Joy of Gantt charts: documenting a Summer Writing School as a project

 

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Gantt chart of tasks for the Summer Writing School project, 2018

Why did I get such delight out of creating my very first Gantt chart — let alone admit that I’m proud of it?

  • If you use Gantt charts (made by someone else), it’s a big “ho hum” from you.
  • If you make them, I see an indulgent head-shake, because you know this is the simplest Gantt chart in the world, using a template from Someka.net (bless them).
  • If you don’t use them, I caught you rolling your eyes.

A Summer Writing School: analysing the project

About my summer writing school, January 2018, in Wellington

I wanted to break down the jobs involved in running a summer writing school in accordance with the principles of project management. The thinking took most of the time required to construct the Gantt chart, of course. After I succeeded, I spent the next week in a glow of self-satisfaction. And I think that’s fair enough.

  1. I found a template that worked — what an achievement.
  2. It’s something I have admired for years.
  3. I don’t have an IT department to help me.
  4. It took a week: long enough to require perseverance, short enough to avoid frustration.
  5. It certainly helped me to analyse what I need to do to make the summer writing school a success.
  6. It also showed me what a massive project this is going to be.
  7. Mastering a new skill is a pleasure: end of story.

Now I just have to do all those jobs, untouched since I created the Gantt chart! The danger is, half of me now believes that I am ready, all those tasks done and dusted. Not so fast, lady…

 

 

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Great times for old feet

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All Rachel’s usable shoes plus one antique

What a glorious time for old feet, especially of the female variety! Remember the days when nothing but heels would do for a social or semi-formal occasion? If you were into heels, that was fun, for sure. Well into my fifties I was a fan of naughty schoolmarm laceups, otherwise known as witchy heels.

But came the day when good fat, defying gravity, migrated from the soles to the belly. When the bunions stuck out like elbows. When a shoe salesperson announced that your feet were one size bigger, literally. When despite those monstrous insoles, you noticed every pebble underfoot.

‘Bye, heels. Stilettos, kitten heels, even platform soles— take ’em away. Wipe away the tears and face the fact: your feet will from now on be an embarrassment, graceless, styleless, ugly. They will never look pretty again.

Put your best foot forward

Not so fast. That was not a fact. For years now, alongside impossibly frivolous modern shoes, manufacturers have been designing flat footwear that young people love. That make people of any age look good and feel good below the ankles. Trainers that keep you steady at the gym and on walks. Boots you can wear with your best dress to a wedding. It’s a revolution.

I’m enjoying this. Are you? And can you pick the shoe that I keep for purely nostalgic/aesthetic reasons?

 

Trump’s ageism: not an aberration

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OK, so President D.T. was called an old lunatic by Kim Jong-un. He was deeply hurt, and who can blame him? Not by the label of lunatic: that’s not a new accusation, so it is easily overlooked. But by the awful implication that at 71 he falls into that untouchable class of—oh no! heaven forbid!—the old.

His response: “Why would Kim Jong-un insult me by calling me ‘old,’ when I would NEVER call him ‘short and fat?”

Now don’t imagine this is a Trumpism. It’s not a sign of lunacy, either, whatever that may mean. This attitude is ageism pure and simple, and it’s the norm.

Old as applied to human beings no longer means having lived a certain number of years. In our English-speaking western world, it now means repulsivefeeble, pitiable, ludicroususeless, a condition to be dreaded above all others.

Ageism trumps even racism as a widespread prejudice. Here’s one teensy bit of research to support this statement:

In 2008, an ongoing study by UCLA and Stanford University researchers of 20,000 registered voters has found that far more of them would vote against Sen. John McCain because of his age than would vote against Sen. Barack Obama because of his race.

Why is the dread of old age so powerful?

Why do we dread and fear the old so deeply, despite the fact that we will all grow old—that’s if we’re lucky?

Ageism is hatred of the self that we will become.

But perhaps that’s not a paradox. Perhaps this is the very reason for our hatred and contempt: deep down, we know we too are ageing, and ageing implies that one day we will die, and we cannot bear to face this. Perhaps the human condition offends us particularly in today’s market-driven era of competitive self-improvement.

Understanding is just a start. Let us forgive our bodies for their inevitable decline, admit that we too will be old one day, and regard old age as an achievement, not a failure.

(And by the way, mental illness is an illness, not a failure.)

Bullied by technology? You be the judge

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This has been a terrible horrible—well, rather difficult—year for me and my writer’s technology. I love my computers and software, love them to bits. I look after them like a devoted slave, I praise them to their face and to anyone who will listen. And in return, what do they do? This year they all joined forces to torture me month after month, taking it in turns to deceive and fail and crash and burn and betray me, their devoted protector and caregiver. Don’t read this. It’ll only depress you.

ACT ONE: HARDWARE. I used to have two laptops and a phone. I upgraded the phone last year, with only minor problems. Endured a couple of months when both laptops were running slow and crashing: but where was the problem? Incompatibility between laptops and certain software? Problems in the network with my Time Machine backup drive? Ditching the Air and changing security software seemed to help.

ACT TWO: REPLACEMENT. Decisions, decisions. A new MacBook Air, for travel and working on the fly? Ouch, Apple appeared to be deliberately dragging the chain with upgrades. Old screens, limited hard drive capacity and other clues steered me towards the new swept-up iPad Pro — that’s where the action is for lightweight portable work computers. OK, I got one. And a keyboard. And an Apple Pencil. Looks like fun. I never never never used my old iPad, so there’s a lot to learn: I’m an iPad virgin. (Sh, don’t tell anyone.)

ACT THREE: SECURITY ALARM. Hack attack on the iPad Pro (what happened to Mac immunity?) and it took three hours on the phone with a very nice technician in California to fix it. Plus new security software, again.

ACT FOUR: WRITING SOFTWARE. Good news: MS Office has finally upgraded their Mac suite of software. Bad news: now you can’t buy it outright, have to pay an annual fee. Meanies. I did so. Then I thought, I hate Scrivener, the gold standard for writers’ software, hate it with a shudder and a retch. But maybe there’s something better now, something aesthetically tolerable that’s fully compatible with the iPad Pro, I thought. After a few days’ research I bought Ulysses, rather excited about the whole concept.

ACT FIVE: 1PASSWORD. So it’s now about six months since a perfect storm of technology problems attacked me, and I’m dying to start my new book. On the iPad Pro, you understand: after all this hassle, nothing else will do. But wait! On any new computer, storing passwords is high priority, and that should have been a breeze. I’ve used 1Password for years and it’s great. I’ve got a licence. So, just install the app on the iPad Pro and get going, right? Wrong. “They” have decided we must also have an account (what’ve I had all these years?) aka a subscription. OK, I’ll do anything — but I can’t. Two hours later I’m in the queue for help.

That book is screaming, “Write me! Write me!” But I’m determined to do that on my new toy, not on my faithful workhorse.

One day it’ll all be over, and I’ll be able to write again. Meanwhile, maybe I’ll practise using the Apple Pencil. That might cheer me up. Bye now.