Wednesday, November 19, 2014

A bad day


At the end of October I took a contract that, turned out to be a better fit for me than most of the work I have done for a long time.  On paper it was going to be three months at nearly full time.  As I am writing this in the mid afternoon of a weekday is evidence to the contrary.  The good news is it is not me.  There has been a slump in the demand for the service and as an expendable pawn I was first to go, typical.  This would sit better if the preceding weeks had came through on their promise of full time hours, but they have been hit or miss.

So once again being whipped around by the economy, leaves me in a mood.  Usually I write around these moods, I don't want to face them, or they suck the urge to write from me.  They go against how come off in public.  To publicly come across as bitter, angry, lonely or depressed is not how I choose to be seen.  I will be silent at home rather than be a burden at other people.  Yet they are common enough that they are part of my identity.

Today I am all those things.  The day began after another patchy night's sleep.  Worse, the day started with no goal, for me so much of what separates a good day from a bad is waking knowing what I am facing.  Or if waking with a few options a day can be ruined by simply failing to pick one, the rest is wasted waffling between choices.  So I awoke largely thinking fuck.  It was very nearly a productive day, I started cleaning, tossed out some odds and ends that cluttered my closet.  The energy fizzled.

A TV Show was watched while eating what would have to be the worst stew I ever cooked, made over the weekend with no plan or attention to detail. Despite getting some protein rich calories in me I still felt underwater.  That feeling you get when you have holding your breath too long and your body is screaming for you to come up for air, that feeling only in my brain.

It is the same impotent anger, at my life that I have seen time and again during periods of un and under employment.  It is worse now, because, I am running out options and ideas.  Commingled with frustration and capped of with anxiety.

Quite honestly I don't know how to get ahead.  Or right now stay where I am.  I want to work, I can work often I can be good at things.  Yet two steps into the process I clamp shut.  As I try to rewrite my resume or send off a soulless cover letter the rage kicks in.  Anger and anxiety at having to do it again, and again, and again.  Doing anything else is better than that.  I don't want to fail that way, but I don't know how to hold myself together while I do it.

Today saw me recycling those thoughts while lying immobile in bed.  A bed in an apartment I have not be properly able to afford since the EI ran out.  An apartment I feel trapped in, because I know moving can be expensive, and the prospect of giving notice only adds to this disabling cocktail of emotion.  

There is a reason why I call it an impotent anger.  It is anger at a life lacks the desired form, but I don't know how to get it bent back up.  It is the anger I have at dictionaries and spell checkers, to have and idea trapped in my head because I can't remember if the word starts with Th or D, and gods help me in trying to sort out the e's from the i's.

An ironic twist as to why I don't often write about these moods is that, as it turns out the catharsis of writing softens them, it can feel hypocritical to change tone halfway through.  Yet this alone is an important reminder, these moods are never permanent, and they can be managed and prevented.  The management is hard right now, underemployment does not cost any less time than the better alternatives.  And right now it is not wrong for me to unhappy about my life.  The trend of each job paying less than the one before somehow manages to continue.  Despite paying off my student loans, am struggling with the rest of my bills.

Once again I default to the conclusion I reached in the spring or summer, I have to move to get the costs down and manufacture some extra breathing room.  Breathing room where a lost work day does not leave me panicking about rent but simply reduces what I can do for fun.

Here then is what I want, a suite nearish to a skytrain line, in a pet friendly house.  Must have useable kitchen.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Better work


I have the day off, this is unexpected and largely unwelcome. However, it gives me a chance to write what I have been digesting for the last couple weeks.  At the end of October, after a month of scares work and excessive spending I took a contract with a office furniture company.  My agent at the temp office suggested it would be close to full time, the pay was better by just a bit than the last long gig.  This is still wages so low that if they were any much lower I might as well be paying to show up.

As work goes it is strait forward. I show up where they tell me to and I move things about.  The previous two days were spent disassembling a cubical farm.  It still remains unclear what you farm in cubicles. The running hypothesis is we are being corralled by dust mights as a food source, as the office is home to tens of thousand mammal days* of dust and dander.  Other variations include riding along with the delivery drivers to help load and unload the trucks.  All simple enough stuff, simple enough that my brain has a few cycles to spare and could almost work on writing projects.

The worse of this gig has been the variability in the hours, often I start around 7:30 or 8am, but have started as early as 6:30am and as late as 9:00am.  The 6:30 and 9:00am starts are the worst. The early starts at the warehouse nearly an hour away without a car. I enjoy an early start but at this cold dark time of year it is too much.  As for the ungodly late start time of 9:00am, I hate it for the simple reasons, I could have started something else by then, and it is very nearly time for my secondus. The late start leads to horrible situation, working past 4:30pm.
So I have a far from ideal job that, bounces my hours around, approximates full time, if and only if we don't get the work done too fast.  And yet this is the best work I have done in a long time, why. Because, despite continuing the trend of being a human forklift, I am not confined to a single setting and my role changes some with each day.  There are also things to learn, right now I am a grunt lacking tools and know how, but there are clearly far more things to learn than I saw at my last long running gig.  It is despite its physicality less demanding than the janitorial work I did in May, which still stands as the physically hardest work I have done.  The last thing about this work is that it is starting to remind me of the things I liked in my past work.

My career as a geologist was short.  We had a fundamental disagreement on lifestyle.  One element that I did enjoy was the site visits.  It is genuinely fun to change up where you work and have range of expectable unexpected.  What broke me was a mix of core logging drudgery and living in industrial accommodations.  Now doing site work around the city I find my self thinking, yes there might be more technical jobs around town I could do.  Not that I know what that might be or how to land one if I did.

I still can't afford my life as it is.  Paying off my student loans in the summer stopped the phone calls but did nothing to make life easier in any real sense.  The rent is too high for my crap income, I have very little faith in my ability to increase my income.  Moving was loosely planned to try to shave those costs down to something that would let me creep head in the money department.  The balance of having enough, time, energy, motivation, and money to make a move happen is a delicate one.  The problem is simply it takes a fair bit of money to move, to secure a deposit, acquire movers, and to the other things. Fearing I don't have enough I struggle to hold on to what I have creating the situation I dreaded.  That of treading water, just barely getting by, eroding any surplus when a small problem arises.

So I feel stuck, a little scared and angry at myself.  I knew I should have pushed in the summer to get out of here.  On those days where I am left alone in my head these thoughts build up.  As a habitually solitary creature I seldom get the chance to talk things out, I also dread the notion that I may need to ask favours of people, yet those are things that could help me get unstuck.  In place of talking to people I will write about it.

For a little good news, my cat is losing weight. She had gotten a little too spherical for her own health.

*Mammal day, the authors measure of millimetres of dust created by the average domestic mammal in a day.  Ideally used for describing the capacity of a vacuum cleaner.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Hello again.


I have not had a good connection with words lately.  The disciple has slipped, and the habit suffered from long hours and the challenges of self care.  So what has been happening that has kept me from writing.

Lets see, from June to the first week of October I was working 40 hours a week, spending at least 10 hours out of the house to get to and from work.  The nature of the work mattered as well.  For the majority of those hours on I was working on the floor of the warehouse, pulling orders.  This is as dull as it sounds, making rounds with a cart and a checklist harvesting the correct amounts of items.  It is a simple job but it is not fault tolerant, miss reading a 6 digit code could quickly lead to an upset client.  I still curse the R383-004, not once was able to say that code without first saying R838, there were  a lot more item numbers starting with 8 than 3.  That work existed at an annoying middle ground, neither a stimulating endeavour on its own nor so mindless that it freed up the processing cycles that make writing after hours possible.  And so the summer flew by in a state of stimulus.

