Monthly Archives: April 2009

Pardon Me for Not Shaking Hands.

… but you might have the swine flu — I’m watching it approach Chicago in real time here. Or the zombie plague. And I don’t want to catch either one. I didn’t post any stats this weekend because I was too busy digging out a fortified bunker under the kids’ playset. I may post the stats tonight or tomorrow, if I can get the canned goods, weapons, and gold coins stashed in time to hide the family from the coming collapse of civilization.  When Mother Abigail from The Stand shows up on Twitter, it’s time to duck and cover.

For another perspective, you could read Mike’s polyannaish post.  But don’t get too close, I think I just heard him sneeze.

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Podcasts on the iPhone, #1 of an Occasional Series.

I dropped the On the iPod section of my weekly Sunday Stats post a couple of weeks ago, because it didn’t fit with the format anymore; it started out as just whatever I happened to listen to on my Sunday long run, and turned into a list of everything I’d listened to in the past week, with links to individual episodes.  Also, the links were a real pain in the ass to do on a Sunday at the end of a post that might already have taken me a couple of hours to write.

But I like promoting the podcasts I listen to — I hardly ever listen to live commercial radio, and I want to spread the word about all of the good stuff that’s out there.  Also, it makes me feel like one of the cool kids in the social media space, or at least one of the kids who occasionally gets to hang with the cool kids.  So I’m going to do a separate post from time to time, linking to whatever I’ve been listening to lately.  It might not be every week, and it might not include everything I listen to (some weeks I listen to a lot of podcasts), but I’ll do my best.  If you’re not interested in podcasts, just skip it and I promise in my next post I’ll complain about not having enough time to run, write, spend with my wife & kids, or get my work done.

This week, I’m going to focus on the podcast fiction I’ve been listening to lately.  Next time, I’ll do the non-fiction podcasts I’ve gotten into recently, and I’ve picked up some good ones.

Serving Worlds:

I can’t remember exactly how John Mierau and I ended up following each other on Twitter — perhaps through the Absolute Write group — but after he made a crack about lawyers I checked out his podcast Serving Worlds. (Note: making unpleasant generalizations about my profession is not normally a good way to get me to listen to your podcast.  Yes, many lawyers are assholes.  I am often one of them.)  In Serving Worlds, John reads his own short stories.  I’ve listened to one story (three episodes) all the way through, and I’m three episodes in to another.  His stuff is good.  Check him out.  The first episodes of the stories I’ve heard so far are:

Serving Worlds, Episode #4:  “Marked Men,” Episode 1.

Serving Worlds, Episode #7:  “Harlan’s Wake,” Episode 1.

StarShip Sofa:

I am probably the last podcast listener interested in science fiction to subscribe to StarShip Sofa, so I’m sure you already know all about it.  I’ve only just started listening, but it has more of a “magazine” feel than Escape Pod does, with a combination of some or all of editorial, reviews, poetry, and fiction in each episode of its Aural Delights.  If you don’t already subscribe to Aural Delights and want to give it a try, I enjoyed this episode just today:

Aural Delights No. 79 (lead story, “Standing Room Only,” by Karen Joy Fowler).

Escape Pod:

Speaking of Escape Pod, it seems to be back on track, with founder and Escape Artist in Chief Steve Eley having delegated some of the responsibility for getting the show out to new managing editor Jeremiah Tolbert.  Escape Pod is working through what must have been a truly epic backlog of flash fiction — they pushed out a lot of it in January, and have sent more out on the feed in the last couple of weeks, which reminds me that I have a flash piece I’ve been meaning to submit.  EP is also in the process of publishing all of the Hugo nominees for short story.  I recently listened to, and enjoyed:

Escape Pod #194:  Hugo nominee “Exhalation,” by Ted Chiang.

Escape Pod #195:  Hugo nominee “26 Monkeys, Also the Abyss,” by Kij Johnson.

Escape Pod Flash:  Grandpa? by Edward M. Lerner.

Escape Pod Flash:  “Chump Change,” by Pete Butler.

That’s all I have for tonight.  Now I need to go make sure my tux is clean; Junior’s school’s benefit is Saturday night.

