Month: January 2016

Sunday Sundries, Vol. 33: Short hiatus, activate!

Good evening, glorious people of the Internet!

This is a short update to say that I’m taking a two-week blog break to focus on work for my Masters. I’d love to just blog constantly, but getting my Masters is also important and until I get my hands on a time-turner I’m unable to find enough hours in the day (but seriously, if any of you get your hands on a time turner, you know where to find me).

The good news is, I’ll be back here on February 14th with some exciting news, posts and giveaways.

Until then, please enjoy these Sunday Sundries:

Lots of love. Meet you back here on Valentine’s Day.

Mel Hattie Signature 2016 - Final - Mel Only

 

 

 

 

Sunday Sundries, Vol. 32: London Calling

This weekend’s been a wild one.

As if hearing that I’ll be going to Bosnia & Hercegovina with Photographers Without Borders didn’t already have me fist pumping around the house, I also heard back from the CBC bureau in London, England that I’ve been accepted there as an intern for the month of April.

My response:

 

CBC London was my No. 1 internship choice. I told anyone in my program who’d listen that I’d like to be in the heart of the CBC’s European news operation. And now I’m going to be there!

Watch out, you can look forward to posts about my life as an intern there as well as (of course) British tea!

The best part is that London CBC has sent me a great guide for interning there. I love guides. Most importantly, it includes where the local after work pub is. I think I’m going to work my ass off and fit right in.

During Christmas break I had set plans in motion for BiH and the UK, but I had no idea whether I’d hear back or be successful at getting them. Now I have to stop dancing around the kitchen and start arranging visas, plane tickets and the like.

It’s all happy work though. If the rest of my years continue like this, I’ve got nothing to complain about.

I wound down from all the excitement today by making a batch of cookies. The ones pictured in this post! I got the recipe recommended by a friend and you can find it here. Full disclosure: they are very yummy.

Thanks for sticking around. Here are your ( a bit late in the evening) Sunday Sundries:

Here’s looking forward to Monday.

Mel Hattie Signature 2016 - Final - Mel Only

 

 

 

 

 

‘Career of Evil,’ by Robert Galbraith

This book had me gripped in its clutches from day one.

For those of you that have been reading along with Galbraith’s (a.k.a. J.K. Rowling’s) Cormoran Strike mystery series, this is the novel where we see determined and valiant assistant Robin Ellacott transform from victim to avenger.

No spoilers in this review, but we do find out a lot about both more Strike and Ellacott’s pasts in Career of Evil. In fact, a lot of the dominos and breadcrumbs that Galbraith set up and led us with in the first two novels get knocked down or absolved in this novel. In fact, one question that entered my concerned mind after it ended was, ‘is there anything left to knock over? Is it too tidy? Where’s she going to take it next?’

Then I reassured myself, ‘It’s Rowling. She knows what she’s doing.’

According to what Rowling’s been saying in the media, there is a fourth (and possibly many more) Cormoran Strike novels in the works. Woohoo!

My favourite thing about this book is how it’s essentially a giant examination of violence against women.

We’ve got short term violence, chronic violence, women who try and help other women, women who reject help, women who hurt women, women trying to break free of what violence has done to them, men who hurt women and men who hurt men who hurt women.

The lens of fiction let’s the author accordion and play with time, so we get to look at these relationships and their evolution through key moments in the characters’ relationships.

Also, there was a time when I was working in the Asset Recovery and Insolvency department of a law firm where I seriously considered becoming a private detective or a bailiff. These novels definitely stir up that same excitement in me. Luckily, with journalism I’m still hunting down stories and searching for the truth every day. Signs that I’m on the right path. I wish I could hang out with Robin – I think we’d be good buddies.

I was sad to reach the end of this book because it meant not getting to go back over and over again to these characters to peek in on what they were doing. At least for a little while. Hurry up Galbraith and publish another one!

Sunday Sundries, Vol. 31: Goodbye Bowie and Rickman

I think we all know it was a hard week. A week where star men died and wands were raised in recognition of the loss of two men who were great both in artistry or empathy. I see this having never known or met either of them, but from the anecdotes of those who were close to them and from enjoying their art, it’s an assumption I feel comfortable making.

On top of that, we got a surprise load of snow here in Halifax yesterday night, which is incidentally why this post is late. I was helping to shovel the driveway so my future husband (must practice saying that) can escape for work later.

Here are your Sunday Sundries.

That’s it for this week. Let’s hope this week coming has less death, less snow and more clementine cake and bulgogi sloppy joes.  All the best and good luck to you in your corner of the world!

Mel Hattie Signature 2016 - Final - Mel Only

 

 

 

 

 

Six Tips To Help You Read More

Last week I posted my reading list for 2016. It’s 52 books long and a continuation of my 2015 project to read one book per week.

