Category Archives: life

Quiet afternoons and weeks

I work about one day a week, sometimes less: enough to keep interesting things on the go at my consulting client, and with plenty of space for other things in my life.

2015-04-23e Working once a week -- index card #consulting #pace #experiment

2015-04-23e Working once a week – index card #consulting #pace #experiment

It’s been a little tricky working once a week, since the communication gaps are much wider than they were with a twice-a-week schedule. I could probably not work, but I like the team and the work we do. My client would be happy to have me work more hours, but I like the rest of my week, too.

2015-04-14c Work vs Explore -- index card #self-direction #experiment

2015-04-14c Work vs Explore – index card #self-direction #experiment

Still, it’s not quite like the extra-long weekend that W- sometimes jokes about. At home, I’m not sure if I’m using my day the best I could, but I’m also not keen on cramming it just because I can. There’s something to be said about being patient and working through my mediocrity as I learn the skills for self-direction. Exploring is not as clear-cut as working, but I hope it will still be useful.

2015-05-03b Shifting visions of success -- index card #experiment #success

2015-05-03b Shifting visions of success – index card #experiment #success

It’s hard to want anything too different from what I have now. My quiet, flexible life is more tempting than, say, entrepreneurial success.

2015-05-03c Tracing evolution of wild success -- index card #experiment #success

2015-05-03c Tracing evolution of wild success – index card #experiment #success

I know that I hadn’t always wanted this, but I think that was mostly because I hadn’t even considered it a possibility. In university and grad school, I wanted to teach, catalyzing students’ enthusiasm and learning. As a consultant, I enjoyed working with great people on awesome things. Work-life balance and happiness was already on my radar, though. And now that this is here, and this is a possibility… I like it. I would like it to continue. I would like to figure out how to get really good at it, although I’m not quite sure what “good” and “it” and “really” are in this case.

2015-05-04a More than quiet afternoons -- index card #experiment #pace

2015-05-04a More than quiet afternoons – index card #experiment #pace

But there’s still a little bit of restlessness, especially when I feel fuzzy. There’s still that urge to check something off a list, the desire to feel momentum, that feeling of wanting validation, even after three years of trying to get used to self-direction. I think it would be good for me to keep getting used to this, relaxing into it. There might be something interesting there, in between ambition and a narrowly-circumscribed life…

Planning the next things I want to sew

I spent an hour at Designer Fabrics thinking about patterns and what I might want to sew next. I didn’t see anything I particularly wanted there, but I did pick up a yard and a half of Kaufman London Calling Lawn Abstract Stripe (like this) from The Workroom just so that I have something to work on. =)

2015-05-05a What kinds of patterns do I want to play with -- index card #sewing #patterns

2015-05-05a What kinds of patterns do I want to play with – index card #sewing #patterns

Anyway, top-wise, it might be interesting to break out of my comfort zone: not just florals, but also more black-and-white patterns and more geometric prints.

2015-05-04b Thoughts on fabric for summer -- index card #sewing #fabric

2015-05-04b Thoughts on fabric for summer – index card #sewing #fabric

The cotton lawn feels nice, but I think the shirting cottons are okay too, and the quilting cotton is actually pretty okay once you wash the sizing out of it.

2015-04-23d Imagining my sewing, a year from now -- index card #sewing #future #imagining

2015-04-23d Imagining my sewing, a year from now – index card #sewing #future #imagining

I might actually have sewn enough tops now, though, especially after I finish the four I have in progress. That’s enough to spend a week in 100% cotton, which will be better than the cotton/poly broadcloth blends I started with, and maybe 2-3 weeks in between delicate laundry batches.

So, time to figure out: what next? There’s a little temptation to complete things I’m tempted to try to take on more types of garments. (Get to the point, perhaps, where every stitch I wear is mine? Shoes might be tough, though. Moccasins?) On the other hand, when I started this sewing thing again this year, I said I’d pace myself by trying to replace only one category of things per year. That way, I could reduce the risk of burnout.

