New Experiences & Old Pains

I have a job that I like. The people are awesome, the tasks are interesting and exciting, and I feel like there is plenty of opportunities for me to grow professionally. Not to mention that it’s much better than the previous (short-lived) job I had, and a very good improvement over my first job. I’ve been given the opportunity to work here, and I don’t want to lose it.

And, I think, for most of my short time here, I have not been able to escape this anxious feeling that I am not doing enough. I realize that some of it is because until I pass around the six-month mark, and I finally feel secure, I will always be wondering if I’m actually filling the shows. Six months, I think, is about when I stop myself from thinking this is all a mistake, and I will be given the boot.

But while some of it is that fear that someone, somewhere, made a mistake, there is something more worrying happening: I see the gap of what I could be doing, and what I’m actually doing, and I feel myself lacking.

I’ve told myself that I felt like my short stint at my previous job broke me. Too many things felt wrong and I developed some bad habits as a way to make it through the day. So, while I was on the treadmill from my first job working remote, I fell off it on the second, and now I need to get back on it.

Being on the treadmill isn’t easy, you see, but I know I can do it. It takes time. If I saw myself get better at it over time, knowing that it’ll be a matter of time until I get up to speed, it’d be okay. It’s not great knowing you used to do better, but at least I could get my head down and keep on trying.

What I’m frustrated by is that getting on the treadmill is so tough. It feels like a constant battle with myself just to approach it. I try to trick myself, and it sometimes works, but I can tell that it’s only a temporary victory. I try to work from somewhere else in the house, and it works (despite some technical issues that come with it), but I can see that it will, eventually, stop working. Could maybe working from an office, with the pressure to at least pretend I’m working, help to do what I must? Probably. At this point, I’m open to the idea.

What I do know, however, is that I want to do a good job, live up to my own expectations and the standards of the team, and that I shouldn’t need to fight myself to do something I want.

And I know, there are plenty of suggestions and tricks to do a better job at that fight. I shouldn’t need to. If I want to do something, it’s not crazy to think that, barring some survival instinct or moral quandary, I shouldn’t just do it. But that’s not what happens internally, and I’m not sure it ever did.

University was an ebb and flow between taking advantage of classes where possible and the stress of cramming and all-nighters because finals were coming. If I go back far enough, the only time it hasn’t been like this was back when I still studied along with mom. She’d sit us down every day to do our homework and study if need be, and things were a breeze back then. But I certainly wasn’t the one setting the pace – I’d only keep it because I knew there wouldn’t be an escape from it. I’d have to do it, and I couldn’t run from it.

And I insist. Surely that isn’t where it should end. Surely, it stands to reason that if I want to do something, I could just do it. I’m not even talking about keeping at it or being good at it. Oh, no. I’m merely talking about getting on the treadmill and saying “I’m doing this” and then doing it.

Noise

I am frustrated.

For a few months now, I have noticed that I have been doing my best to drown myself in sound. At first, I believed that I was trying to avoid facing my thoughts, doing my best to not sit with myself. It didn’t help that until recently, I was in a job that wasn’t for me and that made my days terrible. It wouldn’t have been the first time, either. So, I figured that keeping my computer on and always playing something was both a literal and figurative way of ensuring that I couldn’t think of anything else. Why, though? What was it that I was trying to shut off?

Meanwhile, the desire to go to a hotel just for the sake of being away from everything, maybe going to a spa or something like that has been growing on me. Maybe I have run out of emotional credit and just need to shut off everything for a bit.

And then I turned the noise off.

I had forgotten that the dogs bark throughout the night. I had forgotten that my mother goes outside because the dogs bark outside. And it’s not just that. The realization made me notice that it’s not myself that I’m trying to shut off. I’ve been itchy to write, to talk, to think things through and voice my conclusions and opinions. I have been doing my best to gain the confidence to do so, too.

Instead, I am trying to shut the outside world out. I’m trying to shut off the barking of the dogs throughout the day, no matter how much I often just don’t notice. I’m trying to shut off the regular arguments and discussions about the same subjects over and over with my grandparents whenever they come. I’m trying to shut off my parents, who are venting all the time about the same things, in the same way.

