Chalk it up to aging, having a parent die, climate change, the general shaking up of assumptions that is the latter-twennyteens, but I’ve been wrestling with my creative goals in blogging.
Jason Kottke, who started before me (and that’s saying something), had a very helpful post recently, ‘The Legacy of Philip Glass‘. Glass said about the future of his works, “I won’t be around for all that,” he said. “It doesn’t matter.”
Now as someone trained in history and librarianship, that’s not a sentiment I swallow easily. As someone who has had seen the writing legacy of beloved people—pour one out for Leslie, for Brad—vanish or fade from the Web, that’s something that instills worry not a sense of release.
“I like this idea of thinking about lineage vs. legacy, because it means you can sort of reframe any worrying about immortality and how you’re going to project yourself into the future, and think more about what you’re taking from the past and what you’re adding to it that creates a more interesting and helpful present.”
That’s got me looking hard at what I’ve been doing with my ‘retroblogging’. I described it as writing an autobiography in slow motion. And, to pull a phrase from Kleon, it was centered in projecting myself into the future.
But the future doesn’t need more of me.
That’s why I decided decades ago not to have children; I do not require permanence of myself or of some sort of avatars of me.
That’s a reminder to turn the inputs into outputs. Instead of merely talking or documenting, amplify and reflect.
As I write this afternoon, I’m looking at old pictures and thinking what they can inspire. A wiggly handed baby with her mouth open and a bit of a combover being gazed upon with love by a woman with a small bouffant suitable to a 60’s soul backup singer. The same baby dancing horizontally—foot kicking, arms waving—with tongue sticking out of her mouth in concentration. Excited baby amidst toys, bracketed by grandmother and great-grandmother. Wiggling baby/toddler again, hands waving and mouth open, in lap of laughing mother, hair now smaller but in a cute ’60s dress that still evokes stylish femininity. Back to baby on the rose-printed blanket on the floor amidst toys including foil pie pans, thumb in mouth and hand gripping the blanket edge. Rolling and stretching hands to be picked up. Unable to sit up, but able to raise on hands to gaze into a doll’s face or at the camera. Puzzled by the toy grandpa beckons with, unsure if it’s worth releasing the toy in hand to reach for. A note about immunizations—Diptheria, Tetanus, Pertussis, Polio—which places this baby at a point in time. Baby in a little tabletop seat, like a carseat but before they came into use, gaze away from mother, thumb in mouth, other wrist held gently to keep that hand from interfering with the loaded spoon; a mealtime standoff. In mother’s lap, gripping the spoon as she coaxes me to cooperate and eat; she is beautiful, like an escapee from a Renaissance painting, and I am intently focused on taking control of my fate, even if it only involves this bite. And with intent, I become not “a baby” but “me”. In father’s lap in an armchair beside a board-and-cinder-block bookcase, gazed at by him and by mother sitting beside chair, her hair in transition from fancy updo’s to the long natural look I remember from childhood; they are so young, so young. And, the baby, me, is safe and happy.
Filter, absorb, create, refine. I mark the posts with the pictures private; nothing to offer others. The next time through, my thoughts above will become further distilled, and maybe then or the distillation after that, if ever, there might be something to carry on beyond my time.
Kabalor is my original universe for fantasy gaming which moves away from the binary bias and colonialist baggage of certain other games built on wargaming and traditional divisions of good/evil, male/female, civilized/savage, people/monsters. The core tension is not a battle between binaries, but the shifting power dynamics among Chaos, Order, and Balance.
Rather than lock myself away to write a sourcebook alone, I’ve created a Patreon community where I can share the growing body of work as it is ready, hear feedback and ideas, and make a better game for us all. The more gamemasters and players of Kabalor, the more it will be the open, inclusive, diverse, fantastic universe we need. patreon.com/kabalor
You can click the ‘Follow’ button on the Patreon page to receive new free posts as they go up. Thanks for reading and sharing feedback with comments if you feel like it.
If you want to really get into it, you can become a patron. Your monthly $1 support allows you to see exclusive or early versions of materials shared with my patrons plus new content about Kabalor every week. Also you’ll get access to detailed discussions and polls about the content and what comes next.
As I share this new universe, because I grew up within and continue to enjoy a lot of privilege (white, cis, middle class, educated), I need to do the work of listening to under-represented voices. Finding the flaws and dismantling them will take a community. By supporting my patreon you support that work. I look forward to learning from and amplifying those voices.
