Monthly Archives: September 2008

Fall Sunday Stats #1: How To Get Run Over By a Car and Walk Away.

Yes, I was run over by a car this week, but it was the good kind of getting run over by a car.  Yes, I walked away.  I still don’t recommend it.

It’s autumn in Chicago, and we’re going apple-picking today if the weather holds.  We usually go in October, but as we looked at the calendar we realized that our weekends are pretty well booked until November; we’ll probably end up with a different variety of apples, which will be a nice change.  We’ll try to keep the haul down to about 50 pounds of apples this year.

Miles run today:  None.  Because, you know, I got run over by a car.  Here’s the story:  on Thursday, I was in California for a hearing, and the Senior Partner, our clients, the husband of one client, and I went out to lunch before the afternoon court appearance.  After lunch, the client’s husband (a very nice guy) pulled their car around to drive most of us to court (a couple of members of the group got into another client’s car).  The curb was too high to allow the passenger-side doors to open, so the client’s husband was asked to pull up a little, to where the curb was lower.  Unfortunately, at just that moment, I was on the driver’s side, with the back door open; my right foot was in the car and my left foot was on the street.  As he pulled up, the tire started riding up my heel and the back of my leg.  I let out a yell, he stopped the car, and after a moment’s confusion, backed it up and I hopped onto the sidewalk.

If he had gone another couple of inches, my achilles tendon probably would have snapped.  As it is, my ankle and heel hurt a LOT, but after a few minutes of icing the foot and a handful of Advil, I was queasy and shaken, but decided I would live and off we went to court.  When the hearing started, I was nauseated and light-headed, and I think I was in a little bit of shock, but by the end of it (three hours later), I was mostly back to normal, except that my foot hurt.  A lot.  The poor guy who had been driving the car felt so bad about it that he was in worse shape than I was.

Back in Chicago on Friday, I did see a doctor.  I don’t have the results of the x-rays yet, but based on how I’m feeling, I think it’s just bruised.  So no run today, but maybe as soon as Wednesday.

So, to sum up how to get run over and walk away:  as the car starts to roll over you, scream like Agnes Moorehead.  The person driving will probably stop.  Hope that helps.

Weather:  cool and overcast.  It’s supposed to be a sunny day, but it doesn’t look good.  We’ll have to give it a little more time before we decide whether to go to the orchard.

Words of Meet the Larssons written this week:  1,633, to a total of 97,727.  A definite decline in productivity, generally because of the travel.  I was gone from Tuesday to late Thursday night, the only time I wasn’t actively working was the flight home, and my foot hurt enough that I didn’t really feel as though I could concentrate.  No travel this week and no overwhelming deadlines, so I hope to get more done.  Instead, on the plane back to Chicago I read Tim Ferriss’s The Four-Hour Work Week, which has gotten a lot of press, good and bad.  Much of it is completely useless to me (as long as I’m working as a lawyer, I essentially get paid by the hour; a four-hour work week doesn’t really cut it), but I thought he had an interesting perspective.  The book made me think about some of the ways in which I do spend my time that is neither productive nor interesting, and reminded me that one of the benefits of my job is that the office schedule is somewhat flexible; I should take more advantage of that.  I blew off the chapters on internet-based reselling as creating an effortless income stream; what I did read of that section had the faint odor of the “easy money from real estate” books that were so popular not very long ago.  Maybe that works for some people, and don’t let me discourage you from giving it a try if you’re so inclined — the up front investment is certainly less than for buying homes out of foreclosure and rehabbing them; it’s just not for me.

Speaking of unproductive uses of my time, and of feeling queasy and light-headed, I made the mistake of checking the balance of my retirement account yesterday.  Good God.  It looks like Congress is going to work out the bailout, which I suppose is necessary.  Peter Bernstein has a good piece in today’s Times about the moral hazard inherent in any broad bailout scheme; rescuing an entire industry from its bad decisions about risk doesn’t exactly discourage people from taking similar risks in the future.  I’m afraid It’s going to take more than a little Advil and ice to recover from the truck that’s hit us this past year.

Arrr! Darn!

Once again, I missed International Talk Like a Pirate Day!

(Brief interlude while I explain to Mrs. Unfocused what I’m talking about.  Mrs. Unfocused is not quite as much of a geek as I am, although she is our household sysadmin, so maybe she just has better things to do.)

As I was saying, for the fifth consecutive year, I have missed International Talk Like a Pirate Day, and utterly failed, failed, failed I tell you, to talk like a pirate at ALL.

(It was last Friday, in case you missed it too.)

If I hadn’t been catching up on Mike’s blog, at which he discusses, well, everything under the sun, including International Talk Like a Pirate Day, and Freshhell’s Life in Scribbletown, where apparently even the Scribbletowners talk like pirates once a year, I might have gone weeks without knowing it.  Thanks, Mike.  Thanks, Freshhell.  Thanks a LOT.

