified as low energy or high energy. The same can be said for the checklists inside of the other mode-based cards (Admin, Audio, Video, etc.). This is not a traditional Trello setup, but if you want to use the checklist feature in Trello to easily identify tasks by energy level, this is a great way to do it.

Why Energy Levels Matter

If you want to deliver results with quantity AND quality in mind, then paying attention to your energy level matters. When you connect tasks by the amount of energy required, you can put your best foot forward and maintain that footing throughout. You only need look inward as to how you’re feeling and then outward as to what tasks are best suited to be worked on based on that feeling.

That’s not only a more productive way to look at your to do list – it’s a more personal one too. You’ll spend more time with it, and that makes it a better to do list for you.

The post How to Be Productive When You’re Sick and Tired appeared first on Productivityist.

Get That Job with Angela Copeland

Aug. 14th, 2017 09:00 am
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Posted by Mike Vardy

On this episode of The Productivityist Podcast I welcome guest Angela Copeland. Angela is a career coach and CEO at her firm, Copeland Coaching. She is the host of the Copeland Coaching Podcast, columnist for the Career Corner newspaper column, and author of career book Breaking The Rules & Getting The Job.

Angela’s personal career background gives her the breadth to help job seekers with a variety of different needs, including finding the right job, interviewing, and offer negotiation.

The primary goal of the conversation was to dive into how to make career changes as productive as possible. The whole process is something we touch on (the search for the new career, the frequency you should look for new career opportunities) and how to go about breaking the rules along the way.

Relevant Links:

Thanks for tuning in! Until next time, remember to stop guessing…and start going.

If you’re interested in supporting the podcast and receiving exclusive content while doing so, you’ll want to check out the patrons-only version of The Productivityist Podcast on Patreon. Also, remember to leave The Productivityist Podcast a rating and review on iTunes, or on whatever platform you’re listening to. I read every single bit of feedback we receive. I want to make this show better and with your help I can do that.

The post Get That Job with Angela Copeland appeared first on Productivityist.

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Posted by JenniferP

Dear Captain Awkward,

It’s been two years since my diagnosis with a very aggressive form of breast cancer, and eighteen months since my double mastectomy. The type of cancer (IBC) ruled out immediate reconstruction with implants (which I would have declined anyway, because not for me).

It used to be that women with IBC didn’t get reconstruction, because TBH we usually didn’t live all that long. Nowadays after a waiting period of two years or so one can have a DIEP flap where skin, fat and blood vessels are taken from the stomach and grafted onto one’s chest.

I’ve completed treatment, there’s currently no sign of cancer, and I’m doing well. I’m trying to move forward and get on with my life as much as possible.

But here’s my problem: medical folk keep pestering me to get reconstruction and don’t seem to understand that I DON’T WANT IT.

I’ve made a list of the pros and cons and–while it’s fine for others, it’s not fine for me, right now, under these particular circumstances.
I’m a smart person with a supportive partner, friends and family. Yes, the things surgeons can do are amazing. I know all about my options. If I want more information I know how to get it.

But..the continual unasked-for conversations from presumedly well-meaning medical providers are irritating at best and at worst can send me into a days-long depressive spiral.

Because I was trained to be a people-pleaser and discount my own ideas and opinions, and when I hear, “Have you considered reconstruction? We can do amazing things and by the way, you basically get a free tummy tuck..”

..my brain translates it into, “You are not okay the way you are, and your choice is not a valid one and your appearance is not acceptable. You are BROKEN. Let us fix you.”

What none of my medical providers seem to understand is that I want to maximize my physical activities and minimize my time spent in hospitals to the greatest extent possible, and for the most part I don’t give a rat’s behind whether I meet society’s expectations of how a female should look.

I’ve always been large-breasted and very self-conscious about it, and at the same time considered myself a bit of a “tomboy”.

It turns out I’m more at home in my body without breasts, have less back and neck pain, don’t miss bras or boob sweat, and enjoy wearing button-down shirts I buy from the men’s department.

