Learned words

Added to my mac’s dictionary file tonight:


…obviously a grand old time at my house tonight! Love the inclusion of “slavemasters”, “Rightio”, and “naptime.”

Musing on notes and things


I’ve always been interested in different ways people take notes, save notes, retrieve notes, and synthesise notes into their daily, er, practice. (OK, that sounds wanky, though “daily life” sounds just as bad.) I am a particularly awful note-taker, with my scribblings taking the form of various notebooks, diaries, small notepads (field notes), index cards, and now a loose-leaf binder in which I’m attempting to bring together all of my random “writing notes” in the hope that I can file them away in a box somewhere and forget they all exist. There’s also my reading notes (on paper, via kindle notes, and also via intstapaper notes), most of which wind up being shuttled off into Evernote, which I do actually review from time to time.

Needless to say, I’m a bit overwhelmed by it all. And I’m not convinced that it’s necessary, or that Evernote really is the best place for it all to go.

The index cards are a bit of an anachronism, really. I love writing on them, and flicking through the stack, but I’ve never put them into the “chaotic practice” I always envisaged for them, ie throwing them all up in the air to see if strange combinations result. I write all sorts of things on them, but the subjects are all so disjointed and random that I’m not convinced I will be able to form any connections between them. I also spend a lot of time, apparently, pondering note-taking, and index cards, which isn’t really useful for much apart from generating more index cards.

At one stage I transferred them all to nvAlt, which is great in that you can create links between entries there. I do love the ease in which you can link notes in that app. But, again, without a master index (or something similar) I feel like too much time is really wasted (is it wasted? I guess you could argue it’s not, the filtering) just flicking around wondering where everything is. (Although nvAlt has a great search, which makes it somewhat more useful than the index cards, for me.)

Potentially they could be useful to me in a more directed way – ie just as a fiction repository (ahem, dumping ground) where it would make sense to periodically throw cards around and see where they fall. I’d also be able to leave out the indexing (currently YYDDMM-HHMM), as why would it matter?

Maybe the indexing could use revamping, to something more like a pure zettelkasten, with subject forks and, again, some sort of master topic index.

As I said earlier, I probably spend too much time thinking about this.

A digital format is also problematic, in many ways. I’m not convinced I like tagging things, but I’m also not convinced I enjoy many different “buckets” for my notes. Recently I consolidated all of my Evernote notes into just one notebook, when it got to the point that I was spending too much time thinking about which notebooks to file notes in. The result is many tags, which also requires maintenance (checking which tags have no notes, or which can be consolidated, split off, searching for notes with no tags, and the like).

It’s all more work than I really want to be putting into all of this information. I feel like I need a degree in library science just to organise all of my thoughts and notes at the moment, and I wish I had an answer, or a report I could give you to sum up my learnings, and perhaps make some recommendations.

Some observations, however:

  1. Having one repository (or fewer repositories) is better than having a large number.
  2. I like the concept of randomness more than having everything totally locked-down.
  3. I like the idea of being able to link different things together, as they suit me.
  4. I like being able to write down quick notes with a pen and paper.
  5. Regular reviewing of notes seems to be essential, as otherwise you can get just as swamped with your own information as you can with information from other sources.

I guess that’s as good as I can hope for, at the moment.

That said, I have recently downloaded a few new apps that I intend to bring in to my, er, practice, and see how they go. One is the possibly-not-still-in-production, but still very cool SlipBox, which I’ve always been quite interested in, but never really knew how to use.

The other is Day One (2), which I’ve had on the iPhone for several years, and which has been great for capturing snippets about my daughter as she’s grown up. I think I’d like to use the multiple journals feature to set up another one for me to talk about my readings and thinking, piecing things together. Maybe it would be a good fit for my writing journal too (which I use to agonise over the progress of various writing projects), but we’ll just have to see how that goes.

edit to add:

Oh, I knew there was something else! I’ve also finally managed to get wikidpad installed on the mac. Maybe a personal wiki is more what I’m looking for. I’ve tried out a few different ones (TiddlyWiki, among others) but I want something that’s fast, with little clicking about (i.e. text-based, and local). Wikidpad looks like it might tick those boxes, so fingers crossed it turns out to be a winner.)



