Wednesday, September 21, 2016

The New Bag

I have a new bag.  My previous man purse broke where the strap attaches to the bag, and there wasn't an easy way to fix it.  I really liked the man purse because it had a lot of pockets, and it was great for traveling.  I tried using it as a soft briefcase, but not having the shoulder strap was problematic, especially when I was in the men's room and there wasn't a good place to hook it off of the ground.

I looked around on the web to try to find an ergonomic currier bag--the other down side of the man purse was that it may have been giving me scoliosis, especially when I loaded it up with manuscripts.  And stuff.  What web-surfing taught me was that if I wanted a more comfortable bag, I was going to have to spend some bucks for it, and I probably wanted to have the bag in my hands and try it out before laying down cash.   One bag I wanted was available in REI... in Portland.  

I'd consigned myself to lugging around my man-purse for a few more weeks when I chanced by some nicely ergonomic bags in the local UO Bookstore.  The new bag is slimmer, so I'll be less likely to through my back out lugging two tons of writer's schlock.  It doesn't exactly have a waist strap, but it does have a strap arrangement that distributes weight more evenly across my back, shoulders and hips.   Probably the biggest feature is that the inside is bright orange, instead of black--so I'll be less likely to lose my black wallet, black folders, and keys.

The tricky things about my new bag is that it only wants to be worn one way:  over my left shoulder.  I haven't yet got into the habit of putting it on without having to mentally rotate it in three dimensions so I know which arm to raise and which arm to hoist it over my head.  I also have to figure out a system of which interior pockets to use--until then I feel like I'm doing a calculus problem whenever I put something into or search for something to take out of the bag.  

I've already comfortably toted it on a twenty-block walk, and I'm looking forward to years ahead.

Yesterday I had a headache for most of the day, which put a crimp on writing and going to the gym.  Mark blames my Sunday writing spree; I'm not sure it isn't a glasses thing or a sinus thing; Medicinal Mexi-coke seemed to help, and Mark lectured me that there's no such thing as Medicinal Mexi-coke.  I said there was, because it (and the two ibuprofens I took) sure seemed to help.  Mark countered that my headache probably went away because I went outside and walked to the store...

Writing:  Racing against the clock to finish a 5500 word story to turn in tonight.  Alas, the clock won.  This sort of means I need to turn in two stories next week if I want to meet my goal. 

Working Out:  Missed working out Monday.  Spent Tuesday afternoon writing, finalizing critiques, and going to Wordos.  Will aim for Wednesday afternoon. 

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Mostly Cats

Cat Update:  We have two cats:  Smokey, who is about 8 years old; and a newly acquired kitten, Mister Cicero Artemis Fowl Wiggles (Mr. C or Cicero for short), born May 15, 2015.   Smokey is a 17 pound long hair something-or-other.  Mc. C is a black tabby-Siamese mix.  

We thought they'd be best of friends, but Smokey is not exactly pleased that there is a new black ball of energy that really really wants to play-play-play with him.  Accordingly, Smokey has decided that he's only going to come into the house to eat.  We've been letting him be a mostly outside cat, but after I found some scratches on his right jaw and shoulder, I've decided that sleeping outside at night isn't an option.   We're hoping Smokey will become as friendly with him as he is with the other neighborhood cats.  

Cicero is a typical kitten, super-cute one moment and a vorpal terror the next.  Luckily, both laser pointers and leaded crystal rainbows are infinitely mesmerizing.  Which comes in handy when he would like to play with Smokey while Smokey is trying to eat (and furtively glancing at all the exits). 

Probably the most annoying for Smokey is the fact that Cicero sleeps in our bedroom.  Occasionally, either Mark or I will sleep on the couch and keep Smokey company.  I think he would sleep with The Child, except that one of The Child's nicknames is "Captain Gyroscope" because of the way he thrashes around when he sleeps.   

Working Out:  Went to the gym Wednesday.  I've decided that the elliptical makes the balls of my feet hurt when I do more than 20 straight minutes on it, which is bothersome because I like getting a 300 calorie run in on it, which requires 30 minutes.  Did typical pec-fly, lat-pulldown, hanging crunches, free weight stuff.  

Writing:  Between Mark and the cats, I managed to actually get out of bed at 5:45 and was writing for a hour this (Friday) morning.

More Working Out:  Went to the gym Saturday. 20-some minutes on the elliptical for 200 some calories.  3x13x60lbs pec-fly; 3X13X70lbs lat-pulldown; 3X12 hanging crunches; 3X8X5lbs oblique crunches (extra points for not laughing too hard as the gym played "Stairway to Heaven"), plus a few back-curl things to loosen up my lower lumbar spine.  3X12X30lbs barbell curls.  