My sex life is just fine.

I identify with others in the “flattie” community far more than anyone else in Breast Cancer Land.

But when doctors start pushing reconstruction, I feel as if my choice to remain flat is being questioned, and it affects my mental health when my efforts to explain and/or justify my choice seemingly fall on deaf ears.

Is there a script to politely shut this down? I’d be grateful for any suggestions.

Her/She pronouns, and just sign me “Flat and (Mostly) Happy”

Dear Flat and Mostly Happy,

I think your medical providers need a letter (email, fax, whatever works) spelling out what you told me. Something like:

“Dear Doctor,

Thank you for your excellent care so far.

There is some information I would like you to put in my chart & medical records in a way that it is clear to all the providers & staff I work with at your practice: I am not interested in discussing breast reconstructive surgery at this time. If that ever changes, I will bring it up. 

I know you and your staff are just trying to make sure I know my options. I’m very happy to be cancer-free, I’m happily adjusting to my new body, but I’m feeling pressured and distressed by these discussions and the prospect of more surgery in a way I’m sure you don’t intend. I’d appreciate it it can just become a non-issue during our visits, and if that changes, I will be sure to let you know.

Thanks for all you do.”

If you know of articles that might explain this well and help the doctor or clinical staff do better with other patients, include links or mentions of those resources. Then send it to every one of your current providers where this has been a problem before your next visit.

It’s not a 100% foolproof solution, but it will make you feel like you are more in control and you can remind yourself that hey, you told them how to take care of you as clearly and politely as you could. If someone brings it up (maybe they haven’t seen it, maybe they forgot), here are some scripts:

  • I’ve said many times that I’m not interested. Can I ask why you are trying so hard to sell me on this when you know that I don’t want it?

I suspect (but do not know for sure) that the answer has to do with insurance & money, like, there is a limited window where insurance will pay for reconstruction so they are trying to make sure that you get in inside the window and worried that you’ll regret it later. People had to fight hard to get insurance companies to pay for any reconstruction and the benefit is probably a “use it or lose it” deal.

That’s an understandable reason, if that is the reason, so, make them spell it out for you, and then give your informed consent to skip that part, like, “Okay, I appreciate it – I know you are trying to make sure I am financially taken care of as well as medically, thanks for helping me make an informed choice. I choose to opt out of reconstructive surgery at this time. If I change my mind down the road and it becomes an insurance or financial issue, I’ll cross that bridge then. In the meantime, can we agree to put this to bed? It really stresses me out to talk about it in a way I’m sure you don’t intend. Thank you.

See also:

  • I’m not interested in talking about reconstructive surgery. I’ll let you know if that changes.
  • I put something in writing about this – did it not make it into my chart?” Ask the person the best way to make sure that this information is visible to anyone who treats you.

Repeat this stuff like a broken record. If the person won’t stop, you have permission to stop being polite. You probably won’t stop being polite because you are a polite person but knowing that you’ve communicated your needs very directly and clearly can sometimes be helpful, like, “I’m 100% sure I’m not the one making this weird right now.

I hope this gets easier for you, Letter Writer. Readers, do you have any tactics that have worked to set boundaries with medical professionals?

It is now time for the summer Captain Awkward Dot Com pledge drive, where I shake the tip jar in the general direction of all of you kind readers. If you like what I do here and are able to support the work, please visit my Patreon page or make a donation via PayPal or Cash.me. Thanks to your support, we’ve made the blog ad-free. My next goal is to take a sabbatical from teaching in 2018 and work on a CaptainAwkward book and other writing projects. Every little bit counts, and I’m grateful for it.





Hack your own Game of Thrones cape

Aug. 21st, 2017 01:38 pm
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Posted by Jules Yap

If you’re fan of Game of Thrones, I’m sure you know by now that the shaggy capes worn by the men and women of Westeros are fashioned from IKEA rugs. It seems, even the runaway hit show has a budget to keep (reportedly an eye popping 10 million per episode) and they do try to save where they can. Naturally, IKEA fits the bill.

