Archive for December, 2018

Crazy Weekend Survived!

I made it through my craziest holiday weekend, including a non-stop Saturday on the kind of cold, rainy day that’s just made for staying home, cuddled under a blanket with hot tea and a book. The holiday stuff gets a little easier now. I just have a party tonight, a choir rehearsal Saturday, and two performances Sunday morning.

I may be missing cable a little when it comes to the TV Christmas movies because the ion ones are just so bad. The scripts are actually decent, but the production values are pretty terrible, which makes them more frustrating. Put these stories with the slightly higher budget from the cable networks, and we might have something. But there was one I watched last week that had terrible sound, like they’d filmed it on an iPhone, using the built-in microphone. The background noise and the dialogue were at the same volume. In some scenes, there was a weird echo effect that sounded like when someone’s microphone isn’t on during a TV newscast and you can kind of hear them through someone else’s microphone, but it’s tinny and a bit echoey, like it’s coming from a distance. In some scenes in a location with a wood floor, you could hear everyone clomping around — even when the characters in a scene weren’t walking, so it must have been the crew moving around. Even if your budget is the change you found in your sofa cushions, you can tell your crew to take their shoes off.

Then this weekend I watched one I’d recorded, and the acting was so bad and stilted that it wasn’t even at community theater levels. It was closer to “we’re studying Shakespeare and reading the plays out loud in class.” There have got to be plenty of people who can act without sounding like they’re reading cue cards. It made me wonder if they just cast local people when they filmed in a small town, or if maybe they funded this through Kickstarter and one of the reward levels was that you got cast in the movie, regardless of acting experience.

Fortunately, there are a few movies on Amazon and others on various other streaming sites, and I’m not watching that much TV, anyway. Last night, I listened to an early music program on the local classical radio station, and it was lovely.

Now, though, I’ve got a short story to revise, a book to revise, and a proposal to write, plus I have more singing this weekend, so I have music to practice.


I got sidetracked the last couple of days and sort of forgot to post. Wednesday morning, I got caught up in watching President Bush’s funeral. I saw him in person several times and actually met him once. When I was in journalism school and interning in radio news, I covered the state Republican convention when he was running for president and was there to cover his keynote speech. Then while he was president, he was the commencement speaker for my college graduation (it was cool having the president of the United States as the speaker, but the security was a bit of a hassle, as we had to get there and line up hours before the ceremony).

I met him after he was president. I was doing trade show media relations for Ericsson, and we were at a major industry event. The Ericsson US headquarters at the time was in Richardson, Texas, and it was technically Ericsson US being represented at the event, so everyone’s name badge listed Richardson as the location, including the people who came over from Stockholm. Because I have a Scandinavian last name, I always ran into some confusion at these events. My family’s from Norway, but according to the Swedes, my name is actually Swedish, and all the Swedes from Ericsson assumed I was one of them. Even the president of Ericsson thought I was one of his people from the Stockholm office.

Former President Bush was the keynote speaker for this event, and after his speech they were giving him a tour of the major booths in the expo, doing technology demonstrations for him. When he was walking up to our booth, we were all standing there, watching, and he spotted me, said, “A Texan!” and came over to shake my hand. We couldn’t figure out how he managed to pick out the actual Texan among a group of people with Swedish names in the Ericsson booth, when all of us had Texas as our location on our name badges. I hadn’t come close enough to him at those previous events for him to be able to recognize me, if he would have even remembered me. It was just some weird internal radar, I guess. At any rate, he was very nice and surprisingly large, and my hand totally disappeared into his.

I’d just put the funeral on for background noise, but ended up watching and totally forgot about what else I was supposed to be doing that morning.

Then yesterday, I had the guy coming out to give my heater its annual checkup in the afternoon, so I spent my morning doing some frantic tidying. I’d just had the message about my checkup being due, and I was surprised to be able to get an appointment the next day, but that meant I didn’t have that much time, and my housekeeping hadn’t quite recovered from two trips in November. But now I have my usual Saturday chores mostly done, so the house won’t fall apart after a busy Saturday when I wouldn’t have had time to do much cleaning.

And that’s why I totally forgot to write blog posts for a couple of days. Maybe I’ll do better next week.


