Odin Writes About: How to Tackle Life's Stresses, Organization, Videos, News, and More!

January is half-way through, now, and it's turning into a busy month. Catch up with everything I tackled in the last week!

Odin Writes About: How to Tackle Life's Stresses, Organization, Videos, News, and More!
A Spring Shower by Giovanni Domenico Tiepolo (Italian, 1727–1804)

Wow, what a week! The start of my MLIS program is upon me, and I have some fun tidbits to share from that. Yet, at the same time, the MLIS and a new freelance job necessitate a huge shift in my schedule: specifically via a return to block scheduling. I’ll talk about both things, below.

This week has also highlighted a lot of stress for me, so I’ll go into that as well. I don’t believe we talk freely enough about our struggles in life, and part of what this newsletter is here for is to bridge the gap between us and offer advice from how I live my life. Sometimes the best advice is honesty about the hardships.

At the same time, I’ve had great highs this week, especially on Monday, when I was able to connect with my core Round Table Writer’s friends for the first time after the holidays. It was wonderful to see them, and wonderful to feel a sense of motion in my creative writing life. Part of the intense block schedule I’ve created is so that I have time (soon, hopefully), to add in more daily writing time for myself every day.

All this, and more, in today’s newsletter!


This week’s sheer busyness has led to a weird mix of articles!

I didn’t intend for this week to be quite so technology-heavy, but there it is! Some weeks are like that. So, this time around, all my content is focused on the Anycubic line of 3D printers, and troubleshooting the installation of Docker on Windows.

My projects

My block schedule.

Block scheduling

Did I mention, yet, that it’s been a crazy week? Rather than list everything out, why don’t I just show you my block schedule.

Most things on this schedule have what I call “fuzzy borders.” I don’t have to run my day like clockwork, exactly. I know that my housecleaning time, or my article writing time, should have a little fluidity for the transfer into and out of work.

Some blocks are up against one another because, for me, they naturally flow into one another, or fulfill a need the other does (if I’ve been sitting for hours, getting up and cleaning the house is nice).

For some blocks, I’ve added in ten minutes of transition time.

My goal is also to be in bed by 8:30 and asleep by about 9:00 every night. This will allow me to arise by 5-5:30 am, and hop straight into my day. The morning could be filled with many things, but most importantly, it could be a time to get more of my own creative writing done. My RTW friends and I want to do a novel swap (where we share and critique one-another’s novels), and I’ll need to actually have a finished novel if I want to do that!

Block scheduling requires two things: double the amount of time you think you need. And, the knowledge that blocks are intended to be fluid.

Newbies to block scheduling assume that tasks take less time than they actually do (and forget about losses due to context switching). Once you get experienced at block scheduling, you know (as I do here) how much time you really need for something.

These blocks can also be moved, as needed, throughout the day. On Tuesdays, I might move my daily walk to break up my article writing and my work writing. Or, I might shift things so that my MLIS work happens on Wednesday afternoons.

The blank spaces that you see on my schedule are not always empty (on Wednesday mornings, that time is taken up, every other week, by shopping at Costco). But I leave it free for both practical and psychological reasons. I can always shop locally that week, if I don’t want to lose hours to a big trip.

My MLIS series!

This has been a big one for me, and I’m so excited to finally be diving into it. This series is a way for me to share what I’m learning. But, it’s also a way for me to practice and improve my own learning because we learn best when we apply our learning to teach others.

LinkedIn Learning

I’ve started taking LinkedIn Learning courses because they’re all offered, for free, through my new Master’s program. I’m excited about the more meaty content of the MLIS next semester, but it also looks like it’s going to be hard to get the multiple-track training I’m hoping for.

I’m interested primarily in academic librarianship, and want to focus my coursework toward that, and political/administrative work (wither some archival studies thrown in). However, I’m reasonably good with technology, and the best remote-work jobs are all those that deal with database administration, or website coding, or similar.

So, I’m hoping to supplement my MLIS training with the LinkedIn Learning courses, and emerge from this program with a comprehensive understanding of all the subjects I need to really succeed in this field (and to secure remote jobs that will keep me far away from an ordinary 9-5).

Fight for the First

EveryLibrary’s incredible initiative is in its beta-testing phase, but we’ve already seen huge successes! You can join the group for discussions about fighting back against book bans, here. Please join, and sign some of the petitions! We’re hoping to build a small but active group before we push into the fully public mode.

New job!

I’ve gained a new position as a freelance writer for the site called BTTB.io. It’s similar to Howchoo in some ways, but far more focused on hard data as a means of helping customers get the best deal. I haven’t dived in deep enough to see pay yet, but I did just submit my first article, so I’m looking forward to seeing where this goes.

Article writing

I need to fine-tune the process of writing articles because my time is so much more limited. I also want to concentrate more on deeper essay work. Herbert Read, film theory, and philosophy all call to me. This is a huge reason why I need to get my knowledge systems (Notion and Obsidian) functioning smoothly. There’s a LOT of research and writing that I need to simplify.

