Tag Archives: unfocused life

Terse.

Here’s my response to the one-word meme.  Freshhell tagged me by implication.  You’ll catch on.

Where is your cell phone: hallway.
Your hair: messy
Your significant other: siren
Your mother: displaced
Your father: urban
Your favorite thing: books
Your dream last night: none
Your favorite drink: coffee
Your dream/goal: publication
The room you are in: kitchen
Your fear: dementia
Where do you want to be in 6 years: published
Muffins: eggless
One of your wish list items: time
Where you grew up: Brooklyn
The last thing you did: drank
What are you wearing: pajamas
Your TV: Sony
Your pets: robotic
Your computer: macalicious
Missing someone: no
Your life: packed
Your mood: foul
Your car: old
Favorite store: Strand
Your summer: distant
Your favorite color: black
When is the last time you laughed: Monday
Last time you cried: 2001
Where were you last night: home
Something that you are not: focused

Tag.  You.  Are.  It.

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Surviving the Asteroid Strike.

An enormous asteroid struck my firm today, in the form of a mass layoff.  A little over 5% of lawyers in the U.S. offices, and the same proportion in Chicago.  There were staff layoffs, too; not sure how many staff — call it 20 in Chicago who were given their walking papers.  All departments were affected.  The announcement emphasized that it was purely an economic decision; in better times, we’d have kept these people.

I survived, and still have a job to go back to in the morning, but I admit to being pretty shaken up.  I found out about the impending layoffs last night, and was reasonably confident that I wouldn’t be included, but not totally confident.  I kept waiting for the knock on the door, or the phone call from our department head, or an email, telling me to pack my stuff and go.

I exported my contacts to a file and emailed them to my personal email account, but there wasn’t all that much else for me to do.  I spent most of the day in my office with the door closed, because every time I went out in the hall the people I saw had the same weird expression on their faces that I was sure was on mine.

My secretary was fired.  I think I know why she was on the list, and it pisses me off since the only person affected by this issue was me, and I didn’t care, but nobody asked my opinion.  She was good at her job, and I hope she finds another one soon.

The survivors are shell-shocked.  This happens less often in large law firms than other businesses — I’ve been in practice for 14 years, and have never experienced a mass layoff; even during the 2000-2002 tech wreck, my old firm fired people one by one over time, and only in particular practice areas.  But there has been a steady drumbeat of layoff stories on the biglaw blogs for a couple of months now; The Firm held out as long as it could, but you can’t fight this economy.

After an asteroid strike, the dust and debris kicked up by the impact obscures the sky, sometimes for months, blocking the sun and creating an artificial winter.  Maybe that’s why this winter has been so brutal, from all of the asteroids falling to earth.

16/25 Completely Non-Random Things About Me.

Jason at All the Billion Other Moments just tagged me to post 16 things about myself.  Having just done the same thing on Facebook but with 25 things, I figured I’d just copy the post, and let you, the reader, choose which 16 of the 25 you consider worthy of your attention.  Since you have to read all 25 in order to select the best 16 things, however, the savings of time may be limited.  I may have posted about some of these things before, in which case, disregard them in determining your 16 favorite things about me.