It was a good summer, one of the few times where I found my brain and body had the resources to spare for regular weekend adventures.  Compared to my years fighting Mapinfo and losing, this work was a joy.  I did not come home with my jaw clenched, thirsty for a beer to loosen it like WD40 on a old nut.  Was I tried when I came home often but it was earned, and the trip home cleared much.

The trip home became its own ritual and reward.  The job site was on a bike trail that lead directly to the Lions Gate Bridge.  Cycling the bridge was not attempted till late July, it was scary at first.  The lane is wide enough, the railings are high enough but it is a long climb, and a long time was spent doubting if I had the energy to pull it off. In the end it became easy, the 15km trip from work to home took no longer than the other options.  Cycling, while fun and a great way to decompress after a workday does not afford the processing time needed for writing.  Perhaps in the right context it could but I spend too much time playing in traffic to live anywhere but the now.

Fast forwarding from July to October, the job that defined normal for 3 months, with its cast of characters, some of whom earned the dubious distinction of donating character traits to my fiction, ended.  This was not a surprise, the company's timeline was largely followed and the demand for extra labour ended at the expected time.  As a Temp worker a gig that long is something thats best savoured and defended, as me four months puts it at fourth or fifth place on the list of long lived jobs.
October started with a fun and mad family visit, and drifted into an uncomfortable and bitter spell of being deeply under employed.  Attempts at writing were briefly made during that time, they were short lived and bore no fruit. It is a bit of a shame I would have liked to have harnessed that mood.

Or perhaps not.  It was an impotent form of anger. Anger at the world and at my body for not being just so.  A temper tantrum at reality.  Frustration at my perennial difficulty of landing a stable job was chewing at me as the calls from the agency did not come.  Useless anger at my body for deciding I should spend a month feeling like I had a bag of rocks suspended in a water balloon where my gut should be.

Things are looking better now.  After a little gentle pressure I got my agent to find me a longer term gig. I have three months of work lined up if all goes well.  The pay is slightly better than North Vancouver job, perhaps I will start braking the trend of each job paying less than the last.  As a near first in my adult life I have a family physician, I don't exactly know what was driving those symptoms but we know enough not to panic.  For the sake of sanity I did not google said symptoms.

As it happened the initial visit to that Dr brought me to another good thing.  As I was leaving the office I took a moment to step on the scale that was parked on the floor, I had not weighed myself since May.  92kg, or just over 200lbs, a long term low, it has been at least 10 years since I have been near there, and inline with pre birthday goals I had.  In the late spring when it dawned on me I would be 35 in not too long, I knew I did not want to face it being fat and lazy.  The notion of recreating the body I had at 24 after a season doing soil sampling was pondered and rejected, as I could neither spend that much time in the gym or afford to eat that much.  The outcome of my current lifestyle is a pretty good substitute, and I am enjoying the feeling of being energetic and powerful.  Form the look of things this contract will only add to that trend, there is a lot of steel in the products I am handling.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

The +3 Socks of Adventuring


Any accounting of events is incomplete, so it was with my Nanaimo trip. A small detail limited the trip, shoes.  As things usually do it made sense at the time.  In mid July, my footwear options included nearly dead black leather boots, steel toed shoes, and sandals with shredded soles.  Something more seasonal in order, it was shopping time, and GST rebate time.  On a hot evening after work I went shopping.
Shoe shopping is an a distant second place after pants shopping for least favorite form of consumerism. Compared to pants there are more known shoe brands that fit, but this does not always translate into easy shopping. It took nearly three shops for me to find the right thing. In reality just two shops, I never set foot in the second shop I approached, their bike rack was so badly designed I could not lock up without risking damage, they did not get my business.

-1 Sandals of friction
So the footwear I ended up with was a snug slipper like bundle of synthetic material. It fit good, and after 10 hours on my feet I knew they would be more relaxed after a rest.  That my feet were soft and pink at time of perchance was largely ignored. They had been stewing in my work shoes.  The default assumption is that my feet are hard and calloused, that several months of stewing in hot shoes could negate that assumption never occurred to me.

On the Ocean, looking for Tenagra
Fast forward, a few days, I have confidently boarded a bus and a ferry while proudly wearing my Darmok and Jalad T-shirt and new shoes.

Shoes which logged at the best 8 km.  Shoes, which after three repacks of the luggage were decided to be the only foot coverings for the trip. Travel from my house to the ferry took a scant 8oom of walking.  The hike at the Nanaimo end was close to 6 km, in sweltering sun.  It was 3km into that hike that I concluded that my feet being soft and pink, was not just an artifact of being fresh off work. The snug fit of the sneaker like sandals and my copious perspiration made quick work of my pinky toes.

So I wince my way into downtown* Nanaimo, my toes bandaged up.  *Downtown Nanaimo, a place where my first thought was, where is the rest of it.  I knew better than to take untested shoes for big adventures, but on this occasion I failed at wisdom. It lead to buyers remorse, a state that took a little time to recover from. For my first evening in that town bandages were the best I could do, they kept my bits from getting mangled.  Socks would have been a good thing to pack.

It was just past nine, the next morning, I was on my way to wonder around Newcastle island. A large but poor quality breakfast, with half cooked hash browns gave me the option to take as long as I liked.  Walking the waterfront it became clear,that neither shortages of food or water would ruin the hike, a foot skin shortage would.  There was but one choice, double back to the economic centre of the city, the Dollarish* store.

*Dollarish stores are like Dollar stores but the prices are only near a Dollar or two or three, rather than at a dollar.

It turns out Dollarish stores, do sell socks.  A few rows of pegboard held the garments.  On the left the mens socks, thick, long, and in some cases argyle.  Now some people can pull of knee socks with sandals, those people might be German.  I can not even keep up knee socks, these were out of the question.  That left the lady's socks, which come in lengths other than long. There is nothing worse than a long socks falling down the leg because it has failed to cling to my calves.  Thus I selected a pair of lady's turn cuff socks, in an inoffensive grey, stopping short of the ankle.  

Once out of the shop I peeled off the foot abraders and slipped on the woven polyester membrane for instant relief. I could walk freely again, and I did, logging an estimated 9 km on my round about stroll on Newcastle island, and another 6 km that day alone.  My feet were still tender, and the damage had been done, but the erosion had been halted.

It said not to hike here, which is
why I only walked
Not much use has been made of the +3 Socks of Adventuring since I that trip. After things healed up a bit, my feet gained enough toughness to not need the aide.  One exception was made this week, they were packed for my hike up the BCMC trail on Grouse mountain. On this occasion the sandals did as instructed, say on and provide abrasion protection. The socks used their powers on the way down, saving the tops of toes from the pressure that comes with a steep descent.  The socks may add a few hit points but they don't add any stamina, as my legs are stiff from the doing of things.

Now I feel I have to restore some balance to my life.  Hiking up Grouse Mountain on a Sunday is such a terribly Vancouver thing to do, it almost feels unclean. Perhaps I should get some light beer and red meat.  Alternately could just give up and get the fixed gear bike to go with my totally not hipster tattoo, and the yoga mat to go with my healthyish lifestyle. While I make up my mind I will make some dinner, it might involve a cheese named Ashley.


Friday, August 1, 2014

These Gifts Three


 It was recently my 35th Birthday.  The first birthday in I in ages where I was not depressed.  For too long early July would roll around and I would list all things I had not done with that year or did not have yet. This year I broke the trend.  34 was a tough year, it through too many downs and too few ups. The cat crisis extended from her morning flight on July 30 2014, to into February when at last we were fully rid of the fleas. The adorable sweater manages the one long turn issue.  Unemployment and the slumps that went with that ran in parallel with the cat issues. So I was down but I started fighting to get up again.