One of the key lessons for me of the past few years is that it detracts from my wellness to try to have both my list from before the various crises in my life and my list of what I need and want to do now. However much I say, “oh well that old list is on the back burner”, it is still bubbling and using my mental fuel. I can’t have two #1 items, even if I tell myself that one of them is not active for the moment. I gotta recalibrate and bring it together in one calm vision for myself.
The best thing about accepting that is that the process of integrating my expectations of myself is an inherently therapeutic process. Though the enhanced calm is important, most of that benefit is coming from really giving myself permission to drop things. Not just shove them back ‘for right now’ (i.e., years), but let them go. Discardia is good for the soul and for reducing that overwhelmed, inflamed feeling.
The biggest change is re-orienting myself to my writing and other creating. I am refocusing myself on the creative work and away from the idea of producing products on a particular schedule. It doesn’t make anyone less of a Real Writer to give a work the amount of time it needs to come to fruition. Nor is it mandatory to bring out a new book every couple years. The publishing industry would like you to, but I don’t write for a publisher; I write for myself and my readers.
As I’m sure a lot of stay-at-home parents or others who are outside the paycheck economy have struggled with, validity is not measured by take-home pay. Much of our culture sends a different message, so it takes work to find solid footing to appreciate yourself and what you do. In my case finding that footing is helping me recognize a few “to-do” items on my list which were more cargo cult enacting of “being a publisher” than necessary to the process of writing and sharing my work.
One thing that prompted some of this change is that the medication I was prescribed about a year ago limits me to two cocktails a week. I find I really can’t be an active cocktail writer under that constraint and I don’t want my work and my wellness to be in conflict, so I’m giving cocktail writing a big “I love you, man, you’re the best, no I mean it, I love you, all you guys” sloppy hug and going home.
Not writing a sequel to The Art of the Shim: Low-Alcohol Cocktails to Keep You Level lowers the need for a lot of the capital P publisher infrastructure we’d created. Simplifying that part of my life is some of the work I’m doing this month and I’m already enjoying the lightness it is giving me. I don’t have to put out a book this year because it’s been “too long” since the last one. I don’t have to feel guilty over a long list of posts and essays I thought at one time that I’d write. Cool ideas! Okay to let them go!
This exercise in looking at where my time vs. where my mental energy goes vs. my actual current priorities has also unveiled some time sucks that I can prune away. Goodbye, Twitter. It’s not me, it’s you. You make me anxious and distracted and frankly, you have too many nazis and misogynists and racists and homophobes and paranoid dudes who think giving babies free food is gonna take food off their own plate. Ugh. Good riddance to that distraction.
I looked at the carefully curated list of accounts I followed, added a lot of them to the website feed reader built into WordPress.com, let go of the “need” to keep up with some, and made a monthly reminder to check the other two that couldn’t go in the feed reader to see what they’ve been up to. Then I added the Switcheroo Chrome extension to redirect me to my WordPress Dashboard every time I try to go to Twitter.com. It feels fantastic and I am already getting a lot more done with my day.
Yes, I’m on Mastodon, but both it structurally and my decision of the number of people I follow on there are designed to be very quick to keep up with. It doesn’t devour twenty minutes of my time multiple times a day in the way Twitter can.
I’m excited about this paring down and focusing. I’m excited about the space I’ve created for healing and for whatever creative projects I want to do now. I’m grateful to myself for the permission to let go, to be done with things. My shoulders feel lighter.
I’ll be posting more in the coming days as I part with some of these past projects. I hope you enjoy this somewhat random tour through my interests. 😀
I wanted to do a quick learning project that would also result in a gift for my mom’s cousin, author C’Anna Bergman-Hill and which would use a fabric she really liked from my remnant finds at Shaukat Fabrics in London.
This was fortunately on my mind last month when I went to Fabric Outlet, so I remembered to bring the remnant and get a matching thread and 9″ zipper. The next step was to decide which fabric to use for the outside of the bag. I wanted something sturdier than the light, almost-chiffon of the remnant to help give the pouch some structure. I hadn’t bought a fabric intentionally for this on that shopping trip, but a brown linen remnant I’d bought then (intending to try making fabric coasters with it) turned out to be perfect. I recommend fabric selection as a lovely “last thing of the day” activity; I went to bed that night feeling happy about the upcoming project.
