Music, Memory, and Productivity

When I’m writing, I generally prefer silence. At least, I say that I do. In my mind having music on a background noise is the exception to the rule, but I have a lot of exceptions. The neighbors are being loud. I need a mood elevator. Something need to focus my attention back to the here-and-now. The thing is, I can’t just listen to anything. My playlists have to be carefully curated. It comes down to the intersection of music, memory, and productivity.

My go-to work music is one of two things: jazz or classical. Nothing with lyrics. I’ve got a selection of instrumental jazz, mostly from the 50s and 60s. The mood is mellow and just slighlty upbeat, nothing too loud or jumpy. It’s coffee shop stuff, or early evening NPR from my younger days. It’s a general association with writing in cafes.

Similarly, the classical is up-tempo but not bombastic, leaning more toward light and airy solos and small ensembles than full-blow orchestral pieces. Old bookstore stuff, or afternoon NPR when I was in college. There are a few associations, but not many. It takes me back to sitting in my apartment, banging out term papers and short stories.

For no reason I can remember, last week I started listening to 80’s alternative. Elvis Costello. Blondie. Tears for Fears. Bands that I’ve never been particularly invested in. Yeah, some Talking Heads, The Clash, and such slip in there, but it’s mostly bands that would make the youth say “Who?”. Heaven 17, The Fixx, Wall of Voodoo. This mix has been working for me, but the why of it didn’t click until a few minutes prior to sitting down to write this.

Music, Memory, and Productivity

In the 1980s, I was in art school and university. I closed out the decade living in center city Philadelphia, surrounded by creative people. Even though I wouldn’t have put the 80s alternative playlist together myself, and I’m not really into most of those bands, it struck a nerve. That was the time when I was most enthusiastic about being a professional creative. It was the time period when the prospect of doing what I do now was exciting.

I was a much needed epiphany.

No matter how much I love my job, it’s still a job. I’m not creating art for art’s sake, I need to get the bills paid. What I’m doing now, in my 50s, is the sort of thing I should have been doing in my 20s and 30s. Unfortunately, I got sucked into the corporate world and lost my way. Part of me things that I should be further along in this career than I am. Another part of my thinks I should have outgrown all of this.

What I keep forgetting about is the part where this is fun. If a playlist can take me back to a time when I had too much enthusiasm, I’ll take it. Those days weren’t better; they were hard in different ways, the world will still screwed up, and a lot of people were awful. But I had a much better attitude about things then. I need to get some of that back.

Someone in Our Building Tested Positive for Covid

While Katie and I were out grocery shopping earlier today, we received an email from our landlord. They didn’t expressly say that someone in our building tested positive for covid, but it was comfortably nestled between the lines. It stated that anyone that had been to a particular bar on a particular day, or had been in contact with anyone that had, shouldn’t leave their apartment. Symptoms or no symptoms, if you’ve been exposed, quarantine. They’re sending a mobile testing van around on Saturday.

For those just tuning in, we live in a university town. Our building is filled with university students. This city has one of the fastest growing rates of infection in the country, and not surprisingly the largest demographic for new cases is people aged 20 to 29. The trash can outside our building is filled with masks, because people can’t be bothered to wear them all the way into their apartment. There are masks on the ground near bus stops, because you need to wear one to ride public transportation and they peel them off as soon as they can. I see maskless students walking in packs every day through my windows.

The Bar Has Been Named, Shamed, and Shut Down

Through test and trace they’ve identified 26 people who were at the bar that day that have tested positive. They’ve tested around half of the estimated 150 people who were there at the same time as the positive cases. Almost all of these cases are foreign exchange students. This does not bode well for the increasing hostility toward foreigners I’ve experienced since the pandemic began.

Katie and I put on our masks before we leave the apartment. I don’t touch anything in the hallway, including the handrails on the stairs. I open push doors with my elbow or shoulder, and pull door open with one gloved finger. Coming home, we don’t take off our masks until the apartment door is closed. We immediate sanitize everything and wash our hands.

Being Antisocial is My Superpower

The only time I leave the apartment to go grocery shopping and use the laundry room. I stay 2 meters away from anyone properly wearing a mask, 5 meters from anyone not wearing a mask, and as far as possible from the morons who are technically wearing a mask but leave their nose sticking out.

I book the laundry room for the crack of dawn, when it first opens. No one else wants to do laundry that early. It’s a programmed electronic lock, so no one’s there. No one will have been in the room for at least 9 hours, and since the best science currently says the virus can’t live on most surfaces beyond 6 hours, I feel pretty safe. I’m done before the next booked time slot begins, so I don’t run into anyone. I still wear gloves, and don’t touch anything I don’t need to.