DSCF2877Last weekend we had a great trip across on the ferry to the South Island. After stretching our legs at the playground in Picton, we rented a really crappy car and drove to Kaikoura!

I was pretty crook the whole time (in fact, I still am – my sinuses are killing me tonight), so I got to sleep on the sofa bed, while Leila and Steve slept in the bedroom. (Seems so unfair, and yet, I didn’t have to contend with a wriggling small person during the night…)

We stayed in South Bay, in a wee bach we booked through bookabach.co.nz. Everything everywhere is set up for fishing, or diving, or swimming with dolphins or whale-watching. It isn’t fancy, but it’s rugged and interesting, and really, really friendly.


Best part of the trip? Walking 10 minutes into the bush to see a baby seal nursery at the foot of an incredible waterfall, where tourists and locals alike stood and gaped at what must have been thirty baby seals, all rolling and frolicking and chasing one another.

It was pretty tough driving back up to Picton on Monday, and even harder trying to get back into the swing of things on Tuesday.

It’s been quite a long time since we’ve had any real holiday, so even a long weekend has been amazing. Leila was a great traveller, and we keep kicking ourselves about how easy it really is to just hop on the ferry and head south. The traffic in the South Island is so light, it’s just a pleasure to drive around and look at amazing scenery. Compare to the nightmare it is in Wellington to head north over any holiday period!

I chose not to bring my laptop down with me, and it was great to just read and write in my diary in the evenings after Moo had gone down. I finished Nnedi Okorafor’s Who Fears Death, which was fantastic. Brutal African speculative fiction. Amazing. Next up is finishing Tanith Lee’s Night’s Master (also incredible), and the copy of Neil Gaiman’s Odd and the Frost Giants that I picked up yesterday at the library.

On being a diarist in the digital age

I was hoping I would be able to find more about being a diarist, when I googled it just now. After all, this is the internet we’re talking about here. There should be everything about everything. But strangely, all I can find are links to pages about keeping medical patient diaries, webster-merriam definitions of “diarist”, and various articles all about Michael Palin and his diary habit.

Nothing about, you know, regular people who write to themselves all the time. And usually in notebooks. Is that strange? Or has the word ‘diary’ suddenly become rather old-fashioned? ‘Journal’ still seems to hold relevance, and ‘logs’ and ‘logging’ are appropriately common to their digital medium. People talk about commonplace books and bullet journals and all the other systems that help us GTD, but the good-old diary doesn’t seem to get a look-in.

Once considered an honourable, even distinguished pasttime, being a diarist in a pre-computer age had a certain cachet, didn’t it? You had your Pepys, your Wordsworth (Dorothy, not William; and she was known for writing about her brother, but oh well), even your Marcus Aurelius. Anne Frank. Harriet the Spy. Even bloody Adrian Mole. (And let’s not forget Anaïs Nin.) Well-worn books, secreted away. Confided in. Confessed to.

It’s really not like that now, is it. We plaster our faces on blogs, register our domain names (of our actual names), set up newsletters so we can further inundate a mysterious reader with every last detail of our so-very-important lives. It’s like Proust on steriods. Everything’s about the sale these days. Commodification of our inner selves. As long as we can monetize it, and generate “passive revenue stream,” it’s all good. We are our ultimate product. (Baudrillard, anyone?)

I really hate that part of our digitised culture.

When I was a kid, I was totally obsessed with my diary, to the point where I was always trying to foist the habit off on to other people. I think I would even go so far as to make little blank books and give them to my sister. I definitely remember buying my mum a blank journal for her birthday one year (she never used it, as far as I know). My ultimate birthday or christmas present? A blank book.

My first diary was one that mum brought back for me after she and dad went away on some work trip to Reno. I still have it downstairs in my crocodile-skinned (possibly fake? but who knows. It was my grandmother’s) suitcase where all my old diaries live these days. Purple, with Little Twin Stars (by Sanrio) theme. Most importantly it had a lock, which gave me an incredible sense of freedom. Even though what most of what I wrote was, well, kid stuff, there is still some pretty personal stuff in there. I was seven.

I can’t say I’ve ever been the most reliable of diarists. This is my output over the last ten years, by example:

Photo 18-05-2016, 19 20 48.jpg
(Yes, those are Frozen stickers on top of the most recent one. They were snaffled from my child, Devo excepting.)