IKEA, in response to the news, (after jumping for joy for a bit I’m sure) quickly went to work and came up with a set of hack instructions for a Game of Thrones cape. Named Vinter, of course. All you need is the woolly RENS or super soft TEJN rugs and a pair of sharp scissors.

Hack your own Game of Thrones cape
Photo: @ikeanorge

Three easy steps later … et voilà, you can strut around looking like this.

Hack Jon Snow's Game of Thrones cape

Photo: Helen Sloan/courtesy of HBO

Of course the folks at GOT do much more than cut a hole the size of Jon Snow’s neck. GOT costume designer Michele Clapton said during a speaking engagement about Medieval dress at Los Angeles’s Getty Museum in 2016, they “cut and we shaved them and added strong leather straps, and then breakdown, which is like a religion on Game of Thrones.

(See her explaining in detail, around 27:30 in the video below)

Winter is here and the season finale is neigh. So you better get on with it and hack yourself a Game of Thrones cape. Overnight stubble and sword not included.

Truly, with a bit of ingenuity you can hack IKEA for A N Y T H I N G.

The post Hack your own Game of Thrones cape appeared first on IKEA Hackers.

08/21/17 PHD comic: 'Eclipse'

Aug. 21st, 2017 04:10 am
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Piled Higher & Deeper by Jorge Cham
Click on the title below to read the comic
title: "Eclipse" - originally published 8/21/2017

For the latest news in PHD Comics, CLICK HERE!

Music meme: day 21 of 30

Aug. 21st, 2017 12:50 pm
liv: A woman with a long plait drinks a cup of tea (teapot)
[personal profile] liv
A favourite song with a person's name in the title: Several options for this one, but I'm going with Hey there Delilah by Plain White T's. I generally really like songs that tell a bit of a story, and I can imagine the characters in this one so vividly. I like the balance of emotions; it's a sad song about missing a lover, but it's also optimistic and the music is at least somewhat catchy. And I like that they're apart because they're both pursuing their careers, it's not some passive muse waiting for her artist boyfriend to come home. It's not my usual musical style; indeed I discovered it simply by listening to chart radio like some young person who's in touch with the recent music scene.

Besides, I've been in long-distance relationships pretty much my entire adult life, so I can really relate. But no longer; I haven't posted about this in public yet, but in a couple of weeks I'm properly moving to Cambridge. So I'll be living full time in the same house as my husband and the same town as my Other Significant Others. And I won't be spending every Friday and Sunday evening commuting. I'm really really looking forward to this next phase in my life, but also at the moment up to my ears in arranging the move, and quite emotional about leaving the situation I've been settled in for 8 years.

This weekend I lead my last Shabbat morning service with my lovely community. They are understandably nervous about the future without me, and I will miss them absolutely terribly. I talked a bit about Re'eh, making sure that there's no comparison between Moses saying farewell to the Israelites and me saying farewell now. I discussed keeping sanctity while you're living in an imperfect situation, far away from Jewish centres. What compromises can you make (eating meat without making a Temple sacrifice) and what lines can't be crossed (worshipping in Pagan sites)? Then it will go well for you and your children after you, for all of time, because you will do what is good and right in the eyes of the Eternal your God. And we ate cakes made by my sister and the community gave me some really nice silver Shabbat candlesticks with engraved stands.

[personal profile] jack came up to help me sort the flat out. In lots of ways the decision making is the harder part of packing than the physical labour, so having my husband with me was an amazing help. I am really looking forward to living with him and properly sharing the work of running a household, because we're such a great team. Not just one day in the distant future when our dreams come true, but next month:
We'll have it good
We'll have the life we knew we would
My word is good

video embed )

Back in the saddle

Aug. 21st, 2017 07:00 am
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Posted by ukcomposer

It is time to get my head back to the notion of proper work, even if I am not at the grindstone for a few days yet.  Some earlier nights and earlier starts and a little more focus on the jobs at hand should serve me well before the direct plunge into the icy waters of various duties from Friday onwards.

