Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Spending Time

Spending time is an interesting expression. We use it so much that we don't necessarily think about what it really means. Rish once told a story on the show about how his rich uncle would pay him $5...or maybe it was $10...to wash his car for him. And Rish wondered why he wouldn't save that money and wash the car himself. His uncle's reply was, "Someday, when you get old enough, you'll find that your time can be more valuable than your money." Now, if you're not someone's rich uncle, this could be complete crap. When you're poor, and you don't have money for anything, people say things like this and it's just a slap in your face. But in America, in all the first-world countries out there really, it's most often true. We have wealthy lifestyles, and opportunities to make money that people in poorer, third-world countries do not have. But no matter where you live, you never have opportunities to extend your life, or earn back hours from your life that you have wasted.

Last week, my computer's hard drive crashed. These days, you can often get a lot of your data back when you have a crash like that. In my case, however, that was not happening. The guys at the computer repair shop couldn't retrieve one byte. So all the stuff that I had stored on my drive was gone. I've been trying to mentally catalog what it is that I've lost. For years, I've been pretty anal about backing up my data. I have a large number of DVDs and CDs with collections of my photos, MP3s, short stories and journals, and so forth. So the vast majority of my irreplaceable files remain safe and secure.

In my mental cataloging, though, I keep recalling things that I've spent a lot of time on in the past few years that are now gone. For example, last year I actually went through my entire music collection and labeled each song with the year that it was released. That took me hours of searching on Wikipedia and the like. And now it's all gone. When I think about re-doing that, the F-word comes to mind quickly and often. There's no way I'm wasting, yes wasting, my time on that again. And that's not the only thing I've wasted my time on over the last few years. Like wasting money, wasting time is a really stupid thing to do. At least with money, you can earn it back. With time, you'll never see it again. No matter what you do, it ain't coming back.

I have one life to live, and I don't want to find myself on my deathbed with nothing to show for my life but the most well organized MP3 collection around. So, hopefully I can keep this lesson in mind the next time I'm tempted to spend the evening wasting my time away surfing the net.

On Friday, after writing on a story a fair amount during down times in my day, my wife fell asleep early. She needed to work early in the morning anyway, so I couldn't complain...much. Here I was on a Friday night with nothing to do. Normally when this happens, I waste the night away surfing the net. But with my recent goals in mind, instead I sat down, and started plugging away on my story. By the time I was ready to hit the sack myself, I managed to put in another 860 words.



I am now at 3621 words. I originally thought the story would top off at 4000 words. It looks more like 5000 now, but it's getting close. And when I finish. I'm going to write me another. Because I would be proud to find myself on my deathbed with a lot of good stories to show for my life.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

You Gotta Have Faith

Over the last little while I've done my fair share of whining about how hard the world is. I've blubbered about my computer breaking down, my car breaking, getting a speeding ticket and so forth, and having all those things happen one after another after another.

Then, this morning, I go out to my car, load all the kids in, and start for school. Halfway down the street, I realize that something is not right. The car seems to be driving strangely, or maybe the road is extra rough. I pull over, hop out and look, and my rear tire has gone flat on me. I got in the car and drove away without even noticing it.

It's times like these, with everything else dog-piling on, when I feel like I have to raise my fist and shout, "I defy you stars," because it seems as though the stars are all aligned, and they are aligned against me. Can there really possibly be another thing? At a certain point it starts to feel like the world just wants to mercilessly crush any spirit or life out of me.

Well, I got out of my car, and got into the trunk. A few years ago, my wife's parents gave us a portable air compressor. I hooked it up to my tire and started it up. It takes a while, but with the help of this device, I'd be able to get to the tire shop without needing a tow.

While I'm standing there, waiting for my tire to pump up, cars are passing me left and right. I'm at the entrance point to my neighborhood, and school starts in about five minutes, so a lot of people are running their kids to class. I'm hoping I can still manage to get them there reasonably close to on time and then maybe...well, no, it's not likely that I'll make it to work on time, but they'll be understanding I'm sure, so I'm not too worried. I'm mostly focused on the whole one-thing-after-another that my life is like right now.

Suddenly, one of those cars that is rushing past me taking kids to school stops. The woman inside, who I don't know, asks, "Do you need some help?"

I'll be mobile again in a few minutes, and I don't think that a woman with a mini-van full of kids is really likely to be able to do anything for me, so I say, "Thanks, but I think I'll be alright."

"Do you want me to take your kids to school for you?"