2015-04-30e Sewing plans -- index card #sewing

2015-04-30e Sewing plans – index card #sewing

2015-05-05b Rethinking next steps for sewing -- index card #sewing

2015-05-05b Rethinking next steps for sewing – index card #sewing

I considered upgrading the broadcloth tops to the nicest cottons I can find – probably Liberty fabric, or some of the other cotton lawns. On the other hand, that might be well in the neighbourhood of diminishing returns, so maybe it’s better to wait.

I looked into sewing with stretch knits too, making a pair of leggings. I might make yoga pants at some point, but I don’t feel a pressing need for them, so I might wait too.

Stash-clearing, then. Ideally, making various containers and household things. Maybe I can make a patchwork garment bag to use up some of my scraps and protect my winter coats. Maybe I can make bags and zippered pouches. Maybe I can make things neater and more organized.

2015-05-02b Lined pouch -- index card #sewing

2015-05-02b Lined pouch – index card #sewing

I made a lined pouch with some of my scraps: the Marvel fabric on the outside, a yellow broadcloth inside, and a red zipper. It was fun. I haven’t figured out what to put into it, though. I’m sure something will come up.

2015-05-02c Containers -- index card #sewing

2015-05-02c Containers – index card #sewing

There are all sorts of containers I can learn how to make, and so many things that I can contain within them.

2015-05-02d Rough edges I could smooth -- index card #sewing

2015-05-02d Rough edges I could smooth – index card #sewing

2015-05-05c Containers and organizers - pain points -- index card #sewing

2015-05-05c Containers and organizers – pain points – index card #sewing

It might be good to start with the things that annoy me the most, like my disorganized sewing drawer. Mmm. Yes. Skills that improve themselves.

2015-04-28e Scrap ideas -- index card #sewing #scraps #repurposing

2015-04-28e Scrap ideas – index card #sewing #scraps #repurposing

Besides, it would be nice to get through more of those scraps. The boot shaper I made took a surprising volume of scraps for stuffing, so I’m looking forward to collecting more and making the one for the other boot. Then more little projects…

Tech and the kitchen

I think I spend most of my time in the kitchen: cooking, tidying up, or simply hanging out. It’s the room with the most light in the house, so it’s easy to just pull up a chair and write or draw at the kitchen table.

There’s been decades of buzz around smarter kitchens – fridges that track and reorder groceries, gadgets that enable new cooking methods. Still, it’s been a little easier for me to imagine tech’s application to sewing than to cooking (at least in our household. I think it’s because we deliberately try to avoid cluttering our kitchen with the endless stream of gadgets sold in stores, on television, and now the Internet: from the “It slices! It dices! It even juliennes!” mandoline, to spiral slicers, to even workhorses like the slow cooker.

2015-04-28c Gadget trade-offs in the kitchen -- index card #tech-and-home #technodomesticity #tradeoffs #gadgets #kitchen #cooking #decision

2015-04-28c Gadget trade-offs in the kitchen – index card #tech-and-home #technodomesticity #tradeoffs #gadgets #kitchen #cooking #decision

It seems that innovations in tech and the home tend to cluster around:

  • the kitchen: cooking, eating, organizing, stocking
  • entertainment
  • automation, sensing, and control: thermostats, lights, energy consumption
  • sleep, health, exercise
  • working from home

Mmm. In terms of the kitchen, where do I want to explore? This might not overlap with where most of the startups are focusing on. Divergence can be quite interesting.

2015-04-28b Tech and the kitchen -- index card #tech-and-home #technodomesticity #kitchen #cooking

2015-04-28b Tech and the kitchen – index card #tech-and-home #technodomesticity #kitchen #cooking

Hmm… There’s a lot of interest around meal planning, but maybe I can play with the specifics of it. I’ve been working on building more variety by focusing on five colours and five ways, following a thread I found in a few Japanese cookbooks. (And five tastes – that’s another level I want to figure out =) ) It might be interesting to graph several of our favourite combinations, and then cycle through them as I add more variety.

2015-04-27e Imagining meal planning -- index card #cooking #planning #variety

2015-04-27e Imagining meal planning – index card #cooking #planning #variety

I wonder how I can build a tool to help me visualize and plan these things… I could probably get Emacs to display an Org Mode table with the current selections, previous meals, and possibilities, or I could do something more graphical with a web page and SVGs or Javascript. First I need to think of how I want to see it…

More thoughts on fuzzy days

I’m recovering from a sore throat and a cold, among other things. If I want to, I could spend all day in bed or playing video games (or playing video games in bed). That’s where my mornings have gone, actually, since I’ve been letting myself sleep in until I feel rested. There’ll be time enough for getting more things done. For now, I’m taking it easy. There are lots of things I can still do with a fuzzy brain.