Change was slow.  It took a long time to learn, I did not want to return to the corporate life I had been trying to live.  It was a dead end, I could not care for it, it made me miserable. Signing on to be a  Temp worker pawn saved my ass. After months of spinning my wheels applying for jobs I did not want, and would not get and work was a needed.  An alternative to flinging resumes into the internets like monkey's fecies was greatly welcome.  It has been grunt work, low paying grunt work. Work that gets me out in the world, work that lets me be good at something.  Most importantly it is work that can free me from my employment past.  Translating geology work into terms useful for civilian life has proven more difficult than I would have expected.  Right now it looks like I will have steady work into September. Full time, normal hours and more less sane working conditions and coworkers.

So I pondered this birthday, my small apartment and my cat and thought, we made it.  The Lady Baroness von Softpaws of Gallifrey, made it just barely.  The temp work slowly brought in enough hours to cover the needs.  We made it.  I still have my apartment, my cat and my health. The apartment will go soon enough, even though I can hold it, it takes too much of my pay to leave me piece of mind and room to play.  So in the spirit of of moving forward I gave myself three gifts.

The first a little trip, hastily planned, with imperfect execution, and bad timing.  A little journey was taken to Nanaimo to visit some friends. Who unfortunately were working the majority that weekend.
It was also the middle of a heat wave, so activity was limited. It was not a failure, fun was had, exploring happened when heat the hostel basement room I rented.  Newcastle island was the highlight. It would be wrong to dismiss the short but fun visit with Natasha and Christi, who I almost never see, it was good to laugh about the OUC days.

Friday, June 27, 2014

The new mid term plan.


I am starting to pull a new plan out of the wreckage of the last one.  The short version.  Cut the cost of living through a roommate, or shared accommodation. Continue the temp work.  Use the lowered cost of living to buy some writing days here and there. With a co-dweller cat care is improved. The kitty will have the chance for extra room and engagement. Also important with a roommate(s) cat care can be outsourced.  With the cat secure, money more available I can commence research on part two.

Part two.  Can I be happier in a different town. A few years back I was on the island, it was lovely.  I don't know if I want to live there, but I want to check out a handful of places and take their pulse.  I tire of living in places that don't feel enough like home and want to remedy that.  And gods damn it I am going to finish that first novel's first draft and then I am going to rewrite it with all the cool things I have thought about.

Vinets from the floor. Part one


Tomorrow is a novel writing day, so I have to burn off my blog posts now to free the brain cycles.

Part one Confessions of a mathtard.

I have never been good at arithmetic.  For reasons unclear to me I have staggered into adulthood needed a pen and paper for number crunching that many can fire off from the top of their heads.  Where this stems from is an open question, perhaps I could pin it on a unfound learning disability.  Or perhaps the time in grades 4 and 5 where I was in a special education group was when the rest of the class was learning those maths.  I also assume this time I spent out of the regular classroom is where the proper use of whom was explored, along with the correct uses of affect vs effect.  Lacking a time machine I can't say what it is I was not learning.

Certainly the time spent learning eye tracking must have taken some time away from regular studies, but at least I can read and don't have to bob my head like a pigeon to track an object, any more.  Thanks Father.   So somewhere along the way the rote learning and repeat grilling did not happen enough times to secure the knowledge and methods.  This is not to say I can not math, but that it fails me at the wrong times.

The scenario is repeated in many contexts.  A conversation goes quantitative. My attention wanders, the numbers are not registering with my brain as I await the conclusion.  Out of the blue the person who has been doing the computations asks me whats this number by this operator and the other number.  By the time I have secured the value of the first number and the identity of the operator I am receiving a look.  The look of why haven't I mathed yet. The moment that look hits me you will not get any math out of me.  I will be anxious about making mistakes, knowing full well that I often do.  My abacus goes limp under pressure.

For me math is a discrete thing. my brain does not like storing small things.  If caught of guard on a tired a day you will be lucky to get me to store the number without flipping the digits, to compute against a quality I can scarcely recall is near instant failure.  Math is also discrete in that if I have not been anticipating the doing of it, it will not engage.

On the subject of failing to retain small information packets.  Anyone who has ever spelled a word at me knows if I fail to start transcribing it before the second letter is announced I will not make it to the end without error.  If I am lucky the word will be learned as a series of keystrokes and I will not have to think about that.

Now back to the maths.  Enter the warehouse floor.  Much of my time is spent picking orders.  It is a task that suits me well, it is labour that rents my body and only a small part of my mind.  Sometimes I have time to think about what  The Object in my science fiction novel is.  Or how its existence drives the politics of the two main human political bodies.  Other times I have to zoom in on the finer details of the work, I am now much more comfortable remembering a 6 digit product number.  There is a zen to this.  Thanks to the isolation, stuff being shipped in dozens, and merchandise not always being in stock, I am mathing more.  Will this save me from being flummoxed by a request for a surprise computation, no.  But may be yes, I may just be learning.  I do know the narrow focus and the demands for retaining information make this job sit better in my mind than most work I have done.  It feels like I am rebuilding my attention span.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Lets bake Bread, the Leavening


For those of you baking along at home you should be here by now.
Peel off the cling film and with lightly floured knuckles punch the excess gases out of it.

Now we turn on the oven to 450F not C.  If your oven goes to 450c  you might want to take up metal work.

As the oven warms, prepare the loaf.  For this batch I am going to make two rustic loaves.  To make sure they come out even I weigh the dough on a scale.  It does not have be exact but being within a few tens of grams ensures consistency.  This dough came in at near 1100 grams, which will produce two medium sized loaves at 550 gram.  I have baked the whole round as one piece, but the I find it tricky to get the inside cooked without getting a dwarf bread like outer shell.

After you weigh out the dough, it is time to shape the bread.  I like to fold it in on itself a few times. Form the dough into a cylinder about 20 cm long. Run your thumb along the surface creating a deep groove, fold the bread in on itself.  Fold the ends in the same way repeat a few times.  This helps to remove any remaining excess gas.  If the dough is not to dry the suture will seal seamlessly.
One of two loaves, No I do not
bake them on this.

I like to roll it across a lightly floured counter a few times, it helps obliterate the seams.  If the ends start to get thicker then the middle, work inward from the ends rolling it under your hands.  For this I pinched the ends to give them a bit of a point. Honestly at this point you can experiment with the shape of the loaf.  But bear in mind that it affects baking time.

A lot of a peel
Once you have your bread shaped, cover it up and place it back in a warm spot while you wait for the oven to heat through.  I have yet to make this bread in a bread pan but I suspect it would have good results once you got the baking times sorted. I will be baking this on a pizza stone in the oven, something of a peasant loaf.  If you lack a baking stone, shame on you, place some cornmeal on a baking sheet and place the loaves on this to rise. I will be loading the oven with the aid of a wooden peel so the bread rise on a separate plates because the dough would stick to the peel which is the last thing you want.

Now that your oven is hot it is time for the blacker magic.
Steam.  To get both the maximum rise and a softer crust I load a pyrex pie plate with hot water on the the shelf below the bread.
Cut deep the stuff wants to expand

The baking instructions are as follows.
Place steam source in oven.
Load bread.  Bake for 15 min at 450.
Remove, with great caution the steamer.
Turn oven down to 400 bake for 25 or so minutes.  If you have doubt take the temperature of the bread.  The successful loaves were moist and cooked at internal temp of 200F. Seriously probing bread is worth it.

In retrospect this batch could have handled a little more flour, it was very soft at time of deployment.  For style I dusted the loaf before slashing it.  You want to cut it deeply, it is a very moist bread with lots of gas, it want to balloon.