Someone in Our Building Tested Positive for Covid

This whole thing infuriates me for two reasons. First, as I said before, there has been some rising anti-foreigner sentiment. We never encountered much of that prior to the pandemic. There’s a reason, too: there’s a correlation between Finland’s outbreaks and foreigners. The biggest last year was in Helsinki, the center of international business and tourism. Another large one was in Lapland, where there’s a ski resort popular with foreign tourists. There’s also a land border with Sweden up there, and when that country’s outbreak was at its worst people were trying to flee into Finland. A final big outbreak happened on a busy border crossing with Russia.

The other reason this infuriates me, though, is that it’s been almost a year. We know how this spreads. Everyone has seen how bad things got in other parts of Europe, and how out of control the virus is in the United States. Not taking precautions is just lazy and irresponsible. I have enough health problems that if I catch covid it probably won’t go well. I resent that in spite of my own precautions, I could still get sick because some kid had to fight for their right to party.

Final Weekend of the New Year Sale

DriveThruRPG is running their annual New Year, New Game sale. They’ve selected some Dancing Lights Press titles, which are anywhere from 15% to 25% off. What they didn’t include were any of our actual game systems. So we’re having our own sale, so you can try a new game in the new year. Digital core rulebooks are 25% off, through the duration of the sitewide sale.

LighthouseLighthouse HippogryphHippogryph DoubleZeroDoubleZero CantripCantrip DomnioDomnio

What Can I Say About the Capitol Riot?

No, seriously, I don’t know what anyone expects me to say about what’s happened in the United States. I’m surprised that anyone’s shocked. There’s been a fraction of the American public that’s been itching to run buck wild since 911. We watched the birther horseshit unfold during the Obama administration, and saw the brand of populist nationalism the Tea Party movement churned out. It isn’t as if we haven’t listened to a man who openly admires dictators call Mexican rapists, brag about inappropriately grabbing women, mock the disabled, disparage Muslims, and call for violence against journalists. All of us witnessed what happened in Charlottesville, at the Michigan State House, and at otherwise peaceful protests across America. How are any of you dumbfounded by the Capitol riot on 6 January, 2021?

I Don’t Want to Go Back

When asked why I want to stay in Finland, I point out that those people in red hats don’t miraculously go away after the inauguration. It’s like when you flip on the lights in the kitchen and the cockroaches scatter. You can’t see the roaches any more, but you know they’re still there. We’ve lived here since 2014. Before we left we had people ask why we’d ever want to live anywhere other than the greatest nation on Earth. A family member accused us of hating America because Katie said, and I quote, “We like living in Finland”. I have no doubt that the kind of domestic terrorists we saw yesterday would do us harm if given the opportunity.

I recognize my privilege.

Getting sent back to the United States would be hard, annoying, and possibly dangerous. There isn’t a drug cartel or government death squad waiting to take me out. I’d rather live in a place that isn’t infested with cockroaches, though. Especially when the landlords have historically done a piss-poor job with pest control. Security at the Capitol riot was a joke. Punish those who engaged in sedition, or they’ll keep coming back and the problem will only get worse.


Katie’s New Year Art Sale

My wife Katie is having a massive sale on her original, one-of-a-kind art dolls over at her web site. I’ll let her explain it:

I’m having a super-duper big sale to kick-off the new year! If there are any pieces of my artwork that you have been wanting to purchase now is the time! There will be pieces of my artwork pulled from my online shop on January 11, 2021 and no longer offered for sale. So, to reiterate, if you’ve been wanting to purchase a specific piece, you have ten days to do it!

Every piece of artwork in my online shop will be 50% off from 12 (Eastern European Standard Time) January 1, 2021 until 12 (EEST) January 10, 2021. Prices for pieces of artwork remaining in my shop will then revert to their previous prices.

All sales must be made through my online store. The discount applies only to the total cost of the items purchased. Shipping and handling are not discounted.  Given the current states of international shipping, please know that there may be some delays in shipping that are completely out of my hands. Package tracking is available. If interested, please contact me directly for details. All purchases shipped through Finnish Posti.

The real inside scoop is that we live in a ridiculously small apartment, and space is at a premium. She’s currently prepping for an art show that starts on the 11th, and some big projects later in the year. We need more room. Some pieces are going to have to go into storage, which means taking them out of the shop. So why not put them on sale, and create space that way? Go check out Katie’s New Year art sale!