Because I am kind to my future self, I had already washed both fabrics before putting them in my fabric storage area. Thus when I was ready to get started all I had to do was iron. Being a little nervous that ironing, even on the wrong side, might make the linen shiny, I tried using a piece of muslin between it and the iron as a pressing cloth and that seemed to work fine.
The idea of changing zipper length is a bit daunting, so I chose a pouch design where the pieces are the same length as the zipper tape (the fabric part of the zipper). I used that as the width and then decided on a height based on wanting to be able to fit a little notebook and a short pen pocket inside. I made one paper pattern piece for that and cut out four pieces of the lining (since I wanted to add a divider inside to create two pockets) and two pieces of the outer fabric using it.
Then I cut out two 2″ squares to cover the ends of the zipper and a piece to become the pen pocket.
I gave the pen pocket a lot of extra folded fabric around the bottom where it will experience the most strain.
Next I pinned the two divider pieces wrong sides together, stitched across the top, and flipped them around so I could attach the pen pocket by one edge (on a right side of the divider fabric) by stitching along its righthand side and bottom.
The folded design results in a two compartment pen pocket.
Press the divider piece flat, wrong sides together, as it will be in the finished pouch. Then trim a bit off the bottom to allow clearance for the zipper to be used without constantly snagging on it.
The next step is when I started to feel myself pushing into new territory. I wanted to be sure I didn’t bring the sewing machine needle down on a metal part of the zipper, so I was ever so careful. First I put a pin into one of the little 2″ squares right at the zipper stop, the fabric’s right side is toward the zipper. And stitched as near that as I could without hitting the pin.
Then I folded it back over and stitched it down again, now being able to see and avoid the metal stop. I just put a pin in there to keep the zipper tape ends flat and even and keep the square nicely placed.
The business end is a bit trickier, but here’s how I did it. First, I noticed that there are are stop pieces at that end too, they’re just more subtle.
Use your fingernail against those to figure out where to put your pin holding the tape ends and 2″ square (right side down!) to the zipper tape.
Next it’s time to make the zipper sandwich. Just keep looking at your work, flipping things back, imagining the finished piece, and thinking about right and wrong sides of the fabric.
I found it helpful to spin that around and pin the pieces with the edge I was about to sew facing toward me. It helped me get the pieces lined up evenly.
Lesson for the future: consider the position of the pen pocket in relation to the zipper opening. My concept had been that you’d unzip the bag just a bit and there would be your pen. When I’d pieced it all together and stitched it, I realized I’d put the divider the wrong way round and the pen is all the way at the foot of the zipper. Well, it’s less likely to get lost that way, right? 😀
My first time with the zipper foot was an adventure.
ALWAYS LOOK AT THE PRESSER FOOT BEFORE YOU FIRST REMOVE IT AND THEN IMMEDIATELY TRY PUTTING IT (NOT SOME OTHER NEW FOOT) BACK ON.
I did not do that and so, having pulled off the presser foot with much more ease than I expected, I tried sticking on the zipper foot and was totally confounded. First I tried locking in the wrong end of the foot, then the wrong part of the right end of the foot (it’s the wee bar you’re locking onto it not any of the part of the foot behind that). I went back and forth with the manual, my fingers getting sore and nearly in tears afraid I’d break my machine pushing too hard. It turns out the Janome MOD-19 feet don’t so much “lock in” as “kinda softly sorta snap and you’re hardly sure you’ve actually attached it”. Sigh. Thank goodness for YouTube videos and extrapolation from other machines to my poorly documented model.
To help, here is a nice big picture of sewing with a zipper foot on the Janome MOD-19 sewing machine.
And here’s a zoom and enhance of that Janome MOD-19 sewing machine zipper foot.
Oh my gosh it worked!!
And from the other side…
Okay, so now we split the fabric types again, lining to one side of the zipper, outside to the other. That is “Refold the fabric so the matching sides are together”. And yes, partially open the zipper before the next sewing step.
Below we see layer 1 of the lining side, let’s call it “bag lining left” as we imagine looking at the finished bag edge on with the zipper at the top. “Bag lining left” will have its wrong side to the wrong side of the outside fabric of the bag.
Then we add layers 2 and 3, the divider.