Depending on the quirks of your oven, it would likely be a good idea to rotated the bread part way through the bake.  I know my oven runs hotter in the back, and sides of the breads that face each other brown less than the outward sides.
And after 15 min under steam at 450, and 23 min at 400 you have bread.  The internal temp reads 200, I don't know how well calibrated that probe. You can't hear it in the picture but the bread was crackling.

See that was easy.  Now I have to go for a walk, my house is hot now.

Lets Make Bread: Day two the rebreading

Greetings friends and hobbitess.

Sponge, after a good ferment.
Today we are going to finish baking bread.  For those of you baking along at home you may notice that I skipped over yesterday, I had too much going on and had no interest in firing up the oven late in the evening.  So I let the dough rest in the fridge.

If you have completed part one you should have a wet foamy mess that lives up to the name sponge.  We are now going to tricky part, turning this thing into a dough.

 To get there we will need, a large mixing bowl, rubber spatula or wooden spoon, 2ish cups of flour, a teaspoon of salt, elbow grease, and black magic.

To start, in a large mixing bowl mix together 1 and 1/2 cups flour with about a teaspoon salt. Pour the sponge into this.  As you mix the sponge with the flour be sure to cut up the bigger clumps so the flour mixes with all of the sponge not just lining the outside.  I forget what the pink thing is called but it is basically a knife made out of silicon rubber and is perfect for this job.

Add a little flour as you go, you are trying to work for a runny batter to a shaggy dough.  Near the point where the dough has absorbed about 2 cups stirring in the bowl will become impractical and kneading will be needed.
Slightly kneaded

Kneading, the black magic part.
Sprinkle a generous handful of flour on your work surface,  extract the dough from the bowl, scrape as much of the dough out of the bowl as you can.

The basic motion of kneading is a push, turn, fold.  With the heel of your hand push the dough away from you stretching it. Turn it a 90 degrees, fold the dough back in on itself and repeat, for the next 8 to 10 minutes.   Because this dough starts of very wet, don't be scared to add more flour.  You want the final dough to be smooth and elastic. and slightly tacky to the touch.  Like mostly dry varnish.

Read to rise. 
 It is hard to explain exactly when to stop kneading.  The best advice I have is stop a little time after you start feeling the dough resist your efforts.  As you work it the dough will be come springy and it will push back more as you try to stretch it you really want this.  How long it will take you to reach that point.

At this point you want to be careful about not adding extra flour or over working it too much.  You want the final dough to be moist enough to heal when you shape it into the final loaf shapes.  Otherwise it will split wide open and that just don't look great.

Now that you have a smooth, ball of dough, its time to proof it.  I keep a large ceramic salad bowl in the cupboard above the fridge for this.  The thick clay retains the warmth giving the yeast a stable home.  

Just line the dough with a tablespoon of vegetable or olive oil, cover the with cling film and put it in a warm spot.  For me that is the spot above the fridge. Avoid places with drafts. Now go watch a movie or read a book.  It should take about hour to rise.

If you really want to make use of this time, run down to your local kitchen shop and get a peel and a pizza stone, you'll thank me later.

Come back for part three.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Lets Bake Bread; Day one.

Greetings friends and fellow hobbits.
Over the next two days we are going to make bread.
A handful of my friends and family have sampled this recipe and found it taste , as have I.  This recipe is the product of close to two months of tinkering. A side effect of evening shift, I got bored before work.  I could have googled a recipe using the things I had, but I wanted to create something from  principles, and get it right through trial and error.

Errors there were.  The first batch was grossly under baked, but hinted at the potential, the second batch had too much whole wheat , it was also under baked.  The third batch was way too salty, the fourth or was it the fifth batch had no salt. The bugs got worked out, notes were made, variables isolated and consistency improved. So now after several successful runs I want to share.

This bread uses the sponge method.  In this method the bread starts as a near 50/50 flour water mix with yeast.  This soggy batter is left overnight to ferment, building flavours that are otherwise under developed.  Don't worry that the stuff in the jug looks nothing like bread dough, we'll fix that tomorrow.

Sponge Recipe.
2 Cups all purpose flour.

2 cups flour, 1/4 oats
1/4 oatmeal or mixed cereals.
I use a Rogers brand Porridge oats. This has oats, wheat bran, and flax seed.  I hated the stuff as a cereal but as a shortcut to multi grain bread it is perfect. I have tried using a little more but I found too much starts to mess with texture of the final product.

Warm Yeasty water
Not as good as beer.
7 ish gram yeast
7 grams yeast or one packet.  I am blessed with access to fresh baker's yeast, but Dry or active yeast would do just as well.  Fresh yeast is reputed to provide a better flavour but with the time you are giving the bread it will all balance out.  If your yeast has instructions consider following them.

2 Cups warm water, body temperature-ish.  You want to wake up the yeast and get it off to a good start.

Mix well
In a large nonmetallic vessel mix the dry ingredients together.  I have found a 4 litre plastic jug very handy, it gives the yeast lots of room to rise and I can pour it out easy for the next step.
You will want a large container for this as the stuff is quite vigorous and will try to make a break for freedom.  3 litre would be the safe minimum to contain.

In a separate container stir the yeast into the warm water.  Let it sit for a few, until it gets a little frothy.  When you are confident that the yeast has awoken add it to the flour.  Mix the whole lot up real good, be sure to use a wooden spoon or rubber spatula as yeast is not fond of metals. Yeast's fondness for the music genres of Metal is unknown to me.  Cover securely and place in a dark cool cupboard.

Put away and walk away. 
A note on long ferments.  Normally I let my breads rise in a overly warm cupboard above the fridge, not this one.  The sponge will ferment for 8 to 10 hours depending on when you get around to making the bread, high temperatures are not needed to keep the yeast alive. The readings I have done suggest cooler temperatures and longer time frames will produce better flavors.

I have tried both fermenting overnight at room temperature, and in the fridge, both batches produced good loaves.

My advice is, if your house is warm, or you just don't like the idea of it sitting out all night put it in the fridge.  But leave it out for a few hours to give the yeast strong start.  If you do refrigerate it be sure to let it warm up to room temperature before working it into the final dough.  Half an hour a least before working it.

Tomorrow we rise again, and then once more for good measure, before getting hot and steamy.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

I'm doing better.


May was a hard month.  I took a gig that became some of the hardest work I have done.  It was an evening shift doing janitorial. The hours 4pm to 11, go go go the whole time.  I lost half a pant size doing that.  The pay was a pittance.  Had I been feeling any more established with the temp agency I suspect I would have turned it down.

It should be no surprise that those hours were punishing on my body.  There was no way for me to get sleep at the correct hours of the night, to make the 6.5 to 7 hours I need to function I had to sleep till nearly 9am.  A state of affairs that left me groggy, and feeling that the day was wasted even before its started.  The start time at 4 pm had two problems.  No amount of spare time in the day preceding work felt free, the clock was always being watched. So I never took to doing any thing productive.  Writing was seldom a viable option.  Between the feeling of being poorly rested and the watching the clock I failed to be productive, excuses.

The second trouble with starting work at 4pm was, well that is when I start getting seriously hungry for my evening meal.  The first half of the shift was spent in a state of being punchy.  With the work being so physical it was difficult to eat enough, I nearly resigned myself to being hungry all the time.

So May was spent with my feet hurting, my temper short and my stomach underfilled, pushing water up hill to try to make the rent.  But rent I did make.  So the impending doom of the months end was met with relief when the rent cheque cleared.  I made it I squeaked by, but I earned the rent the hard way.  With that real victory my brain started to open up.

