PowerPointapalooza!

I’m heading off to the Firm’s partners’ conference in sunny Florida today! So excited! I’ll miss the Shamrock Shuffle (moved to April this year to avoid the blizzards), but in its place I’ll have two full days of PowerPoint presentations on firm finances, large AND small group sessions on strategic initiatives, and of course, inter-office and cross-disciplinary networking opportunities! Slide shows and spreadsheets, with a chaser of mingling and small talk – the word “awesomesauce” was created for weekends like this.

On the upside, there’s a fair amount of socially acceptable drinking, and the Saturday afternoon group activities are a heck of a lot more varied and interesting than the first one of these things I went to (at the Old Firm), when the choices were (a) golf, and (b) spa day! (for the lady partners — this was 2005, so they had to be progressive). I think I went for a long run that afternoon instead. Maybe I’ll do the same thing this time, when I start to lose my mind after 7 hours straight of synergistic paradigm-shifting bullet-point riddled slide shows.

Happy Birthday to My Unfocused Girl!

Oh, God, she’s 10, and all I can think about is soon she’s going to be 14. I’m taking deep breaths.

Some pictures of my tough, determined, brilliant, serious, silly, buttkicking not-so-little girl from the past year:

First day with the bo staff in traditional weapons class.

Getting her high green belt in taekwondo.

Rock climbing in the Dells on Father's Day.

Getting ready to boogie board at the beach.

 

At the Renaissance Faire.

School picnic at the beginning of 4th grade.

In full Ravenclaw gear, as we were leaving to see Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

Happy birthday, honey. I’m sure it will be a terrific year.

So Much For That.

I just wrote a long, rambling post that WordPress.com ate when I hit Save Draft, a good reminder that I should compose these posts elsewhere and just paste them into the New Post window here at WordPress. I don’t have the energy to re-write it, and frankly, you’re better off without it. Here are the highlights:

– Politics: Mayor-elect Emanuel good. Recently-appointed incumbent alderman running for his first election bad, because he is the 5th consecutive member of his family to serve as alderman in this ward, a seat they’ve held for 80 years. He could raise the frakking dead and I’d vote against him. Although he’d probably still win, what with all the dead voters supporting him and his “raise the dead platform” – this is still Chicago. Since he can’t raise the dead — so far as we know — that’s purely hypothetical, but he’ll probably still win. In Chicago, reform only goes so far, but political dynasties go on for-freaking-ever.

– Health: The Boy has strep for the second time in a month. He threw up in the bathroom sink in the middle of washing up for bed, which was extra special. The Siren and I both have slight fevers and my throat is sore. Question for the reader: if the Siren and I wake up in the morning with full blown strep, who will help Unfocused Girl with her Inventors’ Fair project tomorrow?

(It’s a trick question. I don’t care how sick I am, I’m going to help her finish the Inventor’s Fair project – it’s too cool not to. If you’re lucky, I’ll post pictures. If you’re really lucky, I’ll post video.)

– Unfocused Girl’s birthday: My first-born child turns 10 on Monday. Whatever it was I wrote probably didn’t amount to much more than this, only with fewer sweeping violins. I’ll post something specific on Monday.

That’s all I’ve got. I’m completely wiped out, so I’m just going to post this fast and then look at LOLcats until I can drag myself upstairs.

Disillusioning the Boy Early.

I sort of wish I’d pulled this out before the Boy read it, but on the other hand, it isn’t that different from what the Siren and I say over dinner. It’s just that it brings it home with a reference he understands:

Prickly City

Whoops! It’s January!

Happy New Year! Have you stopped writing 2010 on your checks yet?

Things I’ve done since my last blog post:

  • upgrade the RAM on my MacBook;
  • upgrade the OS on the MacBook to Snow Leopard;
  • team up with the Siren and the Unfocused Kids to break into the Top 25 players in our ocean in Grepolis (we control 5 ancient Greek city-states);
  • start watching Torchwood, Series 1 on Netfl1x streaming, once I moved my weekday runs inside to the treadmill;
  • work;
  • read Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld (highly recommended);
  • read Consider Phlebas, by Iain Banks (also highly recommended);
  • read Cognitive Surplus, by Clay Shirky (again, highly recommended — it’s not that I’m an easy grader, it’s that these days, if it isn’t engaging, I don’t finish it);
  • start converting our power-sucking recessed ceiling lights to LEDs that we won’t need to change until we’re at retirement age, at which point the Unfocused Kids can change them for us;
  • work;
  • run 16 times (90 miles total — I screwed up my left calf and ran almost not at all for two weeks in December);
  • travel to San Diego (for work);
  • travel to New York (for work);
  • attend my childrens’ performances in their school holiday concerts;
  • enjoy a rare public performance by the Siren, singing Christmas songs with a pick up band (piano, drums, accordion, and 10-15 people trying to keep time with egg shakers or other little kid instruments) at a holiday party thrown by talented friends;
  • work; and
  • screw around on the internet.