And finally layer 4, a.k.a. “bag lining right”. Pin all four layers together, being careful to keep the pen pocket smooth.
Line up the outside fabric and pin it too.
And this is where I goofed up. Because Life Sew Savory had put two versions of the bag in the pictures at the top of the page and reversed the fabrics between them, I kept getting muddled in her pictures between what was the interior (hot pink, it turns out) and what was the exterior (stripey green). So I thought I had the gap marked wrong and flipped it over to the exterior. *sad trombone*
ALWAYS PAUSE AND THINK THROUGH WHAT WILL HAPPEN IN THE NEXT STEPS AFTER YOU SEW THIS ONE, ESPECIALLY WHEN YOU’RE FIGURING OUT WHERE YOU’RE GOING TO LEAVE THAT LESS ATTRACTIVE PART WHERE YOU TURNED SOMETHING RIGHT SIDE OUT AFTER STITCHING.
I did correctly turn the zipper end flaps down toward the lining side at least.
Well, I turned it right side out and looked at that gap in the exterior and thought about seam ripping all the way around and if it was a fancy thing and not my rather imperfect first try at a zipper pouch, I might have. But then I thought, “Eh, C’Anna won’t mind and I’ve been wanting to try out decorative stitches on this machine anyhow…”
But the inside is a great success:
Okay, C’Anna, it’s going into the mail to you Monday! 🙂
Hooray! I’m blogging again—at last the huge work of migrating over 8,000 posts on this blog plus all the associated media from Typepad to WordPress.com is complete. (Big thanks to the fabulous concierge team at WordPress.com for all their friendly and highly competent help!) It’s so exciting to be revitalizing MetaGrrrl.com and the first thing I want to write about is something that has been revitalizing me over the last year and a half.
Advisory: this post is huuuge because I’m catching up on all my projects, with instructions in some cases. In future I’ll do separate posts per project.
In June 2017 I did the Basic Sewing safety and machine basics session so I could use the sewing machines at TechShop, the makerspace here in San Francisco (now known as TheShop.build). During the class (which turned out to be a 1-on-1) my instructor taught me to make a clever little flip-top bag.
I went back the next day and did more sewing, but I didn’t take notes (or haven’t unearthed them yet). I tweeted something the next day saying that I worked on two projects, but which? Probably it was this sewing tools caddy, which is super handy:
I must have gone to Britex Fabrics beforehand and raided the remnants bin, because that’s where I got that fabulous African-print wax fabric for the sewing caddy and the lovely Japanese fabric that is the blue part of the tote. (I hadn’t learned yet to wash fabric before sewing.)
Doing creative projects was a huge emotional release for me after all the heavy work through the latter half of 2016 and the first half of 2017 as executor of my biodad’s estate and volunteer with MoveOn Text Team. I wasn’t feeling able to do much in the way of creative writing, so being able to exercise my creativity and see a project to completion was an enormous lift.
Around age 19 I knew how to sew well enough to make myself a complete set of Elizabethan clothes for working at the Northern California Renaissance Faire, but all those skills had pretty much evaporated. Given how much more patient I am now, it is for the best that I am beginning again from scratch and learning to do things right.
In June and July 2017, I visited SCRAP, a fantastic scavenger paradise of materials for projects. In their fabric area, I found a cool embroidered table runner along with some other remnants. This turned into my next project, another tote bag, this time with an interior pocket and a very pretty strap made out of a necktie off the racks at some discount store like Marshall’s or Ross Dress-for-Less. I think the table runner cost something ridiculously great like $1 while the tie may have been $10, but it was still a good deal for the nice bag that resulted.
Not sure now (in January of 2019) when I began the work on turning a cool locally-made bag with cork ends which had worn out into a new tote, but it might have been the same day I made the table runner tote bag.
My need for stress relief grew, while, unfortunately, my energy to get out of the house or do projects reduced. Like a lot of folks, 2016, 2017, and 2018 were pretty rough for me.
On August 4, 2017, I received a diagnosis of the mouth form of an autoimmune disorder, followed by diagnosis of the skin form in January 2018. Dealing with that medical stuff ate up most of my non health and wellness project energy, though in fall of 2017 I did do a massive change to our backroom, where our desks and potential guest space are. I added eight Ikea Besta cabinet columns on two walls, with a two part work table extending from one of them. That was the foundation for the lovely sewing project area I have now.