The skeleton of a plan I have for this phase of life is, get by.  Get by and write.  Only after proving getting by is possible can I set aside the over sized patch of brain that worried and let in the creative.

I have been blessed these last two weeks, my work is normal hours, at better rate, the job neither punishes my body or my brain. To know June will go better than May and to find the brain power to reenter the sprawling worlds of my novel feels great.   The scary thing has to be faced, that to write at the richness the worlds deserve requires me to go a little extra crazy.  To write the novel with the feels I need requires me to visit memories and moods that leave me on edge.  But right now I have the room in my mind to start playing with it again.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

The apartment.

Two years ago I moved into an apartment, after a year and half in a basement suite it was good to get ground, or at least level with it. Benefits included; a large and stable supply of hot water, living room, and it was pet friendly.  I would have taken it if pets were band.

It did not take long for the age the unit to come to light, in what little light there was.   Despite being south facing the cedars and cypress trees block the light. From May to September it is gloomy in here as the sun is too high the sky sky to slip under the tree branches.  There is no view to speak of as I look out on to what is now an empty lot, formerly a once nice duplex which decayed into a squat.  What I lack in light and view is made up in sound.

The northern stretch of Victoria drive, despite looking like a quiet residential street is something of a thoroughfare.  Squeezed between the popular Commercial Drive and the well engineered Nanaimo street Victoria Drive takes more traffic than is good for it.  These traffic volumes are at odds with the large number of parks and school zones along it.  I more than a thousand words worth of opinion about Victoria drive, and add a few more expletives every time I cycle down it.

 The short version is I am treated to an endless supply of engine noises.  The worst offenders are growl of small diesel trucks, and the occasional honk and squeal of brakes from near misses.  This is at it turns out a poor substitute for a view.
So rather than aiding in unwinding like nearly any portal to the outside world my windows and doors let in irritation.  A situation that leads to the home being stuffy and hot in high summer because my cat will try to escape if the window is too far open, and being ground floor makes keeping the patio door open too large a risk.  
The list of things that are wrong, have gone wrong, or are meh, is long.   The carpet a truly ancient drab gray that should have been replaced two tenants ago. The linoleum in the kitchen peeling at the edges. Duck tape in the deep recesses slowly losing its ability to hold things together. The building making the floor uneven. The kitchen is tiny. Even after my cat lost a foot of her tail, can not swing her in that small a space. Note never have I considered or tried to swing my cat or any other cat, least of all by their tail.

With such a case of buyer's remorse it could almost come as a surprise that I have stayed put as long as have.  Indeed moving was on my mind as my lease near the one year mark last year, but the layoff came first, I hunkered down and bide my time. Had my job continued I likely would have done some apartment hunting last summer.  Now precariously employed in temp work I know I can't hold the place without living in a state of near poverty at the same time.  If I want to reliably do anything fun, replace anything worn out, enjoy even a short trip out of town, I need to drive that cost down.

So as of right now I am seriously considering including my one month notice with my June rent. And then some how finding an affordable pet friendly suite or gods forbid becoming someone's roommate.  This prospect frightens me.  The moment I give that notice, I enter a near panic about trying to find a place, the haste has lead to inferior choices. But an empty fridge and bills tell me it is the right thing to do.

Wanted accommodations for a polite crazy catman and his cat.  

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

How a Hobbit takes a road trip.


An opportunity came up for me to get out of Vancouver.  It was taken with some trepidation, for the simple reason that the plan had some clear holes in it.  Good time allowed me to avoid the most chaotic parts of the enterprise.  The result I drove a moderately sized car from Vancouver to Merritt, unloaded a massively over sized U-Haul in Nakusp and squeezed in a terribly brief visit with the folks.

This post is not about the trek, but about uncertainty.  As a self described hobbit I like things to stay much the same day after day, and like Samwise Gamgee, I am fond of my food.  Knowing that the trip, on a good day, with a focused driver in a moderately speedy car is an optimistic 8 hours, and knowing that lumbering brick from U-Haul was about as likely to set a land speed record as a snail, I planned for a long day.  By planning for a long day I mean I packed food.  Because, driving takes concentration, I can't concentrate when hungry, and I don't believe others can either, so I packed extra food.

In all honesty I will likely pack food if I plan on not being back in the house in three hours.  Three hours is about the time after my last meal that I start to notice the decline in, attention, short term memory and mood.  So I try to plan for that.  The flip side is when I lack the funds to eat out or the resource to pack a picnic I become less adventurous.

Now as it happened was passing through a bread baking phase, which has slowed down, in part because of work and because it is simply too warm out to run the oven regularly.  Blessed with a few extra days off before the trip, I made bread, honestly I was bored and had a new cookbook.  The bread was not made expressly for the trip, but the timing worked out well.  The bread made was a Sicilian Scroll*, a hearty dense loaf made with semolina giving it a rich yellow colour.  Much to my surprise and pleasure it kept well enough to be enjoyable on Wednesday, despite being baked on the Monday.

*Recipe linked to is not from the book I used but is close enough.

It was dropped on its head when it left the
But man and hobbit a like can not live on bread alone, so the work did not stop there.  No, it takes more than one loaf to make me feel secure.  No, before I left, I packed a cooler sack with, prosciutto cotto, pickled artichoke hearts, mixed olives, apples, and soft goat cheese.  This would have been better had I packed a cutting board as it proved impossible to cut the bread with the pocket knife I had packed, but the bread lost nothing by being ripped to shreds.

As the day before the trip wound down I took stock, a few apples some bread, cheese and meat, along with things in jars.  I concluded it would not be enough. It was clear that the food lacked one key feature, it required some assembly.  The hours I would spend driving would take me past secondus, into elevenses and beyond, a hands free snack would be needed to extend my utility.  Enter cookies.

 Oatmeal raisin, modified after the Better Homes and Gardens cook book recipe.
The modifications to the recipe included a minor reduction in the sugar, dark chocolate chunks, dried cranberries, and walnuts.  I regret not having the orange zest used in making a previous batch, and found them a little too dry to be perfect.  A shortage of butter lead to making them entirely with shortening, not my preferred method but will do in a pinch.  Only after bagging the batch of cookies, such that both vehicles in our mad convoy could be confidently stocked with snacks did I feel I had enough.

Older than you and has been more places
than you. 
Only after a heavy breakfast of the bread and egg with enough strong coffee to kick start a zombie, did I leave the house.  When I did so left with a ancient backpack filled food water, and a sweater, and all the other things your mother tells you to pack.

The drive from Vancouver to Merritt, was uneventful, both human passengers and the three cats fell asleep somewhere past Hope.  The cookies were nibbled on along the way.  After Merritt I took the copilot seat in the stupid massive van, which had the fuel economy half that of a 1950's land yacht.  Leading to a gas stop in Lumbey.  After the driver discovered there was nothing fit for human consumption in the gas station, I pulled out goodies, and there was much rejoicing.

In the 20 km long fly speck of a community called Cherryville, a snack break was planned.  The plan fell through when it turned out that a cafe perched at the edge of the mountains, dependant on tourist traffic, was not going to be open for another week.  Faced with the threat of friends driving the most treacherous part of the route hungry, food was offered, eaten, and there was much rejoicing.  I can be a bit immodest around my foods, especially breads, but it would be fair to say that a good feeding on the last leg of the trip improved the mood all around.

It was never my plan to feed everyone, but when it comes to food security, the best way to have enough is to have more. You pack enough to share, not because sharing is the plan but because if you have to share you still have enough. My food was secure.  Points to my sister for the phrasing, which I have garbled.

Its funny how a selfish act can become selfless.  Its not to say I did not enjoy feeding my friends, of course I do, but on that trip it was a backup plan.