I hadn't considered this. Usually, I'm as paranoid as can be about letting my kids anywhere near strangers, and even people I know for that matter. It's hard to have kids in a world where no one can be trusted and your neighbor might be a complete psycho, but I do my best to protect them. But this is a woman in a car that is literally spilling over with kids (no not literally, that's not right. I hate when people do that, "I was so embarrassed I died, literally!" So, you're saying you literally died? Do you know what literally means? What's the word I want, figuratively maybe? Just pretend I didn't say literally at all. Anyway, aside over) This woman is in a car that is virtually spilling over with kids. I find it unlikely that she's the child murdering type. My son, while getting into the car, says hi to one of the other children, which eases my fears a little more. These kids, at least, are not strangers to him. And off my kids go to school.

I stand there for a few minutes longer, as the air compressor continues to fill my tire back up, and another person stops to ask if I need any help. I can't help but smile. It seemed to me that the days of stopping to help a stranger on the side of the road were gone, but apparently, human kindness and decency can transcend all the fears that are fed to us on a daily basis.

Once the tire is filled enough, I head to the tire shop. Inside, they tell me they'll get right on it and get me shipshape and seaworthy in no time. Hmm, maybe a bad metaphor, but you get the idea. I call into work and tell them I'll be late, and they are understanding, as I expected, but it's still nice.

After reading an article or two in old Sports Illustrated magazines (did you know the Saints won the NFC Championship? Who'd have ever thought that was possible?), the woman tells me my car is ready. She says, "We got your tire all fixed up. There was a nail in it, but the sidewall wasn't damaged." Then, out of a clear blue sky she says words I never thought I'd hear in a mechanic's shop. She doesn't say, "While we were changing your oil we noticed that your carburetor is shot, your radiator is completely rusted out, your brakes are going bad, your flux capacitor isn't fluxing, and your rack and pinion steering is out of fluid, all that's going to cost you around $2,500." That's what I usually get at the mechanic's shop, but today it was utterly different.

The woman hands me the key and says, "We won't charge you anything for it, just come and see us again next time you need something."

My mind is blown. I'm not sure how to respond, really. "Okay," I say weakly. Now, I realize that it's a bit of an advertisement or something. If they'd charged me, it would have only been something like $15, so they weren't going broke over it, and they've probably earned hundreds of dollars of business from me in the future. So it wasn't pure goodwill she was showing me, but after the time I've had recently, it felt like it. It was as if the clouds parted, and God winked at me and said, "I still love you; I was just joking with you before." Those stars that had aligned against me had been dashed aside, and my faith in the world, in people, in the universe in general had all been restored.

Things won't always be bad. Sometimes they'll be good, and other times they'll be bad. Sometimes it'll feel like more than I can handle, but it's not. And sometimes, I'll realize that, despite how sorry for myself I feel, it could be worse, and I should be grateful that it's not. Today I saw a news story about a family whose child died of swine flu last fall, and then, a month later, their house burned down. It puts my car troubles and computer troubles in a different perspective. What the hell does it matter that I lost some data from my hard drive compared to a person who lost a child. I am doing very well, because my kids and my wife are doing very well. That is something that really matters.

I'll talk a little more about some lessons I've learned in the last few days in a later post. I've already gone on too long. But know that I am happy and content. Life is good, and I'm happy to be living it.

Monday, March 29, 2010

So Yesterday



It wasn't too long ago that the world (or at least a small portion of the world) was focused on Hollywood, and their orgy of self-congratulation, the Oscars. In my opinion, the worst part of the Oscars is the pre-show red carpet bullsh*t. Every year we get to see the stars who are only at the Oscars because they will be presenting some retrospective feature not because their body of work merits their appearance at the show. The question that must be asked of each of these worthless stars and starlets is, "Who are you wearing?" (The question kind of creeps me out, because they say, "who," not "whose design," or "whose dress," or anything sensible like that. I can just imagine these women wearing their designer skinned and draped over their neck like women used to wear furs in the 1910s and 20s, with the animals head still attached and stuffed like a hunting trophy). The obsession with clothes and fashion is simply something I don't care about at all.

Therefore, Scott Westerfeld's So Yesterday was not the book for me. He's written steampunk novels, he's written novels about vampires (I'll be reviewing the vampire one coming soon), and I could easily get behind those books, but this one is about the ever-elusive and ever-bullsh*t quality of being cool--wearing the right clothes in innovative ways and so forth. I don't care. I could barely be asked to care when I was in high school, when most kids obsessively worry about that crap. Now, with years of hindsight to look back on high school with, I sure as hell am not going to worry about that crap. So, like I said, the book was not for me. I don't fit into the proper target audience.