As I got older I always felt myself writing for “someone.” Often I imagined reading aloud to a current boyfriend, or daydreamed about unknown children or grandchildren discovering certain truths about their grandmother. These days I often write directly to my daughter, knowing that one day she’ll probably pick one up and have a browse.

But that aside, I don’t think I’ve ever let those imaginary someones censor the way I write in my journals; and there’s some fascinating things in there, especially now I’ve started putting in an index in the back of each one:

Photo 18-05-2016, 19 53 49.jpg

One day, who knows, I may look at creating some sort of ‘master index’ that I can use to reference and look back on the times in my life. Totally egocentric? Who knows. Possibly. But at least I’ll be the only one to criticise.

It’s definitely an ongoing process though, I’ve found. The Moleskine mania that siezed the planet also exerted its hold on me, though I’ve got to say I’m pretty underwhelmed with the limited pens I’m able to use when I write these days. I’m considering trying out some new ones, but I do like how the current gang of four look on the shelf.

And strangely, I’ve never found that writing in a paper diary has ever felt constrained by or in competition with my regular blog (one that is threatening to become as everlasting as my diary habit, now I’m up to thirteen or so years, plus the several years I wrote at diary-x, until the administrators of which confessed to us users that they had NO BACKUPS for all of the data they’d managed to lose).

I still have no idea what all of this is for. Posterity, perhaps, or a strange internal conversation that has been going on for most of my life. I think it would be difficult for me now to not have a diary, in some shape or form, in my life. I think it’s why I write, generally. Why I am drawn to written narrative so strongly.

If I’m troubled, I turn to my diary. If something momentous happens, it has to go in. (Twenty-plus pages on the actual birth of my daughter, something I would never subject anyone to, online.) Ranting about work, family, rather than chewing my husband’s ear off. (No fear of saying too much about an employer or irritating work colleague.) Travel. Ideas for stories. Dreams. Quotes.

And, possibly also strangely, they have, over the years, accreted to the point where I feel like they are a significant part of who I am. A reflection of me. Who I was. Who I am today. Thoughts of tomorrow. But also physiologically (?) some sort of build-up. A by-product of my existence. Like phlegm, or sleep-crust in the corner of the eye. Analogue, physical, tactile, expression of thought and emotion.

Whimsical. Self-reflective. Self-obsessive. Tangental. But also necessary.

New apps, meditation update, and novel woes

I’ve been trying out a few new things with the new laptop over the past week, having fun exploring but trying not to go overboard! So far I’ve downloaded and really like Ulysses, and now Byword, which both use Markdown. I always struggled in the past with making Markdown work for writing, but Ulysses thankfully has some great exporting options, including making your writing look more like something you’d submit to an editor, rather than a blog post full of marked-up text.

I’m still pretty new to using Markdown, though I’ve got to say I like the sort of writing where I can keep my hands on the keyboard. No faffing too much with styling and the rest, once I manage to figure out the syntax and internalise it.

Not too sure about photos workflow either. Was hoping I could get some iCloud syncing working – seeing as my Dropbox is slowly filling up – but the available free space is pretty meagre with iCloud, and so I’ve still not found a satisfactory online option.

Waiting for the bus
Waiting for the bus

Some people have been talking about Google Photos, but I don’t know. I think I’m all Googled-out, these days.

Meditation’s still going really well. I’m up to 49 days now for my run streak, and according to Headspace I’ve done 90 sessions overall, with a total time of 23 hours. That feels intensely awesome, and I wonder how much of an effect it is all having.

I certainly wasn’t feeling calm this evening, what with the cat meowing 45 minutes early for its dinner, child barking for “peanut butter and jam samwich!” half an hour before her dinner, people from the part time job wanting to chat about software release best-practice, and me trying to think about the tiny bits of spare time I try to carve out during the week.

I’m not complaining. I’m not. I even sat down in a cafe yesterday and wrote for about twenty minutes before I picked up the child from kindy. That felt amazing, though I did realise I now have about five notebooks where I am rabbiting on about the novel. Plus here.

I’m at the point with that where I now positively KNOW that I can’t stand the beginning and am convinced I need to go back and rewrite it. Everyone, everyone says that you need to finish before you go back. And then there are a few who say they edit as they go. I have not done either of these two things, and as a result I have a big, fat, mess of a novel slobbing all over my laptop, driving me to take refuge in notebooks where I write things like

She would never do something like that! This is not what I wanted to write about when I started this whole thing!

and so on.