1. I like barbecue-flavored potato chips to an unreasonable degree, and therefore almost never eat them.
2. I’m not terribly introspective (thus opening this list with an item about chips), but I do enjoy talking about myself. Just in a very superficial way.
3. I hope that if/when the singularity comes, it at least comes at a time when it gets me out of having to do something unpleasant.
4. I’d really like some chocolate chip cookies right about now.
5. Please walk faster and talk faster, because you’re making me crazy.
6. I’ve been blogging for over a year.
7. I started blogging to ease myself back into writing for pleasure. I started a novel two weeks later, and finished the 500-page first draft in October. So much for easing into it.
8. I started the rewrite in December, and so far, it’s much harder.
9. I was never much of a cook, and have not improved with age.
10. When I was a kid, I was convinced New York City was going to get nuked by the Russians, and researched a plan to use the basement as a shelter.
11. Part of me has continued to be that pessimistic all along.
12. The last time I can remember crying was in April, 2001, when Unfocused Girl was about six weeks old. I was in the Tampa airport, called home from the road, and the Siren told me that UG’s blood test had come back and her liver was starting to work. There would be no bypass surgery, no transplant, just six more months of regular checkups until the liver specialist at Children’s finally told her not to come back until she graduated from medical school.
13. The time before that was during the movie Armageddon. The Siren and I were flying home from Paris, and I’d had a lot of champagne.
14. In the four months after Junior was born, I was hardly ever home, either working late or out of town. Unfocused Girl was so mad at me that she didn’t call me “Daddy” for months. Instead, she called me “Rusty.”
15. I haven’t had a rum and Coke in more than 20 years, and that isn’t going to change.
16. As the clients were dropping the Senior Partner and me off at the airport earlier this week, I accidentally quoted The Rocky Horror Picture Show (“Say good-bye to all this, and say hello to oblivion.”), which I believe I saw 14 times at the 8th Street Playhouse during high school, plus a couple of times in Chicago during college. Nobody caught the reference.
17. I have no vocal talent whatsoever. Despite that (or perhaps because of it), I *really* enjoy karaoke, and I had solos in two musicals while in college, plus a duet as a mad scientist with a six foot tall redheaded fembot.
18. For another (non-singing) role my senior year of college, I lost 25 pounds in two months to play a homeless guy.
19. I always wanted to be a math geek, but it was too much work. Instead, I was just a regular geek.
20. My FB friends include one person I went to school with from nursery school through eighth grade, two people I went to school with from kindergarten through eighth grade, including the best man at my wedding, one person I went to school with from kindergarten through high school, as well as more than one person I know only over teh intertubes.
21. The Siren and I named Junior after our favorite author.
22. I have started the Chicago Marathon five times, and finished it four times. I finished it in 1998, 1999, 2000, and 2003. In 2006, I had knee problems that stopped me running at my 19 and stopped me walking at mile 21. I had never had knee pain before that day, and I have had it off and on ever since. I have run five half marathons and numerous shorter races since, but haven’t tried another marathon.
23. I have read more books about Theodore Roosevelt than any other non-fiction subject, all as the result of being assigned an excerpt from his autobiography in American Civilization in college.
24. I read Thomas Pynchon’s V. in 1992, and five minutes after I finished it could hardly have told you anything about it. Seventeen years later, I don’t remember anything about it at all.
25. I read 1984, Animal Farm, Brave New World, and We in middle school. *Those* made an impression.

I’m not going to tag 16 people — if you’re interested in talking about yourself, consider yourself tagged.  Please leave a link in the comments if you tag yourself.

Winter Sunday Stats #6: Breaking Through 200 Two Times.

As you all know, it has been a pretty eventful week.  I’m not going to spend a lot of time dwelling on it since I’ve already posted about it, but — just in case you’ve been living under a rock or something — I’ll give it a quick mention:  I posted my two-hundredth entry on this blog on Thursday.  Not too shabby, I should think.

There was that big thing in Washington, too, but that’s over and wasn’t about me.

On to the stats:

On Writing:  The writing stat for the week is 62, which is the number of pages of Meet the Larssons I have revised since last week’s post.  I have revised 204 pages so far, which is the second milestone “200” I broke through this week.  I just hope I can get through page 300 before blog post #300.

The price of burning through 62 pages of revisions is that I didn’t do anything on the outline for Project Hometown or to finish the draft of “Jamie’s Story.”  I’m going to be traveling most of this week for work (someplace warm!), but I may have a little time to write in the evenings.  If I do, I’ll probably work on “Jamie’s Story,” although I may just bring pages of MTL to mark up.

On Running: Today wasn’t bad.  It was 4 degrees (F) when I started my run at 11am (it’s up to 7 as I write this), so once again I was on the treadmill.  I ran 7.37 miles in an hour even (8:08 m/m), which is pretty good.  I got a couple of short runs in during the week, including my first hill workout in over a month.  I didn’t make 20 miles for the week, but I’m definitely getting back into running shape.