Compositionally, that will mean an attempt to finish the violin and narrator piece this week, and there is some more arranging to do for my saxophonist prior to a full four-hour session on Saturday.  That evening RetroChic will be playing with our new singer, and I will be expected to slot right in without anything in the way of rehearsal – no pressure.

This means that I will be doing London and back and back to London again on Saturday or maybe Friday night and Saturday, a hefty stint in the saddle.  As so often, the details of the final decision about when to do the driving will depend on a number of factors, so no point in worrying about that now.

While this will certainly be a merciless return to work, the freelancer tries both to keep wolf from door and bank manager from unhappiness, so needs must, at least until I catch up with the apparently moving target that is retirement.  The summer break always feels good, though.

So for the next few days, at least until I point the Astra southwards, I shall be gently turning my thoughts to the year ahead, where I would like it to go and what it might bring.  Thankfully there is still time for a little relaxation before all that.

Arrival ranting

Aug. 20th, 2017 11:44 pm
jack: (Default)
[personal profile] jack
So, Arrival (the film, adapted from the Ted Chiang story). I didn't have a lot to say about it. Aliens, were great. Linguist, was great. Kind-of-sympathetic kind-of-antagonist military were a bit gratuitous, but generally good. But I did have thoughts about a few specific things.

And, yes, I'm annoyed it wasn't EVEN MORE like a Ted Chiang story than it was, but please do adapt as many Ted Chiang stories as you can. The tower-of-babel one would be amazing...

Spoilers )

Evensong Trinity 11 Psalm 90

Aug. 20th, 2017 10:42 pm
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Posted by Kathryn

Lord,  thou hast been our refuge from one generation to another

Words for our time
Words for all time, coming first from the mouth of Moses, - so that the truth they offer does indeed come from many many generations past. Some 3000 years.Words which have lasted because they speak directly into the human condition, for we are a people often living in the shadow of terror and crisis and needing a safe place in life to call our own. While the default response to disaster in our day and age is no longer to gather in huge numbers in places of worship, there’s still a real need for communities to share in collective lament. This week, you’ll find it expressed in well-nigh every corner of the internet, as different groups rail against the words and actions of others, demonise those whose view differs from their own, and wail “What is the world coming to”.

In common with other psalms of lament, psalm 90 takes us on a journey..
“Lord, you have been our dwelling place for all generations.”  says one translation of the Hebrew, and we need to note that when Moses speaks of the Lord as our dwelling place, he’s talking about a relationship, not a particular location. Not even a cathedral. That may be surprising...We tend to think in terms of concrete structures with physical addresses... And yet, where you dwell is not necessarily the same as where you live. It’s where your heart is, where your passions lie – which may be something altogether different. You may remember those car stickers that were popular a while back, saying  “I’d rather be … singing … reading… skiing … swimming … walking the dog,”  They recognise that our hearts aren’t always exactly where we find ourselves. You may be working at a desk or stuck in a traffic jam, but your heart is high atop a mountain peak or still beside a quiet stream. That’s where you’d rather be. Where your treasure is….Where you dwell.
And Moses presents God as the place where we might choose to dwell, you and I...for that dwelling with God had been the defining experience of God’s people, as they spent their forty years in the wilderness. It wasn’t the landscape that mattered. It wasnt the pleasure of water from the rock or manna and quail to meet their needs unlooked for. It wasn’t the collective memory of the fleshpots of Egypt but God’s presence with them that reminded them that they were chosen...people with a purpose...people travelling through life with God. One writer defines that experience beautifully
“They walked by faith for so long that walking by faith became their way of life. What difference did it make where they were? All that mattered was that God was with them, leading the way.”
THIS is what is at the heart of Moses opening gambit, as the psalm follows a familiar path, from certainty, orientation, through disorientation and lament and back again to firm ground.

