I always feel like the stretch between the time the kids start school in September to the end of the year goes by like rolling down a flight of stairs: fast and bumpy. So what’ve I been up to lately?

1: Most important, though not necessarily the biggest time-sink has been keeping the kids on track at school. Cron Family Study Hall? Actually a big success! My eldest’s progress report came home with fantastic grades, an order of magnitude better than last year. We are so proud and I’m glad I took charge and laid out a system that works.

2: Probably the biggest time-sink is this beautiful creature:Clover

I love her dearly and she’s been a great addition to the family. However, at six months old she’s still very curious (which encompasses both “destructive” and “wants to eat things that will require stomach surgery”). She takes a lot of time and energy to train and treat properly. Lots of discipline required (on my part), like never, ever getting to sleep in again because she needs to “use the facilities” and be fed at the same time every morning.

3: November gives me a special dispensation from doing just about anything beyond the bare minimum to survive. November is National Novel Writing Month. The goal is to write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. Why? Because it’s a fun challenge! It requires self-discipline, writing at least 1,667 words of creative narrative every single day for 30 days straight. 1.6k may not sound like a lot, but when you’ve got writer’s block and a ticking clock, it gets tense pretty quickly.NaNoWriMo

This year, I’ve taken on the extra responsibility of hosting a write-in, where fellow WriMos in your neighborhood gather in a local bar or coffeeshop and your behest and write in “word sprints,” writing as hard as you can for about 25 minutes at a time. Then you break, chat, drink, and get ready for the next sprint.

Sprinting in Seattle is hilarious because we are all so “Seattle-polite.” If I ask people if they are ready to start another sprint, they all look shyly at their keyboards and murmur noncommittally. Luckily I have an abettor (a non-native) whom I can shout down the table at and ask if she is ready. She will actually answer me. But most of it is monitoring who went to the bathroom, who’s at the counter waiting for their latte, and the ebb and flow of conversation before ordering the next sprint. For all their chatting and elbow-rubbing, sprinting for three hours can get you well above the required daily word count, so it’s very rewarding to run the write-in and not only soar above the goal myself, but to get other people soaring too.

4: Reading. I binge-read so many books about teenage development and learning disabilities that I had to force myself to alternate one fiction book for each non-fiction book. On one book, I took 15 pages of notes, which I then forced my son and husband to review with me over the course of two weekends.

5: OMG, d3! I finally got the opportunity to start something new at work: data mining, data visualization, and (to make visualizations), d3. It may not be the best tool out there and the learning curve is deliciously hard (which is terrible because we need this data out fast-fast-fast to protect our revenue stream). I’ve got books in my Amazon wishlist about the underlying theory of data visualization and I’m looking forward to my self-taught course and getting enough solid theory under my belt that I can make a coherent presentation to my co-workers as well as actually build cogent and useful visualizations.

6: Beer! So I finally got to go on a date with my husband. The first in probably 6 months to a year. We went to a place called Brouwers where they have the best pommes frites and a beer list that’ll make your jaw drop. I’d been trying to take him there for the last five years, but the stars never aligned. Our waiter was an excellent beer sommelier and I drank probably the best beer of my life (I still love you, Hilliard’s Chrome Satan, but this was really, really good). I was never much of a beer (or alcohol in general) person, but this has ignited a great exploration of new-to-us beers. We usually split a can/bottle between us over dinner and it’s been a great bonding experience to sit and critique the beer, kind of like we would a movie. No, I have not seen any movies lately.

7: Sadly, I’ve been sleeping. Sleeping poorly, sleeping too long, missing out on hours of my life. It’s not every day, but it’s a lot of them. Once my husband had enough lonely evenings, he ordered me to the local Sleep Clinic, where we are in the long process of figuring out why I’m so damn tired. Fingers crossed that we find a problem and solution. I am hopeful.

Excuses, excuses, excuses. Luckily the NaNoWriMo forums introduced to me a software product that overlaps with the vision of my side-project and I was able to get feedback about what they like/don’t like about it and it’s helped to shape my vision of what I want to build. Using the software myself, I can see how it is like and yet unlike what I want to do. So at least I’ve been doing some corporate espionage and hopefully (since I did 60% of my Christmas shopping today) I’ll start laying down some simple user stories and some code to match. I’ve already got a use case for using a network data visualization, making everything come full-circle. Yay!