Seven Days Later

Okay, folks, so I live in Seattle now. Mostly.

I’ll have an apartment starting on Friday, but I won’t spend a night in it until Sunday following a weekend-extraction mission for my stuff down in the Rose City. That aside, I somehow managed to find a reasonably (for the area) priced 1-bedroom literally across the street from the office and just a block away from the Bellevue Library, which, let me tell you, is by far the fanciest library I have ever seen with my god-given eyes.

Spending a week in a new place with the knowledge that it’s soon going to be your place is very different than spending a week in a new place with the knowledge that you’re just there visiting. Instead of looking out for potential things to do in the moment, tonight, or tomorrow, you’re looking for potential routines. You’re thinking, “What would my life be like if I sat in this spot five times a week for the foreseeable future?” You’re wondering what that place will mean to you in two years, five years, ten(?) years.

You’re not just thinking about the spot as it is, either, you’re thinking, “If I choose to adopt this spot, and make it my spot, how will I truly make it mine. What will differentiate this chair, this table, this park bench from the others around it so that it is my chair, my table, my bench.”

You wonder how many other people have had the same thought about this very spot and you are struck by the history of potential in every chair in every room. By how many people before me have envisioned their lives passing by from this view of NE 10th Street. By how many of those lives have already been lived.

As you stand there, stopped in your tracks by the narrative weight of every imagined schoolchild, grandmother, and new parent who has settled into, regularly, on schedule, this very chair. How even as they’ve gotten older and left so many of their childish habits behind, they never abandoned this spot. Very little remains of the them that first sat down on this particular patch of blue upholstery, and in a way, the chair is more a part of their history than their own childhood. And as they sit there one last time, before going off to college, or the military, or some job, they wonder what they’re leaving behind in this inexplicable moment.

You think this with every place you go, staggered by the weight of the millions of lives lived and not lived. Unable to truly comprehend that anywhere you attach significance to, here, has already meant more to so many others who you will never know. Perhaps even more daunting is how this first impression will color your everyday life. Because that’s where routine comes from, right?

In its own moment, the significance isn’t there at all. You have a nice meal or maybe a brief but pleasant interaction with a stranger, then go about your day without thinking too much about it. But the next time you’re on that block, you find yourself walking in again, remembering your last time there. You notice the stool you were in is open, so why not sit there again? It worked last time, right? You’re maybe a little bit aware that this is how things start, that you’re developing a habit, but there are so many more things and places and spots to try out that you couldn’t possibly be committing to anywhere yet.

But then it’s somewhere you know, so when you meet someone new, or when someone old comes to visit, you take them there knowing they’re likely to have a nice time, just like you always do. Just like you allways do there. Maybe just like you allways will.

8/11, T-8

I never seem to get these up until after midnight, which makes the date-based naming scheme a little awkward, but I think we can all live with it for the next week or so.

Packing has begun in earnest. My apartment is currently a disaster with boxes strewn about like I’m some sort of cardboard fetishist, which is presumably a thing that some people are. A friend and I made the trek all the way up to Broadway today to eat lunch (technically brunch according to their menu, but it was like 2:30 PM) and have one last mason jar drink before moving. This week feels almost like a farewell tour; trying to make sure I go to all the places, and see all the people, I want to see before moving away.

Beyond packing and apartment hunting, I’m starting to take other steps towards designing my life post-move. I’ve been setting up a game of the FFG Star Wars RPG to play over Table Top Simulator with some people, and also have plans to start an epic Football Manager save with some other friends in which we’re going to be playing the South African PSL. I’m excited for both of those weekly or semi-weekly activities, both as a means to keep in touch with people, and also because they’re both things I’ve wanted to do for a long time and now have a great excuse to make happen. Shout out to all of the people involved in those things if y’all are reading.

This is a very short post, but I’m out of things to say and tired, so I guess short and pointless is better than not done at all.

In which this becomes a travel blog

The sunset over Northern Canadian skies

Like all great vacations, it started with a cold.  I woke up the day before leaving and knew I had caught something, but luckily seemed to have avoided it being something serious. Just keep in mind that throughout the timeline of this post my throat is as raw as your favourite diss track mixtape.

Most of the pictures below were taken by Tyler, but a couple of them were mine.  We both have the same phone with the same camera, so, good luck picking out which are which.

