Project Updates and Insights for July 2016

Project Updates and Insights for July 2016

Lazy Cat I’ve been having a lazy few months, working through a depressive funk by taking a break from systematic, scheduled, productivity-oriented thinking. Quite a lot of time was devoted to family and household matters versus work and business. I think I’m coming out of the funk and regaining a sense of positivity. Here’s a hodge-podge of updates, with lots of pictures of food!

On Burnout

I happened to read an article on burnout that was surprisingly descriptive of how I’ve been feeling. In particular, this passage described my energy levels quite accurately (emphasis mine):

[…] My listlessness is tugged by the awareness, somewhere at the edge of my consciousness, of an expanding to-do list, and of unread messages and missed calls vibrating unforgivingly a few feet away. But my sullen inertia plateaus when I drop my eyes to the floor and see a glass or a newspaper that needs picking up. The object in question seems suddenly to radiate a repulsive force that prevents me from so much as extending my forearm. My mind and body scream in protest against its outrageous demand that I bend and retrieve it. Why, I plead silently, should I have to do this? Why should I have to do anything ever again?

We commonly use the term “burnout” to describe the state of exhaustion suffered by the likes of Steve. It occurs when we find ourselves taken over by this internal protest against all the demands assailing us from within and without, when the momentary resistance to picking up a glass becomes an ongoing state of mind.

I hadn’t considered burnout as a possible factor, because I am aware that my life is incredibly free compared to those of many others. While I don’t make a lot of money or have any long-term financial stability, I do have tremendous freedom in choosing what I want to do because I have enough. At times I worry about old age, but I have the stationery business as my “retirement plan” and see some longer-term content development strategies as viable money-making pursuits. I have some long term contract jobs lined up also, am able to afford to pay for my own health insurance, and am my own boss. How could I possibly be burned out? And yet, apparently I am.

I have some theories. First, I have been pursuing an idealized life for a LONG TIME, and the ideal has never materialized. In this way, I resemble “Susan” from the above-mentioned article, who was raised to believe she had the potential to do anything; this is very much my mindset. In Susan’s case she worked very hard from achievement to achievement, but somehow found that she lived in a perpetual state of being dissatisfied with the temporary present in favor of a presumably more complete and satisfying future. I am kind of in the same place, though this is also the year I made a big push to start closing long-time projects with my 2024 goals and travel to Taiwan to re-engage my cultural background. I think I’ve put myself under more stress than I realized, and my motivation to plan in any systematic manner completely collapsed. Since June, I’ve been living a day-to-day existence without any sort of planning beyond, “do one useful work or chore every day”. That is all the discipline I’ve been able to muster, and surprisingly I think dropping all expectations of how hard I should work seems to have helped me recalibrate my expectations of work more realistically. I have a much better attitude regarding how long a work- or home-related chore takes, and I am much more forgiving of myself when I want to work on a project that is not part of the “life plan” or “work plan”. That feeling of being beholden to a plan, even one of my own devising, was very oppressive.

Burnout Antidotes

So while I have not done a lot of work for the past eight weeks, I have made a lot of progress on improving my home environment so it doesn’t feel like a burden. My house has not felt very conducive to creativity because of its levels of clutter, and this may have been a major contributor to my ill mood. I’m now feeling much better; hopefully this good feeling will help me ease back into a more productive mode.

COMPUTER OFFICE MOVE, CLEANUP

After putting it off for a long time, I’ve moved computer downstairs to basement, making more room upstairs in the living room so I could start painting. I cleared out and organized a lot of junk in the basement so I could even move the office into there, shredding old records and eliminating a lot of old crap. First, I had to get rid of an old scooter, then move books from the upstairs into the basement and make room for an office.

June 10June 20June 24

I had to shred a lot of records and take a lot of junk to Goodwill over a week, then move the standing desk computer rig into the basement.

June 25June 25June 27

July 1July 9July 12

Finally, I decluttered the living room and tried out painting samples, moved furniture around, and did the soft launch of the cafe on July 22 with the help of cousin Brian, who was in town.

June 23July 21July 22

This took several weeks, but the first pass is have a proof of concept living room cafe is complete! I can see the next stage more clearly; it involves another organization and reduction pass followed by purchasing storage furniture for the living room.

TOMATO PLANTER GREENERY

My tomato planter is doing well too, and I think I’m close to having a perfected design that I can start making for other people. It’s nice to have a living plant on the deck, and it’s very gratifying to see it doing well. In August usually some kind of blight hits the plant, though, so I’m hoping to head it off.

June 21June 22June 22

July 1July 5July 8

July 14June 17July 17

The version 3.5 design is working quite well. For version 4.0, I’m going to do away with the “dual action capillary feeds” and go to just a single 4-pipe design; I realized that for extra water I can just water it from the top, as I no longer am sealing in the moisture with a plastic tarp (this just creates the ideal condition for fungus and insect breeding).