More Writing:  Met with some writing friends Saturday and discussed using a solitaire card game as a simple plot generator.  Managed to get in about 1400 words on a Venus sci-fi short story Sunday (Mark and The Child went on an eight-hour hike).  I need to wrap it up, as the goal is to present it to the Wordos for critique this Tuesday.

It rained Sunday, which was refreshing.  Despite the rain, the day was warm enough to have all the windows open, which allowed the rain-scented wind to gust through the house.  If I close my eyes, I can imagine I'm in one of those circular Greek temples...

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Writing Plans for the Quarter

I should be writing down my dreams... I had some sort of adventure dream involving a dove and flying and some Freudian bits, but that's all I can remember about it.

Got a critique back from the Wordos last Tuesday night; the ending of the manuscript was rough, and I got the expected critiques about it.  I was surprised that there was some character confusion about who was a human and who was not  at the beginning, and I'll have to go in and clear that up.   A lot of the characters were talking, dactyl dogs, and there was enough confusion about paws or hands and how did they do X that I should go back and see how C.S. Lewis has mice swinging swords.

My goal for this quarter is to try to submit something every week; I have enough partially completed manuscripts piled up that I should be able to do it.  There are 14 more meetings until Jan 1.  Take out two for the Halloween and Christmas readings, and another for Thanksgiving, and I'll say that I've met my goal if I can pass 11 manuscripts between now and then.  Ideally, I'd want at least six to be new to the table.    

Now... about those manuscript submissions... 

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Weekend Report

Weekend Report-- Saturday Mark and The Child went on a hiking trip, and I wrote.  Except it was more like an editing session.  Punctuated with the kitten attacking my clothing, hands, and feet.  And other interruptions.

In the evening, I went to go see a theatre in the park production of "Pon Farr, The Musical."  I got there a little late, and missed the opening act, which was my writing friend, Sarina, dancing as a green Orion slave girl.  The show was pretty much the original script with musical numbers added.  

Sunday was a cleaning day.   Although I did have to get rid of a few old literary magazines that I had for research but to which I've yet to submit, it's become apparent that I've reached the limit of the shelves.  Normally, the solution would be to put up more shelves, but I'll need to negotiate that with Mark.

I also checked out some books on The Coliseum for The Child (he's got a project on ancient architecture).  I thought it would be cool to learn more about the Coliseum, but I hadn't quite remembered the gruesome details of its history.  The engineering and the ingenuity put to gross means... I want to say "Those Sick Romans," but given things like reality TV, "The Hunger Games," this year's presidential election, and internet clickbait,  I'm confronted with the enduring nature of humanity's ... I don't know--schadenfreude ? sadism?  distractability? 

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Before September Ides

It seems like September is running swiftly through the year; I can't believe it's already a third of the way through.  The mornings have become cool again, in the 50s, and the leaves are yellowing their way to orange and brown.  Last week we had some rainy days, but the next few days are supposed to be sunny and in the 80's.

I"m looking forward to the cooler weather (and the rain), and I'm hoping the coming grey days are punctuated with some moments of light.  

Working Out:  I went to the gym Wednesday evening.  I hadn't been in about two weeks.  When I stepped on the gym's scale, I saw that I had gained about two pounds (probably from a combination of daily Mexicokes and cookies over the writing retreat).  30 minutes and 300 calories on the elliptical.  I did about 5 minutes and 50 calories on the rowing machine, the wheel of which felt sticky.  Downstairs I eased into pec flies, lat pulldowns, and tricep pull-downs.  I did some other light free-weight work.   Mark said appreciative things later, so I guess I didn't completely blimp out.  

The other benefit of working out was that it losened up my back enough for whatever problem I had to sort of click back into place.  At least, that's what it felt like when I sort of clicked back into place.  I'm not sure if I should be worried about clicking bits or not... apparently, in addition to the one around my lower lumbar, I've got one either in my sternum or my trapezoids -- I can't tell where, except that sometimes when I lie on my side after a workout, a very deep breath followed by a total exhalation will result in a click as I let all my breath out.  

Writing:  I need to work on getting stories into the mail.  I'm currently working on a Venus short story; I've got two in the works, and I'm focusing on the one that's a little more hard science fiction before turning to the one that's a little more science-fantasy.  The sci-fi one feels just a little like a CJ Cherrh story, and the science-fantasy more like Tanneth Lee or maybe  Patricia C Wrede.   Now that The Child is back in school, the day's a little more cut-up between various pick-ups and drop-offs.  Insert Time Management Laments here. 