One of about four tall rats.

After a short supper with the folks, I sat on the front half of yard, enjoying the too many stars and loud nature.  My presence was noticed by a local deer, who huffed at me from the edge of the woods.  In the morning I saw the tree cull and it was good. This trip was the first one in years where I was there in time for the pond to be watered, there was a solitary mallard drake, who when started flew into the trees, and in fact into a tree, bushing against a top as he failed to climb.  It was a good little trip.
Sort of a pond

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Techies go home.


For the last three weeks I have done janitorial work in a borg cube of a building down town.  The unnamed company is known, or rather I was informed once years ago, for its being a good place to work.  The word innovative may have been used. I see a cubicle farm, a pretty cubicle farm but cubes nonetheless.  In one wing a gym, in another a games room, with a pool table, table tennis and a few other toys.
It is possible to buy stuff from the vending machines with a quarter, like its somewhen in the 20th century.  The office screams of perks.

This hobbit is a bit cynical, and this hobbit distrusts the cult of long hours.  I see a workspace that is trying to be welcoming, and wonder if that is a ploy to keep the pawns in the office longer to get more work out of them.  The circus is on display, the toys, the gym, and countless little details, but I don't know if they are offered bread to go with it.  This hobbit hopes that the symbolic bread of good wages, benefits, and job security come with those perks.  Because, it does not take a rocket scientist to figure out that those perks are barely a drop in the ocean cost wise when compared to what it takes to fund a fair package.

As a person who has never worked in a large company, or any place with an apparent office culture I don't get the lingering about.  Quitting time matters to me, you get out, you don't linger.  Life happens off of the work site.  The blurred boundary this borg cube offers does not sit well with me.  Perhaps it is an IT thing, an export of the Silicon Valley culture, a world where the early leaders have been described by people with an intro psych textbook as being on the aspergers spectrum, but living the job is not for everyone.  Yet creating that friendly space seems to suggest steering people to that.

To the techies, I say, check if there is bread with the circus.  Don't give away your time because the office is cozy, go home, live your life, not every problem can be solved with long hours.  But these are the words of an under informed home body.  There has never been a job site that I wanted to linger at, and I have felt unclean going into the office on a weekend to get my phone.

Perhaps it is my resistance to joining the cult of long hours that has lead me to cleaning offices not unlike ones I recently worked in but I stand by the belief that the work is the means not the ends.  This is part of why I never felt at home in geology, the job as the life was the expectation.  Now I feel my sympathies are towards the working class.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Tune in or tune out


The question of why I hate the labour jobs less than I thought I would, and why I hated my office job far more than I ever expected has been running through my brain.  A tentative answer trickled through my brain yesterday as I was baking.

The problem is one of inputs.  Unless the subject in front of me is very engaging I will be quickly distracted. Office work, and the fine detailed but uninteresting work I did there did not hold my attention.  Failing to be enthralled lead to every distraction being more interesting that the job itself.  This is ignoring the fact that the job was also full of overly short micro tasks that I had not regimented into a manageable whole.

In the office setting I failed to tune out enough things to stay on track.  That is a normal failing of mine.  It is only a failing in the setting.  Yesterday I found myself working on three distinct breads at once, each with overlapping rising times and competing for the limited proofing and oven space in my house.  It was in juggling that small amount of regimented distraction that lead me to this.

Tuning out things is hard for me.  Tuning in on a few is easier.  And that is what I am getting out of the grunt work.  A distraction or a glance in the other direction reminds me of what I need to be doing next, or if I should be dodging out of the way of a speeding forklift.

So I enjoy a moderately busy environment, too busy and the poor input filters get overwhelmed and I flounder in overload based indecision.  So a job where being tuned in is a feature not a bug, and the task range is finite but not too fixed is something that at the moment makes me if not happy at least not miserable.  This frames better what I might want from a longer term job even if it does little to narrow down the scope.

Thursday, April 17, 2014



This is my second attempt at writing this.  The plan to write about the work sits in my head but I have cycled between busy and tired without finding the time to compose. The writing has also been hampered by the fact it always felt too soon. Now is a good time for one reason alone. I found time to think. It is near enough midnight as not to matter, I have not showered yet, and I am fighting The Lady Baroness for control of the keyboard, but it is a good time to write.  

Its funny, I would not disagree with the accusation that I am a socially awkward, seemingly intellectual person, certainly I try to dress the part of intellectual, yet this identity has had little to no bearing on the work I have ended up doing.  No, appearances aside, most of my work has been in hard places often with hard people.  I tried changing that up once, worming my way into an office job, turns out to be a miss match. 

A bit of an detour is needed here.  Working again has gotten me thinking about my previous job.  The one where I tried to punch MapInfo into submission.  I was not happy there, for many reasons.  Key among them, working in visual medium is not something I have practice or skill for.  But at an even more basic level it was hard because, as it turns out, keeping a tight focus while glued to a desk all day is far harder for me than I could have expected.  A couple other things that should I ever digest them more fully will warrant their own essays, also added to my non adaptation to office life. 

Offices have a culture of what feels like to of enforced politeness. It can be understood why this, but I don't fit in it.  My brain's output filter is a little on the coarse size, but that was less a problem than the input filter. Too much politeness becomes ambiguity.  Knowing what is not being said, is a skill that remains under developed.  

While potentially ambiguous interactions may leave me wondering if offence was caused, they come in second to my troubles with ambiguus work.  As said, I had one office job, working in a media I had limited experience, often unclear outcomes.  It was forever a guess for me if the project was ready.  Hours could be spent on one set of details at the expense others.  The cycle of missed details and resulting revision repeated too often for everyones tasted.  A cycled made worse by a tool that at times was as likely to eat my progress as to allow me to adjust things.  It was a couple years of practicing the ancient Dutch tradition of pushing water uphill. 

That cycle, those tools, and the real possibility that some people on the team were not really nice, made it a tiring period. Coming home with aching jaw and a head full of unresolved, but not particularly interesting problems was common. All this under the fear that gold would tank and I would again be made expendable.   All while telling myself and others I want this, and am enjoying this. 

It is in that light that I think about the jobs I am doing now.  None of the work I have been assigned I would want to do as a full time gig, but I can in retrospect say the same about all the jobs that were part of what I thought was my career.  The work, has fallen into two main clumps.  Warehouse, shipping and receiving and janitorial.  The cleaning job work is by far the toughest.  

The jobs are hard, but they have a wonder finality to them.  The day ends, the work is forgettable, my body may ache but my brain doesn't, most of the time.  Admittedly the evening shift 4 to 11pm is harsh, and the job even more so.  No single part of the job is all that hard, but to fit them all in the scope of the evening it is go go go.  Not since the Rabbit lake job have I had to maintain a fast pace as consistently.  

For a baltering thermalphoeb such as myself the working conditions are extra tough.  Trying to work in a coordinated manner in a overly warm office is trying.  But I do, by mid shift I am so heated through that it takes half my break to feel like I am no longer glowing from the endless movement.  Thats the thing endless movement.  Physical labour is nothing new to me, but on nearly every other job there are chances for breaks and pauses in activity, outside of a restaurant rush, I can't recall maintaining pacing like this. Yet there is camaraderie, the work does get done even if sometimes my new guy slack needs to be pulled in.  In the end it would seem that for now being a grunt makes me happier than wrestling MapInfo, or looking at rocks.  

The notion of getting a real job, and regaining stability still holds water, but the range of things I might yet do is not narrowed down yet. 



Tuesday, April 8, 2014

An Open Letter Cambie Road Richmond and its drivers.