The only hitch is that my knee did something odd and painful last night.  I’m not even sure what I was doing — possibly standing up from putting in the DVD for family movie night (Harry Potter & the Prisoner of Azkaban, if you’re wondering) — but nothing memorable.  The pain lasted a little while, fading over about 15 minutes, and felt like it was possibly a pulled tendon or ligament on the inside of the leg, just below the joint.  It didn’t bother me during my run this morning, but it felt very stiff when I was done.  Stretching helped, and I’ll ice it tonight.  But the long plane ride tomorrow makes me a little nervous.

On the iPod: I liked Scott Sigler’s Earthcore so much I downloaded his next book, Ancestor, this week and started listening to it, and I’m already sucked in.  Scott’s entertained me enough already for free, so when I get back from my trip I’m going to pick up copies of Infected and Contagious at the bookstore.  I also listened to I Should Be Writing #109 (interview with Scott Sigler — these new media types are everywhere when they’ve got a new book out), Writing Excuses, Season 2, Episode 15 (Knowing When to Begin), and Phedippidations #170 (Thoughts from the Road).  I also downloaded a boatload of 80s music the other night, because I was in a discussion with the Siren about a Facebook quiz about the 1980s and realized I didn’t have “I’ll Melt With You” in iTunes.  As it turns out, the 80s music is excellent to write to, because it’s so familiar it doesn’t require any processing power.

Things are getting a little chaotic here.  We’re all in the basement right now.  Unfocused Girl is playing some kind of game on the Warriors website — it looks like a variation on original Adventure — and cackling like a madwoman.  Junior suddenly decided that his old train table — which we stood on end and moved against the wall months ago because he wasn’t playing with his Thomas trains anymore — was the most precious thing in the world, and got hysterical at the thought that we might give it away (in reality, the Siren just planned to break it down and put it in the crawl space until he was really done with it); he’s only just calmed down.  Time to wrap this up.

Do Not Annoy Happy Fun Ball.

Ralfast of Neither Here Nor There has tagged me with directions to identify six things that make me happy.  Never one to pass up an opportunity to talk about myself, I am happy to comply.

Two caveats, before I start:

1.  You’ll note sex isn’t on the list.  This is not because sex does not make me happy; to the contrary.  But everyone I’ve seen do this meme has listed sex, and it seems a little like a cop-out at this point for me to include it, too.  Or I could include breathing on the list as well, and only have to think of four things.

Also, my mother occasionally reads this blog.

2.  The list is not in any kind of order.  I’m even going to mix it up when I’m done so it isn’t in the order I think of things.  Because I detest prioritizing.

THE LIST OF SIX THINGS THAT MAKE ME HAPPY:

G.  Running.  I like to run.  I like running long distances in particular.  I like running in lousy weather, I even like running on a treadmill if that’s my only option.  I get very, very unhappy when I can’t run.

π.  Climbing walls.  I’ve only done it a few times, but there’s something indescribably wonderful about climbing a thirty-foot climbing wall, muscles screaming, hands scrabbling for purchase…

57.  My family.  The Green Eyed Siren and I have been together for more than 20 years, and we can still surprise and delight each other.  Our kids are genuinely nice, compassionate people who are interesting to talk to.  Is it any wonder that my first instinct when I get invited out for drinks after work is to say no?

AAA.  Apocolyptic science fiction.  Give me a good end of the world (or end of the world as we know it) story — zombies, the singularity, gray goo, whatever — and I’m engrossed.  I suspect it comes from growing up in the shadow of Teh Bomb (and within the probable kill zone from an H-bomb strike on Kennedy Airport).

¥. France.  The nation of France makes me happy.  I’ve been through most of it, and I love the towns, I love the cities, I love the food.  I don’t love the bathrooms at the youth hostel in Cassis, but the little canyons and secluded beaches make up for it.

6.  The beach.  Every summer, the Unfocused family packs up and heads for the beach for a week or two.  It is always the highlight of our year.

Now I’m supposed to tag six of you, but I’m just going to let you tag yourselves (Mike, this means you).  If you do, please leave a link in the comments.