Looking back, first, at God’s steadfastness through many generations, then confronting the contrasting brevity of human life, the psalmist celebrates God’s presence with God’s people as strong defender then dares to magine seeing the world from God’s perspective, taking the long view. A thousand years in God’s sight are but as yesterday. Even a troubled and troubling week like the one we have just experienced is not, really, of such huge significance in the grand scheme of things. We get so embroiled, you and I, in our own lives, our own times – but in the history of the world, and from the perspective of eternity, we are only here for nano-seconds. And actually, that’s OK.
It may not seem to be very helpful at first. It  may well make you feel insignificant, yet more fearful in a week when nightmares threatened to become reality – but actually, if God IS our refuge, the place where our treasure is, then that offers comfort even as we recognise our own frailty. Though the psalmist seems to spiral down into depression and despair, dwelling for a time on the evidence of God’s anger and frustration, and the futility of those three score years and ten, yet even he reaches a turning point and finds hope.
“Teach us to number our days that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom”.
In other words – use your time well and wisely because it is finite and you CAN make a difference if you choose to. Apply your heart to wisdom. Not to fear. Not to revenge, Not to outraged denunciation of “the other” which seems to threaten your peace of mind for the moment. Apply your heart to wisdom, and recognise that the best wisdom is to be found when we are rooted in God’s love, dwelling above all in our relationship with our creator, who holds all our times securely in his hands.
That is the best defence against feelings of fear or futility...And it’s something to practise when life seems clouded by terrors beyond our control...to practise by consciously giving thanks for that gift of time as each day begins...to practise by celebrating blessings, - food, friends, family...to practise by looking for God’s presence in the beauty of the day and in the faces of those whom you meet…
“Show thy servants thy work”
It’s something to practise, too, in the hard times – turning to God for direction for the path ahead, taking the hand of another suffering person and forgetting your own agenda as you focus on theirs…
The great hymn writer Isaac Watts paraphrased psalm 90 in words that have become an essential part of Remembrance Sunday services. He too focusses on the frailty of human life and the wonder of divine permanence – but somehow does so without a trace of anger or lament. Perhaps he had learned the lesson of the psalm, and so could recognise the brevity and frailty to our lives and yet treasure each moment as the moment of encounter with the God who is our true dwelling
O God, our help in ages past, our hope for years to come
Be thou our God while troubles last and our eternal home”.

marnanel: (Default)
[personal profile] marnanel
Fun read, but I'd expected better: the book can't decide whether it's comedy science fiction or political thriller. The SF part is well-handled, but the political stuff confuses me; I briefly considered drawing a diagram while reading so that I could keep up with who was working for whom. One moment you're reading some lovely SF about sheep DNA and the brains of the dead being uploaded into intelligent agents. Then you're suddenly pitched into the middle of a fight scene which looks like it dropped out of a Wachowski film; it doesn't work half as well in print.

But the biggest problem with this book is the sexism. In almost all the story there is *one* major female character, Robin. She and all other women are referred to by their first names; all the men are referred to by their surnames. Robin is described well, as seen by the male viewpoint character, and there's a lot of action *involving* her. But she rarely does anything that affects the situation; for much of the story she's just a McGuffin.

To its credit, it has the best opening line I've seen in years: "Dirk Moeller didn't know if he could fart his way into a major diplomatic incident. But he was ready to find out."

The future

Aug. 20th, 2017 08:11 pm


Aug. 20th, 2017 08:06 pm
squirmelia: (Default)
[personal profile] squirmelia
I'm so Dizzy, my head is spinning.


Tourism through swimming pools

Aug. 20th, 2017 07:46 pm
rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
[personal profile] rmc28
Both children love swimming. Charles is a competent casual swimmer, Nicholas is still in beginner swim lessons and needs the full-time attention of an adult whenever out of his depth. So I like to take them swimming whenever possible, and made sure to pack swimming things for this holiday.

So far we have managed 2 pools in Helsinki, 1 on the ferry, and 2 in Stockholm.
Read more... )
Today we arrived in Copenhagen and our current airbnb in Fredericksberg is a very short walk from another local pool, plus there are a number of others I am investigating in case we have time for a second one ...
[syndicated profile] beaker_folk_feed

Posted by Archdruid Eileen

Hymn: "Ben" (M Jackson)

Big Ben: BONG!

