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Bye, 2023

On one hand it seems silly to mark the passing of a year, given how man-made the calendar is, but on the other hand, it is very difficult not to reminisce a little when everyone else is, and one time is as good as any to mark the “start” of a new year, really. So.

In the last year, I travelled some. Or at least, I left the city I live in a few times. I took 1 (one) road trip home to surprise my sister while she got ready for her wedding. It amounted to 4 days of driving for 2 days of visiting but I wouldn’t change it for the world. I also (not surprisingly) flew home again later this year for that wedding, which was beautiful. Later, I found myself in a resort in Mexico on a week long, all expenses paid vacation. It was a trip I was able to go on only because someone else was unable to, but one that I will never forget.

In 2023, I read 8 books. That's more than any year since I started paying attention, which makes me feel good. I'd like to continue the trend in 2024, and I'm aiming for 10. That's not quite one book per month, which feels perfectly reasonable. I haven't read much at all in the last few months anyway, so I'm looking forward to diving into a new series.

I finished more than 12 paintings (but I’m not 100% sure how to count, exactly) and filled 40 pages in my sketchbook. That must be an improvement over the previous year (I didn't really count at all) but either way it definitely feels like I'm getting into a good art routine. I look forward to bumping those numbers next year. I'd love to really fill out the art section of the site, and it seems silly to have a sketchbook with fewer than 100 pages last a year or longer. I will finish, at least, one entire sketchbook next year.

The start of a new year is a time for making goals. You should keep your goals achievable and measurable, apparently — so says the internet about the psychology of goals, anyway, and what better source of information do I have? So: I’d like to end 2024 with more friends than I started it with. I’d like to paint more. I’d like to take a step forward in my career. I’d like to exercise more (but only if it will give me bigger muscles) and I’d like to really make sure that I’m adding something to this world by being in it — whether I make it more beautiful or more chaotic, I will have some hand in the year to come.

Here’s to a new year!

Fuck Am’rrca

There was a time in my life when I truly, genuinely felt that I was destined to live in California. This was likely in part a result of Hollywood endlessly glamorizing the place, but also, you know, the weather.

Since I moved to Vancouver, I got what I really wanted (nice weather) and the idea of living in California has become a bit of a joke. But nearly every day something happens that makes me say, vehemently, fuck America. Sorry, Americans, some of y’all are cool, but your country is fucked six ways to Sunday and half of y’all are determined to make it worse. Good fucking luck.

I am genuinely afraid for the general trend of Canada following the U.S.’s example. What happens in Canada, happened in the states a couple years earlier. So far, in a lot of ways, it seems we’re resisting the worst of that impulse. Hopefully that keeps up, because where the hell else would I move to?

Everything is awful

A little joke I like to make sometimes (offline, where people think I'm funny) is that somewhere around 2012, something happened that caused our world to splinter off, and we are now in The Bad Timeline. But the world has always been a little bit batshit, I suppose, and we have probably always been in The Bad Timeline. It's just gotten really hard lately not to be aware of it.

I shouldn't have to care about celebrity court cases, or what company a billionaire idiot wants to buy, or whether a dictator who lives just an ocean away will decide that nuclear war doesn't sound that bad. I shouldn't have to worry about microplastics or how much carbon is in the atmosphere or whether I'll ever get the chance to see a healthy, vibrant, and unbleached coral reef. I can hardly take two steps without seeing something new to fret over. It's stressing me the fuck out.

I could, of course, just stop reading the news. Delete Twitter from my devices. Plug my ears and hum happy songs to myself whenever someone brings up the state of the world. Ignorance is bliss, right?

Except it obviously fucking isn't. So I should organize a protest, or donate to a worthy cause or two, or dedicate my life to making the world a better place!

Except I have to work and I'm really kind of tired, and the bills need to get paid, and have you seen the price of groceries lately? Add that to the list of things to worry about.

Fountain Pens and Cyclical Obsessions

Fountain pens: I’ve become obsessed (again). After falling down a YouTube rabbit hole, I pulled out an old pen I bought a million years ago (a Wordsworth & Smith or something, the obvious inspiration for the Amazon Basics version), from the last time I was struck with a fancy for fancy pens. And let me just say: Oh. My.

Okay so the pen is fine. It’s really nothing overly special, but the ink. The ink is where there is actually so much fun to be had.

There are so many inks you can put in a fountain pen, and writing with different colours is as fun as it was in 5th grade. I’ve also recently discovered that you can put the waterproof Platinum Carbon Ink in a fountain pen with no issues (!) so that is on my list for watercolour sketches. Ink and watercolour has become my latest medium of choice, so of course I’ve become very interested in the best tools for the job.