Winter Sunday Stats #4: Running Out of Excuses.

It may have been a quiet week in Lake Woebegon, but there’s been nothing but utter chaos here at Stately Unfocused Manor, to mix my pop culture references.  School started!  Work kicked back into gear!  Snow!  Sleep deprivation!  People pissing me off!

And yet, I managed to make a little progress on the things that keep me sane.  It’s time to stop kvetching every week about how busy I am, how I need to do paying work, spend time with the children, and make occasional eye contact with the Green Eyed Siren (f/k/a Mrs. Unfocused) so she doesn’t mistakenly call the morgue to have me carted away, and get back to regular writing and running again; otherwise, I may as well plant my ass on the sofa, open up the chips and start watching television again.  Anything good on?  Are reality shows still big?

On Writing: I bled all over revised another 15 pages of Meet the Larssons (through page 125/500), and hand wrote another seven pages to be inserted.  All that, and I’m still working on what used to be Chapter 11, because apparently it was way to damn long.  I’m still using Holly Lisle’s One-Step Revision Process, and it is going much more slowly than I would have liked.  I suspect that I should have tried to restructure the novel first, then started the rewrite.  I’m not that fond of writing by hand, either.  On the other hand, as painful as it is, the process seems to be working, albeit much more slowly than I expected.

I also wrote another 1,166 words (for a total word count of 6,094) in “Jamie’s Story,” which has gotten away from me a little bit.  I’m determined to keep it under 7,000 words — the story only needs that long to be told — but I’m certain to run over before I get the draft done.  It will need a fair amount of editing — the narrative voice is inconsistent, for one thing — so there should be an opportunity to do some cutting.

I haven’t done anything further in Project Hometown, because the spreadsheet of all the scenes needed to tell the story, which is going to require a little more thought than I’ve been able to put into it.  I plan to pick it back up when I’m done with the draft of “Jamie’s Story.”

Anyway, I’m done with the excuses.  MTL needs to get finished.  My January 31 target is out the window, so now I’m just going to gut it out as best I can.  If I need another made up deadline I’ll deal with that later.  But I need to finish the manuscript slog so I can get to the typing in (essentially the second pass of the one-pass method), and finish it.

On Running: For a number of reasons, mostly related to my inability to go to sleep at a reasonable hour (and one 7am conference call), I didn’t manage to crawl out of bed early enough to get a run in until Friday, and even then I only managed a little over 20 minutes before I had to get off the treadmill, get dressed, and shovel snow.  So yes, my excuses are (1) iggle wazums me was tired, and (2) it snowed in Chicago in January. I did run for an hour this morning on the treadmill, 7.21 miles (an average 8:19 pace, which isn’t bad considering the lack of training).

In other exercise-related news (which is what you get when I don’t have enough to say about running) Family Taekwondo started back up on Saturday, and Unfocused Girl and I (with much trepedation) took Junior along.  Over the last year, we have tried getting Junior interested in TKD half a dozen times, and each time, he would just sit on the side and mope until class was over, or actively interfere with the Green Eyed Siren’s attempts to join the class.  Finally, we just decided to give up until he turned five.  Now he’s five, and on Saturday he did a great job.  He was tired by the end, but he worked hard, paid attention, and behaved well.  We were all very proud of him.  I hope his new attitude lasts; he could use the lessons in discipline, coordination, and becoming a badass.

On the iPod: I got back to some of the usual podcasts on my ancient iPod Mini: recent episodes of Planet Money; I Should Be Writing #107 (“Goals”); Adventures in Science Fiction Publishing #71 (Bear McCreary);   Escape Pod #184 (“As Dry Leaves That Before the Wild Hurricane Fly,” a fantastic steampunk Santa story by Mur Lafferty); Escape Pod #185 (“Union Dues — All About the Sponsors,” another solid entry in the Union Dues superhero series — like all of them, it’s very dark); and Escape Pod Flash (“Standards”).