Book reviewing

I’ll still be doing this, but just slower. My reviews at The Strand are likely to be more like once per month, now.

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Thoughts from my life

Mostly, this year has been good. I’m extremely excited about my MLIS and all the other projects I have going on. I’ve also been extremely stressed.

A large part of my stress is due to Covid-19. Rather ironically, not because of the disease itself, but because of other people’s responses and attitudes.

Human beings are terrible at risk assessment. During the pandemic, a prominent daily news column pointed this out repeatedly, trying to highlight how driving is more dangerous than catching Covid. Not actually that accurate, since there were around 40,000 car-related deaths in the US in 2018, but Covid has already accounted for over a million deaths in the US. (If we assume 40k holds true x the 3 years of the pandemic, the numbers don’t even come close).

That said,: most people don’t seem to be giving Covid-19 much thought anymore. Nor do they seem to be giving the ordinary flu or cold that much thought.

As of December 29, the viral concentration in local wastewater samples was 1,947 copies per milliliter​, representing a 42 percent increase over over seven days and a 116 percent increase over 14 days, the Boston Public Health Commission​​ said.
Mask mandates return to Boston schools: "We should all be masking indoors, staying home when sick, and testing for COVID-19. In addition, getting boosted is the best way to protect yourself from severe illness and hospitalization." While I know this news may be depressing for some people, I find it heartening because there’s some slim chance that the rhetoric around masking may actually change at a permanent level one of these days. Common courtesy should be to mask during high-risk seasons and events!

As someone with chronic health issues, I think about these issues constantly.

There is not a day that goes by where I don’t feel pain. It’s usually low-level, and easy to ignore. But not always. It comes through in myriad ways, from exhaustion, to depression, to anxiety; it also comes with a host of co-morbid conditions (a fancy way of saying that one condition makes another more likely).

Something like so-called “Long Covid” is an issue that I can actually understand and empathize with effortlessly. Because I already know what chronic conditions are like, I’m uniquely qualified to know that I don’t want any new ones.

At the same time, the safety/sanity balance needs to be taken seriously. Katie and I love being social, we love having friends around, and we love being part of a community.

To strike this balance, we have a primary guiding rule: we don’t go into indoor public spaces without a mask on (and we don’t, therefore, eat indoors). We do spend time with friends at private residences. The balance here is one of reduced points of risk contact, while accepting some inherent risk for the obvious mental health and social benefits of spending time with people we care about.

But, it’s hard to find other people who take things even this seriously. And that’s depressing for me.

On Saturday, I went for a walk, thinking that I’d get a coffee along the way and enjoy the rain. When I reached the coffee shop, I realized I’d forgotten my mask. So, I kept walking. There’s usually a place that serves coffee farther down the street that, through the whole pandemic, has used a serving window that opens onto the street. I’ll just grab a coffee there! I thought.

But, due to the storms, even that place has moved to all-indoor dining. So, I just ended up walking home. It was a little depressing, but only for this specific reason: it would be less unsettling and unsafe if everyone else were still wearing masks.

Allow me to explain my view in the simplest way: masking up should be common courtesy. Like holding open a door, or not peeing in public.

Long before Covid-19, I always wanted to wear a mask during flu season, but it seemed like something I’d be ostracized for, so I never did. Now, it’s a habit I like because it helps keep me from getting sick (“helps” being the operative word, here, just like washing one’s hands). If everyone else were taking care to wear a mask in public, I’d be a hell of a lot less concerned. My stress level would be lower. I’d be able to have more fun.

If you wear a mask in public, you’re literally signalling that you care about me. Even if we’re strangers, your mask shows me that you care about my wellbeing. And, if we’re friends or family, your masking up in public likewise shows me that you’re taking my wellbeing into your personal account.

What I want is a country where mutual aid is a natural, given, basic part of our social expression. Where, if you have the sniffles, there’s no way in heck you’d even go outside without a kf-94 or kn-95 on.

Sadly, our culture is deeply selfish. So, where will that leave me in the years ahead? I don’t know. But, I do know that Covid-19 will not be the last pandemic I see in my lifetime. The sooner we make the big social changes, the better things will be.

From the Web

Inage with a decision tree. The top box says "I want to do this". To the left there is an arrow pointing down to a box that says "Do it". To the right there is an arrow pointing down to a box that says "But I am scared", with another arrow below it pointing below to  another box that also says, "Do it".
Author unknown

A favorite quote:

"Most people have no imagination. If they could imagine the sufferings of others, they would not make them suffer so." - Ernst Toller (1934)

I love little comics like this.

Well, folks… that’s it for this week! We’re moving through January at a really clipped pace. I hope you’re taking time to find good systems for your life and wellbeing. If you have any systems or tips you’d like to share, please leave a comment below!

Otherwise, go easy, and if you can’t go easy, go as easy as you can.

~Odin Halvorson

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