Or how to avoid a shouty angry cyclist.
Repeatedly I have been called to a site about 5km down Cambie road in Richmond, just down the street from the IKEA that I am not shopping at is.  The job is tolerably mundane, but not the subject of todays opinion.  On paper the site can be reached by transit alone. Indeed on my second day there after a klutz induced flat I did just that.  However I live far enough away from reliable buses that a bike makes a logical part of my commute.

Rest assured this hobbit is not going to start bragging about his 20 mile commute uphill both ways in the snow.  No, I ride to Broadway station and take the train south to Aberdeen.  That places me on Cambie road and a nearly straight shot from my work site on nearly flat ground, not a bad condition for riding.  And yet I find I turn into a shouty cyclist.

Richmond, I know as a someone on a bike on a road I am potentially a new, scary, and oddly slow vehicle, but I am legally allowed to be there.  Richmond, you are generously paved and blessed with long lines of sight something that factors greatly into how I view your handling of my presence on your roads.  For context I live in East Vancouver, on Victoria drive, it is narrow with parking and hilly.  Cambie road is none of those things.

The length of Cambie Rd. I ride is four laned, the only hills are the over passes.  The lanes  are near as wide as some streets near my apartment.  The line of sight often nearly 1km or even nearer 2.  During the off peak hours I ride, if I am working early I am on the road at 6:30am, there can be many hundreds of meters between vehicles.  It is in this context I will ask you nicely please move fully into the other lane to pass me.

You have two generous lanes, of good clean pavement, in the morning, you have a great deal of lead time, you have no good excuse. And I mean all the way into the other lane.  Its not hard, mirror, signal, shoulder check, repeat, once done I will be nicely behind you.  If you do this I will polity just keep moving.

Now I don't want to have to use my outside voice on you so here are a few things to remember to avoid that.  The bike is wider than its one inch wide tires, act like it.  Slipping half way out of the lane is just sloppy and I will judge you, and harshly, you have two wide ones. Passing me without even leaving our shared lane makes me angry.  I will shout at you.  Also Signal.

Lastly don't act so surprised.  I have lights, often a reflective jacket, I am clearly in the lane.  Learn to watch for bikes, they are not going anywhere and watching for them rather than acting all shocked when one that has been in front of you for a mile is at last on your bumper will save you some property damage and a cyclists life.

So if you don't want angry shouty cyclists, signal, give plenty of room, and learn to see us.

Monday, April 7, 2014


My mother requested I write this.

After both a delay in starting the process and similar length delay in results I have started doing Temp work.  After a month on one agency's roster, I got called in on a warehouse gig on short notice, after a couple weeks of moderately steady work I have a few more thoughts on the subject.  It was suggested that I should write about how different this work is, from what I had done, the striking thing has been how different it is not.

Early Train to Richmond. 
As it turns out the office that started three years ago was the outlier.  Jobs in rough places with rough people have been more my style than not.  The majority of the gigs I have been assigned to have been in warehouses, a setting not unlike where I spent much of my time in geology.  Industrial spaces with concrete floors, corrugated steel shipping boxes and people who's most frequent word is FUCK.  As was the case when I worked geology I move awkward boxes from one pile to the other.   I do skip the part where I break open the box and take sciency measurements of the contents, a process I don't miss. Nor do I miss the weight and dimensions of standard NQ Core Box. The NQ sized core box is 5 feet long, 1 foot wide and can contain between 30 and 70 pounds of rock. As an added bonus they are made of plywood, and are often greasy and or wet.  So after a few years of shlepping those at any thing from -35 to +30 degrees a simple cardboard box is a near pleasure.

In the coarse of three weeks I have worked for, a clothing distribution warehouse, a garden centre, a restaurant supply warehouse, a large scale shipping centre, and the aquarium.  Four of the five followed the pattern of take boxes out of trucks stack on the correct pallet, repeat.  The aquarium gig was a job of making sure things were not sticky.  These jobs are united in their need for the people doing them to have the same basic qualities, bipedalism, arms, and semiliteracy.  Clearly I am bringing enough of those to the table because more than one place has asked for me back, even if I have only had repeat gigs at one place.  In doing these things I rediscovered the things I learned when I was not looking.

Years ago during another period of unemployment, in the gap years when I fell out of university I did a day job in a garage door facility.  It involved you guessed it moving things from one pile to another.  This was before I had worked in a kitchen, and years before I would work in the field, back then I had hardly worked before.  On that job it was hard for me to stay out of harms way, let alone be productive.  Now things are different, I am not 20 any more.

Its sneaky, you spend years working in out of the way places doing jobs that demand specialized knowledge and occasionally helicopters, and while you may be planing to learn about the rock of the area, the helicopter is ready to teach you a few things too.  I have forgotten too much about rocks but much of what I learned around helicopters, drills, and other big moving bits of metal has stuck with me.  The intangible skill of situational awareness, it was learned, when I doing other things.  Scraps of bush craft, the skill of pacing yourself, listening for the machines you want to avoid, these are the the things I learned when I was out.   So now I find myself in warehouses, a setting I have never worked in before and while I may not know how any one place works, I have a solid idea of what to watch for.

A few other notes. I never got the rhythm of office work.  The environment was new to me, I have still to learn what to watch for.  The current batch of labour jobs are delightful because they don't follow me home.  Between the jobs and the pool I am slowly getting back into shape.  I am enjoying the access to feed back that working with the agency is providing.  It is prompt and clear.  As an alternative to wondering and assuming the worst it is a grand improvement over several jobs I have held.

As it stands for a mix of reasons I would be unlikely to take, or apply for a full time work with any of the places I have contracted with.  The best reason I will give here is I hope to try more things out before settling. It is also worth noting that upon closer retrospection not every one I have worked with was particularly nice, and I could find a crew I mesh better with.  Lastly I am not yet of the habit of making the best use of my down time.

I really should be writing in the mornings.  There is a window between 7am and 10am when I am up, and the agency is unlikely to call me.  Currently this time has been wasted. It has taken two weeks to get this entry started and it feels incomplete.  But I have  been working, and with that gaining some new vision.  If nothing else I will need to bring in some new money, I am almost finished breaking the vertical blinds in the living room and want to get a budget drape for a replacement.

A sunny friday afternoon. 

Thursday, March 20, 2014

My Brain Has Fleas: Update

Back in the beginning of year I was losing sleep and sanity over the uncertain state of the efficacy of the flea treatment. I described this in My Brain Has Fleas.  Not with out reason, the first application at the hospital was not properly followed up with by me, and the house was contaminated.  Frequent cleaning with a better vacuum improved my state of mind.  Now that I am two months past the last treatment, I can report no behaviour or material evidence.  Some doubts still linger and I do watch how intensely or frequently The Baroness scratches any specific point.

Because of the lifecycle of the fleas and the repeated cleanings I think I have gotten rid of them for good. Since I am talking about my cat. Here are some pictures.

The Lady, Baroness von Softpaws of Gallifrey, wants something.


Thursday, March 13, 2014

A small update.


After yesterdays rather pathetic post I am of the opinion that I should do something rather than just whine.  As it happens I have been sitting on a cycling related project that both would benefit from other people partaking in it and exceeds my standalone ability to execute. So in an effort to see which wheels have already been invented I called up a cycling organization.  The plan is to go to the meeting next week and just see what is going on.  I am confident that they are interested in solving many of the same problems I am.

So here is me kicking myself in the ass. A bit. And here is to The Hub.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Notes from a bad day.


This should have been written yesterday.  Yesterday this stewed, adding to the thick and bitter broth that is my brain during such times.  Scribbled in a handful of note books, or rattling around in my head are countless  of the bitter sentiments expressed here.  It neither satisfies me nor interests you for me to repeat that, yet some of that will happen today.