From Portland

We arrived at PDX around 1pm for our 3:30pm flight and swiftly ran into our first #issue of the trip: The TSA machine wouldn’t take our digital boarding pass because the date was written the European way (03/10/2018) and it didn’t recognize that as meaning October 3rd, the day that it actually was. A quick trip to the Iceland Air counter for printed boarding passes was all it took to solve this one, though, and before you could say, “It’s astounding that TSA can’t service euro-style dates at an international airport” we were through security and ordering up some Ramen at the Hisho Sushi in the D concourse.

I got the spicy ramen with pork, Tyler got the regular ramen with chicken. It was, idk, fine. The pork was very dry, but the noodles and broth were pleasant. I’d say maybe 6.5/10? I asked Tyler just now how he’d rate his and he said, “6.5/10? Maybe a seven?” so clearly this is objective truth.

The plane that brought us to Iceland
The plane that brought us to Iceland

The flight from PDX to Reykjavik was pretty uneventful. I was greeted with this bottle  (background) of actually really good water (PH 8.5, a little basic, but smooth), and this kind blanket (foreground) whose messaging was a little off considering I was going towards Iceland, not leaving it.

It was a good blanket. Misguided, but good.
It was a good blanket. Misguided, but good.

I slept for about 90 minutes of the 450 minute flight, woke up to see the sun finish setting (see cover) at, what would be for my internal west-coast bioclock, about 5pm, and then was hopelessly awake for the remainder.

I’ll take this moment to deliver a brief aside that will become relevant again in (presumably) the final entry in this trip log. On every leg of our transatlantic flights we have seats 27A and 27B. PDX-KEF was a Boeing 757 with two columns of 3 seats, and we were lucky enough that there was nobody in 27C, so we spread out over the whole row. I took window and Tyler took aisle with the understanding that we’d switch off on future flights.

To pass the time, we amused ourselves with the various pleasantries included in the Iceland Air seatback literature. Examples include this horrifying beige woman escaping disaster in a very safe manner

I feel like we should be escaping from her

and these fun, quirky snack descriptions.

All chocolate bars are silent-looking to me.
All chocolate bars are silent-looking to me.

I ended up watching ‘The Croods’ to pass the last ninety minutes or so, and it was fine in a way that, under any other circumstances I would have regretted the significant waste of time, but considering I was deliberately attempting to waste time, it served my purposes well enough.

To Iceland

And then we landed in Iceland. First off, I’ll tell you that it was still dark (about 5:30am local) so I can’t tell you how pretty the island is or anything. That said, I can definitely tell you about the oddities of Keflavik Airport.

For example, the actual terminal building is very small, and there aren’t near enough gates for the amount of planes that come in and out. So when we arrived, we just parked out in the middle of the tarmac and deplaned on to a pair of busses which shuttled us to the main terminal; a trip we estimated took about 7 minutes.

Inside wasn’t any less strange. The bathrooms are in the basement, there was a (very good) mens choir performing in the middle of the concourse, and the food options were: A supermarket that specified it was only for departing passengers (you had to show your boarding pass when checking out, apparently there was a separate market upstairs for arrivals), a tapas/alcohol bar, and a sandwich/juice bar. Tyler grabbed some food from the supermarket (or, as we called it, the Weird Store), but I ate on the plane (vegan tortilla wrap; tasteless but fresh feeling, 8/10 as far as airplane food goes) so I just grabbed an Icelandic orange soda which tasted kind of like emergenC in a good way.

The man on the wall was clearly trying to read over my shoulder
The man on the wall was clearly trying to read over my shoulder

When it came time to find our gate for the flight into London, we found it downstairs, which was slightly concerning because we were already on the ground level and you don’t often find planes underground. Lo and behold, after going through the ‘gate’, we walked back upstairs into a small room that is used exclusively for queueing onto more busses, which then took us to our plane which was once again stationed out on the broad expanse of tarmac.