MPs: We lament as we hear the last bongs from Big Ben on this last bongy day for four years.

Big Ben: BONG!

MPs: Surely our entire identity is tied up in the bonginess of these Westminster bongs.

Big Ben: BONG!

MPs: And if Big Ben bongs not, it is Health and Safety GONE MAD& © - for what is the hearing of a bunch of workmen - many of whom might not even be English - compared to our sense that there will always be an England?

Big Ben: BONG!

MPs: For if the bongs of Big Ben do not bong us out of Europe, will Brexit really be Brexit?

Big Ben: BONG!

MPs: If the 6 o'clock news on Radio 4 has just a recording, is it really the news?

Big Ben: BONG!

MPs: And if people realise that the whole Brexit exercise is a pointless exercise in failing to realise we have lost an empire and thrown away our entire purpose - will they not think we have lied to them in order to achieve a destructive, expensive, pointless exercise in vanity?

Big Ben: BONG!

MPs: Still, we stand, with heads bowed. The Empire has gone and we are just an island and a bit, on the edge of a continent, unable to accept our place in the world. Surrounded by evil foreigners.

Big Ben: BONG!

MPs: Let the French be gone - the Germans retire. Speak through recession, depression and fire... thou still small voice of ....

Big Ben: BONG!

MPS: Thou still small voice of.....

Big Ben: BONG!

Jacob Rees Mogg: Oh! There's nanny! I just need to get off for my lunch,,,

Big Ben: BONG!

Boris Johnson: Oh I say!  That lady over there is rather lovely.  I'd best get on my bike. Woof!

Big Ben: BONG!

David Davis: You know, with all the difficulty of Brexit on my shoulders, I'm starting to realise it's really difficult and sometimes I go home at night and I look at myself in the mirror and I...

Big Ben: BONG!

Jeremy Corbyn: Wasn't that..... ?

Diane Abbott: No, sounded like the right number to me.

Hymn: "Abide with me"

Generation Ships & morality

Aug. 20th, 2017 02:43 pm
juliet: (waveform tree)
[personal profile] juliet

Mirrored from Juliet Kemp.

I went to a panel at Worldcon on the morality of generation ships, and have been thinking about it since.

(I’m also going to take this opportunity to recommend this Jo Walton story set on a generation ship, which is great and has something to say about choice and decisions.)

So, the question under discussion at the panel was: is it morally acceptable to board a generation ship (i.e. a ship that people will live on for multiple generations on their way to another planet), given that you are not just making a decision for yourself, but for your future children, grandchildren, etc etc. The two main categories of moral problem that the panel identified were:

  • the risk of the voyage itself;
  • the lack of choice for every generation after the one that gets on the ship in the first place.

The ‘risk’ issue seems reasonably strong. It’s very unlikely that anyone would have a really clear idea of what the planet was like that they were going to. If you’re using a generation ship at all, then you probably don’t have any other form of fast travel, so any information that exists about the planet will be scanty, very out of date, or most likely both. (See Kim Stanley Robinson’s Aurora, which is also great.) So it’s not at all a reliable bet that your descendants will truly be able to settle where they’re headed to, even if it looks good from here.

There are also the risks of the voyage itself, including but not limited to radiation issues, the possibility of running into something else, and the likelihood that the ship will genuinely be able to maintain a workable ecological system. We don’t have good on-Earth comparisons for small closed systems; what experiments have been conducted have been very short-term and not terribly promising. What about the social dynamics? What are the risks of, say, a totalitarian system arising? If the risks on Earth are very high, or humans on Earth are facing imminent disaster, then this might be an acceptable trade-off, but how high is ‘very high’ and how disastrous does a disaster have to be? Does it need to be Earth-wide? If your current home is, for example, sinking under rising waters, and you know that any alternative will mean becoming a refugee in poor circumstances — how much risk is ‘reasonable’ to accept then?