Things I didn’t do since my last blog post:

  • finish the first draft of Breezeway;
  • get to my November word count goal;
  • get to my year-end word count goal;
  • post on this blog; and
  • respond to comments on this blog.

Yeah, sorry about that last one.

I’ve been reading through the archives at Merlin Mann’s 43Folders lately. Merlin is one of my blog idols (despite his hair) for a lot of reasons, but the direction he’s taken the blog in the last couple of years has been very interesting. He’s focusing on how you focus your attention on the creative work you want to be doing. And as we all know, focus is not my strong suit (I picked this name for a reason, people). Merlin’s first post in this series is here. I just reread it; frankly, need the inspiration.

When I first started this blog, it was to start myself back in the habit of writing again after decades off. It worked; I started writing fiction again almost immediately. On the other hand, I can’t begin to count how many posts I’ve started with something on the order of: “So I didn’t get any work done on the novel this week [or month, or season] because…” and posting on the blog itself has dropped off to somewhere between “infrequent” and “clear, high-definition video of bigfoot.”

Work is what work is: that thing they pay you to do so that you do it every day whether you feel like it or not. Everything else, I have to pay myself if I’m going to manage enough focus to accomplish anything that requires more than a few hours in a single afternoon. I just haven’t figured out the currency yet. What’s yours?

Not NaNoWriMo, Day 13: 3,331 Words and Messing With Computers.

Depending on how you measure it, my Not NaNoWriMo has so far been either a complete failure or a raging success.  It’s been a failure by the standards of  NaNoWriMo, certainly: in 12 days, I’ve written almost exactly the number of words needed to be on track for day 2.

Good thing for me that I’m not holding myself to that standard. My goal is to write at least 300 words each day, and although I haven’t been able to write every day, I’m averaging pretty close to that amount and have written more days than not.  My other goal is to get 10,000 words by the end of November, and while I’m not perfectly on track for it I’m not far off, either. I’m definitely feeling more in touch with the story and characters than I’ve been in a long while, and I’m starting to be more comfortable just sitting down and pounding the keys regardless of whether I “feel like it,” whatever that means.

I should qualify that to say pounding the keys or tapping the screen, because I’ve probably written a third of my output this month on my iPhone, using WriteRoom, a great little plain text app that syncs easily with Scrivener. I bought a cheap flexible bluetooth keyboard to use with the phone instead of schlepping my MacBook on the train, but several keys stopped working within a couple of days, so I’ve been typing directly onto the touch screen. It’s less painful than I would have thought, although I type enough emails that way that I should have been more willing to try it sooner.

I’m limiting my word count goal because I’ve got a number of things going on at the office that make doing a full NaNo project impossible this month, and also because I have other projects I didn’t want to put off.

One thing I’m working on is learning more about the hardware and software we have in the house, which I use every day without much thought.  Every three years, the firm where I work gives us new computers and will sell us our old ones for a minimal price.  I’ve now been there long enough to go through two of these upgrade cycles; in 2007, I bought my old office Thinkpad X40 for $1, and a couple of weeks ago, I bought my old Thinkpad X61 for $47 (there was still a month or so of warranty left on it).

The X40 had always been a slow machine, and even with a clean install of Windows XP and running just a handful of non-Microsoft apps (Firefox and OpenOffice, mostly), it was still painful to use, but it was the only Windows machine we had in the house and I think it’s a good idea to have at least one machine other than my current office computer that runs the world’s dominant OS.

Once I brought home the X61, though, I was free to do whatever I liked with the older laptop. So last weekend, I installed the Linux-based Ubuntu Desktop operating system on it.  I’d never done anything like that on a PC, and in the space of an afternoon learned more about the computer than I have in years.