PIZZA QUALITY OF LIFE

My pizza experimentation has yielded high-quality 5-minute pies out of my home oven. From the period of April 28 to June 28, I made **significant progress* on understanding how to shape and bake pizza on my baking steel.

April 28April 29May 2

May 4June 10June 11

June 15June 27June 28

They are starting to look like a real pizza in shape, and the taste (using supermarket dough) is quite competitive with local pizza shops that do not have a wood-fired oven. The next step is to start making my own dough.

COUSIN VISIT AND POP-UP CAFE

My cousin came for a two-week visit, and we got to geek out over anime, video games, and the pursuit of excellent food. He showed me how he made meat pies and kneaded dough, and also helped me run a “pop-up restaurant” in my living room last weekend. His visit was a major catalyst for getting the living room, kitchen, and basement organized. It was also good to commune with a fellow creative spirit. Our major project was the pop-up cafe, for which we made a lot of food and invited people to try it out.

MenuLu Rou SauceCrispy Garlic Chili

For the menu, I listed three Asian street food-ish items requiring the preparation of four separate dishes. Brian worked on his amazing meat pie recipe, which has been refined over many years. It was the clear highlight of the pop-up cafe, garnering appreciative praise from visitors.

Brian working on PiesPrepping the day's PiesGlamour Shot of Day 1 Pies

Other than the pies, I used the cardboard lunchboxes I had brought back from Taiwan to help make the street food experience a little more authentic. Each lunchbox had a Taiwanese-style porkchop drizzled with Lu Rou pork meat sauce, a bit of Rendang Chicken Curry, and also a bit of Crispy Garlic Spicy Pork Belly.

Bento Bien Dang BoxesFrying Taiwanese Pork ChopsOur Lunch Box

We served six meals for Friday and Saturday, two of which were to-go or deliveries to the local Asian market where my friend Joy had agreed to sample our lunchboxes every day.

Tables ReadyGuests Day 1Guests Day 2

The days were tiring but satisfying, and it really drove home that the living room cafe concept will work. I was surprised that so many people bothered to stop by on the weekend and say hello, and the resulting conversations between groups of friends who had never met before was very uplifting. I’m looking forward to making this into a regular thing.

Back to Work

FIXING THE WEBSITE – I now know what I want the new site to be: a collection of projects that are easy-to-find and updated. I want to get away from the blog format as a main organizing principle so I can highlight the actual work. There’s a place for blogging, but it will no longer be the constraint that determines how the website works.

GETTING BACK TO SOFTWARE DEVELOPMENT – I have a better sense of pacing now, and am no longer beating myself up over not doing 8 hours of programming work a day. I’m good for maybe 10-15 hours of hard programming work a week, and the rest of the time has to go to maintaining the house and my own sense of well being. As much as I’d like to work 40+ hours a week on my projects, I don’t think this is within my grasp at the moment. No sense in feeling BAD about that; that kind of negative thinking just makes working even less efficient.

GETTING BACK TO PRODUCT DEVELOPMENT – I’ve had some product updates backburnered for weeks, and it’s time to get back to these projects. Creating a new product probably takes less than 8 hours, but spreading these hours out over a couple of weeks will probably be necessary; while I am feeling more clear-headed, my state of mind is still rather fragile and I don’t want to break it again. I will be running at a reduced pace for the foreseeable future.

CONTINUING DEVELOPMENT OF THE LIVING ROOM CAFE – There’s still a lot of work to do, but after running the popup restaurant I am convinced this is going to be totally worthwhile. We had 8 visitors over the two days, and people seemed to love the idea. It was wonderful to have people in my space talking about their projects and interests as they enjoyed my food. I am jazzed!

RETURN TO STREAMING AND PATREON – I haven’t been doing the livestreaming since May, and now that the living room cafe and office spaces are in a functional-enough state, I hope to start incorporating the living room cafe concept with coworking and conversation. It could be the basis of an interesting show. We shall see!

Big Insight

I’ve feeling restored after cousin Brian’s visit and my weeks of unplanned sabbatical. During this time, I’ve uncovered some insights that I think will help me get back to the work with a lighter heart and attitude. For example, I’ve realized that it’s important that I put positive experiences into the world as much as possible through small actions. This is an extension of my life philosophy regarding creativity, which is that one must make and show for one’s work to make a difference. By also emphasizing positive interaction with people through the giving of compliments and offerings of assistance, I help contribute to the kind of community that I want to be a part of. This is a huge insight!

Cousin Brian just left, so I’m going to be transitioning back into a routine. I think having a routine might work for me now, expecially since I have gotten a bit better at not expecting so much of myself every day. Maybe in time my efficiency will rise, but for now just keeping myself moving will be good enough.