Over the course of last year I found there were a few things that really worked for me to help me get through my list. I hope they help you too!

Never underestimate what you can do with five minutes.

You don’t need half an hour to ‘sit down and read’. You can grab your book and read a chapter while waiting for supper to defrost in the microwave.

Always keep your book at hand.

Use public transit. Even if it takes longer than driving, you can focus on a story instead of traffic. Sounds like a worthwhile tradeoff to me. Plus, you’ll save money on gas!

Keep a reading log.

Hold yourself accountable. You’re also way more likely to remember what you read in a few months or a year if you jot down a few sentences about what you thought of the book or ideas that came to you while reading it.

Reading books is great. Remembering them is even better.

Read books you like

This may sound obvious but even I’ve found myself slogging away through the latest à la mode thought piece or trending book club hit for the sake of having said I read it, only to hate it the entire time.

If a book is not working for you, just dump it.

There are better books out there for you and any person who says you’re not complete unless you’ve read Naomi Klein or Eat, Pray, Love should probably be avoided at all costs.

That being said, don’t be afraid to give things a try. Even if they’re not your usual cup of tea.

I worked tea into the post. Yippee!

Read before bed.

I’ve got an alarm that goes off and tells me to get ready for bed. It also puts you in a great place to fall asleep.

Put your phone in ‘silent’ mode.

Distractions kill the mood and your focus while reading. Ain’t nobody got time for texts (or worse: push notifications. Blech.)

Happy reading!

Mel Hattie Signature 2016 - Final - Mel Only

‘Killing and Dying,’ by Adrian Tomine

It is a special thing in this world when you find someone who masters two crafts and then blends them together seamlessly.

This collection of six short graphic stories by the Optic Nerve and Shortcomings author Adrian Tomine takes us through issues of failed dreams, mistaken identities, parenting, cancer, immigration, family relationships, how the pursuit of an idae can make us dicks, abusive relationships, substance abuse and stand-up.

We knew Tomine was an excellent illustrator from his regular work in Optic Nerve, The New Yorker and his other publications, but reading Killing and Dying confirms he’s also a masterful storyteller.

The writing in Killing and Dying is honest and dark; funny and true; heartbreaking and empathetic. It had me weeping for characters my social engineering would normally have me despise: the racist, the deadbeat, the pathetic, the misogynist, the unfixable, the tragic, the violent.

His stories leave us feeling uncomfortable with our own feelings and that’s a very interesting place for a reader to be.

Tomine is very economic with his storytelling. Although his pieces are heavily narrative-driven, not a line of ink or word are wasted. His dialogue is as clean as his pencil lines. There is no overdone complexity.

Each story really has a distinctive narrative and graphic style. There’s no mistaking where one ends and the other begins.

The story ‘Intruders’ is drawn in a dark pencil sketch reminiscent of Yoshihiro Tatsumi. Tomine and Tatsumi worked together through their published, Drawn and Quarterly. Tomine has said Tatsumi was a mentor to the younger artist. Tatsumi passed away in March, 2015, before Killing and Dying was published.

His visual narrative style is extremely understated. Tomine’s simple clean lines and plainly-drawn characters fool us into thinking the topics are not incredible hard to write about, he does it with such ease.

There’s one panel in the titular story, ‘Killing and Dying’ where, without ever saying anything, simply by the way he draws the panel, you know one of the characters is no longer with us. It’s never been stated anywhere in the story, but the way he draws it you all of a sudden feel this whole undercurrent of unstated grief and loss and unfairness.  He doesn’t have to say anything.  It is so good.

As for categorization. Maybe we can call this the visual short story. Can this be a thing? I feel like Tomine has made it a thing. Reading the stories of intimate lives set in non-descript and slightly decrepit urban American harkens me back to Flannery O’Connor and her short stories in southern gothic style, with their grotesque characters and questions of morality.

Killing and Dying is sad and perfect. It transcends the graphic novel medium and has me itching to read more of his previous work. This has been one of my favourite reads of the past year.

Have you read this yet?

How to Declutter Your Digital Life

In honour of today being Clean Off Your Desk Day (yes, it’s a real thing) I want to share a post about something I’m oddly passionate about.

Digital Hygiene

Yes. It might not sound sexy, but there’s nothing more satisfying than sitting down to work at your computer and having organized icons, a clean desktop and a logical filing system.

I just tingled a bit.

In my undergrad I was the T.A. for Digital Imaging.  When I’d look over students’ shoulders and see files scattered willy-nilly across the desktop, named variations of ‘fgfdh’ and ‘untitled’, it drove me crazy.

Do people actually live like this?” I asked my professor.

