Monthly Archives: June 2009

Even the Vermin Are Unfocused Here.

Only we would discover that our happy home has been invaded by both rats and mice at the same time!  It’s like a Batman movie — every live-action Batman movie after the first Michael Keaton movie in 1989 has had two villains, because one psychotic bad guy endangering the city just wouldn’t be awful enough.  So we have rats in the crawlspace and mice sneaking into the pantry.  I’m surprised they can co-exist like that; I would have expected some kind of rodent gang turf war.

The Siren ended up throwing out a lot of food, and I had to deal with a mouse caught on one of the glue traps the exterminator put out, which I hate doing.  The house I shared in law school had a mouse problem at the start of my third year; we started with glue traps, but after we caught the first dozen, we moved on to poison.  Today, our exterminator put out both.

There’s a restaurant up the street, and the exterminator’s best guess was that the rats are attracted by their garbage; he thinks with all the bushes and ground cover we and our neighbors have, the backyards are like (shudder) a rat highway, and a few just gnawed their way into our crawlspace.  I don’t even begin to know how to process that.  We’ve never seen any rats or mice outside, just the occasional rabbit.

On a lighter note, after the kids and I watched this video a dozen times before they went to bed, I’m considering growing a mustache.

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A Little Sibling Rivalry Can Be Healthy.

Our son doesn’t eat much in the way of what the rest of us call “food.”  He drinks milk, and eats pizza, pasta, string cheese, apples, grapes, occasional bananas, strawberries, and chicken nuggets.  I think that may be it.  His only source of non-dairy protein comes from Tyson chicken nuggets.

Considering he’s five and a half, this is getting old.  We cut him a little more slack than we gave Unfocused Girl, because of his food allergies — he needs to be comfortable saying “no” to food that might put him in the hospital — but enough is enough.  We’ve been pushing him harder lately, and tonight at dinner, we told him he had to buckle down and eat some chicken that didn’t come in a breaded nugget the size of a fifty-cent piece and the shape of a Shmoo.

He fussed, he complained, he even started to fake cry a little, until Unfocused Girl said, “I bet you can’t finish your chicken before I finish mine.”  BAM!  The race was on, he ate every bite, smiling and trash talking her, and she even let him win.

Time to raise the Girl’s allowance.

Summer Sunday Stats #1: Two Weeks, Two Days.

Our house is full again.  The Siren and the Unfocused Kids have been gone for 15 days.  First, they drove to our shared beach house in Delaware with the Siren’s mother. I used up some frequent flyer miles and joined them for last weekend, then flew back to Chicago Sunday night, worked Monday and Tuesday, then met them in Philadelphia (where they had dropped the Siren’s mother to spend a week with her brother) to drive to my mother’s place in rural New York.  We had a nice visit, then started the drive Saturday evening and got about 250 miles in before stopping for the night and doing the rest today.  Breaking the drive up into two pieces felt positively luxurious compared to the one-day drive home from Brooklyn last Thanksgiving weekend.

I’m glad to have everyone back home — the house was eeriely empty while the Siren and kids were gone.

On Writing: I think my word count for the week was something like 150 — I just didn’t have a lot of time to work on Project Hometown, even on the plane.  The week before was a little better, but not a whole lot.  The total word count for Porject Hometown is now 11,586.  I also mapped out a pretty good short story idea that I would like to work on in the coming month.

“Jimmies” was rejected, with the most encouraging rejection letter yet — it even implied that more than one person had read it.  I’ll send it back out again this week, but it’s time to finish something new.

On Running: Not bad.  I had a good 8.5 mile run from our hotel to my mother’s on Saturday morning; I was slow, but it was uphill almost half the distance, which is a big change from my usual Flatland routes.

Hope your summer is off to a rollicking start.

Spring Sunday Stats #10: Four Weeks To Go — The Last Man on Earth Posted on His Blog…

Four weeks until my 40th birthday.

I’m also 24 hours into the 10 Days of Bachelorhood — the Siren has gone to the beach with her mother and the kids.  So far, I’ve gone to see Star Trek (loved it!), mowed the lawn (meh), rode my bike to the lakefront and ran on the lake path (yay!), done some work (meh), read some of the latest Repairman Jack novel in the hammock in the backyard (spoooky), listened to loud music (rock on!), practiced with my real nunchucks instead of the foam ones (ouch!), and started talking to myself (uh-oh).  We are already past the longest I’ve ever been alone in the house, and it’s too damn quiet.

