Monthly Archives: September 2009

Scrappy Doo.

Yesterday, I was 3800 words in to the short story I started Labor Day weekend, around halfway through and had notes for the rest of it, when I realized I was doing it wrong.  The plot was fine, the main character was all right, but the scenes were all wrong, and I had her interacting with the wrong people.  Looking at it, I could tell that I couldn’t fix it by revising; I had to scrap the whole thing. I doubt there are two words together in the first draft that I can really use.

So I junked it. I moved the original draft into the “Research” folder in the Scrivener project for the story and started a new draft from scratch. I got more than 1,000 words written today, and probably would have made more progress if I hadn’t started to come down with a godawful headache; luckily, it receded somewhat and I was functional for at least part of the evening.  I’m going to try to finish the whole story in a week, the right way this time. We’ll see.


Race Report: 2009 Chicago Half Marathon

I’ve been slacking on a lot of details and personal administrative issues this year, including race registration. I completely forgot to sign up for the 13.1 (Half) Marathon in the spring, which I had sort of planned to do even though I think that a race that doesn’t know the difference between a half marathon and a full marathon is kind of suspect, and I only signed up for today’s Chicago Half Marathon a couple of weeks ago. I was too late to get into a preferred start corral, even though I think I qualified for one based on my time last year, and paid so little attention that I didn’t notice until after the race was over that the Half appears to have lost its name sponsor from the last several years, Banco Popular. I assume it’s the economy, but I’m stunned that a race with 20,000 entrants couldn’t find anyone to buy the naming rights.

Whatever it’s called, I love this race. I complain about the parking in Hyde Park, sure, but 14 years after leaving the neighborhood I still love going back. The old course, which used to run along the Midway Plaisance through the heart of campus and right past my old dorm, was always a treat; now that the Half has grown into a mega-race in its own right, the organizers have moved it to Lake Shore Drive to give people a little more elbow room.  It’s a treat running on LSD (it’s closed to cars, giving runners 4 lanes in each direction to spread out), but from the turnaround around mile 7.5 to about mile 12 there is no shade at all. Today’s weather was beautiful but a little warm, and those 4-5 miles were brutal.

I started off slow for me, probably running 8:30 or 9:00 minute miles for the first 4 miles because of the crowds, then picked up the pace a little, but was never able to sustain a really fast pace at all. I ran mile 7 in approximately 6:30, and mile 9 in about 7:30, but otherwise just clocked out 8:00 to 8:30 minute miles all the way to the finish. My final chip time was 1:46:36, which was just a little over the 1:45 I was hoping to do.  My training has been spotty this summer, to be generous, so I shouldn’t be surprised that I ran a little slower than last year’s time of 1:45:10, which I managed during a hurricane.

All in all, it was a nice day and a good race, and while I’m blistered and exhausted, I feel pretty good. Since I’m tired, here are some pictures:

The Siren and Unfocused Kids agreed that the cariacture looks nothing like me, and Unfocused Girl drew her own, which she believes is more true to life:

Unfocused Girl's cariacature of Daddy after the race.

Unfocused Girl's cariacature of Daddy after the race.

Unfocused Girl's cariacature of Daddy after the race.

Unfocused Girl's cariacature of Daddy after the race.

My daughter and the professional both caught my essential characteristic: I don’t generally shave on Sunday mornings.

The first time I ran this race was the first year it was produced, 1997.  My time was 2:07:51.  Since then, my times have been:

1997: 2:07:51.

1998: 2:09:34.

1999: 2:05:10.

2000: 2:12:39.

2007: 1:47:39.

2008: 1:45:10.

2009: 1:46:36.

I skipped a lot of years in there, or can’t locate the results on line, and in that time I lost close to 50 pounds, which makes a big difference. My PR for a half marathon is 1:38:35, for the 2007 North Shore Half Marathon, but I don’t see hitting that again anytime soon.

Up next: The World-Wide Festival of Races Half Marathon, a fun virtual race started by Steve Runner of the Phedippidations podcast and his fabulous co-race-directors, the weekend of October 10-11, 2009, and the Men’s Health Urbanathlon, an approximately 11.76 mile race and obstacle course, which I have registered for in the past but never managed to run because of sudden conflicts. If you’re going to be at either of these races, let me know.

Why I Don’t Blog About Work.

There are two reasons I rarely even mention my job, and never post about anything I’m actually working on.