2015-04-27a Quiet days -- index card #fuzzy

2015-04-27a Quiet days – index card #fuzzy

2015-04-26b When my brain is fuzzy because I'm sick -- index card #fuzzy #sick

2015-04-26b When my brain is fuzzy because I’m sick – index card #fuzzy #sick

It’s interesting to notice the little hiccups in my brain: skipped or transposed letters as I hand-write common words, misplaced items, a spike in my sleep time.

2015-04-27d Minor signals -- index card #fuzzy

2015-04-27d Minor signals – index card #fuzzy

Instead of getting frustrated with myself, I find myself curious: what’s the difference between this and what I would consider my normal state? Is it a gradient or a sharp transition? Can I influence being in one or the other? And it’s good to know these signals and tripwires, too. It means I know to stay away from big decisions or judgments, from making commitments, from writing code that other people might rely on. It’s also a relief to see that life goes on.

Assorted sewing-related sketches and thoughts

I’ve settled into a routine of wearing something home-made every day. I’m looking forward to gradually adding higher-end fabric, and learning how to sew new pieces. Here are some things I’ve learned along the way.

2015-03-22b Decision review - Sewing -- index card #review #sewing #decision

2015-03-22b Decision review – Sewing – index card #review #sewing #decision

Sewing adds a new layer of satisfaction to my everyday life. I enjoy having a background reminder that I can learn how to make things.

2015-03-22c What was different about sewing this time -- index card #delta #sewing #review

2015-03-22c What was different about sewing this time – index card #delta #sewing #review

What was different about sewing this time? I set myself up for happiness and success by picking a super-simple pattern. It turns out that I like the bias binding technique much more than I like the facing technique, since I haven’t figured out how to stop facings from flapping around, and it’s actually pretty fun to use the bias tape maker. New pins made a surprising difference, too – it’s so much easier and less frustrating when your pins just glide through the fabric.

2015-03-13c Improving my sewing experience -- index card #sewing

2015-03-13c Improving my sewing experience – index card #sewing

The sewing machine and the serger are now on the desk full-time, instead of tucked in a closet. My sewing things are in a drawer. I still haven’t set up a system for listening to music or podcasts while I sew, since I use it as quiet time for thinking.

2015-03-13e What would managing my stash well look like -- index card #sewing

2015-03-13e What would managing my stash well look like – index card #sewing

2015-03-13d What are a few useful things I can do with my fabric stash -- index card #sewing

2015-03-13d What are a few useful things I can do with my fabric stash – index card #sewing

I found some stash-busting projects I like. They’re great ways to use up scraps while creating practical things, like little wrappers and liners. I’ve also pieced together larger scraps to create prototypes, which is nice. Maybe I’ll get into quilting or patchwork later on.

2015-03-12c Sewing pre-mortem -- index card #sewing #premortem

2015-03-12c Sewing pre-mortem – index card #sewing #premortem

None of the pre-mortem factors I planned for have kicked in yet. That’s because I’ve been learning deliberately slowly instead of trying to rush my way through things. =) I might spend a little more time getting used to the laser cutter and all that it can do for me; there’s so much to explore.

2015-02-25b What's next for sewing -- index card #sewing

2015-02-25b What’s next for sewing – index card #sewing

I have a bamboo stretch knit just waiting to be turned into loungewear, so I’m looking forward to learning how to self-draft a pattern for that. Extra points if I can do it digitally and then laser-cut the cloth, even if that means figuring out how to register long knits. =)

2015-02-24d Improving my sewing experience -- index card #sewing

2015-02-24d Improving my sewing experience – index card #sewing

Actually, the pipeline probably goes like this:

  • Tuesday at Hacklab:
    • Buy fabric for the next project
    • Cut washed fabric for the current project
  • Wednesday at home, possibly Friday or Saturday as well:
    • Sew and press the current project
  • Sunday at home:
    • Wash fabric for the next project
    • Plan the next next project

I think it would be good to have two (and exactly two) projects on the go at any given time. That way, I don’t end up stashing lots of fabric, and I can make the most of the resources available to me.