I need some kind of countdown clock, like the one I have on the sidebar for Pi Day (scroll down; it’s on the right).  Anybody have one I could borrow?


I know, I know, it’s too late.  Darn.

By the way, I’m doing a little traveling, so I have pre-written this post and time-shifted it by a day, so it will magically appear on the blog even while I’m doing something else entirely!  Yes, I just figured out how to do that.  Yes, that’s kind of sad.  But still!


I have two stories out on submission right now, to two different markets.  I sent “Dear Mr. President” out at the end of July to an online magazine; its submission guidelines say that writers should not expect a response for at least three months.  I hardly think about this story at all; I’ll start wondering about it if I don’t have a response in another month or so.

I sent TTB to a different market.  This outlet does not provide any guideline for response time; instead, it provides detailed statistics, like Duotrope, but counting every single submission and response.  I can check the numbers, and see that for short story submissions, they sent their most recent response on Sunday of last week, and the earliest story submitted that has not yet been rejected or accepted was submitted back in June; the average time for a rejection is just over a week, but the average time for acceptance is four months.

If I hit REFRESH, maybe the statistics will update.  Not this time, at least, not for responses, but four more short stories have been submitted since the last time I checked!  More competition!  Arg!

This is ridiculous.  When the editor has reviewed my story, and has made a decision about my story, I’ll get an email.  Finding out when the last response was sent out to someone doesn’t tell me anything, because if I don’t have an email, then it wasn’t sent to me.

REFRESH.  Nothing.  Crap.

Thanks for the detailed statistics.  In addition to getting me to push that damn button like a lab rat trying for cheese, those numbers have given me something worse than a jammed right index finger (REFRESH – ow!):  hope.  See, the average rejection time is just over a week.  The editor has had TTB for 24 days.  So is TTB an outlier?  So damn long that it takes a while to turn it down?  Or is it possible that it’s been shortlisted, and weighed against the other stories coming in?

REFRESH.  Ow.  Nothing.  Crap.

Summer Sunday Stats #7: The Real Last Summer Sunday.

No wonder it’s such a nice day:  it’s still summer.  The autumnal equinox is tomorrow.  D’oh.  (If you didn’t see Summer Sunday Stats #6A or Summer Sunday Stats #6B, then this probably doesn’t mean anything to you; carry on, then.)

Miles run:  8.46 miles in 1:22:48.  Nice and slooooow.  I took the entire week off after the Chicago Half Marathon — I didn’t run a step between last Sunday and today, except to catch the train.  While I never got full out sick after my last post, but I’ve definitely been fighting off a cold, so I took it easy this morning.  I’m glad I went out, though; it’s a beautiful day, warm and sunny but not too hot.

What was playing on my iPod during my run:  absolutely nothing.  I couldn’t find my arm band case for the iPod, so I went without it.  Just as well, as it turns out.

Words of Meet the Larssons written this week:  3,146, for a total of 96,094, which sounds pretty good to me considering the week I had.  Not included in that total is the 600 words of notes I typed out last night and this morning with ideas for revisions when I’m ready for the second draft.  I hit a point this week where I can see the end of the story, and my vague feelings of dissatisfaction with the story arc began to really coalesce.  Last night, I finally realized what was wrong with it, and by this morning, I started to figure out how I needed to change the story to save it.  By the time I left for my run, I had a pretty good idea as to what the revised structure of the novel would be, but I was a little overwhelmed by the amount of rewriting I thought it would require.  I thought I might have to throw out as much as half of what I’ve written — not just edit or revise or even rewrite, but throw 50,000 words completely out the window.

When I couldn’t find my iPod case, I just grabbed my keys and left.  I thought I could use the time to think through the changes I’d need to make.  Instead, in the course of an 80-minute run, I figured out that most of what I thought I’d have to pitch could actually be salvaged, that the biggest problem with the story so far isn’t what I’ve written, but the order in which I’ve written it.  The same events — hell, even the same dialogue in several scenes — which are just vignettes the way I’ve written them in the first draft, which add nothing to the plot or just serve to make the characters jump through particular hoops on their way to a predetermined end, would make perfect sense and build the dramatic tension if only they appeared in a different order.  Instead of shitcanning 50,000 words, I would need to cut maybe 10,000 words completely, and revise or rewrite another 10,000 while changing the order in which those scenes appear.  Then I’ve got ideas for probably another 10,000 to 20,000 words of new scenes on top of that, to tie the new structure together. None of this excuses me from finishing the first draft, but I feel a lot better knowing where the revisions are going to go.