That being said, Scott Westerfeld, however, is a bang-up writer. The book, despite being about things I couldn't give the slightest crap about, was engaging enough to keep me reading. There were dozens of clever things he did in the writing of the novel as well to keep me smiling and paying attention. For example, he purposefully left all brand names out, but he would describe the brand in a way that would tell you what the name was all the same. For example, when describing Nike, he eschews their name but says, "They were a certain athletic shoe company named after a certain Greek god." There were many more that were even more entertaining. It was a fun game sprinkled throughout the book to identify the brands (which included TV and movie franchises as well) that he was speaking of.

I look forward to reading more Scott Westerfeld in the future, because I know he's written several books to which I would be in the target audience. I just couldn't recommend So Yesterday to you, unless perhaps you watch fashion shows on TV instead of reality shows or narrative shows (they do still do narrative shows on TV somewhere right? Some obscure cable channel or something?) or the red carpet is your favorite part of Oscar night. If that's the case, then this might be exactly right for you.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Friday Progress

Just a quick update on my Friday progress.



Another 650 some odd words today. It's coming along. It may run longer than 4,000, but what else is new?

I Wasn't Just Blowing Smoke...Like I Usually Am

So, after being so inspired by Mr. Tobias Buckell the other day. I used any free time I could scrounge to do a little writing. It was a little difficult, because I had to stop in the middle of some dialogue, but I still managed to get 500 more words written on the short story I've been working on. I'm calling it The Tenth Album. It may not be great, we'll see, but I'm moving forward, getting practice and going somewhere.



Here's a little word count meter thing that I found online and am going to post each day. I'm expecting the story to go 4,000 words, so I'm halfway there already.

I need to submit some stories, though, as well, if I'm going to get my 100 rejection slips by the end of the year...hmmm, maybe I could submit my story Black Angel to see what some folks will say. That's a story that I'm happy with, and done with, never to be revised again. I think I'll try Strange Horizons first. Off we go!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Inspiring

I couldn't sleep last night. I was reading Tobias Buckell's It's All Just A Draft, a how-to-write guide that he has been serializing on his website. There's only something like twenty-five or thirty pages available to read so far, so I read it all in one sitting. When I was done, it was almost 1:00 am, but I couldn't sleep. My mind was buzzing with excitement. The stuff he'd written about really resonated with me and my quest to be a writer. Let me blather on about some of the things I especially liked.

1. Buckell says that for someone to become a master of any skill, be it a doctor, lawyer, writer, racecar driver, whatever, it takes approximately 10,000 hours. He also mentions that a writer will write approximately a million words of crap before he gets good. In other words, you got to write and write a lot, to be a good writer. Something I really need to work on. I've written perhaps 100,000 words of crap in my day. So, I've got a lot to go. The thing about this, is that it made me feel a little less worried about how my stories turn out. I'm a little afraid to write my ideas, because I feel like they might just suck massively. After reading Buckell's words, however, I feel like that should be expected. There's going to be plenty of massively sucky things I write. Even ideas that I've cherished in my mind for years will probably suck. But at least they'll be somewhere other than an unused drawer in the back of my mind.

2. He talked about how he used every spare minute growing up to write. He wrote his million words while sitting through boring lectures in high school and college. It's too late for me to do that, but I sit through my share of boring events. I am now determined to use that time for good (or evil...depending on your point of view).

3. He talked about goals. Writers often make a goal to be published by a certain time, and then get really frustrated and bitter when it doesn't happen. The problem is, no matter what you do, you can't make an editor publish your story. It's just not up to you. You can do your best, but a million different things can stand in the way of that happening. So you have to make a goal that depends entirely on you. His goal was to get 100 rejection letters a year. That means submitting a lot and writing a lot. I'm going to make that my goal. I'm starting a little late in the year, but I think I can still manage.

I'll report on each rejection. You guys can watch my tally grow as the year goes on. We'll see what I can manage. I think I need to make a goal as to how many stories I will write in a year too. But I'm going to have to think on that. I'll get back to you.

I want to really encourage everyone who harbors that desire to write to go over to Tobias Buckell's site, and read that stuff. He's adding to it all the time too, so there's likely to be more fun to come, and many more inspiring insights.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Stopgap

So, while we try to figure out what to do with my ailing iMac (do we take it in to see what the repair guys say? replace it with a used one? Give up and go PC?), we picked up this little Compaq laptop computer.It was cheap (relatively), so now at least we have internet access at home and so forth. My wife has gone a little gaga for this thing though. She forced me to run out to the open-late Walmart to buy a wireless router. She just can't wait another minuter for "her" computer to do what it is designed for. She wants to be able to sit in her bed, watching movies off of Netflix.com or surfing the net. And yes, she did call it "her" computer. I've already been evicted from this thing before I could even move in. I'm not too upset though. I'd like to be able to stay Mac if at all possible. We'll see. I think I'm taking the old computer to the shop tomorrow.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Continued Computer Woes

On Sunday night, I was whizzing through the sound effects edit on this week's episode of The Dunesteef. The story, a Jason Sanford joint entitled, "Maps of the Bible," is divided up into 9 sections. I was in the middle of the eighth section, when suddenly, the sound stopped playing back correctly. I pushed play, and got static instead of Rish's dulcet, southern-accented tones. I was momentarily confused as to what was going on, when an error message appeared onscreen. GENERAL ERROR it said, and underneath there was simply an OK button I could press. So, I pressed it. I tried to play the podcast again, and the same error appeared.