2015-02-24a New pattern, or several of one -- index card #sewing

2015-02-24a New pattern, or several of one – index card #sewing

Making many instances of the same pattern has been lots of fun. I still don’t feel an urge to learn about closures or sleeves, so the basic top is fine. I can gradually add more colours and fabrics, though. As for new patterns, I might look into making a few pairs of comfortable pants.

Yep, I think this skill might make its way into my identity… Neat!

Learning from a diversity of ways to live a significant life

I have plenty of role models in terms of people who’ve done wonderful things as part of regular careers and entrepreneurs who’ve created products or services. I even have a few role models who’ve explored alternative paths: simple living, writing, arts, crafts, trades… I love having such a diversity of life paths illuminated for me, with so many examples of people doing well.

I’ve been thinking about the path that I might take. The path of growing outwards – self, household, close relationships, and beyond – seems unusual, or at least harder to find information on. It feels a little feminine, I think, skewed towards domesticity. I think that’s part of the appeal for me. I want to take the skills I’ve learned in the mostly-male world of the technologies I’ve learned, and apply those skills in areas that might not be gender-balanced for a long time. This way I can maximize learning and difference-making.

2015-04-10b Reflecting on paths for living a meaningful life -- index card #experiment #evil-plans

2015-04-10b Reflecting on paths for living a meaningful life – index card #experiment #evil-plans

The impression I sometimes get from stories of startup founders is that they jump so quickly to imagining and building a service or product instead of developing deep understanding of needs, people, systems, opportunities… I know that doing things is a great way to learn things – fail fast and fail often – but I’m also curious about developing my understanding by other ways. I imagine that if I do this well, I’ll gradually develop the relationships and insights that would help me make a good difference. In the meantime, I can focus on improving myself, helping and connecting with people, and taking and sharing my notes.

2015-04-20e At peace with a small life -- index card #experiment

2015-04-20e At peace with a small life – index card #experiment

It’s getting easier and easier to not be tempted to shortcut this process. At a recent party, I was talking to a serial entrepreneur who was looking for a successor he could mentor. He seemed to derive a great deal of pride from having created a wonderful product, and it was well-deserved.

He asked me if I had created any products that could be identified with me, and if I wanted to. Reflecting on the conversation, I realized that no, I don’t particularly need to work toward that kind of significance right now. I’m happy to continue my experiment to at least the 5-year mark that I had initially set for myself, and possibly longer.

2015-04-19c 5-year plan vs 5-year experiment -- index card #experiment

2015-04-19c 5-year plan vs 5-year experiment – index card #experiment

The 5-year experiment thing boggled him too. I think he was thinking of it more as a 5-year plan: have a certain goal, get there with actions and the occasional workaround. I think of this 5-year experiment as creating a safe space for me to explore and learn, and the timeframe is there to prevent me from running back into my comfort zone too early.

I guess I could describe my aims this way: I work towards cultivating happiness/equanimity and producing understanding as my first two priorities. At this point, I’m not working towards wide impact, fame, influence, or money. I might get to that someday, but I’d like those first two things well-covered first.

2015-04-20f Experiment timeline -- index card #experiment

2015-04-20f Experiment timeline – index card #experiment

When might I move on from this phase? It’s not that I don’t think I’m ready, that I’m waiting for the stars to line up, or that I feel constrained to do this right now. I’m stacking the deck, and I’m collecting people and ideas.

2015-04-20h Conditions for considering a startup -- index card #experiment #startup

2015-04-20h Conditions for considering a startup – index card #experiment #startup

What will likely happen is that, after I figure out a little more about life, I’ll have these relationships with people I strongly want to help as a business partner or as a provider (preferably both). For example, if W- wants to start a business, or if I resonate strongly with a friend’s idea, I might dig into it more deeply. But I’d still want to see if we could build a company without making the personal health or relationship sacrifices that you often hear about in entrepreneurship circles. I’d want people to still get good sleep and spend time with other people who are important to them.

So that’s how my Evil Plans might unfold…