I was talking with some co-workers, and one expressed a strong visceral aversion to Harry Potter.  I'm not sure that I followed, but I gathered that transformative objects were weird and aggressive, and somehow transgressed rules of how things ought to be.  Cogsworth from "Beauty and the Beast" was okay, I think because he was a cute cartoon; me anthropormorphising computers was OK because it was just me talking, and the computer didn't actually spring to dancing life.  The conversation then touched on who liked Star Wars and Star Trek and who didn't.  It was fascinating, and I didn't get a chance to ask her what she did like to read.

Wednesday, September 07, 2016

Getting Back into the Groove...

Just got a story rejection, so that's foremost in my mind.  It's a quirky story, and I suppose that makes it a hard sell.  I think it's funny, which also makes it a hard sell.  Ah well.

Over Labor Day Weekend, I cleared out the Writing Closet -- except for the file cabinet -- so that The Child has a place to actually hang his clothing.  He opted to leave the three-foot-square desktop I installed on the south end and has been listening to Harry Potter on CD.   Last I checked there were a few items hanging on the clothes rack.  

As a result of being evicted from the Former Writing Closet, there are a few stacks of books and magazines that haven't quite found a proper home yet.  The spare computer parts that have accumulated over the last decade will be spirited away some time this week to Next Step Computer Recycling.

I returned to the Wordos last night after a month's hiatus.  We're coming out of the summer slump, so there were only two stories to critique.  Afterward, there was a discussion at Turtles about writing screenplays, movie scripts in general, and then we got onto politics and minority identities a bit.  It was a good conversation it was the sort of thing I need to have more of in my life.

Tuesday morning I managed to get about an hour's worth of editing in.  Wednesday morning wasn't as productive, as a result of a combination of getting in late, kitty wrangling, and The Child's CD player un-pausing itself with Harry Potter at the stroke of Midnight.... but I did manage to upload manuscripts for critique and get in about fifteen minutes of editing on one of last week's Venus stories.

Monday, September 05, 2016

Retreat Write-Up

I'm back from my writing retreat at McKenzie Bridge.  I stayed in a rental cabin on a piece of land right on the river.


 I spent most of my days writing from here.  Mostly I was sitting, but the table was the right height for typing while standing, too.  The idea was to write for about fifty minutes and take a fifteen minute break, during which I'd heft free-weights, do some planking, and brew more tea.    In reality, this tended to play out write for about fourty-five minutes and take a twenty minute break snacking on snacks and catching up on FaceBook.  The first days, I would go look at the river.  The last days, I started doing a  four-block power-walk, especially if I felt I was falling asleep.

I worked on two manuscripts, and wrote about 3500 and 3800 words, writing roughly 1900 words a day.  Both stories were set on Venus; my goal was to work on a series of Venus stories.  I thought I might be able to submit to a contest with the concept of darkness, but the first story's use of darkness was a stretch and it turned into something else.

So I brainstormed another story, catching myself from writing another disqualifying story by framing it as a children's fairy-tale.

Sleeping there took a little bit of practice

Getting a good night's sleep continued to be a challenge.

The second day wasn't as productive as I would have liked, because I had a mild migraine (luckily, I managed to get some pain-killers when shadow flashing started and headed the worst of it off).

By day four, I was drinking too much caffeine (both tea and MexiCokes), which was giving me a slight case of heartburn.  While I made a lot of progress on two manuscripts, I ended up not finishing either.

Um, on one hand, this isn't good; at Writer's of the Future I pushed out a passable first draft of a story in twenty-four hours.  On the other hand, I changed boats mid-stream, opting from writing braided stories on Venus to writing a short story set on Venus that would also qualify as a contest entry.  But it did allow me to explore the setting.

Driving home, Thursday evening, I realized my lower back hurt.  I'm not sure what I did, but it's still aching Monday afternoon.
I think if I had to do this again, I'd go with one or two other writers so that I'd be more likely to stay on a writing schedule and so that I wouldn't be so freaked out by odd noises at night (and sleep better).  I'd also hope that doing something like this with others might prompt me to plan meals a little better (I did bring and eat salad greens, but I think I also snacked too much on almonds, chocolate cookies and craisins because I looked flabby when I got home).  I'd be more careful about setting up my workstation (in this case, an iPad on an easel) ergonomically to cut down on head-, shoulder- and backaches.  I would have also brought more robust musical sources, because the every now and then the white noise of the river and the rustling of the trees and the moonless nights would become oppressive.