1.  I assume it would bore the hell out of you and no one would ever visit this lonely blog again.

2.  This. Seriously, this is why they need to make the bar exam harder.

Summer’s End.

Labor Day always feels so bittersweet, because it means the end of summer  but also the start of a new year. The official calendar, not to mention The Firm’s fiscal calendar, may start on January 1, but everybody knows the real start of the year is the first Monday in September.

Junior started kindergarten a week and a half ago. It’s hard to believe how much he stretched out so much over the summer; rides he was too short to go on in June were no problem when we went back to the boardwalk at the beach in August.  He’s hugely excited to be one of the big kids in his three-year mixed classroom, and he seems to be taking learning much more seriously than he has in the past.

Unfocused Girl starts third grade in the morning and is raring to go. There are only 11 kids in her homeroom this year, and only four of them (including UG) are girls, but she’s already friends with one of them so I expect it will be all right. I hope.

I spent a lot of my summer thinking about, worrying about, and finally working on The Chapter. I didn’t make any progress on my current novel-at-a-standstill, Project Hometown, or any other fiction project. I did, however, have several good ideas for other novels or short stories, which I managed to capture either in Evernote (my new outboard brain) or my Moleskine notebook.  When I found myself at loose ends this weekend, between the completion of The Chapter and canceling most of our plans for the weekend because Unfocused Girl had a fever, I was able to pick up one of the short story ideas and start right in on it. Writing fiction again felt a little like pulling on your favorite sweater on the first cool day of fall and finding that it doesn’t fit quite the same way it did the previous winter; it takes a couple of hours to get used to it and for it to stretch a little, but pretty soon it’s just as comfortable as it ever was.  I’m 1,537 words into “It Takes a Village,” the story I started Saturday afternoon, and I’m looking forward to getting back to Project Hometown once I finish the first draft.

I knocked out a pleasant 10 mile run yesterday in 1:31:49, too. The Chicago Half Marathon is next Sunday, and while I’m hoping for a finish around 1:45, I’m not expecting much. I plan to run just to enjoy it, and treat it like a training run for the races I’m running in October.

I’m feeling optimistic, just like at the start of a new school year. I wish I had a new Trapper Keeper as cool as Unfocused Girl’s, though:


The Goddamn Thing Is Goddamn Done.

I sent The Chapter off to the publisher a few minutes ago.  Now I’m sipping a bit of Scotch and trying to decide how bad it would be, really, to simply collapse on the floor when the last of the adrenaline wears off in about … now.

Ninety pages — 90 — and 17,839 words.  I think I wrote 10,000 words since last Friday night.  My Scrivener file for the project, which contains the draft and all of the research, is a whopping 178 MB. The last couple of weeks have been a little challenging, to say the least.  If the Siren hadn’t stepped up and just handled everything (even more than she usually does) I’d have fallen apart days ago.

Unless you’re an estate planner in Illinois, or (like me) a litigator with a quirky niche practice, you’d fall asleep by page 2.  But for that narrow audience, I think this treatise is going to be really useful, and I’m glad to be a part of it.  It’s not a novel, but it’s major work and it’s going to be published with my name in big bold type on the cover sheet for the chapter.  It may not be the same as seeing something I wrote on display at airport bookstores nationwide, but it feels pretty damn good.

I did learn a couple of important lessons in the last few months of working on The Chapter, mostly in the last few weeks.  Here’s a short list before I pass out from exhaustion:

  • The process was educational; I’ve learned some substantive law in subjects I didn’t know much about.
  • Now that the hard work is over (until they send it back for revisions), I’m really glad I volunteered.
  • It’s amazing how quickly I can type when I need to.
  • It is possible to do a massive research project without wasting truckloads of paper.
  • I also learned an important lessons about starting big projects on time and working consistently, so that I can finish them on time without unnecessary stress and drama.


OK, seriously, time for bed.

This Goddamn Thing Is Almost Done.

Very tired this morning, because I was up too late working on The Chapter. I haven’t talked about it much here, but last spring I was invited to write a chapter for a one-volume legal treatise. Now my final-you’ve-had-three-extensions-and-that’s-it deadline is Friday. I’m pretty close to finished, got a lot done over the weekened, and if I could just spend one more solid day on it I’d be in great shape.  But between court appearances, meetings, phone calls, and a couple of filings later in the week, I have no time to steal for this.  So it’s late nights and bleary mornings for the rest of the week.

Labor Day Weekend is going to be sweet.