On Again, Off Again

Cheryl Lindo Jones, aka jezlyn, blogs here...sporadically.

I’ve sort of hit a wall with my energy to read a book a week. At the start of the challenge in April, it felt like no problem, spending a few minutes here and there during the week reading, and then finishing the book on the weekend. I had some momentum from the science fiction books (mainly William Gibson) that I was reading, so it felt effortless. Now my momentum has faded. It could be the books I was trying to read, but it could be just brain fatigue and general lack of attention span again. ☹️

Let me do a recap of the books I’ve read so far…

Leading up to the beginning of the challenge (which started in April), I was reading the “Blue Ant” trilogy by William Gibson — Pattern Recognition, Spook Country, and Zero History. Zero History was the first book I finished for the start of the challenge. I liked the premise of Pattern Recognition, but felt the ending was a little bit anticlimactic. Spook Country I didn’t really like, and took a while to finish. Zero History was a little better, with an interesting mystery about a “secret brand”.

I also read this short non-fiction book, Steal Like an Artist, by Austin Kleon, which was a very cool read. Though I don’t make much time for them, I like doing different creative, artsy projects. This book has a lot of good advice for people who want to make stuff, use their creativity, and be artists. It was on my backlog of books to read, and it was short enough that I could kinda pad the beginning of the challenge, heh.

I took a brief break from reading through the Gibson trilogies and read Pure Invention: How Japan Made the Modern World, by Matt Alt, another book on my backlog. I love reading about tech history and Japanese culture, so this was a great combo. Very interesting topics!

From there I read the Bridge trilogy by Gibson — Virtual Light, Idoru, and All Tomorrow’s Parties. Since earlier this year I had finished the 2 books of Gibson’s latest, not yet finished, trilogy — The Peripheral and Agency — and kind of felt like I wanted to read more Gibson, I decided to read through his trilogies backwards, hence the Blue Ant trilogy, and then Bridge. There were some interesting ideas in Virtual Light, but I didn’t fully like the characters in the book. Idoru felt more like the kind of book I wanted to read, as it was set in Japan and was heavy on interesting tech. At first I was annoyed because it seemed like most of the characters and plot from Virtual Light didn’t seem to carry into Idoru, but when I started All Tomorrow’s Parties, VL characters and plot points started to figure in again. Looking back at my journal entries, it seems I really liked Idoru, and didn’t have any comments about All Tomorrow’s Parties… 🤷🏽‍♀️

It was after All Tomorrow’s Parties that I felt my momentum for reading a book a week start to falter. I wanted to take another break from Gibson trilogies and randomly picked In the Beginning…Was the Command Line by Neal Stephenson. I thought about reading something else from Stephenson, like Snow Crash or The Diamond Age (both pretty great books), but I’d read those before, and figured I should read something I hadn’t yet. Cryptonomicon, which I’d tried to get through multiple times before, is way too long for me to realistically finish in a week, so I ended up with this short, non-fiction book about PC OSes. It was interesting enough, with some pretty big biases, but overall it was a fine read.

I couldn’t decide on what to read next, sampling these books (some of which had been published recently):

I actually had started reading Distrust That Particular Flavor before I decided to switch to the Stephenson book. Tried to continue reading it after finishing the Stephenson book, but got bogged down. It’s a book of various essays or articles Gibson wrote for different publications or events, so the topics vary wildly, along with my interest. Then I thought I was going to read Build by Tony Fadell since it’s like a mix of tech history and leadership/career advice. However, it made me think too much about work which I’ve been trying to get away from while reading, so I switched away from it.

In parallel, I started reading this web comic/graphic novel, Heartstopper, by Alice Oseman, via the Tapas app. I actually got pretty into it and the Netflix TV series based on the books, so that delayed me in finishing any books for the last couple weeks. Annoyingly, I cannot count Heartstopper as one of (or 4 of, since the web comic covers the already published volumes 1 – 4 of the graphic novels) my weekly books, since there’s that dumb rule that comics/graphic novels don’t count. 🙄 This author has several young adult novels published, but they haven’t been released in the US yet, annoyingly. Otherwise, they would’ve been on my short list for the challenge.

Anyway, after all of that, I think I’ll finally be finishing Distrust That Particular Flavor today. But I’m still not sure what to read next. I’ve noted a few other books that I came across in various places (magazines, news feeds, etc.), so we’ll see what I end up with.

I pledged to read 10 books across the months of April – June, so I’m not too far away from the goal. 12 would’ve been the better number to go for, since that’s closer to actually reading a book a week over 3 months, but I felt realistically my reading cadence might drop off, which it has. ☹️ I thought perhaps I had renewed my motivation to read regularly and would continue it from now on, but I’m not sure. I hope I will at least read more than I used to, perhaps more like once or twice a month, rather than once a week.