Then I stopped listening to anything else, because I finally downloaded Scott Sigler‘s first podcast novel, Earthcore, and fired it up on the Mini.  I’m not sure why I never listened to any of Scott’s novels before.  The first time I heard any of Sigler’s fiction was the piece he did for J.C. Hutchins’s Seventh Son:  Obsidian series, “Eusocial Networking,” which was gripping, scary, and left just enough to the imagination.  So far (I’m on Chapter 17) Earthcore is engrossing, and I haven’t been able to listen to anything else.  If it were a book, I would have finished it already.

That’s it for this week’s update.  Time to quit whining, drop the excuses, and get my sorry keister back to work.

Mrs. Unfocused Declares Independence.

I’d like to welcome my wife to the blogosphere.  Mrs. Unfocused informs me that I do not say enough nice things about her in my blog (even though she deserves to be praised to the skies), and she has decided to take matters into her own hands.  The-Spouse-Formerly-Known-As-Mrs.-Unfocused is now blogging at The Siren, Syncopated under the screen name the Green Eyed Siren (which fits, because she is one). I’ll use that name for her here as well, since in real life she never took my name and it rankled her a bit that here on the tubes she was stuck with it.

Something else to add to the list of Things Daddy Must Never Joke About:  explaining the myth of the sirens to the kids, I said that they were beautiful women whose mesmerizing songs would lure sailors to their doom, and then added, “they were beautiful and dangerous, just like Mommy.”  And then we all had a good laugh and moved on.

Not.  But Junior eventually stopped berating me for being so mean, and only brought it up three or four more times before he went to bed.

New Year’s Goals and Resolutions.

Happy New Year!  I’m glad 2008 is over, not because it was a particularly bad year for me or family; in fact, aside from Junior’s broken arm, it wasn’t bad at all, if you ignore the statements for our 401ks and the kids’ college funds.  The world around us seems to be a more dangerous and depressing place than it was a year ago, though.  I do think the new administration in Washington will help, but it’s anyone’s guess how much a change in leadership will improve things, or when any improvement will start.  That said, I’m cautiously optimistic about 2009.

Enough about the world at large.  I’m going to talk about me (again), and list my writing and running goals for the year.

Writing Goals:

  • Finish the revision of Meet the Larssons.  I’m using Holly Lisle’s One-Pass Revision Process, which seems like a rational way to get through it, but I admit I’m having trouble.  The problem is that the changes I need to make are so substantial that I’m doing much more rewriting than revising, and it’s taking longer than it did originally because this time I have to worry about consistency, quality, as well as the significant changes to the story arc I need to make.  I’m going to get it done, though, hopefully in the next month or two.  This leads to my next writing goal:
  • Complete the first draft of Project Hometown.  I want to have the first draft of my second novel done by the end of the year.  This time, I’m outlining the heck out of it.  Once the outline is done, I should be able to get through the draft a little more quickly than I was able to finish MTL, and it should require less restructuring on the second pass.
  • I’m going to shoot for completing six short stories and submitting them.  This will be easier if I take to heart two of the lessons I learned from TTB:  (1) 13,000 words is too damn long; and (2) six drafts is too damn many.  I give the history of TTB here, but in brief, I started it on January 13, 2008, and finished it five months later on May 11, 2008.  If I spend five months on a short story, while revising one novel and writing another, I’ll be lucky to get two shorts completed in 2009.  But I got “Jimmies” written, revised, and sent out in less than a month; if I can write six stories the way I wrote “Jimmies” — one careful draft over a couple of weeks, one revision on my own and one after a read-through from the Mrs. — I should be able to meet this goal.
  • I’m going to keep up with this blog, of course.  I don’t intend to commit to a specific number or frequency of posts, except that I plan to be more disciplined about my Sunday Stats posts.  I like them because they keep me accountable for my running and writing, and ensure that even when I’m busy I post at least once a week.  I may rearrange the format a little, but it’s working for me.  I haven’t decided what to do with the podcast section; I’d like to make the reviews of new (or new to me) podcasts a more regular feature, but searching them out may require more time than I have to devote to it.  I’ll keep you posted on what I’m listening to, and include reviews of new ones when I can.  Please feel free to email me with suggestions for podcasts, particularly about writing or running.