Spring Sunday Stats #5: April Showers … Are Tiresome.

It’s been a hectic week here at Stately Unfocused Manor.  Both kids developed a stomach virus on Tuesday and spent much of that day and the next throwing up, making us extremely grateful that they are both old enough to aim.  By Thursday, they were both well enough to go to school, but Unfocused Girl’s school was closed for parent-teacher conferences, so she missed most of a week of school (I wasn’t able to go to the conference, but The Siren reports that her teachers say she’s doing quite well).  Things at the office continue to be bizarrely busy, but I was able to keep most of the balls in the air this week.

In sad comic book news, Unfocused Girl recently received the final issues of both The Amazing Spider-Girl and Supergirl:  Cosmic Adventures in the Eighth Grade.  On her behalf, I would like to give an enormous raspberry to both Marvel and DC for not continuing these titles, which were two of the only books appropriate for all ages with girl heroes.  Spider-Girl, at least, is being continued as a web comic but you have to subscribe to the entire “Marvel Digital Universe” for about three times what subscription to a single print title costs.  It’s probably a good deal if you’re going to read more than one on-line Marvel series, but I don’t know that it makes sense for us.  As for Supergirl, from what I’ve seen of it, the primary title is too mature for an 8 year old (at least, my 8 year old).  She still likes her subscription to Batman: The Brave and the Bold, and we’ll check out a couple of the other Marvel titles, but Unfocused Girl really liked both of these subscriptions; I hope both of the major comic book publishers realize they’re leaving behind a lot of potential readers.

It’s cold and raining today; the kids are over at a friend’s house watching one of the original Godzilla movies, so I can blog without guilt.

On Writing: This week was much better than the last few have been.  I marked up another 32 pages of Meet the Larssons this week, through page 352.  I’ve been doing my mark-ups on the train, but I’ve decided that I’m sick of all the hand-editing and I want to start getting the edits and notes into the manuscript, so I’ve started typing in my hand edits at home.  I’ve typed in the entire brand new first chapter (1733 words) and started the second (formerly Chapter 9), staying mostly faithful to my handwritten drafts and edits but not entirely.

I also knocked out a critical scene from the apocalyptic science fiction novel I briefly outlined a couple of months ago then put aside.  I started it on Write or Die on Friday night (I love Write or Die, BTW; many thanks to Dr. Wicked for creating it!), then kept going that night and Saturday evening; it needs work, but the first draft of the scene is complete at a little over 1500 words.  I don’t know whether I’m going to do anything with it anytime soon, but I’m considering seeing how the story works as a novella that I could expand into a novel later.  A friend of mine (who makes no-budget science fiction movies) suggested that the story sounds like a good no-budget science fiction movie, which would be fun.  Whatever I do with it, after all of the editing I’ve been doing, it was fun to do some original writing.

Finally, on Monday I resubmitted “Jimmies” to an on-line market after an exchange with the editor on Twitter.  I’ve managed not to break the “Get Mail” button in Apple Mail, but it’s been a close thing.

On Running: I had a better week running this week, too, despite some funny knee pains brought on, I expect, by a very active game of tag on Easter.  I got in three runs during the week — none of them long, but two of them were outside — and today slogged through the rain for 10 miles in 1:31:24, a 9:09 min/mile pace.  Slow, but given the weather not altogether unexpected.  I had to wrap my iPhone armband carrier in Saran Wrap to keep the rain from getting into it, which worked well.

The Siren and I are both trying to drop a few pounds, so we’re undertaking a full-blown reboot effort.  We’ve cut out wine with dinner most nights, white flour, and stealing the kids’ Easter candy.  It’s helping, and I’m hopeful that dropping 5-10 pounds will make my knees a little less tricky.  I’ve been negligent about stretching this past six months, so I’m trying to be better about that, and will attempt some exercises to strengthen the stabilizing muscles around the knee.  I’ll let you know how that goes.

Finally, I do intend to post about the podcasts I’ve been listening too, including some new ones.  I’ve just been busy.  But I promise to get a post up, if not this week then next.

