April Showers Bring May Flowers? A New Monthly Review!

Miss Kitty catching some spring sun…

What went well this month

I love April. It’s the time of the year where, on a good day, the weather is perfect, not to hot, not too cold, just right. No bugs, and the foliage starts to come alive again. This April started out nice, but we did have more cloudier weather than normal, and a couple of late snow storms.

April was education month because I started Free Code Camp to upgrade my web development skills. It is indeed free, educational, and has been frustrating at times. I have always worked with traditional programming languages where the methods and properties are not inherited through libraries, or the development environment provided the choices. It’s nice that libraries are powerful and versatile, but it also makes figuring out what is causing that odd behaviour difficult sometimes. It really is a different mindset, but that’s what I signed up for!

Over the last while I have crowd-funded a couple of games from Canadian studios, and these have been released for beta testing, which is one of the reasons I supported them. Mages of Mystralia is by a new, but experienced studio with a very nifty spell system, while In the Shadows is a one-man-shop unique puzzle/platform jumper. Both have been fun with an initial kick to the tires.

Finally, I've had a couple of consulting opportunities come up, so there is a good chance I’ll be back contracting soon. Lots of learning, cooking, music, and reading have made April a good month overall. If I had to characterize the month in six words it would be “A month I lived, loved, learned”.

April Goals

✔️ Start one new challenge

I started two challenges this month, the big being Free Code Camp (FCC). The second challenge ended up getting shelved due to lack of time and ideas.

✔️ Read two books

I overachieved for yet another month with four books finished. This month was all over the map with my last Orwell book, Nineteen Eighty-four, a couple of recreational reading books Micro, and the first book in “The Expanse” series, Leviathan Wakes, and one historical non-fiction, Frozen in Time. More about these later.

✖️ Think of two new challenge ideas

I recorded one idea which I probably won’t do now, and didn't do any other thinking on this.

✔️ Daily journal writing

Wrote every day, all month. More on this later.

✔️ Edit at least one journal post

Completed a couple of editing days during the month.

✔️ One up-scale cooking night

I’m calling this one complete because I did make a couple of interesting dishes this month, but the term “upscale” may be a bit of a stretch. I will qualify it better for next month.

✔️ Post “What I learned this Year” (WILTY) quarterly post

My first non-monthly-review can be found here!

✔️ Answer one Quora question a week

Answered six Quota questions, primarily on cooking.

April’s Foci

Journal Writing Summary:

I am at 177 consecutive days of writing as of the end of April. The daily low word count was 248, the high 1482. I had four sessions of over 1000 words, but these were editing rather than original writing. My daily word average increase has become grind-ier, escalating from 552.9 at the beginning of the month to 564.4 words-per-day at the end, for an overall increase of about 12 words per day. My goal is still to get to 750 words-per-day, so I might have to get a bit more creative. Stat of the month — overall, 19% of my writing days surpassed the 750-word mark, while this month I hit 26%. My most common tag as of this month was “What I Learned this Year” mostly because I spent quite a few sessions wrangling with the editing monster.

Books Read:

1984, George Orwell, 5/5 on GoodReads

Leviathan Wakes (Expanse, #1), James S.A. Corey, 4/5 on GoodReads

Micro, Michael Crichton, Richard Preston, 3/5 on GoodReads

Frozen in Time, Owen Beattie, John Geiger, Margaret Atwood, 4/5 on GoodReads

Ah, 1984, a classic! What more can I say — An excellent book for our times. I find the premonitions Orwell wrote truly amazing the for the way they foreshadow the way misinformation is used in society today.

I started watching the television series The Expanse, and became interested in the series. Leviathan Wakes basically covers season one. It is an enjoyable read, with interesting plots and characters. I liked that the story is a study in perspectives from the two main characters, and they duel back and forth, from chapter to chapter. I will be continuing with the series next time I can get one from the library!

Micro wasn't too bad, a bit creepy, but it didn't have that finished feel to it. I found it was a bit uneven, understandable because Michael Crichton was still working on it when he died, and it was completed by another author.

Frozen in Time was an excellent treatment of the historical tragedy of the Franklin Expedition in northern Canada. Time and the environment has erased virtually all traces of the voyage, but this book defends the theory that lead poisoning was ultimately the major cause of failure based on the new forensic information discovered by the authors.

LifeLog Spreadsheet:

I had a big paradigm shift this month, altering the way I track challenges, so they are recorded by event, or task, rather than by date. Although in spreadsheet format it makes it more difficult to do reporting (a better vehicle would be a database), it does allow me to record better details. For reporting, I have Exist doing the heavy lifting. Here are some of the more interesting correlations from this past month:

· You have a better day when you wake up later: Very common. Many people enjoy sleeping in, and probably you’re sleeping in on the weekend or your other days off — so it’s only right that you have a better day to go with it! Keep it up. Addendum: I still get up fairly early, but this describes the days where I needed the extra sleep.

· You complete more tasks when you listen to more music: Very common. You’re probably not surprised! Studies (1, 2) consistently show that music you like boosts your productivity, in part by boosting your mood. Music without lyrics also seems to work best. Addendum: I do listen to a lot of music (about 114 songs per day), and to me, a voice is just another instrument.

· You listen to more The Birthday Massacre when you climb more floors: 39% related. Addendum: I guess I did listen to a lot of Birthday Massacre since I found their music this month!

· You have a better day when the day is warmer: Very common. During spring we appreciate warm weather, and it increases our mood. This doesn’t seem to be the case in other seasons, and in summer hot weather actually makes our mood worse. Perhaps this correlation is transient, and you’ll change your mind when it’s hotter? Addendum: I’m interested to see how this one will play out during the upcoming summer.

· You consume more energy (Cal/kJ) when the days are shorter: 30% related. Addendum: This one is an interesting trend that Exist picked up on, because I have been trying to slowly reduce calorie intake during the past couple of months, as the days are getting coincidentally longer.

Update on April’s Focus Habit

My focus habit of working on my developmental projects in April kind of went out the window. I was going to continue to work on my development project(s), but instead decided to put most of my free time into education, finishing of a couple of Microsoft Virtual Academy sessions, and starting Free Code Camp.

Goals for May

Start one new challenge

Read two books

Think of one new challenge idea

Daily journal writing

One new and interesting cooking night a week

Answer one Quora question a week

Complete two fiction writing sessions

Focus Habit for May

My focus habit May will be to continue putting as much time as possible into Free Code Camp. I feel that updating my skill set will prove to be the best investment for the projects I want to work on in the future.

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