So, I’m frustrated. I don’t feel like it’s in my hands to change it. I already do my best to remove myself, given that I don’t really hang out outside my room anyway. But it isn’t as soundproof as it could be, so at the end of the day either I put on headphones or I play something on the speakers. And, at this point, I don’t believe my parents want to change, if they even think there is something worth changing.

I wish I had anything worth concluding. Instead, all I’m left with is frustration and anger. At some point I will move over to resignation, as I move towards a new equilibrium.

The Long Endless Walk

For a long time, a friend has wanted to take some self-defense classes. During the lockdown, she learned that we had some institutes nearby that had the classes she was looking for. Since Covid-19 containment measures have eased up in Portugal, and gyms and other establishments are open again, she figured this was the perfect opportunity to start. She asked me to go with her to the place and, although I didn’t want to have the classes myself, I figured I could go for a walk. It’s been a while since I have taken one, as I’ve been spending most of my time at home. So, that day after work, I went with her and while she had her try out class, I walked.

In the town I live, we have this long, straight road with a walking and cycling paved path next to a long road, which connects the city center with the closest beach. It’s lined by decent sized detached homes with small gardens, and through the closest parts to town a kind of suburb has grown. The walking path is separated from the roads by threes, with gaps for pedestrian crossings I don’t trust because no driver is ever going to see you before you’re about to cross. It’s the kind of path that’s too straight and too level, with not much going on besides the rows of houses that slowly thin out the further you go. Mind-numbingly so.

If you look straight ahead, it looks endless and, for the next thirty minutes or so, it might as well be. It’s both the perfect stretch to turn off your brain for a while, and to let your mind wander through subjects you’ve been avoiding. If the weather is just right, it becomes a short, walk-able version of going for a drive we see so often in American movies.

The blue sky served as a great backdrop for the fluffy white clouds. It made me wish I had taken my camera with me

There aren’t many distractions along the way. At most, a bike goes around you and quickly pulls away from you. Or perhaps you find the odd group talking as they walk. Otherwise, it’s just you and your thoughts – or your music, if that’s the kind of company you’d rather have. If it was closer, I would sometimes just stroll in the evenings when I need some time to think, or maybe to be away from everything.

Frozen Landscapes and the Food That Warms Our Hearts

I have been a bit unmotivated lately. While I recorded a bit with the tripod, the footage has been sitting on my hard drive. I will hopefully upload it somewhere this coming week so I can share it with other people. At the very least, I’d like to share the videos before the end of spring, as it would otherwise feel out of place to share them. And while I haven’t been “productive”, I have been occupying my time with other things.

Season two of Snowpiercer began a the end of January and, since a few friends and I were interested in watching it, we decided to watch it together. Due to some scheduling issues (as it happens), it was only recently that we managed to start watching the show. Without going into much detail, I had some reservations. Season one was amazing, but the cliffhanger at the end left me worried that we might see a regression in state. After all, my excitement about this series is the interplay between the characters and the political aspects of the story.

So far, four episodes in, I haven’t been disappointed. It might feel a bit slow on one or two episodes, but it’s easy to see how it serves to set up the stage for the rest of the season. I can’t wait for the next time we get together to watch the new set of episodes, as I’m rather curious about what’s going to happen next.

Meanwhile, I did a Stellaris cooperative play-through with a friend. It is one of the few games that I still keep up with and, since it had an expansion released on the 15th (Nemesis), we wanted to see what was new.

The title feature of this expansion is that now you can bring the end of the universe, and everyone else is now properly encouraged to stop you. And while that aspect is good (if a bit shallow), the other changes are much more interesting to me. The introduction of fog of war changes the early game, and since now there is the concept of not instantly knowing everything about another empire, everything is a bit more nebulous and interesting. At least, that’s my first impression. We did find the changes to population growth a bit too jarring (and the developers agreed that some values need changes), but otherwise it was a great experience.

Since we were too strong to be properly fought by the AI, and we were about to end the game, we sent our entire navies to fight the other end-game crisis. We lost.