It ran better on Ubuntu, but it was still slow, so I ordered more RAM last weekend and this afternoon while the Siren and Junior were out for his best friend’s birthday party, Unfocused Girl and I had a wonderful time opening it up and adding 1GB of RAM to the 512MB of RAM already in it.  She was very excited about it and wanted to know what our next project would be.  I gave her a couple of choices, so in a couple of minutes we’re going to jailbreak my old iPhone 3G.  Pretty entry-level stuff, but we’re enjoying ourselves.

Not NaNoWriMo Day 2: 365. Also, an Election.

I voted this morning: 13 Democrats, 5 Republicans, 1 Green, 1 independent, not counting judges running only for retention or judicial candidates for open seats running unopposed. So far, it looks like two of the Republicans, the Green, the independent, and one of the Democrats are going to lose, and two of the other races are too close to call. The only races I felt at all good about were some of the very local races; the Democrats managed to field entirely uninspiring candidates for our state wide races, but the Republicans were either no better or worse in most cases. If the races hadn’t been so close, I would have voted for more of the third party candidates.

I added 365 words today, all written on the train to and from work. I was a little more productive in the morning than I was on the way home, probably due to brain drain from the day’s work, and that on the way home I have to worry about missing my stop while going downtown I can write all the way up to the point the last other commuter leaves the train car.

Total word count for Not NaNoWriMo 2010 so far: 783/10,000.

Total word count for Breezeway Blows Town: 75,416/100,000.

Not NaNoWriMo Day 1: 418 words.

Word count for day 1: 418.

The first draft of Breezeway Blows Town was 74,633 when the day started (I’ve been warming up for NaNo the last couple of weeks and have gotten a little more added to where I had been), so adding this evening’s 418 words gives me a total word count of 75,051.

That’s right, I broke 75,000 words on day 1! Yeah, fine, I had a 74,633 word head start, but still.

Once again, I also recommend Geek Survival Guide’s daily NaNoWriMo podcast.  The kick-off is here.

The Siren Is Awesome.

The Green-Eyed Siren made the coat for me — it came off the sewing machine and on to my back at about 4:30 this afternoon, accompanied by a chorus of the kids chanting “Can we go now? Can we go now?” — and ordered all of the accessories. Because she loves me, and she’s just as geeky as I am.

She also made the costumes for the Unfocused kids: Katara from The L@st A1rb3nder and Sun Man, Junior’s secret identity:

 

NaNoWriMo: What I’m NOT Doing This Year (sort of).

I love National Novel Writing Month. In the abstract, the idea is wonderful: more than 100,000 people signing up for 30 days of unembarrassed semi-public creativity. At the personal level, this is exactly what an (ahem) unfocused person like me needs: a hard deadline, with accountability. Last year, I played to win and I got there, finishing November 30 with 51,324 words of Breezeway Blows Town under my belt (that title has to go, by the way — it was the working title for the novel I outlined before NaNo started, not the novel I actually wrote). Since then, I’ve written approximately 16,000 words more.

Let me say that again: in November, 2009, I wrote 51,000+ words in the novel, and in the 11 months since then, I wrote 16,000. My average monthly word count since December 1, 2009 has been less than my average daily word count for the 30 days before.

I know what you’re thinking: the boy needs a deadline. Well, duh. I didn’t pick the name of this blog at random, you know.

As I’ve mentioned, this has been an … interesting year, but I haven’t been ready to post about that, which is why I’ve been updating so infrequently. The easy explanation is that I’m getting slammed at work, which is both true and incomplete.  I am, however, ready to start writing again, and I recognize that I need a deadline and the competitive spirit (I’m looking at you, Chad and John — both of whom, I note, finished their NaNo novels; John is podcasting Enemy Lines now, and it’s fantastic) to get me back into the habit of lying on paper every day (insert lawyer joke here).  So here it is: I’m back at the NaNo site, user no. 261488, and I’ll be updating my word count all through November. I will not be starting a new project, and will not attempt anything close to 50,000 words.  If I get 10,000 words farther into Breezeway by Nov. 30, I will do the two-finger victory dance and award myself a bonus 300XP on Epic Win.  My only goal is to finish the damn first draft by year-end, and I have at least 25,000 words to go — in plot outline terms, I’ve only just started act 3.

If we were writing buddies last year, it looks like the site kept that connection; if not, feel free to add me to your buddy list, and I’ll add you back. See you November 1.  Until then, have a happy Hallowe’en, or as some of us call it, All Nanos Eve.