Threads for characters, back story for bloody everything and everyone, giants that should be on the rampage but who instead just want to sit around and talk.

Seriously, my organisational skills with this thing suck big-time. I’d give either of the two lower appendages for the chance to mind-meld with a mentor (whoops, almost wrote mind-melt there) and just have someone looking over my shoulder going, “you know, it’s ok if you want to go back and throw all that stuff out now,” or “don’t you dare, keep going!” Someone who could, with x-ray eyes, look into the novel and go “there’s your story,” and point to something else and go “chuck it.” I seem completly incapable of anything resembling rational, editorial thought.

I’m just going to go with it. Save it for the re-write. It hurts my brain too much right now to think about the edit. For now, first-draft completion: ho!

New goodies

Apologies for the weird media mosaic above but I’ve only just realised wordpress lets you do strange things with your photos. Circles, anyone?


I had a bit of an exciting few weeks on Trade Me, New Zealand’s online trading site. Since I’ve started back doing a few hours of contract work every week I’ve secretly been pining after a couple of things, despite my honourable intent to first pay off my credit card (that crept up during my period of maternal unemployment).

Admittedly the spinning wheel wasn’t one of them, though after my mother-in-law said she was interested in having a spin (my Ashford wheel was originally hers), my mind started racing. I could get myself a new wheel! But after doing some research, I decided I wasn’t keen on getting another Ashford, nor did I really like the look of the Majacrafts (though apparently they are dreamy to spin with).

My brain seized upon the Louët. Cool, Dutch, and totally different to my traditional wheel. But not many of them in NZ (and the closest sellers are in Australia). Plus a price tag in the vicinity of $1,000. I’d pretty much resigned myself to a period of saving for the rest of the year (saving up for the wheel, plus a replacement laptop for the one that’s starting to get pretty creaky), when I spotted this one on Trade Me. Starting price…$70!

I wound up paying $230, after the auction had run its course, but compared to the cost of a new one, I reckon I’ve scored big time. After putting it all together (everything breaks down to make for quite a small parcel), the wheel spun smoothly, and with the exception of the footman that seemed to slip off too frequently, everything seemed good. Louët sell spare parts online, so I had braced myself to buy a new footman assembly and actual footman (the bit that connects the pedal to the wheel), but after a day or so found if I peddled with my foot slightly off the pedal everything stayed together!

So already I’m getting used to the new wheel’s quirks and personality. I’ve abandoned the idea of the new footman and am just sticking with my quirky wheel.

After that I got a sort of secondhand mania – why not look for a replacement laptop as well? (There’s a certain buzz – I think I’m still riding – when you get something you want for much less that you’d anticipated.) I spotted one that looked great – 4 years old, 500 GB drive, a 1 month warranty, battery life pretty good (300 cycles, which I know is what Apple says is the beginning of the end, but for a secondhand one apparently it’s acceptable), running El Capitan (key!), an i7 quad core with 15 inch screen.

It was going for a bit more than I could afford, so I saved it to my wish list and then forgot about it. Then it didn’t sell and the seller made a fixed-price offer of $899 NZ. I did a bit more research, looked at the seller’s feedback and other listings (he looked to be a bit of an Apple guy, with lots of people saying he was good at honouring any tweaks or fixes if they had problems), and decided to go for it.

I did a fresh install and set up the new accounts, ran hardware and battery diagnostics and the rest, and I’m happy to say that things are feeling pretty good in computerland here!

There’s enough that’s different to make exploring and using the computer a really great experience, but enough that’s familiar to make it all a really quick process to get set up and going again.

I did splash out and get myself some new software – Airmail 2 for my mail, and Ulysses for my writing. I’ve still got Scrivener going on here, but I think I want to change it up a little bit. Ulysses feels fresh and clean, and in keeping with the new workspace and computer. It feels less cluttered, which I’m finding does matter for me these days.

So that’s what I’ve been up to over the past few weeks! Spinning and writing (I’ve been editing an old short story that I wrote several years ago, thanks to the encouragement I got from my writing group), and I’m still meditating. Now up to a 38-day streak on Headspace!