Running Goals:

  • I won an age-group medal in a 5K in August; I came in third for the 35-39 age group.  This year, I’ll be in a new age group, and I’d like to medal again.
  • My personal record for the 5K is 20:26, from 2006; I got that age-group medal with a 20:27.  I’m going to increase my speed work and try to get my 5K time down below 20 minutes.  I’ve made this resolution for the last two years, so you’re entitled to some skepticism.
  • For the last several years, I have run two or three half marathons during the racing season, and in both 2007 and 2008, my half marathon times got slower through the year instead of faster.
  • Help Unfocused Girl train for a summer 5K and run it with her.  She wants to do it, and I’ve been looking forward to running with my kids since before they were born.

That’s enough for one year, I think.  I have some thoughts on turning 40 this year that I’ll put in a separate post.  Hope your 2009 is happy and healthy.

What Have I Done?

Everyone was doing it, okay?  I mean, that’s not why I finally broke down, it’s not the reason, or even an excuse, but everyone was doing it.  So how bad could it be?  Right? Right?

It was when I googled my own name — my own name! — and found two people there, with my name, but they weren’t me!

I have a very unusual name.  The idea that there could be other people with the same name didn’t shock me, I’d seen them before in search results, but they were always down low, maybe on the second page.

But these hits were high.  First page, near the top.  And they aren’t me!

So I did it.  Not because all of you are already doing it — don’t deny it! — but because people looking for me would already think I’ve done it.  So I decided I might as well.

But I didn’t know, I didn’t understand — the hours wasted, the time gone — now I know, but it’s too late.

God help me, I joined Facebook tonight.

Winter Sunday Stats #1: Brrrrrrrr.

Baby, it’s cold outside.  It was 6 below zero (Fahrenheit) at 9am when we left the house this morning for the Christmas Pageant and concert at church, 3 below when we left at 2pm, and is still 3 below now at 7:30pm.  That’s before wind chill.  We did have a salt truck come up our street last night around 11 while I was shoveling, but it has been so cold that the salt doesn’t have any effect.

Tomorrow, it’s supposed to go up to 11.  It goes to 11.

I did the world’s longest post yesterday, so I’m going to keep this short.  Here we go:

Running:  Not much lately, and none today — too much going on this morning.  Today was the Christmas Pageant at church, and Unfocused Girl gave an outstanding performance as the Archangel Gabriel (“Gabe,” to her friends, the Archangels Mike and Ralph).  It was also the annual Christmas concert, and Mrs. Unfocused was the soprano soloist; she sang Lauridsen’s O Magnum Mysterium, and then Benjamin Britten’s A Ceremony of Carols, as a soloist and with the choir.  She was — as usual — mesmerizing; she’s got pipes.

Yeah, I’m bragging on my wife and daughter.  Deal – it’s my blog.

iPod: I’ve been getting an education in writing science fiction and fantasy from the Odyssey Writing Workshop podcasts.  Odyssey is a six-week residential writing program for science fiction and fantasy writers, and they’re putting a number of lectures by established authors and editors from the workshops out as podcasts.  I don’t recognize all of the speakers, but they’ve mostly been very interesting.

Writing:  Not so much.  I’ve gotten some good work on the outline of Project Hometown (almost entirely during my commute), but I’m still mired in the character synopses for the minor characters.  I haven’t gotten much done on the revisions of Meet the Larssons, because evenings have been a little jammed.  I’m still on page 107 of the original manuscript, but I’ve written several pages by hand to be inserted there, so I’ve made at least a little progress.

As a side note, Agent Kristen at Pub Rants has posted her own statistics for the last year, and they’re very impressive.  Most impressive are these two:

2
number of new clients

35,000
estimated number of queries read and responded to (and yes, that is up from last year)

Two new clients out of 35,000 queries.  She’s just one agent of course; there are 424 agents listed at the Association of Authors’ Representatives website. Still, those are intimidating odds.  Happy New Year.  Time to get back to the revisions.

Happy Hanukah, everybody!