I always knew I would be bad at the rat race.  Ambition does not come naturally to me.  What I did not expect was to be as bad at it as I am.  The one year anniversary of my lay off is around 6 weeks away.  I am now entering black mark territory, that is, the duration of my unemployment is looking worse and worse to anyone who may read my resume.  A more careful reading brings out the troubling truth that this episode is not alone.  Just for extra flavour the interlude between BCIT and my last long term post is dotted brief positions that raise questions about my reliability.

A resume can not convey the fact that I had enough.  I tried to get back into field work and core logging, the money was good, but at the end of the day it breaks me.  When the bitter only centred on work I had out grown because the lifestyle could not work for me, I could tolerate it.  Now I work at corralling it enough to function.  The mood gets fuelled through two distantly connected channels, and builds on my weak spots.

At one end, my media is a steady stream of environmentally minded and or leftist reading.  Constant reminders of the distal causes of my sporadic employment, and of the environmental crises we are in the middle of exasperating.  But you know what I read, Facebook makes sure of that,  too much of what passes through my brain starts from there.

The trouble has been I have felt burnt out from the beginning.  I have only had a handful jobs only three of those have lasted longer than two years, at the most two and half years.  I have looked for work too many times, it has not gotten easier.  I want to work, but I start to cease up when I start looking.  Being tired and burned out should be my mood at the end of a productive day not at the start of an unproductive one.  Yet today like yesterday I have wandered around getting far too little done and collapsing on the couch too early in the day.

I don't want to live like this. I don't know how to escape this.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Monday, March 3, 2014

Yes 3am there really is an Alexander.

This is not a real post.  Go here for a real post. Its not by me but it will make your day better.

Sleep did not come to me till near 3am.  When I am not certain, but there is a feeling of brain pain that only comes with less than 4 hours of rest.  A few things came to make that so.  Foolishly on my last big shop I picked up a 24 of generic cola, of which I drank a few in the evening because they tasted good.  The book I switched back to did nothing aide my rest.  I will have more to say on that in the next post, one that will require much revision and careful thought.

As has become my habit, as it often works I put down the book before I am too tired to read any more, it is still too easy to well past my bed time.  I failed at unwinding and going to sleep.  I was at the tail end of a cold, at last breathing freely enough for it to not fuck with my sleep much.  But my sheets were due for a change and my backup set was also dirty.  By the time I had put the book down it was well past when I should have been a sleep, and the gears were still turning.

My world view on a bad day. 

So in tangled sheets, caffeinated in dark I start thinking.  This can't end well.  Most of the thoughts have been articulated in this blog over the last year.  Boiling down to, I am still unemployed, I have a shameful lack of vision and ambition, and this is not the first time I have been unemployed for a overly long time  That last one is the worst.  The fact that I have never been anything but expendable and have failed so far to to become indispensable drives much of the bitterness, anger, and hopelessness that I have right now.   It makes me want to play a different game than wage earning serfhood.

This all of course degenerates into a feedback loop that does a mighty good job of getting to cry into my pillow while hiding under the covers, sometimes this even happens at night.  So what should have been good nights sleep leading to planning the week, turned into insomnia.  And just for extra fun my gut joined the party.  This at least was not personal, in response to my cold my main meal for several days running was variations on spicy noodle soup.  Thankfully at least one of my problems had a clear and immediately applicable solution.  My appeasing my plumbing unstuck my crap mood.  The rest of the journey to 3am was accomplished by reading too much.  Which lead me to thinking about writing about what I was reading.

I kept my 6:30 alarm set.  I did not get up till 7.  Vacuuming, much needed after a weekend sick on the couch, happened as the water for the coffee heated up.  This has been written while I wait for the laundry, in dress slacks because anything casual was in the wash.  I may yet crash today, but I don't want to fail first thing.  I tell myself that any day can be a good day and that any day can be salvaged into something productive.  I don't live by this often enough but there is still enough drive in me to want to.

And lastly I wrote this for me. For two reasons, one to be honest to myself about the bad days. Secondly to keep today from being a bad day.  Though it cost time to write this, having done so washed my mind of the worst of the anxiety and general crappitude I started the day with.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Here, approximately


I can no longer look at the following document and judge it with any objectivity. It has been tweaked too many times.  The goal of translating what I have done into something that convinces people I could do things for them, for pay, is a tricky one.  Not documented below are some of the less practical skills, such as; efficiently breaking rock with a hammer, accurately eyeballing the sizes of things ranging in size from

So here then is my resume. Formatting adjusted for the blog. 

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Planning for Randomness


I have railed against my past jobs many a time here. Those complaints hold true for the reasons given.  My last job was the product of the singly clearest, and deliberate plan, I had. Yet it lead to me being bored and frustrated. That failure has continued to dig into my confidence.  At the beginning of my unemployment and periodically since this has cause doubt. While it is reassuring to know I can produce a logical and technically successful plan it's failure to provide satisfaction is disheartening. So despite the technical success of the plan serious doubts about my ability to produce a better one have developed.  In the end I am left with the question of how do I get from here to there, without a clear notion of what either point is.

The from here to there question has proven tough to answer.  That the There in this question is uncertain and this is a good thing.  The Here is uncertain and this has created stress.  It is more of a language problem than a lack of skills or education on my end. To clarify the mishmash of things I have done while trying to do geology into a resume that gets interviews for jobs far removed from it is not a easy task.  However, I have a new plan, and thankfully it is not too much of a plan.

In the last post Advanced Well Being, I bring up the trouble that I do too much solo, and my good health suffers for that. It is similar with work.  Being insulated from risk has also insulated me from opportunity.  Which is why I am throwing my lot in with Temp Agencies.  My work needs a random element, not because I want my jobs to be unpredictable, but because I can not think my way into an job I can sustain.  So it is time for experimentation, and a healthy dose of randomness.

Now I get to parallel set of thoughts that my Saturday pub night brought up.  I want my next job to by my day job.  It took ten years for me to learn that the ideas drifting in my head want written.  The cost of not writing has increased over time.  Now I don't have a working definition for a day job for writing yet.  I do know it should not eat all my brain power, and if it starts past 10am I could fit in a good morning writing session before.  It is unwise to focus on writing currently, it would eat up all my time and leave me with no money. A job that is not too much of a career could be the answer.  It is not that I wish to stagnate at a job, but that if I measure progress by writing more rather than making more I could still be satisfied.

This leaves me with the question of what to write.  Several fiction ideas populate my head, and I get regular non fiction rants.   The rants often remind me that I could have enjoyed an Arts degree, because I find my thoughts start to scrape the surface of named schools of thought and prove I don't know crap.

Thinking about fiction in a pub full of skeptics has lead me to a constructive train of thought.  Just as my science education combined with healthy skepticism, critical thinking, can be a bullshit detector. So could an understanding of narrative plot, character, and pacing provide the foundation for a fiction flaw detector.  What I need is are critical thinking tools for storytelling.  Tools that let me evaluate, do I have plot, do I have good pacing, are my characters people or place holders, does the audience know enough to understand the tale.  The question now asked quickly points to its own answers, as there are countless books, classes and other materials out there trying to teach that.  I have to learn some points and internalize the best of it.

In other news I bought a suit.  By accident, the consignment shop jumped right at me. A sweet grey affair, the jacket is a perfect fit, and is more than worth the price I paid own its own.  The trousers are being altered and the success of that operation is not 100% assured.  They will be ready for Wednesday.  Its shallow, its materialist but I am eagerly anticipating the results of that.  It is wonderful to anticipate something rather than dread it, that has been too rare an feeling in the past months.  Also I really need a new belt or two.