Which brings us on to the issue of ‘choice’. One could argue that a kid living in a refugee camp without enough food or warm clothes has, notionally, some future ‘choice’ or ‘opportunity’ to escape that. A child on a generation ship is stuck there.

But why is “can’t leave generation ship” morally different from “can’t leave Earth”? Which is of course a situation into which all children are currently born and which we do not consider morally problematic. And how realistic is the ‘choice’ that the average Earth-born child has? This was where I thought that the Worldcon panel fell down a bit. They threw the word “choice” around a lot but didn’t at all interrogate what realistic “choice” is available to which children in which situation on Earth. There are many kids born without very many realistic ‘choices’; children who are unlikely to go more than a few miles beyond where they were born, children whose projected lifespan is short, children whose lives are likely to be very difficult. How different is that, in reality, from a generation ship? In fact, if the generation ship does work, it might be a better life than on Earth: guaranteed food, shelter, and useful work (making the ship run).

The panel talked about limiting the choices of children born on the moon, because they might not be able to go back and live on Earth — but why is Earth necessarily better than the moon, or Mars, or the asteroid belt? Why isn’t it immoral of us to have children who are stuck down here in the gravity well?

More generally: we’re constantly making choices for our children, and through them for generations beyond; we’re constantly giving them some chances and removing other options, every decision we make. Is that immoral? It’s not avoidable, however much privilege you have, although most certainly more privilege generally means more options.

Would I get on a generation ship? Well. Not without a really good perusal of the specs. But I’m not convinced that it’s immoral to do so.

Homily for Proper 15 Matthew 15:10-28

Aug. 20th, 2017 08:30 am
[syndicated profile] goodinparts_feed

Posted by Kathryn

What comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this is what defiles. For out of the heart come evil intentions, murder, adultery, fornication, theft, false witness, slander. There are what defile a person.”
Sometimes the synergy between the appointed lections and current events is breathtaking.
It’s been quite a week in the news, as the events of Charlotteville, more than dreadful enough in themselves, have produced wave after wave of horrible responses….
A clergy eye-witness wrote powerfully of her experience last Saturday as she knelt with many others praying for peace.
As more Neo-Nazis passed the clergy line, they verbally abused us one by one over the course of a few hours. One man screamed that Jesus hates us. Another screamed that we hate the white race and are contributing to white genocide….”
Out of the heart come evil intentions indeed.
And that’s before we even think about Friday’s events in Spain….
Lord, have mercy.

It’s hard, very hard, to understand where such hatred has its roots, tempting to just rejoice that we DONT understand – but then that runs the risk of relapsing into self-righteousness…
And, of course, we’re falling into the “them and us” trap immediately. And that is something today’s gospel reminds us is not good news at all.
It’s maybe comforting that Jesus himself seems to need to be taught this.
The beginning of the passage sees him turning away from the natural heart-land of the observant Jew, speaking against those purity laws that have been part of a nation’s identity for centuries...Then he heads into foreign territory, breaking more barriers – and when he arrives, finds himself challenged once again, jolted into a fresh recognition of common humanity by that woman who simply won’t take “No” for an answer.

But, dear Lord, that’s hard for me this week.
I want to put an unscaleable barrier between myself and the far-right, whose harsh words are reinforced by frightening actions.
I want to keep all my friends and family safely away from “people like them”.
But that’s not the Jesus way.

The one who healed the Canaanite's daughter, and who also opened the eyes of the man born blind can deliver anyone --there are no barriers for Jesus, not even those I’ve erected inside my own head and my own heart.
Time, then,to revisit our own Coventry litany, with its two word refrain that resists the urge to divide humanity into “them” and “us”.
ALL have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God….
We know that when we hear the news
We know that when we look hard into ourselves.
The hatred that divides nation from nation, race from race, class from class, Father forgive”.
Amen, amen, amen.


The Wild Ewt of the Plains of Canada

September 2013

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