No sewing, but thinking about sewing… On June 16, 2018, I got various soft knits and other fabric remnants for about 2/3rds their regular price: 1 5/8 yards taupe cotton, 1 3/8 yards white bamboo/lycra, and something else from the bin, plus from the new bolts 1 yard of another cotton knit for $8.99. Looking back from January 2019 I was perhaps over-hasty in getting knits without knowing how to sew knits yet, but at least I was thinking about sewing and how I might be able to make more comfortable clothes for myself. I will be using these soon.
In mid November 2018 I bought myself a sewing machine; a Janome MOD-19, but didn’t unbox it until the start of December. I eyed the box all around Thanksgiving-time with anticipation tho’. 🙂
My first project as the machine and I got acquainted December 2, 2018, was a pincushion. I made it out of a leftover end piece of that table runner I got at SCRAP. 🙂
I also finished up the open end of the back support of the sewing caddy I’d made back in 2017.
On December 13, 2018, I had the pleasure of another trip to Britex, this time with a shopping list derived from my readings in Sew Everything Workshop.
This is when many of the items seen above in the sewing caddy picture were purchased. I also got a bunch of fabric, some with a plan and some remnants with only the vaguest plan, and four cool graphite-colored rectangle buckles for attaching the straps of a bag. Along with a dust-resisting solution for my sewing machine cover project, I got two charcoal gray fabrics with intent to use them for a new laptop bag, (the shinier, silkier one for the lining). I also got a bright orange flannel intending to use it to pair with a bright print I found in the remnant bin to make a microwaveable heat pad for a relative (but over the holidays, after not doing the project in time for gifting, found out they already had a couple of them so I ditched that plan).
The next project was a better illustration of why I got the machine. I began reclaiming my comfort in clothing by converting a pair of “yoga pants” which have a waistband I can tolerate* but which make me feel dorky into something I’d happily wear through an airport. (*I have a rare autoimmune disorder which makes my torso very sensitive to the pressure of elastic bands and other tight constrictions.)
Waistband is great—wide and soft—and they have pockets…
… but the cuffs are gathered into a narrow band which insists on settling about three inches above my anklebone. Not elegant. The cuffs must go!
Fortunately, I have a seam ripper. 🙂
More skill practice: I made a paper pattern and used it to cut out the new cuff pieces.
I added a band of the shiny graphite-gray fabric (originally planned for a new laptop bag) which makes them just a little dressier, while actually also making them more comfortable. Slept in this on a red-eye flight in a lay-down seat and they were great. Success!
It took me hours to do this very simple project and there are definitely errors, but I learned so much! Very proud of myself for letting go of perfectionism and for making something I really needed.
Pressing as guidelines for later pinning and stitching.
And re-acquired these skills:
Making a paper pattern piece
Taking something from idea to plan to measured to pattern pieced to cut to pressed to completely sewn in one session (with a dinner break).
Going slower when it gets challenging
My “oops” moments included not cutting TWO fabric pieces for the cuff as I have TWO legs and letting the combo of knit fabric and slippery silky synthetic take over when I was going too fast stitching the ditch on the first leg and having to seam rip about 3 inches. (If it was a fancier garment and higher than the ankle it would have been necessary to seam rip the whole piece as it is a bit twisted compared to the other. I may re-do with a longer, better sewn cuff at some point.)
Still, not bad for sewing knit and slippery fabric when I don’t know how to work with either!
That was a luxurious day of getting to work on my own projects, so I also began making a sewing machine cover, following the instructions in Sew Everything Workshop. It was another success and another source of learning.
This one went together very well. I slowed down. 😀
Still need to learn how to wrap bias tape for a more finished look around openings. I cut separate pieces and stitched them down and the gaps show.
It came together in three stages on different days:
Marking it up to cut using tailor’s chalk directly on the wipeable side of the fabric, cutting the pieces, creating and finishing the handle opening, and then assembling the body pieces onto the top.
Cutting the cord slot and pinning the bottom seam. (Double folded seam style, folded over and then over again, so when you stitch you leave a clean edge on the interior.)
Sewing round to finish the bottom edge (which I did on January 8, 2019, after the bustle of the holidays and travel).
Making this was so fun, I want to work more with BPA-free PUL (polyurethane laminate) fabrics. I had no problems with the sewing machine feeding this even though I wasn’t using a special foot, I guess because I was going slow. I’ve got a bit left so I’m thinking of making some little zippered pouches.