I’ve been enjoying getting through books that have been on my backlog for years. It’s just hard sometimes to compete with other activities that are less mentally involved. 😅 I’ve already read so many more books this year than I have in years past, though, so I’m proud of that accomplishment. I do also realize that most of the books I’ve read are by male authors, so I’ll be watching out for more books written by female authors going forward. I have several in my Kindle library, just haven’t felt in the mood to read them yet for whatever reasons.

As always, if you’re interested in my more frequent/daily updates, I post on Mastodon and Pixelfed.

What happened this week?

1. I could not figure out what to read for this week’s book (I’m doing a book-a-week challenge for Apr-Jun). I had already been reading Distrust That Particular Flavor by William Gibson before I switched over to In the Beginning…Was the Command Line by Neal Stephenson and finished it for last week. Then I started reading BUILD: An Unorthodox Guide to Making Things Worth Making by Tony Fadell since it was released recently and thought I’d finish that for this week, but it got me thinking too much about work stuff, so I switched back to the Gibson essay book. (And now I’m blogging instead of reading, so I’m getting even more behind 😅)

2. I also started reading this webcomic called Heartstopper by Alice Oseman thanks to stumbling across it on a post in the subreddit for the Onyx Boox line of e-ink devices. I really did judge the book by its cover…at least, the cover looked nice enough for me to look up info about it, and find where I could read it. I’m currently reading it in the Tapas app, but I like it enough that I want to get physical copies of the graphic novels. Annoyingly, graphic novels don’t count in the aforementioned book-a-week challenge I’m in, otherwise, I would not have such a problem figuring out what to read this week. 😛

3. I finally got my replacement office chair on Friday:

QiVi 5-Star Base Chair by Steelcase It is the same make as these chairs that are in one of the “fancier” conference rooms in my building, and felt pretty comfortable to me whenever I’d sit in them, so I figured I’d buy one for home. The ones at work have a white frame and teal seat fabric. I like my red and black color scheme.

Originally I had gotten a Blu Dot Daily Task Chair because I found out that it was the type of chair that was used on the set of Severance (awesome show!), for the MDR group:

severance set

Unfortunately, the chair was uncomfortable AF (hey, Dylan! 🙂), so I returned it. Luckily my replacement is nicely comfortable. Phew.

4. I decided to buy movie tickets for The Fifth Element’s 25th anniversary showings on a couple days at the end of June, one of which is my birthday!

The Fifth Element - Rotten Tomatoes

This will probably be the first movie I’m seeing in the theatres for at least a couple years… Even before the pandemic started, we didn’t go to the theatre much because we have a nice AV setup at home and didn’t want to deal with crowds and gross theatre floors. I can’t remember what movie we did see in the theatre…it might’ve been Avengers: Endgame. 😮

I actually want to see Doctor Strange 2, but am still quite hesitant to sit in a crowded theatre, even though I’ll be masked the whole time. Hopefully by the time of the Fifth Element showings, things will be calmer, in terms of COVID cases and what not. 🤞

5. Yesterday I watched Pitch Perfect 3. I didn’t think it could get weirder than the plot for the second movie, but it did! Regardless, it was fluffy entertainment for a Saturday night. 🤷‍♀️

This is sort of a random post about my laptop. I love that it doesn't look like all the typical MacBook Airs/Pros, Windows, or Chromebook laptops around.

Besides its interesting chiseled edges, I like its bronze/gold and dark brown color scheme. It seems fashion-y to me.

It's pretty light and a decent size for my usage. I haven't traveled in so long (☹️), but whenever I do again, this'll be a nice compact laptop to travel with.

It has a great tactile keyboard. I also appreciate that it still has a USB-A port so that I don't always have to use dongles. 😛 I wish it had a full SD card slot, but it has a microSD slot, which is fine.

If you know me, you probably know that I like unique gadgets, so that's a big reason why my laptop caught my attention. What's unique to me? Well, on the sort of unique end of the spectrum, my daily driver phone is the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3. On the much more unique end, I've used a Surface Duo and a BlackBerry KEYOne as my primary phones in the past. I also like different color schemes, especially if I can get purple gadgets (I want to make a whole other blog post just about my purple gadgets collection). 😅

I just wanted to give my laptop a shout out, since the thought popped into my head the other day when I busted it out for something (I like to use my phone for most things; I'm blogging from it right now).

Thanks for reading my random post. This is the kind of stuff you can count on popping up here from time to time. 😁

Shooting into the sun, Fuji X-Pro 3, 18mm f6.3 UFO lens

Well, there's a reason why I named my blog “On Again, Off Again”: I knew that I'm not the most consistent writer. And here we are, several months after my last post, as vivid proof. 😛

I have actually made a couple changes this year — writing consistently in a journal, and reading more books. Perhaps I can also become more consistent at posting on my blog? It's too soon to tell.