Some people thrive on chaos and disorganization.  They can walk into a hoarder’s closet and expertly tell you where the yellow sock with the pink flowers is.

But for most of us, digital clutter is exhausting, distracting and unnecessary.

Mel_desktop_Mel_Had_Tea
My desktop at the moment. And no, I didn’t just shove everything under the rug into my Documents folder. This is generally what it looks like and how I always try to put it back after I finish working.

Why You Should Care

If you feel stressed when you look at your desktop, or the thought of rooting through your Pictures or Documents folders causes you anxiety, this post is for you.

If you quickly open your Internet browser to block the poorly-named JPEGs from glaring menacingly, this post is for you.

If a friend asks, “Do you have a copy of that audio file from the project we worked on last month?” and you panic, this post is for you.

We do so much work on our computers.  You might be able to shut your laptop and walk away, but even if you can’t see the mess, you know it’s there. 

There are also practical benefits to organizing your computer.

  • Less crap on hard drive = faster computer
  • Less clutter = easier to find things/finish work faster
  • Finish work faster = more time to enjoy non-computer life*

*This is the important part.

There’s a Better Way!

You’re tired of your desktop looking like it held a rager last night.  Let’s get down to it. You can even pull out the glasses-cleaner, cloth and clean the screen at the same time. Hold a spa day for your computer.

Have a Filing System

And stick to it.*

Have one central location for your files, be it the Documents folder, Google Drive or Dropbox. Keep it all in one spot.

Within that spot, sort by project.

If you’re a student you might try:

Documents >> Undergraduate >> Year >> Class Name

If you’re a freelancer, you might try:

Documents >> Client Work >> Client Name >> Project Name

And then within Project Name have subfolders like Client Questions, Assets, Source Material, Presentations or whatever makes sense for you.

Here’s an example from me. This is from a class I did last semester during my Masters. It was called ‘Radio Workshop’, so my hierarchy looked like this:

Dropbox >> Masters >> Year One >> Radio Workshop

Because we had a daily production schedule, within the Radio Workshop folder I sorted my folders by date, production type, role, story name.

Ex: 2015 12 01 –  RADIO ROOM – HOST/EDITOR

Screen Shot 2016-01-10 at 16.09.33 copyWhatever folder hierarchy you create, try and create the same one for each project. This sounds like a lot of work, but I swear it’s worth it.  Your brain will start to think in these terms and you’ll find things a lot faster.

The nice things about naming things chronolgically from as YEAR MONTH DAY is that if you hit Shift + + 1 they will automatically grid-sort to chronological order.

*This is the most important.

Have a Naming System

And stick to it.**

Same as your folders. Be intentional.  Don’t jam ‘dgjkhf’ into your keyboard when you hit ‘Save As’ because it’s quicker.  It’s not quicker if you spend 5, 10, 50 minutes looking for it later on.  Nobody likes looking for files after midnight.

When you’re working on a project, you might call the final file Project Name – Final.  This is great.  This makes sense.

The thing is, often when we tweak those projects after we think we’re done we end up with things like:

  • Project Name – FinalFinal
  • Project Name – FinalForReal
  • Project Name – ActuallyFinalThisTime
  • Project Name – UseThisOneSorryMark.

It’s hard to look back at that a week later and say, “So… which of these was the real final?”

When you’re done, go back and edit the names of the false finals so they don’t say final.  Better yet, just delete them.

Think of your computer like a room.  Digital files take up physical space there.  Be intentional.  Where is this file going to go?  What am I going to call it?  How am I going to find it later?

**Seriously, the most important.

Try These Habits

Set your default Downloads location to your desktop.

Downloaded files on your desktop you’re more likely to deal with right away.  You can change this in your computer browser.  In Google Chrome, you can find it by going to your settings > advanced > downloads.

Delete files as soon as you’re done with them. 

Program installers and that cat GIF you were sending to your friend.  Anything you’ve sent via gmail doesn’t have to be on your computer as well.  It’s saved in gmail.

Keep your desktop clean.

Treat the things on your desktop like clothes lying around your room.  Or dirty dishes.  Whatever works for you.

Anything you download to your computer is like kitsch you’re bringing in to your home.  Do you really need that third bear GIF?  Do you need an intervention?

Know your redundancies.

Get rid of any double files or things you don’t have to hold on to.  For example, anything you import to iTunes gets copied over to the iTunes library, so you don’t need to keep that original file.  Delete that sucker! Double-check under your iTunes settings to make sure yours is set up before you start deleting. 

Organize your browser bookmarks

The more organized every aspect of your digital life is, the better.  Get rid of bookmarks you never click on.

Photos in one central place

Whether it means using Lightroom, Photos, or another service.  Any program that makes you sort your photos in a consistent manner is useful.