I’m currently salivating over a TWSBI Eco so we’ll see when I feel like I have $50 to shell out on another pen, and another $50 for the ink to go with it. I just keep having to remind myself that this is the affordable end of fountain pens, and I’m lucky there is a “cheap” plastic option that comes so highly rated.

In the meantime I’ve been using India ink quite a bit lately, with a plain old dip pen, just like I had in art school. Oh, if only I had kept everything from art school — I keep finding myself buying things I remember owning in a previous life.

The dip pen sucks, though, especially on nice paper. It’s too sharp, and I yearn for the fountain pen’s silky smoothness. One day soon, I will be sketching with a fountain pen! Unless I fall into a different obsession before then.

One Year Later

One year ago today, in what felt at the time like an overabundance of caution rather than the only sane thing to do, my company shut down the office and the entire company moved to working from home. As a tech company this wasn't the most difficult transition - all you really need to do your job is your laptop and a reliable internet connection - but what was supposed to be a temporary situation dragged on, the "Return to Office" date kept getting pushed back, and eventually, after a few months, it was announced that we were probably never going to return to a 100% in-office environment again, so we may as well get used to working from home.

I bought a bigger desk, and a nicer chair to sit in. Our list of needs for a new apartment suddenly now included a whole extra space that could be used for a home office - as if space isn't hard enough to come by in Vancouver. People seem to be moving out of downtown in droves; we keep being told that this is a renter's market and that average rent prices have gone down (they've gone down year over year, even pre-pandemic, evidently) but it still feels expensive as hell to live here.

My partner and I had hoped that being able to find a bigger, better apartment would be one of the silver linings of this whole thing, but so far we haven't had any luck in that regard (we have been unbelievably lucky in pretty much everything else, which I must try to remember). And don't get me started on exiting the rental market entirely to try and become a homeowner; Vancouver isn't designed for people who aren't already millionaires to do that.

Despite the pandemic, we were also able to do a bit of traveling in 2020; we took a road trip through some of the most beautiful non-arctic scenery Canada has to offer and visited my parents during the summer.

There were few restrictions at that point, and only certain business were requiring a mask, but everyone in public was socially distancing and we even felt safe enough to go to the zoo. I don't know that I would be comfortable doing something so people-y today, but at the time it seemed the best way to do something outdoors without taking too much of a risk.

We ended the trip by picking up a new four-legged family member: a year and a half old golden lab who was much bigger than we had originally planned for. He's since put on a few more pounds, and has made himself quite at home. We didn't get a dog because of the pandemic; I had started talking about it long before anyone had even heard of the virus, however there's no denying that the decision was motivated at least in part by the new times we live in.

Seven months later, and I couldn't imagine life without Zeus. Though now we need a bigger apartment even more.

Being cooped up at home has also had an interesting effect on my creativity; I have felt both stifled and inspired, and have struggled with long periods of not really feeling that there is any point to creating something. I've been able to explore new mediums, however, which has been great fun. I've been drawing, and painting. Painting! I always thought I sort of hated painting, but it turns out I just hated acrylic paint. Gouache is what I wanted acrylic to be all along. I love
painting now! And cooking - I've tried cooking and baking so many new things this year, and some of those even turned out successfully! It doesn't seem like following a recipe ought to feel like a form of creative expression, but there's something about working with your hands to turn a pile of ingredients into a beautiful cake that just sings on your taste buds. I delight in food, and I'm delighted with how much I've gotten to explore it this year.

So many have lost so much these last twelve months, but I have been lucky beyond measure that my friends and family have all kept their health. I am grateful for my job and my partner and our little family. We've done okay this last year, and I want to remember that.

My Typical Day

Just like in the good ol' days, there's a blog post chain going around, this one started by Colin Devroe. I saw the original post and it's been really interesting seeing how other web developers go about their days. I'm not a web developer per se but Dave Rupert made an open call, and Mr. Devroe himself told me to, so here's mine.

6:15 AM - My partner's alarm goes off, and he gets up for work (he still goes to work, as in, at a place that isn't our apartment). I lay in bed with the dog, catching up on Twitter and the news. This probably isn't a great morning habit but four years of endless crises have pretty much drilled into me to take a glance at what's going on in the world as soon as my eyes are open. Dave usually brings me a cuppa in bed, which I forget about until...

7:00 AM - Out of bed, drink the tea, Dave goes to work and I take the dog for a walk. I like a little fresh air in the morning, and I'm looking forward to a few weeks from now when the sunrise coincides with walk time.

