Monday, 26 January 2015


Okay, so January is almost over and I totally meant to write this down earlier. However, better late than never. 

It seems that there is a bit of a trend of picking a sort of theme word for the year in January. Kind of like a lazy person's New Years resolution, I suppose. So I thought I would try it - pick one word to aim for in 2015. 

I went with Fluency. In the cognitive literature, perceptual fluency refers to things that are easy for the brain to process, usually because they are familiar or something you've seen before. Items that have a high level of perceptual fluency are rated as more pleasant, probably because your brain has to work less hard to process them. (This is why seeing something over and over makes you like it more - it also works for pop songs, sadly - in something called the mere exposure effect. Merely being exposed to something multiple times increases how much you say you like it). 

Anyway, I would like to have more fluency in my life. To me, this means quitting things that are a huge struggle, even if I think I should do them. There's a line here, obviously - what I'm aiming for is flow (defined [on Wikipedia, I'm afraid] as the mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a  feeling of energized focus, full involvement and enjoyment in the process of the activity ). Basically, activities should be just hard enough to be a challenge but not so hard they are frustrating. I think I spent my entire postdoc on the "frustrating" side of that line. This year, I want to learn new things but things that work with my natural leanings and skillset. Happily, so far qualitative research (unexpectedly!) seems to fit this template. (Writing a qualitative paper is like putting together a really interesting jigsaw puzzle). 

I also want to learn some new skills, but I want to figure out how to work with my natural inclinations to make it enjoyable. Crochet is like this for me, especially either challenging patterns or making up my own. Sort of hard at first, but eventually you become fluent and then it's fun. I also want to learn to make my own dresses (gonna start with a skirt, though!) This is going to be a HUGE challenge for me to do right. For one thing, the entire idea of doing the whole thing in muslin form first is anathema. SERIOUSLY?! The full amount of work for a fake version of what you're trying to make?! (This is also why I almost never do a gauge in crochet). I might try doing one muslin though - because although it is deeply annoying, it will make the actual skirt-making much more fluent. Presumably. 

So yeah. Stick with things (as much as possible) that work with my brain instead of against it. Learn some challenging things but try to set myself up for later fluency. Develop my skills so that I can more easily get into a flow state AND create cool things. And sort out my environment so that it is not always throwing up barriers to fluency (e.g., unable to find anything or tripping over stuff). We will see how it goes, but if all goes well it could be a fun year!

Thursday, 1 January 2015

Bye, 2014. It's been interesting!

So, 2014, eh? Epic year… it seems to have lasted at least three years. This year I did a lot of things:

- quit my postdoc at Yale
- got a visa (with accompanying huge pile of paperwork)
- moved from America to Oxford
- got married
- hung around in a shared house, unemployed and writing random papers to keep myself busy
- went to a bunch of very unpleasant job interviews
- started a container garden
- volunteered to garden/clean up the churchyard at St Mary's & St John's
- attended Oxford May Day for the first time
- went to Tim and Courtney's wedding and visited Edmonton and Regina
- dealt with unexpected double unemployment while still being supported by Del when his job fell through
- got a job! in a totally different field - but hey, Oxford uni
- up close to Stonehenge for the solstice!
- watched Del totally rock HIS interview and get an awesome job, for which they started sending him on business trips about two seconds after hiring him
- went to Greece (first ever all-inclusive)
- took up Kendo
- moved out of shared house to awesome apartment - sight unseen, because Del picked it
- bought furniture!
- crocheted a garment that actually looks good
- learned how to make databases - super fun! - and started learning Stata
- wrote a bunch of guides for the general public about self-harm in young people, and started to learn qualitative research
- flying visit home for Christmas to see all my awesome Albertans

So yeah, busy year. BUSY. But all positive things - in pretty much every single area of my life, things are a million miles better than this time last year. Some of it is perhaps not exactly what I would have ideally picked, but everything's an opportunity, I guess. That said, I am totally exhausted. The whole thing has been a huge rollercoaster.

Last night was NYE, obviously - had a quiet one this year. Aonghus and Olga threw a dinner party for which we made both cheesecake and a cherry chocolate pud - just in case one didn't work. Luckily, they both did! Watched Jools Holland for the first time, so now I know what everyone is talking about. However, it really didn't help my jet lag - for some reason we both had horrific jet lag this time around, and we both stayed up till all hours (4am for me, no idea when Del went to bed - he slept on the couch so as not to disturb me) which probably won't help me get back on track.

Had a lovely time in Alberta for Christmas, though. We went to a trampolining party organized by Steph at a new trampoline park in Edmonton - great fun - attended Carol Feast, had dinner at the restaurant at the Art Gallery, went to hang out with Steve at Bohemia, saw Candy Cane Lane (first time!) and went to the last Von Hollen Light display. Unfortunately the trips both over and back were difficult - HATE Air Transat. I know I always say never again, but - NEVER AGAIN! We were super late on the way over, meaning we missed our Red Arrow up to Edm, AND they somehow managed to slice a set of holes in Del's luggage. So what with hanging out in the Calgary airport for an extra four hours, we were on the road for more than 24 hours. On the plus side, we got to watch a singing group learn a line dance to Jingle Bells! Only in Calgary.

I caught up with millions of people while in the province and finally saw Paul and Lana' s house (lovely!) Had a great time in Rock City as well - amazing Christmas with the fam as always. Sad to leave and deeply wishing we had booked a longer visit. Ah well... hopefully will see more of people in 2015!