Bad Lawyers, Secession Talk, and Rewriting the Novel.

There are a couple of recent stories in the news that I think are worthy of comment, but I’m posting this from work so I’ll be brief.

First, I get why the Obama administration has promised that they’re not going to prosecute the CIA agents who followed Bush administration policy and tortured people in the name of national security post-9/11: they were doing a difficult job under circumstances that may (may) have made the relative morality of their actions seem, if not actually good, then at least not so bad.  Also, they were told by the administration’s lawyers, over and over again, that what they were doing wasn’t “torture” and it was all perfectly legal.

Advice of counsel is a viable defense in criminal prosecutions, so I suppose it’s reasonable for it to apply here.  That said, I hope the asshat lawyers who wrote memos to order for the Bush/Cheney cabal condoning torture all get disbarred.

Second story:  Let me get this straight. Spending a trillion dollars to fight a war in a country that didn’t commit terrorist acts on U.S. territory is perfectly fine and questioning it makes you an unpatriotic terrorist sympathizer, but spending a trillion dollars on rebuilding infrastructure and other projects here at home is a crime against the Constitution and the American people that warrants states seceding from the Union (check this link too)?

Finally, as a personal update, I went back to Scrivener and cut 12,000 words from Meet the Larssons last night, but typed in 1205 words of the new first chapter.  I’m still going through the last couple hundred pages with a pen in my hand, but the rewrite has begun in earnest.  I’m very glad to be back at the computer.

Spring Sunday Stats #4: Happy Easter! The Bunny Escapes Unseen, Again.

It’s Easter and we’re all completely worn out. Kids are finally in bed, and I haven’t checked my work email all day. The idea of getting ready for tomorrow is hugely depressing. I need to remember to wear a suit because I’m participating some kind of panel discussion. I may be leading it. Crap.

Hope those of you celebrating Easter had a wonderful holiday — the Siren sang twice today, at 6am and 9am, and Unfocused Girl went with her both times. I hear she gave a fantastic performance.  I stayed home with Junior, and took him out for his first time on the roller skates he got as a hand-me-down from his friend up the block.  Here’s a picture:

He says he wants to build a jetpack, to go with the skates.

He says he wants to build a jetpack, to go with the skates.

The weather has been pretty good this weekend; not very warm, but very sunny, and in Chicago that’s all we need.  Yesterday it was sunny and about 40 by the lake, when we met up with a college friend and her husband and daughter at Millennium Park.  It’s been so gray around here for so long that everyone came out for the nice weather, and I mean everyone:

  • Crazy guy in public washroom, praising me for helping Junior wash his hands after using the toilet (go, me! go, germ theory of disease!):  check
  • Standard issue street preacher, with very large crowd:  check
  • Scientologists: check
  • Anti-scientologist dressed as banana: check
  • Greenpeace guy dressed as tree from an old-growth forest: check
  • Superheroes and supervillains: check

I’m not kidding about that last item.  Here’s the picture, unfortunately only from behind:

In view: The Joker, Harley Quinn, Wolverine, and Power Girl. Not visible: Black Canary, Jean Grey, and unknown female metahuman.

In view: The Joker, Harley Quinn, Wolverine, and Power Girl. Not visible: Black Canary, Jean Grey, and unknown female metahuman.

I love Chicago in the spring.

So on to the stats, very brief this week:

On Writing: The lack of original output continued this weekend as I revised “Jimmies” in light of the comments from the most recent rejection.  Most of what I did was cut about 10 percent of it, 550 words, leaving what I think is a tighter story.  I’m going to give the Siren a crack at it and then get it out the door.

On Running: Just a short run on Thursday.  Nothing today due to the holiday, and I’ve been eating far too many empty calories lately between my messed up work schedule and the holidays.  Time to reboot, starting with a good run tomorrow morning.

Post script:  I try not to buy into most social media hysteria (the whole Facebook Terms of Service freakout seemed completely ridiculous to me, for example), but I admit to getting a little miffed about what certainly appears to be heavy-handed censorship by Amazon, removing “adult” titles from sales ranking, with the effect that these titles no longer show up in the “All Departments” search from the home screen.  If you’re interested in this (or just want to see what all of the fuss is about), search the #amazonfail hashtag on Twitter, and check out Lilith Saintcrow’s post on the subject here.