Right now I’m making dinner.  Not the way I usually make dinner, by ordering it, but actually making dinner.  If I don’t update my Twitter account within a few hours after posting this, please call an ambulance.  How long do you have to cook a hamburger in a frying pan, anyway?

On a brief, serious note, I’m following the crackdown on protesting students through Twitter accounts — there’s more than what the mainstream media is reporting, and if you’re interested, it’s all there.  Just check the hashtag #iranelection and you’ll find it.

Enough about world events, time to talk about myself some more.  This week’s stats:

On Writing: 1,945 words in Project Hometown, with the possibility of getting a little more done tonight.  Almost all of my writing was during my commute, plus lunch hour on Friday.  It’s really starting to flow now, which is nice.  I didn’t do any other writing, although I’ve jotted down a couple of short story ideas that I might play with over the next few weeks.

On Running: 10 miles today, in 1:27:06; not bad, considering that first I rode 5 miles through traffic to get to the lakefront so I could run on the path for the first time in around two years.  Then I rode 5 miles back, which wasn’t as painful as I thought, although traffic was worse on the way home.  I got in two mid-week runs for another 8.5 miles — not quite 20, but not too shabby, either.

All in all, last week was a pretty good week.  This weekend was OK, but it’s weird being alone in the house.  I expect I’ll spend more time in the office than usual.

Unfocused Guy Seeks Shiny New Distractions

I went to the final night of my novelists’ support group coffee klatsch last night — no more meetings until September.  More than half the group was absent, each with a different personal reason, but it’s hard to have these kinds of meetings once June rolls around.

One of the things we talked about is how the web forum for the organization that hosts us never took off.  I compared them to the Absolute Write forums, and pointed out that at the most, there would be maybe a couple of hundred people who would even consider using the studio’s forum, versus the entire world of amateur and professional writers who might be interested in AW.  No one else in the room had ever heard of Absolute Write, an experience I’ve had when I’ve brought up other web distractions resources (Twitter events like #queryfail, etc.), leading me to believe that I may spend too much time screwing around on the internet.

That said, I need more intellectually justifiable distractions (yes, I’m already aware of collegehumor.com, thanks) like I need a hole in the head, because sometimes I want to screw around on the internet and there’s nothing on.  I get to the point where no one’s active on FB or Twitter (thank God for the Losers Of Friday Night On Their Computers and why can’t we have Losers of Tuesday Night also?) and if I watch one more Onion News Network video I’ll scream.  I know that’s when I should jump over to Write or Die, but that’s not always going to happen.

So where do you go on the net when you’re looking for something not totally mindless?

Podcasts I’ve Been Listening To, #2 of an Occasional Series.

I’ve been talking about myself almost exclusively for a while now, and I think it’s time to talk about something else, so that I can come back in the next post and make it all about ME ME ME again, and you’ll think it’s fresh and new.  But what could be as fascinating as my creeping word-count and unchanging Sunday long runs?

It’s been a while since I last posted about the podcasts I’ve been listening to.  Last time, I posted about some good podcast fiction; this time, I thought I’d talk about the non-fiction podcasts that regularly show up on my iPhone.

I’m not much for video podcasts, because I usually listen to podcasts during interstitial time, like walking to the train station or driving alone from point A to point B.  Those are not good times to watch videos.  When I’m not in motion, I’d generally rather do something other than watch videos on my laptop (if I had time for video podcasts, I could watch TV, too).  But there are a couple that I’ll make an exception for, because they’re short and generally pretty interesting.

Author, podcaster, and former pro wrestler Matt Wallace has put out 10 episodes of his “Kill the Feed” video blog message to the nation, the world, and the legion so far; he seems to be on a brief hiatus, but I’d lay good odds he’ll be back soon.  He starts with a healthy rant about something that’s gotten under his skin, then talks about his writing, generally all in less than 10 minutes.  His short fiction has been podcast all over the net, and his short story collection, The Next Fix, is available for the Kindle.  I read The Next Fix a little while ago, and if you like your fiction dark and bloody, you need to check it out.

Podcasting pioneer, novelist, and geek fu master Mur Lafferty’s I Should Be Writing podcast is a regular source of inspiration.  Lately, she’s taken to adding short videos to her ISBW feed, which are a nice addition to the regular format.  They’re short and funny, and supplement — rather than replace — the usual ISBW audio episodes.  (FYI – if you’re a fan of Mur’s Heaven series, she started podcasting the final chapter, War, just last week in her main feed.  The first episode is very promising.)