Friday’s are pizza days (for the most part), and last week’s Friday we got to eat frozen pizza. It isn’t as good as homemade pizza, but it’s still rather good. Even more so when we consider the difference in effort! As much as we like to eat tasty things, sometimes it’s alright to just throw something together and call it good enough.

However, it did provide me with the perfect opportunity to practice taking photos of food, and I think I actually managed to take a few decent ones. Or, at least, I get hungry looking back at them.

  • My father cutting a cheese and ham pizza. Three pieces of bread with butter and melted cheese on top.
  • A close up of my father cutting up the slices of the cheese and ham pizza.

I will keep practicing, as I’m sure I can figure out how to better place the lights, and which perspective is best. The biggest issue, however, is that time spent taking photos is time not spent eating…

On the next day, I ate a delicious grilled Salmon. Salmon is my favorite fish to eat, absolutely loving it in about any way I have tried it. This one had salt, garlic powder, parsley and a bit of lemon. It was great, if a bit too much, and I’m looking forward to eating it again.

The grilled salmon on a white plate. Some oil marks on the borders of the plate. Not pictured: my desire to eat it.

Finally, on Sunday 25th, we had cheesecake for dessert. This is a recipe an old friend taught us and so far hasn’t been bested by any other cheesecake I’ve tried. Sure, other styles have their own charms – and I certainly won’t refuse them -, but when I think of what a cheesecake is, this is it.

Sadly, the jam this time wasn’t as tasty as it could have been. It was a bit too sweet and had too little strawberry taste. But, considering we didn’t have any jam at home, I’m quite happy with it.

  • The cheesecake presented on a glass plate.
  • A close-up of the cheesecake.
  •  A slice of the cheesecake on a plate.

Unknown Feelings and Red Roses

This week has been quiet, to be honest. Or rather, while I have been doing things, none feel exciting to talk about. Any other week this would have been fine – sometimes it takes time for things to happen. There is a small piece I wrote that has been sitting on my drafts because it’s missing a photo and I haven’t had the chance to take it. There is a video I have been meaning to share that I haven’t reviewed nor uploaded anywhere. Yet I can’t help that this feeling is a symptom of something else. I’m perhaps afraid that I’m going to fall into another bad mood. Or perhaps there are some feelings that I haven’t really worked through.

Regardless, part of this exercise is pushing through that veil and, at the very least, remembering the things that I did do, even if they don’t seem very visible.

This week, I focused on Instagram. I have been putting off reviewing the last batch of photos I took, since I just haven’t been feeling like it. So, at least I went through some of those and added more to the queue. I also photographed a rose and I couldn’t wait to share it. I do admit to some frustration since I’m not quite sure how Instagram works, but I understand that the only thing I can do is keep working on it.

A blooming rose. Originally published on Instagram on the 2021-04-10.

I have been listening to unravel, by TK from Ling tosite sigure. I first listened to this song when watching Tokyo Ghoul months ago and I rediscovered it recently as I was looking for Jujutsu Kaisen’s OP on Spotify. I love the dynamism of the song and the contrast of his voice with the energy of the instruments. The calm intro with the lone vocals, the swelling, the energy explosion followed to a return to a heavy charged calmness on the first verse. The chorus, oh the chorus. And the rawness in his voice just before the bridge as he screams “unraveling the world”.

I could go on, but I don’t think my words could do justice to it.

Broken Glasses and Comfort Shows

A few months ago I promised a friend I would get a new lens for my camera. I made the promise because I tend to say I want to do something, but then I procrastinate on it until it no longer makes sense. We both know it, so promising it to him is a great way to make sure I actually do things. So, a few days ago I purchased a new lens for the camera and I’ve been having fun with it! I took lots of photos, and given that it’s spring and bugs are out, even tried my hand at recording with it.

That said, it hasn’t been all good with the new lens. The day it arrived I went to test it out. I wanted to try retaking some photos that didn’t come out right with my kit lens. And, because I’m… careless, as I was trying to take one of the photos, I put my glasses on the ground. One of the dogs was really excited I was about and came. He accidentally put his paw on them, and considering it’s that rough pavement… One of the lenses got scratched.

I asked my dad to attempt to save them, but sadly there wasn’t much we could do. Alas. A trip to the local store to ensure the prescription hadn’t changed and to choose a new set.