I was definitely hooked at this point. Went back to Britex on December 20, 2018, where I bought an “ironing ham” (used for ironing curved things like sleeve cuffs), zippers I could use for making pouches of various sorts, cotton cording for lacing for other small projects, polyester fiberfill, and more remnants. (I looked at thin, cheap quilt batting, but then didn’t find the kind I needed so I skipped it.)
I bought 5 meters of a Liberty cotton poplin and 3 meters of a Liberty lawn I plan to use for garments for me once my skills permit me working with something that’s £18 a meter. I also bought 28 remnant pieces (mostly about 8-10″ strips around 45-55″ wide), about a third of which were gifts for my mother. For a few I found two pieces. These are all amazing fabrics and will be really fun to use, even in small amounts.
On January 8, 2019, it was a pure joy to have things so well set up that I could just turn on the lights and the machine and start sewing when the mood struck. This is when I finished the sewing machine cover. Only took about half an hour. I turned off the machine, covered it up, turned off the worklights, and went on with my day. Glorious!
My next projects were organizing my sewing materials and making a toy for my nephew Charlie, beg pardon, Space Commander Charles G.
Along with having a good sewing day, I ordered some pieces from Ikea (storage boxes for fabric, an organizer for notions, extra shelves to make the cupboards work better) and threw in two cheap duvet covers that were on sale at a price making them a great price for printed cotton fabric. One of those is a fun fabric I’ll be using for my first clothing project (see below). Ironically, the fabric storage boxes have been lost by FedEx twice between Ikea and my house, but the rest is turning out fine.
On January 18, 2018, I gave myself the treat of a visit to a new-to-me fabric store, Fabric Outlet, on Mission Street. Very friendly staff and I was such a happy Dinah puttering around and finding things. I got fabric and buttons for a present I’m planning to make (shhh, for now), fabric and twill ribbon to make myself a new apron that’s proportioned correctly for me (no more apron-side-boob!), a flamingo pink satin remnant that will be perfect for the belt for my next project (below), some linen and twill that may work to make coasters, fusible interfacing (a proper, non-remnant sized piece this time), thin batting, and a few interesting remnants.
On January 20, 2018, I began thinking through a more complex project, my first complete pieces of clothing: a set of lounge pants and a matching kimono jacket for an upcoming trip to very warm weather. (I’m sure these will also come in handy this summer, whenever we get one. It was never entirely predictable in San Francisco even before climate change.)
I washed the fabric, and while that was going I figured out the best of my current pairs of lounge pants to use as the basis for a pattern.
A quick and rather silly project was my diversion on January 22, 2019, when we had to cancel our usual D&D game and I had bonus time. I used a faaabulous girl’s t-shirt I found on clearance to make a pool tote.
These are from the slides I inherited from my great-grandparents, Reed Walker Sr. and Adena Zippora Nordberg Walker, of Beverly Hills, CA.
Reed was the main photographer in their artistic pairing (Adena painted and did fine ceramics), so I'm guessing these are both shot by him. To my eye the Fox Hills Country Club sign looks later than his death in July 1940, but so often a color picture deceives me and reminds me how aesthetically blurry the late 1930s are with the early 1950s.
As the owner of these two images I have released them to the public domain and release all my rights to these two images (effective with my upload of them to Wikimedia in December 2017).
Photograph of Fox Hills Country Club sign from the slide collection of Reed and Adena Walker of Beverly Hills (my great-grandparents). At the time of the photo the changing text on the sign read: OPEN TO PUBLIC LUNCHEON DINNERS ENTERTAINMENT NITELY.
Union 76 gas station and oil service with tall sign, on a southern California corner with bus stop and billboard adjoining.
Living in one place for many years allows unfinished projects to proliferate. Every time you move, there's a chance that something gets completed or discarded, but otherwise they often linger on, awaiting that extra time to work on them which seems perpetually just around the corner.
I've been in my current home for over nine years. And I've been in my virtual homes for longer: thirteen years of hosting on Typepad for this blog and somewhere around as long for Apple laptops which permit me to easily migrate all my files to new machines when I upgrade.
My intention is to carry on longer still in this apartment and operating system (blog hosting is t.b.d.), so it's necessary to routinely evaluate what's built up around the place. That's where Discardia comes in.