It does, however, tell me that NaNoWriMo is not an option this year.  I’m going to finish the first draft of MTL in the next three weeks or so, certainly by Halloween, but I think probably before then.  Then I’m going to take a few weeks away from it and work on getting one or two more short stories finished, cleaned up, and submitted.  By mid-November or so, I’d like to get cracking on making these revisions.  If at all possible, I’d like to have the revised draft done by the end of January (I’d really like to have it done by the end of the year, but I can’t see how that’s realistic).  That’s not the submission draft, but by the end of it I should have fixed any big problems with the book.

What about the marathon?  The jury’s still out on that, but I’m skeptical about my ability to take that much time off of work.

Gotta go – it’s official homework time for the kids, and the weekend is the only time I get to help.

Sick and Tired. Literally.

I’m coming down with a cold.  I hardly ever get sick, so I can’t understand it.  It’s not as if I was out in the rain for hours recently, doing something physically taxing enough to suppress my immune system.

I am, in the words of those who know and love me, an idiot.

Unfortunately, I’m an idiot with a brief due on Thursday, and while I’d love to have gone to bed at 9pm this evening, instead it’s almost 2 in the morning and I’m just heading upstairs.

I am seriously getting too old for this shit.

A Meme About Food. Because That’s Something I Can Deal With.

I’m completely blown away by what’s been happening on Wall Street since Friday, but I don’t have anything particularly intelligent to add.  There are good articles about it here and here, but the situation keeps changing.

Instead of rambling on about moral hazards, financial contagion, and the potential meltdown of the U.S. financial system, I’m going to post about food.  I caught this meme about food from Freshhell at Life in Scribbletown.  I’m not going to mention chocolate because I’m afraid of sounding like Cathy.

1. How do you like your eggs?

Depends.  Most days I have an egg white omelet with one whole egg mixed in as part of my breakfast (along with the oatmeal I’ve mentioned previously).  If I’m being a little decadent, I’ll have three eggs over easy on toast.  If I’m being a lot decadent, I’ll have eggs benedict.  I also like my eggs scrambled, soft boiled, hard boiled, or poached.  I kind of like eggs.

2. How do you take your coffee/tea?

To paraphrase Montgomery Burns, I take it black, like my lawyer’s heart.

3. Favorite breakfast food:

Oatmeal.  And Mrs. Unfocused’s cinnamon rolls, but I don’t eat those very often.

4. Peanut butter:

Not in our house — Junior is allergic to peanuts.  We eat soynut butter.  I like the crunchy, but am perfectly happy with the smooth.

5. What kind of dressing on your salad?

Vinagrette or honey mustard.

6. Coke or Pepsi?

I hardly ever drink pop, but will always choose a Diet Coke over a Diet Pepsi, and prefer Coke Zero to either.

7. You’re feeling lazy. What do you make?

Soynut butter and jam sandwich.  Toasted bread.  Blueberry, strawberry, or apricot jam.

8. You’re feeling really lazy. What kind of pizza do you order?

Half cheese (for the kids), half veggie (for the Mrs. and me).  Thin crust.

9. You feel like cooking. What do you make?

One of my many failures as a human being is that I hardly ever cook at all (except for eggs and oatmeal).  I’d probably make breakfast for dinner:  scrambled eggs for the Mrs. and me (and Unfocused Girl if she’s in the mood), eggless pancakes for the whole family (Junior’s cursed allergies again), toast, and bacon, if we have any.

10. Do any foods bring back good memories?

Soon after the Mrs. and I got married, we came up with our own tradition for breakfast on Christmas morning, which we have continued since we had children.  There is a very good bagel place in Skokie; it’s a little bit of a hassle to get to, but the bagels are worth it.  On Christmas Eve, I go there and buy bagels, cream cheese, and smoked salmon, and that’s what we eat for breakfast on Christmas.

11. Do any foods bring back bad memories?

Yogurt.  I always hated yogurt, and once, when I was a kid — around 6 or 7 — when I felt nauseous, my father badgered me into eating a bowl of yogurt in the belief that it would make me feel better.  I’m not sure how many bites I took before I had to run to the bathroom to throw up, but every heave tasted like yogurt (sorry for the mental image there).  I don’t eat yogurt, and I still can’t stand the smell more than 30 years later.  Yes, I know it’s good for you.  You can have mine.

12. Do any foods remind you of someone?

Fruity bagels (blueberry, apple, etc.) remind me of Satan, because fruity bagels are the official breakfast food of Hell.

13. Is there a food you refuse to eat?

Yogurt and fruity bagels.

14. What was your favorite food as a child?

For candy, it was Whoppers, until I was 10 or so.  I somehow got my hands on a quart container of Whoppers, and ate all of them.  I did not eat Whoppers again until college.

For real food, it was lobster.  My father and I used to go camping in Maine with the Sierra Club, and at the end of the trip we’d have a steak and lobster cook-out (ah, roughing it!), and I always liked throwing the lobsters into the pots.  I was, apparently, utterly without empathy for our crustacean brethren.