A lense from a pair of glasses. It has a scratch in it in the middle
An attempt was made to polish away the scratch, optical characteristics be damned. It didn’t succeed.

On other personal achievements, however, I did some organizing. I went through my email inbox with the intent to, at least, mark all emails as read. It took a while, and it is in no ways perfect, but certainly better than what it used to be.

Continuing the ebb and flow between good and bad, these two weeks I haven’t been in a great mood. Some expectation mismatches, is all. And as it turns out, my comfort food nowadays is just watching anime. I binge watched two up to current release through Crunchyroll. Both are from the Isekai genre, though one of them is further along than the other.

The first one was So I’m a Spider, So What?, which was really enjoyable. Half a season is currently available, with more to come after the mid-season break and I’m honestly very excited about what the next half is going to bring. I have enjoyed the main character’s arc so far, and there are hints and promises both for the other characters and the plot that I would like to see fulfilled which I won’t talk about to avoid spoiler.

The other series I binged on was That Time I got Reincarnated as a Slime. It’s fun. I have enjoyed the characters and the plot. I appreciate the focus it has given to diplomacy and trade, even if at the end of the day it won’t venture too deep into the subjects. Though, beware, it has its fair share of fan service.

Finally, I ought to mention the Cookie Creams Cheesecake my mom made. A friend shared the recipe with us, praising its taste. She did recommend we use more chocolate cookies than what’s on the recipe, and I’m glad we followed her advice. The taste of the chocolate cookies mixes rather well with the lemon in the filling. Though I do prefer a creamier and cheese cheesecake, this was definitely a good change of pace!

I’d love to share the recipe, but all I have is a photo of the magazine where it was published, so instead here are some pictures of the cheesecake once it was done.

An Organized Inbox

I have had an inbox with hundreds of unread email for years now. Throughout the years I have set up some rules to manage the flow of emails, directing Patreon updates, newsletters, and promotional things to specific labels. Google’s automatic email categorization has also helped surface the ones I care about. Recently, however, I decided to make some improvements and, perhaps, get that unread number down to something reasonable.

The other reason I have so many emails is because I don’t really delete them. If I care about them, I read and then return to the inbox, satisfied that they are no longer highlighted and not counted as unread. And those from the categories I mentioned above? Chances are they are not getting read to begin with. In fact, I would have set up a maximum age for those emails if Gmail had let me – a newsletter from a year ago is not something I will ever care about, I think.

Thus, I finally decided to return to using Thunderbird as my email client. I have always been quite fond of it and it does everything that I need of one. Its biggest sin is that its rules only apply locally, which means that I don’t benefit from them on the go. That said, I can set retention policies and its search is much more in line with what I want than Google’s.

So, throughout the week, I set up rules and filters, handling the bulk of them. And for those that were too few to justify, I went through them one by one, doing my best to prefer deletion over merely leaving as unread. Imagining a room filled with read letters, none particularly worth the space they occupy proved useful. The next challenge will be going through those that are read and cleaning them up!

I Can See The Bees – Equipment Upgrade

I recently acquired a new lens for my DSLR camera. It’s a Sigma 18-200mm that I chose because its relative affordability and the versatility it would give me over the basic 18-55mm lens I’ve been using. I’m quite happy with it, to be honest. It allows me to take pictures that I couldn’t before. For example, in spring our garden comes alive with insects and blossoming flowers. With this lens I can now focus on the bees without being afraid that I’m too close to them.

Now? I just have fun with it.

The other thing is that it suits me better for the style of framing I want to do. I’m sure that with the old one there was plenty I could do (and did), specially with the aid of some work in the computer. For, with this one, I do feel like I have more freedom to do what I want to do the way I want to do it.

That said, the experience has solidified my desire for a macro lens, since I still want to take photos of small tiny things. I still want to get close to fungus, barks and rocks, and I think that it will (much like this one did) let me take those photos in a much more pleasant way.

Regardless, the lens did give me an excuse to learn some more video-related skills. I wanted to take a video of the bees and the butterflies out in the garden, but I don’t have a tripod. I intended to use a ladder we have at home as a place to rest the camera but that one wasn’t available… So I figured I would make my best effort to record without shaking and I would do some video stabilization with blender.