I recommend sorting photos by Year, Month, Day.  If you’re in Lightroom you can set that up in your Import module.

Schedule regular backups

This is just a good practice that will save your butt if anything ever happens to your computer.  Once it’s organized, back it up!

Always run the latest OS & be diligent about software updates

They’ll make your OS quicker and save you all sorts of trouble.

Try These Tools

External Hard Drives

Great if you’ve got a lot of media to store.

Disk Utility / Disk Repair

Get familiar with the functions of Disk Utility on your Mac.  One really useful thing it does is run ‘First Aid’.

disk_utility_first_aid copy

The First Aid option is in the upper menu – left hand side.  Click it and it will automatically run through your disk to locate and detect any problems.  A good idea to run this every few months.

Cloud Storage Services

Dropbox, Google Drive, Flickr (for photos) can all save you space on your computer and also make it easy to access documents on the go, from any computer.

The caveat: you need the internet to use them.  Files stored locally with Dropbox or Google Drive can be accessed offline.

Cloud Mail Server

Gmail. Plain and simple.  It connects seamlessly to any other email you’re using and has a very smart storage system.  Use it.  It’s quickly becoming the global standard and is quite secure.

You can turn on two-step authentication for additional security.

Cloud Calendar Server

Google Calendars is the way to go.  They’re more useful across platforms than iCloud’s.

I use Sunrise.am to view my Google calendars.  They also have a great feature that lets you send your availability to people.  You can also view your Sunrise calendars in-browser as well as using their desktop and iOS apps.

Cloud Writing Services

For taking notes on the go and syncing with all your devices.  Great for class, meeting, workshop notes.

cloud_writing
Ulysses in night mode.

Evernote is a popular choice.  Alternote is a beautiful Evernote desktop client.  Ulysses is what I use.  I prefer its minimalist interface and option for dark mode for night writing.  Notes is also a simple and effective option.

Disk Cloning Program

You want to develop a regular backup habit (water your plants, sweep the floor, back up your computer and hard drives).  I like Carbon Copy Cloner because you can automate and schedule your backups.  I have it set up so that whenever I plug in my PHOTO and PHOTO BACKUP hard drives, it’ll automatically backup PHOTO  to the other for me.

Disk Cleaners

These programs can help you locate where your system might be hiding extra weight. Some examples are Omni Disk Sweeper and DaisyDisk.  They analyze the contents of your computer and break it down for you. From there you can choose to delete what you don’t need.  

Good to run this every couple months or if you suddenly run out of space.  You may be surprised what you find.

Hazel is a bit different. Hazel lets you set up rules to organize your files.  For example, I have it set up to mark with a red tag files I haven’t accessed in 3+ months. You can colour code images, videos, etc. and have it empty the trash for you.  Like a digital maid.

Fun Stuff

Personalize your dock with custom icons!

I explain how to do it in this postYou don’t have to use the developer’s icon.  Check out these alternate Google Chrome icons.

Customize your computer’s highlighted text colour

Under System Preferences > General Settingschange_color copy

You might find some other settings here you’d like to customize as well.

f.lux

When you’re working at night this app takes the blue light out of your screen so it’s easier on your eyes and better for your circadian rhythm.  Just make sure to turn it off if you’re editing photos!

Caffeine

This app keeps your computer from going to sleep when you’re running long tasks.

Freedom

Block distracting websites and schedule time off the internet.  Hallelujah.

Momentum browser plugin

Be reminded of your daily focus every time you open a new tab.

Handbrake 

Converts your movies to iTunes-friendly format.

VLC

Plays every type of video out there.

Mac Shortcuts That Make Sense to Know

⌘ + H  hides programs

⌘ + TAB  toggles between open programs

⌘ + TAB + Q  quits the selected program when toggling

⌘ + Option + Esc  is CtrlAltDelete for Mac.

Shift + + 1  sorts everything on your desktop/finder alphabetically and put it into a grid. No files hidden under files.

⌘ + F  finds a word in any text environment.

⌘ + Spacebar  Because it’s 2016. Don’t search for things in Finder.

Learn the shortcuts for any program you use regularly. Here are all the Mac default shortcuts.

Going Forward

Keep practicing and don’t give up! Were there any questions I didn’t answer? Ask in the comments below and I’ll give it my best.

Hopefully you found it useful.  I know it was long. It probably could have been two posts.

May I suggest downloading this handy reminder wallpaper?

Everything_Not_Saved_Mel_Hattie

TL;DR?

Treat your digital space like a physical space and keep it clean. Be consistent.  Throw out crap.  Organize your shit.

Here’s to being a digital organization freak. 🍻

Mel Hattie Signature 2016 - Final - Mel Only

 

 

 

 

p.s. If you liked this, check out the shorter How To Design a Good Workspace