Post post script: Tor editor Patrick Nielsen Hayden has a thoughtful speculation about what may have happened here.

Happy Passover!

As the most ignorant Jewishish person around (my mother’s family is Jewish, but, as my high school friend Barry used to say, I’m not very good at it), allow me to wish you a happy Passover.  I was delighted to be pointed to Judaism 101 recently, which includes “Basic” information, “Things that every Jewish person should know, that require no prior knowledge.” That’s for me.

The Siren has been prepping for our seder all week, so I’d better go help!

Spring (again, HAH!) Sunday Stats #3: We Are the Aliens.

Oh, look, another week has gone by and I’m still in this hole.  It’s a very nice, comfortable hole, with many fine features to recommend it, but it remains a hole.  I keep digging, which is probably not the best way to get out.  For every deadline I get through, two more get closer and more pressing.  There’s a ladder, but it just leads to another hole.

One of the people I work with — a senior partner who’s been out of law school twice as long as I have — says that working at a big law firm is like being in a pie eating contest where the grand prize is more pie.

All of this pissing and moaning is by way of excuse, again, for my failure to blog all week, and my inability to comment on your blogs in at least that long.  Rest assured, I’ve been talking about you on Twitter and Facebook, which I manage to keep up with on my phone.

Also, I was sick on Tuesday night and Wednesday. And then I had insomnia on Wednesday night.  And Thursday night was Unfocused Girl’s science fair.

So let’s just go to my pathetic stats, shall we?

On Writing: I started the week getting a few pages edited, but that was it; I was at 311 last Sunday, now I’m at 320.  I hit Write or Die once this past week, 233 words on a little short story that probably isn’t going anywhere, but it’s been fun.  That’s it, though.

I also accepted an invitation to write a chapter for a book in my area of practice, with the first draft due in July.  It’s a great opportunity, professionally speaking, but I’m going to have to work hard to make progress on my fiction-writing around the research and writing for the chapter, since that will all have to be done outside of work as well.

On Running: Before today, the only running I did this week was to catch my train.  The Shamrock Shuffle-on-ice wore me out, and then I got sick.  It was just a little cold, but it left me completely screwed up — I got too much sleep on Tuesday night and then had a nap on Wednesday, then too much coffee to restart after the nap, then insomnia Wednesday night.  All in all, I didn’t have much leftover for running.  I ran 8.88 miles this morning in 1:15:00, all at home on the treadmill because it was hailing, for crying out loud; as I write this, it’s snowing.  I did watch the first 2/3 of The Dark Knight, finally.  So far, so good, I think; I loved the car chase on Lower Wacker Drive.  If you’re stuck on a treadmill, I heartily recommend watching action movies with car chases and explosions — these are especially good for interval training.

On the iPod will not appear this Sunday.  I’m planning to make this part of a mid-week post, or maybe a stand-alone item.  It doesn’t really fit with the Sunday stats, and getting all the links right takes too long after I’ve written a 600-800 word post.

Random moment with the kids:  Junior and Unfocused Girl woke up a little early this morning, surprising considering we were out pretty late last night at a wine tasting party (all parents and affiliated children from Unfocused Girl’s new school).  The kids have both been on astronaut kicks lately, since their visit to the Soref Planetarium in Milwaukee over spring break, and Unfocused Girl has been saying she wants to go to Mars and look for alien bacteria.  When I went into their room this morning, Junior, who is interested in somewhat more complex forms of alien life, was explaining to Unfocused Girl that Martian astronauts actually come to Earth in the night looking for alien life here.  I asked him what alien life the Martians find here, and he said, “Us! Human beings are the aliens to the Martians!”  This was like one of those moments when you can see your kid growing up before your eyes; he’s starting to understand how different people, or tentacled things, can have different points of view.

Then at breakfast he said the word “poop,” or variations thereof, so many times that I had to order him to keep the poop away from meals.