Leisure Time

I’ve been on a kick of trying to optimize my life, reading books about working habits, motivation, organization, etc. The latest one was Flow, by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. It’s about optimal experiences, getting into the frame of mind in which you function almost on autopilot, but at a high level. This is what happens when you really get into a task, to the point you have heightened awareness of what you’re doing while tuning out distractions, time seems to fly, and what you’re doing seems both easy and challenging — there’s enough challenge to keep you engaged and stretching yourself, but you’re in the zone where it still feels easy. I mostly read the book because I want to find good ways to get into this state for writing, but there was some other stuff that really made me think.

One of the things that came up in the research related to the subject was that while few people would think they’re happier at work than during their leisure time, studies show that on measurements of things related to happiness, people actually do tend to feel happier at work. They’re more likely to get into this flow state, to feel like they’ve got a purpose, to feel engaged and challenged in a way that makes them feel alive. What generally makes people unhappy at work isn’t so much the work itself, but the environment, the people, corporate bureaucracy, etc. On the other hand, the way most people spend their leisure time isn’t that engaging. You don’t get into that optimal flow state by watching TV. The exception about being happier at work than at leisure was the people who have active hobbies, so they’re doing something other than watching TV in their free time. The author did consider reading to be “active” and something that can lead to a flow state. Practicing or performing music works, as does listening to music when it’s engaged and active listening, not just using it as background noise. Writing, painting, and making things, gardening, and even housework can also count. The book was written before social media and the Internet really took off, so I don’t know where he’d stand on web surfing or online discussions.

The author thinks that this may be one reason why people seem to be less happy even as life gets easier. Before TV, people had to be more engaged in their leisure time. There were fewer passive pursuits, and people did the passive things that were available less often. Even rich people probably didn’t go to the theater more than once a week, and now we watch dramatic productions every night on TV.

This really got me started thinking. I’d resisted adding more work time to my day because one of the perks of working for myself at home is having more free time, but that free time doesn’t do me much good if I’m not using it well. When I started writing first thing in the morning and was spending more of my day working, I was actually happier and more satisfied, and I didn’t miss that “leisure” time. I feel more like I’ve had a good weekend when I spend a good part of Saturday doing housework and organizing than when I don’t try to schedule my time and just goof off.

I’ve been trying to limit my TV time and instead use that time for reading or doing other things. It’s funny how TV has become such a default activity, or how if there’s something later in the evening, I’ll look for something to watch in the meantime rather than turning off the TV and doing something else. Not that I think it’s entirely bad. A little downtime for the brain is good, and I think you can be mentally engaged while watching. I tend to analyze story elements. But there are so many other things I want to do, and I’m trying to really think about how I use my time.

Apparently, there’s another book by this author that specifically deals with creativity, so that may have to be my next read.

Done/Not Quite Done

I got to the 50,000 word National Novel Writing Month goal, but I still have a couple of scenes to write to finish the story, so that will be today’s fun. Then it’s on to other projects.

I’ve decided that I’ll survive not having access to all the made-for-cable Christmas movies. I still have access to plenty of seasonal programming, but it’s nice not to have something on every night that part of me feels obligated to watch. I did do a bit of a Christmas movie binge yesterday. There was an older one on one of the local stations, and then I watched a couple on ion. So I may have had my fix for the year, though there’s one on ion next Sunday that looks potentially spectacularly awful, in which they seem to be telling the Snow White story in a modern setting at Christmas. I’ve got a concert that night, but I think I’m going to have to DVR it.

This is probably when I should mention that I’ve written a Christmas story. It was originally a screenplay that I was targeting toward Freeform (ABC Family at the time I wrote it). I’d analyzed what was in their movies, and this had all the ingredients I thought would appeal to them. Then when I realized I wasn’t crazy about the idea of doing all the things I might have to do to sell it as a script, I rewrite it in prose form and released it as an e-book. It’s a short read, pretty much a one-sitting thing. It’s called Twice Upon a Christmas, and I guess you could call it a sweet contemporary paranormal romantic comedy. Look for it at the usual places you get e-books.

I had the germ of an idea for a new one hit me last night, but I have other things I need to work on first.