I’m quite happy of how it came out for my first attempt with the entire thing. Hopefully, I do get around taking more and better videos! At least, I hope, I can take some worthy of sharing online.

Networked Printer

After having the home printer on a chair for a few weeks, unused and somewhat in the way, I figured it was time to find it a more permanent home somewhere in the house. Now, I had already figured that the Raspberry Pi 4 I own would be perfect for printing server duties, since it’s low power and it is always on. The challenge was the space. There really isn’t much space available for it anywhere else in the house, so the only place left would be in the bottom shelf of my desk, assuming I could either find a better place to store a few forgotten things that were there, or get rid of them.

The other thing that I was afraid of was that it’d be complicated to set up on Linux, whether it be due to driver issues or something else; or that it wouldn’t be compatible with every other machine in the house except mine. I don’t necessarily mind fiddly set ups, but since this is meant to service the entire house I figured it should be easy to use.

As it turns out, it was easy (though I recommend using google for an actual tutorial, if that’s what you need):

  1. Connect the printer to the Pi via USB
  2. Ensure the printer is powered (noted here because I forgot!)
  3. Install cups from the distribution’s repositories
  4. Add my user to the printer mangament group
  5. Go to web management user interace’s administration section
  6. Add printer, following the onscreen instructions
  7. Ensure printer sharing is enabled (there is a checkbox)
  8. Try printing from your phone and discover it’s essentially already configured and ready to print

The last point is the one that caught me off-guard. The last I had heard about printing from Android was because Google ‘s Cloud Print was getting sunset and I figured that I could probably still print, but it’d involve setting some things up first. What I did not expect was for it to just show up on the list of available printers without me doing anything. Hooray!

The new home of my printer. It has a insulation left-over to hold the paper up.

Of course, these kinds of small projects need a wrinkle in them. For some reason my parent’s couldn’t see or use the printer despite having the phones being the same model. While I suspect it might have been related to some networking issue, the issue went away shortly after. I think it might resurface, but for now, I’m just happy. There is only one person who needs to try this and ensure it works, which is my sister, but I suspect it’s going to work rather well there too.

Chairs, Dogs and the Joys of Remote Work

For a while now I have been suffering from pain on my right arm – mostly focused on the wrist and hand. It comes and goes with time and, when it comes, I usually do my best to give that arm a rest. I’m pretty sure it’s related to the posture that I keep, since the chair I had been using wasn’t made for sitting for eight hours a day or more.

Thus, at the beginning of the month, I figured I had been with a terrible chair for long enough, so I decided to buy a decent one. At a previous job I used one I liked: the IKEA Markus. I figured that one would be a good choice. However, it wasn’t in production anymore (though I did find it on Ebay). Instead, I got the successor: the Järvfjället.

It’s quite nice. I love being able to rest my head on it and the way it encourages me to sit properly. I didn’t get the armrests because I figured that I wouldn’t need them as much (I was wrong), but also that I could just buy them later. Considering they are 30 euros extra, and the already high price of the chair, I think that I can be without them until IKEA opens again and I can go pick them up there.

On Friday morning, I accompanied a friend to a doctor’s appointment. It was mostly because it was her first trip on her own to that city. And, also, it’s nice to hang out even if it’s a road trip. I got to experience the joys of working remotely again because it meant that I could just attend whatever meetings I had while I waited for her to be done. I only needed a good Internet connection. To be honest, these things are making me value remote work so much more that I’m not sure I want to go back to an office again.

Finally, throughout the week I went to my garden and took some more photos. Although, to be quite honest, it has mostly been an excuse to look at something else other than computer screens. My eyes have been feeling tired and I notice that looking outside is more uncomfortable than it should be. Besides, I get to look at pretty flowers and practice some of my photography skills. I’d even say I could take pictures of my dogs if they didn’t immediately walk towards me whenever I try to take a picture.

A picture of one of my dogs getting to close to the camera. There is a spot on the camera from the dog breathing on the lense.

They are precious. I just, you know, wish they would stay still for long enough for me to take a photo of them.