Back in the realm of audio, I recently came across Tee Morris‘s The Survival Guide to Writing Fantasy, which seems to be on a bit of a break.  The most recent episode is from Jan. 2009, but was a terrific interview with Scott Sigler about how he wrote Contagious in five months at the same time that he was going through a couple of personal tragedies.  I’m looking forward to catching up on the older episodes.

Author J.C. Hutchins has his first novel in print coming out tomorrow — Personal Effects:  Dark Arts (and yes, I preordered my copy and will be eagerly awaiting my little box of horrors from Amazon) — and has two separate podcasts promoting it.  In Hey Everybody!, Hutch updates us about how his promotion efforts are going and what else is going on in the world of Hutch, and usually has an interesting interview with another author or artist.  He’s also podcasting Personal Effects:  Sword of Blood, a novella that’s a prequel to PE:DA, which is, let me tell you, pretty damn suspenseful.

Dan Carlin puts out the fantastic Hardcore History podcast every month or so, giving us an in-depth essay (usually 45 minutes to an hour) on a wide variety of people and events.  I recently came across his bi-weekly Common Sense podcast, on politics and current events.  Show 151, about the decline of print media, I thought was particularly insightful compared to most of the discussion of the issue on the net (or in the dead-tree press, for that matter).  Unfortunately, I often find myself agreeing with Dan, which makes it hard for me to say convincingly that the podcast is interesting and entertaining whether you agree with him or not, but it is, or at least it should be.  He’s a bright, well-informed guy, and I hope his audience continues to grow.

That’s all I’ve got for tonight.  I hope you find some of these podcasts interesting.  I’ll probably do this again in another month or so, when I get bored talking about myself again.

Spring Sunday Stats #9: Five Weeks To Go.

I realize it’s been a couple of weeks since I posted, but I’m insanely busy at work, the last days of school have lept us hopping, and I’m staring at 40 like a deer in the frakking headlights.  In five weeks, I turn 40, and I’m trying to figure out whether I qualify for Social Security yet.

Meanwhile, did I mention that my dad is finally retiring at the end of the month?  He’s 72, and has worked 6 days a week since roughly the Kennedy administration.  You can bet I don’t complain about my hours too much when I’m talking to him.

I’m going to have to keep this short — the kids just got back from playing with the neighbors (from what I can tell, the younger boy from across the street hit Junior in the ass with a whiffle bat, which pissed him off, so he and Unfocused Girl took their sidewalk chalk and came home).  Next up, stats and the usual whining.

On Writing: Project Hometown now stands at 8,640 words, which means I’ve written 4,218 words in it since my last post.  I also submitted the revised and greatly reduced “Jimmies” (now down to around 3400 words from 5200) to a semi-pro online market.  The editor is posting some of her comments on slush submissions on Twitter, which is simultaneously fascinating and unnerving.

I have to admit that the outline I did for Project Hometown over the winter has been an enormous help, and is largely responsible for me being able to make any progress at all.  I want to recommend the Snowflake Method again to anyone who is interested in putting together a detailed story outline and character information before starting a new project.  After writing Meet the Larssons with nothing more than a few pages of notes I threw together just before I started and having so much trouble with the first draft and then the revisions, I’m very happy with the results from outlining first.  The extra work up front is really paying off for me now.

On Running: Pretty good day today.  The weather was ugly – gray, cool, drizzly – but not actually that bad for a long run.  I did 10 miles in 1:27:08, which is better than I’ve done through most of the spring, although not as good as last week.  I had two mid-week runs (one intervals, one not) on the treadmill at the gym over lunch, for a total of 18.86 miles for the week.  Not perfect — I’m shooting for 20+ per week — but considering what the last few weeks have been like, perfectly acceptable.

Last week my Sunday time for 10 miles was even better:  1:24:06, on a beautiful, sunny day, warm but not too warm.  I’m working on improving my stretching and easing back on the painkillers, which seems to be working.  The ITB pain in my hips that was bothering me all through March, April, and most of May hasn’t come back except for the occasional twinge, which is good.  My hamstrings are still incredibly tight, but I’m working on them.

Junior’s looking for me, so it’s time to go.