A North Sun was kind of rising

This plane was a Boeing 767 with 3 columns in a 2/3/2 formation, so we once again had a whole little ‘row’ to ourselves. I took aisle this time as it was Tyler’s turn for window. I did my best to doze off as we took off, but about 30 minutes into the flight I was bumped by a baby walking up the aisle. I closed my eyes again, and was borderline asleep until I got bumped again, and now there was this large man on one knee next to me, holding the baby, conversing with the woman in the seat across the aisle from me. This would have be okay, I guess, except that he was simply too big to be kneeling and holding a baby in the small plane aisleway and ended up not only repeatedly elbowing me, but effectively shoving his baby in my face-space. After a few minutes of this, he somehow, like, shook the baby enough to make it cry and he ran off to try and make it stop. As if it wasn’t bad enough that there was a baby on my flight, this dude brought it inches away from my face and then made it cry. Definitely this trip’s first 1/10 experience.

Also, we ended up landed a bit late, presumably because of delays at the airport, as we just did some loops a bit north of the city for a while. While not the best thing that’s ever happened on a plane, it wasn’t terribly inconvenient as we weren’t running late for anything, and also we got this amusing map on the in-flight tracker.

To London

But then we were in London and got to experience the joy of passport control, which actually moved pretty quickly, and then a very long ride on the underground. It was long because we flew into Heathrow, which is rather west of London, and our AirBnB is on the east side of town, so we had an approximately 90 minutes, two-transfer trip ahead of us.

Our first train was “a Picadilly line to Cockfosters” which in its own right, is very funny, or at least was to our jet-lagged, travel-addled brains. Then, we transferred to the Jubilee line at Green Park, and then to a DLR train at Canning Town, but we actually messed that one up and got on the wrong train, so we ended up getting off at the next stop and Ubering the last mile or two to our AirBnB.

Our host met us there to check us in and was a totally pleasant chap overall, even walked us over to the nearest pub so we could grab a bite.  We both ordered the same beer (Hop House Lager from Dublin) and the same meal (Beer Battered Cod), as we were, at this point, too tired for independent thought.

The beer was very good, smooth, profoundly drinkable, and the cod came out as an absolutely massive portion.

Mother of cod…

For the record, and I feel like I normally wouldn’t have to clarify this, that is a regular, full-sized plate with regular, full-sized utensils.

Needless to say, we had leftovers because there was no way we were eating that much cod in one sitting. I wasn’t too hungry to begin with, and also eating was hard because of my aforementioned torn-up throat. So after eating a bit, we walked back to the apartment and promptly both accidentally fell asleep for a few hours.

We woke up at about 9, but were still tired so opted for a night in and to get good rest for a presumably full day tomorrow.

For the record, we both just had midnight-snack of our leftover cod and we’re pretty sure we each have at least one full meal left of it.

I’ll leave you with this panorama Tyler took off our AirBnB balcony.

Bad Lads FC: Attack of the Clones

Hello and welcome to Episode 2 of Bad Lads FC. Last weekend, we played Cancho FC in our second match of the Spring Season. [If you don’t know what any of those words mean, you’ll probably want to go back and read my previous post in which I explain the league, and what this post series is about.] To refresh everyone’s memory, here’s what I wrote about Cancho last week:

Cancho FC – Cancho are one of two new teams in our division. Cancho was founded this Winter by someone who left our team to start his own. He took with him a few of our other players. I wouldn’t go as far as to say there’s a grudge between our teams, but I would say that I think both teams will have something to prove when we play them. Our first meeting is this Saturday and I’m definitely looking forward to it.

 

I’m eager to talk about this one, so let’s dive right in.

Continue reading “Bad Lads FC: Attack of the Clones”

Bad Lads FC: A New Hope

I’ve been neglecting this blog since last September. It’s fitting, in a way, that while I am no longer in last September, my site is. You’ll get that reference once Mike and I finally get around to releasing our EP. Or maybe you won’t, who knows?

One of the #ThingsIDo is manage and play on a Sunday league soccer team. We play in GPSD, and our team name is Bad Lads FC, but I’ll talk more about that in a bit. What’s most important is that the Spring Season just started, and I’m going to do my best to chronicle it here. That’s right, pity thyself reader (who am I kidding), for this is about to turn into an amateur soccer blog for the next few months.

First, some background on the competition. GPSD has two divisions in its open age bracket (I’m 24, so, we definitely don’t play in Over 30s). We play in Division 2. This season, Open Division 2 has six teams; it’s a ten game season, so we play everyone twice. Our first match was this past Saturday, March 10th, and our last match will be June 24th, unless we finish in the top two spots and make it to the final. GPSD plays three seasons a year; Spring and Fall are 10 matches each and features promotion/relegation, Winter is five matches and does not.