8:00 AM - Usually have a quick shower, and make breakfast. Most mornings, that's a slice of sourdough toast topped with hummus, a fried egg (over-easy, the only correct way to fry an egg), hot sauce, and a couple of strips of bacon. Bacon is optional but highly recommended. I wasn't always a breakfast person, but this takes 30 minutes to cook, eat, and clean up after, and it carries me through to lunch. Also, it's friggin' delicious.

8:30 AM - Catch up on RSS feeds, maybe watch some Youtube.

9:00 AM - Begin day job! Mostly that means answering emails. Zeus begins a hard day of napping in various comfy spots around the apartment and occasionally chewing on a toy.

12:00 PM - Lunch time. On a good day this is leftovers from a previous dinner, but if we're keeping it 100, most days are either delivery or an assortment of chips, cookies, and chocolates
lying around the place. I should get better at this, but I just actually hate leftovers most of the time (also, I don't own a microwave). Zeus also gets another walk, then he gets lunch (he won't eat breakfast in the morning, don't ask me why) and then he promptly goes back to sleep.

1:00 PM - Back to work!

3:00 PM - Meetings, if any, usually take place in the late afternoon when it's hardest to go back to work after.

5:00 PM - Close the work laptop (I try not to slam it) and spend some time puttering around the apartment, tidying up after the day. Reset from staring at a screen all day.

5:30 PM - Boyfriend gets home from work and takes Zeus for a walk. I start chopping potatoes (all of our dinners seem to involve chopping potatoes, somehow).

6:30 PM - Everyone is home, dinner is cooking, wine is poured, and Zeus gets fed. Chat with boyfriend until we're sitting at the table stuffing our faces, at which point we've usually turned on the TV.

8:00 PM - After the kitchen is cleaned up (I cooked, boyfriend cleans), we retire to the couch to — wait for it — continue watching TV.

9:00 PM - I take Zeus for another walk, and this is the one that makes me really wish Vancouver was the type of place where you could have a backyard, so I could just 'let him out' instead. Alas, it's not, so instead I walk my dog along the beach 3-4 times a day. I truly have nothing to complain about! Back home, I can usually only handle so much TV, so towards the end of the evening I usually grab the laptop or iPad to play on the internet.

10:00 PM - Bedtime. Trying really hard to read a bit before falling asleep, at least a chapter, so I can get through twelve books in twelve months in 2021. This is going well so far!

Well, there it is. The things I do day after day after day - wasn't this fun! One day I hope to be able to shuffle my time around so less of it is taken up with a day job and more of it gets to be spent fiddling with code, but all in all my days aren't too awful.

Resolutions

2020 has gone by in the blink of an eye; it turns out working from home and hardly leaving your apartment does very strange things to your sense of time. As the year comes to an end, I've found myself thinking about the things I want to do next year, the things I want to work on and the things I want to change.

Read more books

Despite having an abundance of time at home, I can't actually say I finished a single book this year. I have made some progress in Scott Lynch's Red Seas Under Red Skies, however it seems to lack some of the appeal of the previous book, which I enjoyed thoroughly. I want to read more books, and getting stuck in a book I'm not into is sapping any desire to spend time reading in the first place. Time to ditch this one.

In fact, I don't just want to read 'more books'. I want to read at least 12 books in 2021, and I'll write about them here. That's only one a month; surely something I can manage. To that end, I figured it was worth taking the time to read some of the classics (ahem, the fantasy classics) that I never got to. I've decided to start with Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time Series, which is only a little daunting at fourteen volumes. I'm a couple of chapters into The Eye of the World, and I've resolved to have this first book finished and reviewed here (insomuch as I have any authority to review anything) by the end of January. I'm not committing to the entire series as the twelve books to read this year, but I certainly want to get one or two under my belt.

Write more fewer Better Words

I want to be a better writer, and the only way to do that is to write more. Really, this is a major factor in getting this lil' blog up and running - it gives me somewhere to write. I'll write about the books I'm reading, the art I've seen, and the process by which this site and any other coding projects I work on take shape. I don't really expect anyone to read it, save for myself, but I want to write it all the same.

Code More Things

See again, this very website. I want to have a few projects finished and online this year, and this is the first of them. This domain is my playground, and I want to build my skills as a designer and developer in 2021.

Reflections

The end of the year is a time when everyone makes resolutions for next year, but it's also a great time to reflect on the past year and what has been accomplished. The pandemic still gripping the world has defined the year and limited our abilities to lead 'normal' lives, though I have been spared the worst of it. We've been under an endless barrage of crises ranging from political to ecological and it doesn't look like things are going to let up any time soon, however my company is flexible and have provided everything I need to work remotely, indefinitely if necessary. I have my health, job security, a kick-ass partner and a wonderful dog, and we live in the most beautiful city. Altogether, I have a pretty great life - and I never want to lose sight of that.