15. Is there a food that you hated as a child but now like?

Peanut butter and hot dogs.  When I was a kid, I was so picky about what I would eat that my mother was reduced to feeding me Campbell’s tomato soup for breakfast and jelly sandwiches (grape jelly and white bread) for lunch.

16. Is there a food that you liked as a child but now hate?

Not that I can think of.  I still have a little trouble with Whoppers.

17. Favorite fruits and vegetables:

Apples, grapes, bananas, blueberries, strawberries, tomatoes, spinach, leeks, carrots.

18. Favorite junk food:

Barbecue-flavored potato chips.

19. Favorite between meal snack:

Ideal:  Fruit smoothie with whey protein.

Between meal snack I actually eat most days:  bag of pretzels.

20. Do you have any weird food habits?

No.  What?  Why are you looking at me like that.  I don’t, okay?  That isn’t weird.  Lots of people do it.

21. You’re on a diet. What food(s) do you fill up on?

The harshest diet I ever went on was the beginning of my senior year of college; I was very overweight, but I was in a play opening in two months in which I was playing a homeless man.  I dropped 30-40 pounds (it didn’t last) by smoking two packs a day and eating pickles as my only snack between meals.

22. You’re off your diet. Now what would you like?

Barbecue-flavored potato chips, fried potato skins, and Giordano’s deep-dish pizza.  And beer.

23. How spicy do you order Indian/Thai?

Medium spicy.

24. Can I get you a drink?

Yes, please.  Dewar’s and soda, no twist.

25. Red or White Wine?


26. Favorite dessert?

A bowl of fresh berries, with just a sprinkle of brown sugar on top.

HAHAHAHAHAHA — No, I’m kidding.  Let’s see, in no particular order:

— freshly baked chocolate chip cookies;

— the chocolate mousse at Brasserie Jo;

— chocolate cake made from the egg-free, nut-free mix we use for Junior, with Mrs. Unfocused’s frosting; and

— the blueberry pie we get from the farm store at the beach.

27. The perfect nightcap?

The drunken apricot:  a piece of frozen apricot, a shot of Southern Comfort, in a glass of champagne.

Consider yourself tagged.

Summer Sunday Stats #6B: The Last Summer Sunday.

This is the second part of a two-part Summer Sunday Stats post.  This post will make more sense if you read Summer Sunday Stats #6A first.

Today’s Chicago Half Marathon was the last meatspace race I’ve registered for this year, but I have one more virtual race to go:  The 3rd annual World Wide Half Marathon, part of the Phedippidations World Wide Festival of Races.  It’s self-timed, and the course isn’t USATF-certified, but the race directors do a great job building the excitement and even put together a e-goody-bag, and Steve prepares a special episode of Phedippidations with people cheering, which is great to listen to.  The race is October 11 and 12; each runner decides when and where to run his or her race, then post results to the website.  It’s a lot of fun, and there’s still time to register for the half marathon, 10K, or 5K races.

Moving off the running:

Words of Meet the Larssons written this week:  3,770 (92,948 total).  That’s more like it.  I managed — for the week, anyway — to stick to my pledge not to work on any other writing projects until the first draft of MTL is finished.  The draft will need a lot of work, but I think I’m on track to make my self-imposed Halloween deadline.

Other news:  We introduced the kids to Go Fish! yesterday, and Unfocused Girl to Clue, both of which went over big.  We were looking for something to do together on a rainy afternoon other than watch a movie; we’ve tried card games and board games before (Candyland, Hi-Ho-Cherry-O, a couple of others) without success, but it looks like the kids have finally gotten old enough to handle games with rules, which is great.

What a disaster of a weekend, weather-wise.  Even here in the city, not far from our house, the Chicago River has flooded hundreds of homes and streets with waist-high water.  Unfocused Girl’s school is closed tomorrow, thankfully just because of flooding in the streets and not in the school itself.  We’ve been lucky to have had only a trickle of water in the basement, back by the mechanicals.  Anything I can clean up with a few towels qualifies as a minor problem.

Finally, I came across a couple of interesting writing blogs this week, which I’ve added to the “On Writing” section of my blogroll on the sidebar.  Chicago-area mystery writer J.A. Konrath writes A Newbie’s Guide to Publishing, which focuses on marketing yourself (and your book) and the business side of being a writer.  Scott William Carter, whose own first novel is coming out soon, writes The First Book, with interviews of authors whose first novels are about to be or have recently been published.  If you’re a wannabe novelist looking for inspiration, you might want to check these out.

There’s more I meant to put into this post, but I’m exhausted and I’ve forgotten what it was.  If I remember it and I have the energy, I’ll post an epilogue.