The six teams are as follows: Continue reading “Bad Lads FC: A New Hope”

Pomodoro Productivity

A week and a half ago I read series of blog posts by Mac Deutsch in his Month2Master  series about how he mastered the New York Times Saturday crossword in just 23 days. I solve (or try to solve) the NYT crossword every day, and while I’ve seen some really marked improvement in my solving abilities since I started (about four months ago), I certainly haven’t mastered Saturday puzzles yet. I can get through a Wednesday on my own, but generally need some help for anything after that. (Quick backstory for those of you unfamiliar with NYT crosswords: The difficulty increases every day with Monday-Wednesday having themes, Thursday having a bit of a gimmick, then Friday and Saturday are themeless and hard. Saturday NYT Crosswords are generally regarded as the most difficult crosswords available.)

So, I was pretty interested to see someone learn how to do really difficult crosswords so quickly. As a brief summary, he built a couple ‘trainer’ tools and essentially studied large quantities of clue-answer data and next-letter data. It was an impressive case study in learning a skill very quickly, and, while I enjoyed reading about it, it’s certainly not something I would want to do. I enjoy the mental exercise of doing the crossword every day, and while I’m sure I could improve my solving skills rapidly if I tried, I think I’d miss the struggle of it all.

My biggest takeaway from M2M wasn’t how to learn to solve Saturday crosswords. It was something called Parkinson’s Law which states that “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion”. What an idea, I thought. And it’s obvious, right? Taken to an extreme, if you give yourself forever to do something, you’ll probably never do it because you still have time and it doesn’t matter if it’s done today or tomorrow.

I’m no stranger to deadlines or getting a lot done for all the various things I do. But, over the past weeks, I’d been identifying some issues with the way I accomplish things. Here they are, for the world to see:

  1. Most of what I do relates to immediate needs: Gotta get my roster printed for the game this weekend, gotta get this piece edited so it can go up today/tomorrow, gotta get the meet up in a few days posted on reddit, gotta make sure my house is clean enough for the people coming over tomorrow, etc. etc.
  2. I have a billion things floating through my head constantly. I’m pretty good about keeping my tasks organized in my head and not forgetting to do things. Somehow I’ve managed to do that for a long time over a lot of different projects/responsibilities. It’s a neat thing to be able to do, but it has some obvious downsides. When I’m constantly thinking “Oh gosh, I can’t forget to do X thing later”, it’s distracting from the task I’m currently trying to accomplish.
  3. Worse, I got into a mindset of “I should do things whenever I think of them, that way I’ll never forget.” This also worked in that I wasn’t forgetting things, but I was constantly interrupting a task to go do another task. Things got done, but it was confusing and definitely suboptimal.
  4. On top of that, I’m a generally distraction-prone multi-tasker. Back in my eSports days I got into the habit of being hyper-responsive to anyone at any time. I’m sure the people who needed things from me appreciated that, and in fairness, a lot of my job was making sure people had necessary information so it probably wasn’t the worst habit to have at the time. However, it doesn’t suit itself towards real focus, and probably hasn’t served me well since then.

For a long time, these issues were just downsides to a functioning system, but I’ve been increasingly unsatisfied with my suboptimal task/life organization. At this point in my life, I think it’s important to try a lot of things and leave myself open in that way. I’ll have time to specialize and start saying no once I have a broader experience of the world. My best friend used to constantly be telling me not to take on any new things. She had to, because I have a nasty(?) habit of wanting to do everything and never saying no to new opportunities and she could tell it was getting to be too much for me. She wasn’t wrong, and I even put it in the song: “I try to be too much at once.”

But, I couldn’t keep saying ‘no’ to things for long. A little over a month ago, I said ‘yes’ to becoming the Managing Editor of Stumptown Footy, and that’s when my task-management started to fall apart. 

I wasn’t accomplishing as much as I wanted to. I was constantly dissatisfied with my productivity. A couple little things slipped through the cracks (which absolutely does not happen to me).  Reading M2M was the push I needed to actively do something to get these things sorted out. I decided my first step was a good to-do list app. I’d used project management tools in the past, but this time I wanted something more designed for personal use. I did some research and ended up installing a combination of Todoist (a ‘Getting Things Done’ app) and Toggl (a time tracking app).