I practice Discardia not only during it's four appearances a year, but also on a daily basis. Through repetition I've made it a routine habit to question why things are present in my home and workspace. Often the answer is appreciation, but sometimes it's frustration or disinterest. The latter two become upgrade projects or get discarded (to charity, trash, etc.) And, yes, sometimes the upgrade projects do linger too, but thanks to online ordering and other services (and, checking my privilege, the budget to take advantage of them) it has gotten a lot easier to solve a problem when it presents itself rather than just adding it to a to-do list.
Omnifocus is my tool for tracking all my projects (and complex habits like periodic big picture reviews of my life priorities). As with the physical items in my home and the files on my computer desktop, the projects and tasks I have created in Omnifocus are subject to the same questioning: "Why do I have this? What is it bringing to my life? Is it helping me be who I want to be?" and the same steady adjustment or pruning.
Some people find it overwhelming to have a lot of projects, but by being very clear with myself over which projects are active now and which are not, I avoid beating myself up over not doing it all. Time and energy are finite, and self-care is necessary if you're going to achieve things in the long haul, so I keep short the list of what needs action today. Scratching off the last thing on that list opens up the opportunity to respond to the moment and my mood—and not infrequently that relaxed next action turns out to cross off something on one of those inactive lists.
So what's active for me today?
Well, it's the start of the work week (since we were traveling yesterday) and that means laundry. Since we talked our landlord into putting a washer/dryer into our house, laundry days have become fairly pleasant. That rhythm of moving the loads along keeps me moving on the rest of my list as I can play the game of trying to finish things before the next buzzer. Even the time consuming part of folding laundry has been upgraded to a treat as that's when I watch fun stuff on my iPad. (Thanks again to my best friend Lance for cluing me in to the Acorn TV app and their collection of Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple mysteries!)
I've got a writing client now, so most of those between-load work sessions and much longer stretches over the days to come will be spent researching and writing about the history of specific cocktails. Look forward to an announcement later in the week about this project.
The ongoing work of handling my late father's estate continues. Mercifully matters relating to the house are now in the hands of my realtor and her fix-up crew, so I'm no longer schlepping over to the east bay to clean. The focus now is a combination of bureaucracy—most of those hurdles already cleared—and sorting through the last 10 boxes of papers and memorabilia. I'm hopeful that by the end of the month our house will return to a less cluttered state. The chaos has already been reined in to just the room where my home office is located; soon I won't have banker's boxes looming on either side.
As the estate project comes under control, I'm catching up on everything that was dropped during Pop's medical crisis and my handling of his home when he went into the hospital and after he died. Bit by bit, I'm clearing messes, tackling minor to-do's, and consolidating project support items.
Alongside all this is the background hum of life: processing bills and statements, maintaining our home and small container garden, handling our publishing business Sanders & Gratz, prepping for the next D&D session I'll be gamemastering, and chipping away at my long-term projects (many of which involve bringing bits of my online creativity and other memorabilia into this blog at their appropriate past dates).
If time permits, I've got other writing I want to do: first, an election slate for this very important election, and, ongoing, more work on Bibulo.us and on my history book about servants in Elizabethan England.
Thanks so much for sharing this Bryan! I’m a huge fan of Makeshift Society even though I’ve figured out that I’m one of those folks who gets more work done alone at home. Very glad you all took the opportunity to create this experience—and glad you were able to make this experiment and extricate yourselves from it with relatively minimal pain.
Seems as though about two years is the right amount of time to figure out that the plan isn’t going to work. When I had my one-woman bookstore in San Jose in the mid-1990s I spent roughly that time in site prep (built-in bookcases, signage) and being open. By a couple months before the end I had determined that though the store could pay for itself, it could not pay me. My initial runway was shortened radically when the long-term relationship I’d been in while planning and opening the store and during its first year ended, leaving me with a need to pay my own security deposit and rent for a new apartment, and thus needing the paychecks I’d been getting by without.
Thinking through “What if we learn we’re wrong about something and we need to close in a year or two?” is a great exercise for anyone planning a business. I was able to safely walk away from the end of my grand adventure because I’d planned my payments to my major investor such that I could continue making them while working a post-adventure full-time job. Sure, a painful expense comparable to car payments or hefty student loans, but doable—and enabling me to keep both my honor and my credit rating.