For journaling, the thing that helped most was making it a plain ol' Google Doc. The format is also very simple: bulleted lists of the day's highlights, meh points, and if things got particularly bad, lowlights. On some pretty boring days I only have a couple bullet points under highlights and meh. Other days, I type a lot if I have some stuff I really want to recount. So far this year I've only missed maybe a couple days, which is encouraging. It's also very helpful that I can update the doc from my phone. I take a few minutes after climbing into bed to post my bullet points. This, of course, means it's often just text, but I've added an image a few times if it's very relevant. I wish I were this consistent at writing in a paper journal, but realistically I don't think I would be. I think I should still do something with a paper journal, but I haven't done so yet.

Late last year I started reading again, probably started during one of my holiday breaks. I picked a book about the iPod called The Perfect Thing and somehow that kicked off my habit to start reading regularly again. I also recently joined a challenge at work where we commit to reading a book a week. It ends up being more like I read a book in a weekend, since I still don't end up reading that much during the week. Regardless, I've finished 9 books this year so far (2 of which I started the year before, or longer 😬). Considering I struggled to finish even 1 book for a few years before this, I'm pretty happy to have re-established this habit. Unfortunately during this book-a-week challenge, my game playing time has been greatly affected. I used to play games on my Switch at least a little daily, or a few times a week, but now it's been temporarily retired. I'll have to figure out how to balance my reading and gaming times, but for now reading is on the front-burner. I've finally finished some William Gibson books that I've been meaning to read for forever. I ended up going backwards, having finished Agency and The Peripheral earlier this year (also out of order). Then I moved to the “Blue Ant” trilogy that was published before, and then the Bridge trilogy before that. I've taken a break from the Gibson trilogies and am in the middle of reading his book of essays, Distrust that Particular Flavor, and a book by Neal Stephenson called In the Beginning... Was the Command Line. I'll probably finish Command Line today.

I really like having gotten back into reading books, physical or otherwise. I used to be a huge reader when I was younger, but the internet and social media stole my attention span. Now I'm slowly clawing it back.

As for blogging... I will have to figure out a system that's as easy as my low-effort, Google Docs journal (I literally titled the doc, Low-Effort Journal). I'm currently using the Squarespace app to type up this draft from my Galaxy Z Fold 3, but I think I'll have to finish formatting it from the Squarespace site using my laptop. I don't know why this app doesn't have better functionality for constructing blog posts from start to finish. I can't be the only one wanting to be able to do this directly from my phone... 🤔 I used to blog from my old iPhones (like iPhone 4 era) and they were miniscule compared to my Fold 3. Plus, I tend to edit photos, whether they're from my phone or an external camera, on my phone because the VSCO app has great film emulations, but no longer has a desktop app. 🤷‍♀️ So I'm still going to have to figure out a good solution for Squarespace blogging.

[Author's Note] I originally posted this on my Squarespace blog before I explored a federated blogging service. I think my answer to easier blogging is blogging here on Write.as!

In the meantime, I'm “micro-blogging” on Mastodon, @jezlyn@mastodon.social. I had to leave Twitter because of all of the Musk shenanigans. I've been off the service for a few weeks now, but yesterday I started a process of sorting through my following list to unfollow the more anxiety-inducing accounts and leave the art, retro gaming, and online friends I've gathered over the years. I won't be able to weed out all politics and/or drama, but I hope to cut down a lot of it. I misguidedly started following a bunch of political accounts while I was in an almost perpetual state of righteous indignation over all the shitty political things that were and still happening at the time. But then I realized I needed to give my brain and self a rest from all of the negativity and instead focus on fun, positive stuff to help nourish my fun, happy, creative side instead of building up an anxiety, rage monster. Mastodon has been a definite balm to Twitter's algorithmic manipulations. It reminds me of the old days of Twitter when people were actually socializing, talking about their day, what's interesting, instead of competing on who can troll the hardest. So far people have been really helpful, and posting interesting, seemingly authentic stuff. Because Mastodon is only one of several “federated” services (aka “fediverse”), I've been going through the process of creating accounts on services like Pixelfed, an image sharing social site, and Bookwyrm (I'm on the bookrastinating.com instance), a federated book tracking/social site. It has been interesting to learn about these services and slow down social media consumption in general. I think it fits quite well with my shift toward reading more books.

Hopefully besides consuming more stuff besides social media, I'll also figure out how to create more — photos, writing, and hopefully some photo books (an informal goal I set for myself this year). The photo books are meant to be “official”, more like doing something with my photography beyond posting on Flickr/Pixelfed, and creating physical tokens of my work.

Well, that's it for now. Hopefully in a day or more I'll be back with some updates or other random thoughts.