Looking at the numbers, I managed about 1300 words a day, usually in about 5 sessions.  A good session was about 500 words in an our, but more likely I'd get about 300.  The second day was not a stellar writing day, mostly because I realized I should take a nap to prevent the headache from developing.   I hit a circadian rhythm; and I'm coming to the conclusion that as I've aged, it's getting harder and harder to want to nap at 2 PM.

Bringing this forward, I see that the windows of time I have between The Daye Jobbe and Shuttling the Childe happens to be during the time of day when I most want to fall asleep.  This suggests that I should do one of several things:

A) Get up 4:30 AM, write from 5 AM to 7 AM, and then do things that don't require creative energy in the early afternoon.

B) Make arrangements with The Daye Jobbe to shift my hours back so that I can write as soon as I drop The Childe off at school.  (Which id difficult with that pesky early-release day).

C) Elect to write at night, from 9AM to 11 AM, getting up at 7 AM.

D) See about shifting the circadian rhythm so I don't nap; or else embrace it and plan for a cat-nap

The other area of improvement is I need to write more every day so that my hourly word-count is higher.  I've gotten rusty, both at letting the words flow out, and also at switching off the inner editor/censor.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Writing Retreat Dreams

I'm at the beginning of day three of a four day writing retreat.  It's just me in a rental at McKenzie Bridge.  My writing output is okay, but my story is stalling:  I'm working on stories set on Venus, and I want to submit one to a particular market with the theme of "darkness" ... only that's not what's coming out.  

So I go to sleep hoping for dream stories I can write.  What do I get?   

+ Dreams about farting, and identifying the farter.

+ a segment where a talking cat repeats my sister-in-law Maria saying, "Oh my Gawd.  Dat's disGUISTing." in a gravelly voice.  It was like a parot, and the cat was repeating a much longer dialog along the lines of somebody telling Maria something like going to the beauty salon to have armpit hairs plucked.  All of this is coming out of a cat that's sitting on a chair grooming itself.  Everyone is listening, and when the cat says, "Oh my Gawd," they almost fall over trying not to laugh because they know "Dat's disGUISTing" is coming next.

+  Really large wasps coming out of a pear I was eating, and who now think I'm some kind of pear because I've got pear juice on my hands or something.  Batting them away as they strafe me isn't very effective.

+ Mark has rearranged the kitchen -- moving the sink, the stove, and adding a new sink.  This was somehow related to the wasps and pears and I was trying to clean something up and I used the sink that wasn't connected to a pipe and so the water came out on the floor.

+ A roving band of folks fund-raising for The Child's school appeared to make funding pitch.  It's like a progressive cocktail party with kids.  While a Committee Mom is telling me about the benefits of Montesouri, her two kids have turned a hose on and are spraying some of Mark's watercolor and oil paintings on the wall.  
"Whoa, whoa!  They need to stop that," I say.
Other parents with cocktails and kids continue to hold a party in my house.
"Oh, but isn't it interesting how they're learning about art?" Committee Mom says.
There's some more, but sensing the social ackwardness, the fund-raisers leave.

+ Something about stray pets and owners and a floating cat head. 

+ Evil crime-lord children with giant lego guitines.  I think there was something about "paying someone back" and union-busting New York sewer workers.

+ Finding myself in Central Park as Burt Ward playing Dick Greyson watching Caesar Romaro as The Joker -- the Clown Prince of Crime, dressed in a white tail coat jacket with thin puprle pin-stripes, joins some little girls in a game of jump rope and leads the kids in a new counting chant about wanting to see Batman's underwear.  All the kids join in; all the Gotham parents are hapless.  Since I can't reveal my secret identity and punch the Joker, I try to derail the song by shouting, "Batman already wears his underwear on the outside!"  The song changes from "show us your underwear" to "show us your wiener and balls."

I wake up with the chant "wiener and balls" fading as gentle chimes of the iPad wake me.  Should  I phone home ? --  the last two segments were obviously something The Child would dream, so maybe he dreampt about my stories set on Venus?

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Stop Action Experiment

Mostly an experiment with stop-action.  This is a variation on the "John Is Writing" game.

..or it would be if the movie part loaded correctly.  Oh well.

Friday, August 19, 2016

August Utility Post

Whew. Utility post.

Writing: I've wrapped up a short story and I'm letting it sit for a few days before I do a final edit for stupid things. I've been looking at past edits on other manuscripts. My goal for the next few months is to always have ten, ideally twenty, items in the mail at one time. My writing retreat is coming up. Due to some life roles, I'm going to focus on writing short stories set in the same science fiction future Venus. Who knows, it might turn into a novel. The goal is to have a long stretch of intensive writing.