There’s certainly no defeatism in doing this planning. Something hard to predict could turn out to be a major factor—as with the differences between SF and Brooklyn you found—or a huge influence on your market could appear after opening—as occurred for me when Barnes & Noble opened 30,000 square feet of bookstore space in the south bay within a few months of my 400 square foot store opening, or when after I’d managed to pivot to add games to my offering as a funny little sideline called Magic: The Gathering came out, quickly becoming 70% of my business, the supply of Magic: The Gathering dried up for a couple months. You just never know. You make your best guesses, work up a range of spreadsheets, and go for it.
The best thing about sharing experiences like this is how it helps everyone guess better.
Small Business Planning PostMortem
[This was a comment on the article “The mystery of the white dress shirt: Death and life of a Brooklyn coworking space” by Bryan Boyer on Medium.]
Drifting to sleep, maybe asleep and resurfacing to wakefulness my mind was flitting around from idea to idea, from memory to memory. What I remember and was left fully awake with was two things: Queen's 'Don't Stop Me Now' stuck in my head and the notion that it ought to be possible to create a deeply detailed census of the entire world population at a point in the past, provided that point was recent enough to be reached by many genealogists, but not so recent that the world population was in the billions.
Now, the more recent a point, the more accurate the data and the greater the likelihood of living descendents, but also, the more daunting the project (due to the number of individuals described) and thus the less likely of enticing participants to join in the grand adventure.
1750 has also got the inspirational benefit of a big anniversary coming up within the probable lifetime of the participants or their children—300 years in 2050.
So, how to begin?
Infrastructure is vital. It must be incredibly robust and flexible. It must have profound internationalization support. It must allow for advancement and diversification separately of its data storage, software interfaces, and human interfaces.
Data will come in in many forms and must be clearly associated with its source, so that later conflicts on details can be weighed based on their respective supporting data.
Detail will vary wildly from broad guesses of total population in a country to general counts of categories of individuals (e.g., heads of household, taxpayers, members of the military) to detailed nodes about a specific person (both the famous and the genealogically derived).
Eventually, participants will no doubt be interested in assessing the relationships between individual nodes, thus it would be helpful to be able to retain data details (e.g., membership of an individual in a particular tracked category such as "the 12th regiment of Lord So-and-So's light horse", or "household at 123 Elm St, Anytown, New York, USA", or "inventory of the slave ship blah-de-blah", or "signatories of proclamation X".)
Such detail nodes will, of necessity, be much greater in number than the number of individuals alive because merger of them as applying to the same individual will be a more gradual and difficult process. This is a vital factor in infrastructure design.
It's used by some sources as a baseline year for the end of the pre-industrial era; rather nice as a stake in the ground for pushing back our knowledge of individual human participation.
The population of North America is only about 2 million, thus forcing U.S. participants to think about the world outside their borders (which I think is always a good thing). It also makes an enticing early goal for "near complete description", which is the best I'd expect we can hope for in any region.
Sweden begin taking a census in 1749, one of the very few countries doing so in the mid-18th century, and is thus a logical target for another "near complete description" goal. Conveniently, it's also a good country for online project participation with its highly tech-savvy population. The 1750 estimated populations of Sweden (which I'm presuming refers to its territory then, not its smaller borders now) 1.7 million or 1.78 million. (Pleasantly for me, it's also where I am pretty certain I have personal genealogical data for 1750. Been a while since I was working on my paternal grandmother's line, but I recall it going back that far and farther thanks to the good data there.)
Iceland is also promising for early population data and participation.
Now, what haven't I considered yet?
Thought which came to mind after I went back to bed:
Every part of this idea needs further definition, but particularly the area around what defines a counted individual. Chronological confirmation of someone with a citable source is a big part of it; that is, an individual for whom we have a specific record of them being born, dying, marrying, becoming a parent, or otherwise being specifically one of those alive at some point during the year 1750.
However, those records may actually be less evocative of human experience than the categoric description associated with what I'm calling, for lack of a better term, 'unmatched individual details', or 'unmadeets'. Whose story would you be most interested in, the confirmed individual "Mary Jane Smith born 1750, later the mother of Winifred Harding", or the unmadeet "one of 350 purchased slaves who rebelled on the ship King David at 5a.m. on May 8, 1750"? Which says more about what was going on in 1750?