I separated all of my different things into ‘projects’ (which function as separate lists in Todoist) and started adding things. Since then, every time I think of something I have to do, I add it to Todoist. Not having the weight of trying to remember my to-do list is incredible. It’s game-changing. I signed up for Todoist ten days ago, and it says I’ve accomplished 130ish tasks so far. If you add in the ~30 open tasks I have right now, then we’re at about 16 tasks per day. Sure, some of these things are minor and easily done, but remembering to do the thing takes the same amount of brain power regardless of the size of the task.

Not having to actively remember everything I have to do is so remarkably good I cannot say enough about it. I feel dumb for not doing this sooner.

Toggl didn’t have quite as profound of an immediate benefit, although I’ve definitely felt it helping.  I went into it thinking that it would be good to quantify the amount of time I actually spent working. While cool, that only had secondary affects on my productivity as a sort of integrity-based ‘I don’t want to be doing non-productive things while the timer is running’ incentive. Then yesterday, I discovered Pomodoro.

Pomodoro (just the Italian word for tomato) is a very simple time-management technique that works like this: Set a timer for 25 minutes. Work on a task for that 25 minutes, staying single-task focused, ignoring all distractions. When the timer rings, take a short break. After four pomodoros, take a longer break. That’s it. Just focus for 25 minutes at a time, then reward yourself for that focus.

Toggl has a Pomodoro feature, so I turned it on and gave it a shot. I loved it instantly. It is hard to ignore all distractions for even 25 minutes. It’s just hard to do. But, in a way, it’s extremely liberating, because when you think about it, there’s not much in the world (and certainly almost nothing in my average day) that can’t wait 25 minutes for a response. And that’s the maximum amount of time my Pomodoro timer will keep me from replying to a text. When you really think about it, the average pomodoro-caused wait time is 12.5 minutes, which is actually still a pretty good response time.

Not only does Pomodoro force you to single-task for 25 minutes, it trains your brain to think in a more focused way for longer periods of time. Even after just a couple days of Pomodoroing, I can feel it getting easier.

So let’s recap and collect my findings so far with my initial list of problems.

Todoist immediately solved issues 2 and 3. Having somewhere to keep my task list simultaneously let me not have to try and remember everything and thus not feel like I had to do everything as soon as I thought of it. Toggl (largely through Pomodoro) solved issue 4 by forcing me to stay single-task focused.

This still leaves issue 1 to be solved, but I think this will come as I get better at using my chosen tools. I still whiff deadlines on Todoist sometimes, which I think is partly because I’m still learning to be more productive in my work time (do more with less), and because I’m still learning how to assign the appropriate load (and maybe combination?) of tasks to each day.  That said, solving issue 1 (having more time for and getting more done on bigger, longer-term projects) is key and essentially the main goal of this whole thing. Issues 2-4 were obstacles in that path.

Now let’s talk about what I think can work better.

Firstly, Pomodoro is great, but I’m not sure how to apply it to smaller tasks that only take a couple minutes to complete, and are also dissimilar to them. The whole point of single-task focus is that you’re not changing around what you’re doing all the time because it’s disruptive. But when I have five or six totally different things to do, the disruption comes no matter how well I focus on those tasks individually. I suppose the most obvious improvement would be to group those tasks better, but that’s not always possible.

Second, as mentioned, I’m still occasionally blowing deadlines on lower-priority items. I already said that I think this will improve as my tool-fluency increases, but I don’t want to dismiss the possibility that there’s a discipline element here as well. It’s something to keep an eye on.

Third, I think part of the point of Time Tracking is to figure out how you’re losing time, not just how you’re spending it. I was reading a time-management article on Copy Hackers, and Joanna Wiebe mentioned a tool that keeps track of whatever apps and windows you’re focused on and displays it to you in graph form (she also mentions Pomodoro). While this probably won’t work for my Work stuff (because sometimes I have to talk to people and I also work on two different computers), I think it’s probably worthwhile looking into installing on my personal computer and running while I’m working on non-work things.

Overall, though, I feel better about things. I feel like I’m having more productive days, and while, like any process of change, there are still moments of panic and anxiety, I definitely feel a general improvement not just in what I’m getting done, but my overall satisfaction with it.