 We're getting a new kitten. We've been thinking that Smokey might like some company in the house. I imagine there will be many kitten posts in my future.

Working out:  I've been going, and I need to go more.

Weather:  It's supposed to be 100F today.  Bleah.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Latest Inkscape Art

Here's the latest design I've been working on.  If I were the sort of person that got tattooed, I might get this.  I might make it a T-shirt design. If I'm feeling extra creative, I might try flipping it so that the snake's head is at the bottom of the triangular knot, which might give the design a little more dynamism.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Summer Performances

The other Friday (July 29)  The Child and I went to hear Weird Al at the local outdoor theatre.  I was worried that we were going to fry in the setting sun, but luckily, our seats were soon shaded as the sun set behind some trees ringing the amphitheater.  Weird Al was not quite so lucky, as the setting sun shone "straight into my face" for the first 20 minutes of the show.  The Child loved the show, and I was impressed with how much fun Weird Al appears to have performing (which cut some of the overly-sarcastic edge off of his songs).

We decided that Weird Al's performance was better than the B-52's performance at the county fair last week (July 26th)... and it's probably safe to say that The Child enjoyed it more than Joan Jett's fair performance last year.

Last weekend (Aug 8), we went to see a community theatre performance of "On the Town."  It was fun.  Apparently the play is very different from the movie.  I'd say my favorite part was the cave-people dance in the Museum.  OK, and the gag where the same sad song gets sung in every nightclub the characters go to.

On the writing front, I've been loving Scrivener for the iPad, which syncs (albeit slowly) with Scrivener on the desktop.  The interface is similar; the thing I miss the most is the split screen, which probably wouldn't work so well on a small iPad screen.   The only thing that's awkward is that I have a lot of older Scrivener files that I have to convert to the latest version before the iPad Scrivener will open them.

Tuesday, August 09, 2016

Hello to Russia

I was looking at the stats for this blog the other day, and it appears that I've got some fans in Russia or something, because a bunch of my pages suddenly jumped up in their stats, and the indicators for a Russian audience did as well.

These are the monthly stats.  The posting with the highest daily stats appears to be Heisenberg's Airplane, and at first I wondered if an airline was using that post as an object lesson in customer crisis training.  But after looking at the monthly stats more closely, I'm wondering if someone wants to see how I work out, because they all have gym information in them.   Anyway, I'm not sure what's driving Russian folks here, but "Hello, and I'm hoping that you're finding the blog amusing."  

Wednesday, July 27, 2016


So... last Thursday I cut my hair back from sixteen inches to about a quarter of an inch.  I've done this before, with similar feelings.  I'm still sometimes feeling a phantom pony-tail, especially when I wash or when I drive a car.

I decided to see if I could fool my co-workers, so Friday, I wore a tie, a nice Oxford shirt, a tie, and sunglasses.  I practiced the lines, "I'm looking for some information on the English Major for my daughter, Caroline, who will be a freshman," moved my voice up from my chest to the back of my mouth, hunched my shoulders, and made sure to take small steps.   As I walked into the office, I was sure to peer at everything as if I was looking for something, and as if everything was new.  It helped that I was wearing big sunglasses instead of my regular glasses, so I really did have to peer at things. 

One of my co-workers saw me wander in and asked if she could help me.  I though for sure I'd be recognized--the sunglasses especially seemed a little Lady Gaga--but the haircut and altered stance made the perfect disguise.  What was fascinating was that she said she looked up, saw the sunglasses, and built a narrative around some guy who'd just come in from the eye-doctor's office and had had his eyes dilated.  Another co-worker came up to help--she thought I was visually impaired--and they both handed me things while I said filler things like, "Oh, yes; thank you.  This will help," all the time peering at introduction to the major materials.   

After about ninety seconds, I took off my sunglasses and said, "Boo."  It took about five seconds for my True Identity to be processed, even with the sunglasses off.  My Norwegian widow's peak (which I inherited from my grandmother) made it difficult for them to recognize that it was me.  We had a good laugh -- it was about as much fun as the time I did the same thing to a previous co-worker 13 years ago on Halloween.  

I got my boss the following Monday.  Mark warned me that tricking one's boss might not be the wisest move, so I simply waited for her to come into the office while I faced away from her and held a notebook.  She thought I was a vendor and said, "Hi, can I help y--whoa!!"  And we laughed.

More Hair-jinx here:  hair

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Marys Peak Hike

 Resting near the top.
 Watching humming birds fight over fireweed.
 Dusting a cloud for moisture.
 On the trail.
Contemplating fallen giants.