Now if you've been following my blog or my tweets, you know that I'm no stranger to computer problems recently. I figured I needed to restart the computer. I worried a little, because I wasn't sure when I last saved my work, but I didn't think it'd been all that long, so I didn't panic. The panic came a moment later, when the computer wouldn't start back up.

I tried again. Then I tried again, and I couldn't get anything. Each time, the computer plays its start-up tone, then gives me the "You need to restart your computer, blah blah blah..." screen. I restart it and get the same thing.Now, I recently had computer issues, and took it to be fixed at a local store. They charged me way more than it was worth, and didn't fix the issue at all, so I'm really leery of those types now. The thought of taking the computer to get it fixed again doesn't appeal to me at all. The original diagnosis last time around was that my main logic board was going bad. They later changed the diagnosis to a bad RAM chip, and swapped that out. I was glad of it, because a new logic board was going to cost $580-$670. Waaaaaay more than I can afford, and basically the price of a nice new computer.

So, with the computer in the crapper again, only two weeks later, I've decided it's time to put it out to pasture. We went shopping last night for a new computer, and we think we've decided on one. It's a laptop that costs half what a new main logic board costs, and, since it's a new computer versus my three year old machine that is breaking down, it comes with the same amount of RAM I used to have, a bigger hard drive, a faster processor, and so forth. And it's a laptop. I had to have a desktop to get all that stuff three years ago. Funny how that works.

We're gonna pick that up as basically a stopgap measure. We'll have a computer at home that works, and we'll be able to get by for now. I'm still looking to get maybe a used Mac somewhere, because I've got some pretty pricey programs that I'd like to be able to still use, and they don't run on PC. They're what I use for putting the podcast together too, so I gotta do something to get those back.

For the time being, I guess I'll have to learn how to use Audacity (free program) and hope we can still put out a decent show until I get a new Mac. I'd really like to thank Bryan Lincoln who is putting together the show that I was working on when the computer died. Rish already did the post story part, so we should have an episode available sometime soon. I think it might not have our theme music though...that's on the old computer's hard drive.

I'm going to talk to my local computer nerd friend that I have to see if he can help me get the hard drive out and get the files off of it that I want. Hopefully that's possible, because Rish and I have several things we recorded that are stuck on there. And it always sucks to have to re-record things (although, with all the problems I've been having recently, you'd think we'd be used to it by now).

Anyway, that's the situation these days. Hopefully things will look up soon, and I'll be back in business.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Anansi Boys

It was only a few months ago that I read my very first Neil Gaiman novel, American Gods. It was a great book, a large, sweeping epic-style novel about all the pagan gods of the world that Americans had brought with them when they immigrated from their countries of origin. Now, here I am, reading another Neil Gaiman book, Anansi Boys. It's set in the same world as that of American Gods, but it's a lot less epic in scale. Instead of trying to incorporate every god that ever was, Gaiman sticks with one smaller mythology, that of the Afro-Caribbean god, Anansi.

I really enjoyed Anansi Boys, and I think one of the main reasons why was because it wasn't so far-reaching as American Gods. Instead of trying to work in vignettes with this god, that god, and the other god, we were able to focus more on the main characters, learn about them, get to know them well, and follow a more linear plot from its inception to its conclusion. I cared so much more for Fat Charlie and Spider the main characters of Anansi Boys than I ever did for Shadow the main character of American Gods.

I listened to the audio version of this story, as read by Lenny Henry. Henry is a very good reader. The guy pulled of a serious number of different accents flawlessly. From the characters of the old ladies, who all hailed originally from the Caribbean; to Fat Charlie and his fiancee, who are stuffy and English; to Spider who is very American, he nailed every one of them. The book was a pleasure to the ears. One of my favorite accents to listen to is Caribbean. There's just something so beautiful about the way they speak in the islands. The book could have been a 300 page grocery list, and, as long as Henry read it in that accent, I'd have been happy. But, bonus for me, the book was really good.

If you haven't read it already, I'd encourage you to check it out. It's been my favorite Niel Gaiman novel yet. Sometime soon I'll get to Coraline, and then we'll see if Anansi Boys can defend its title.

Now, for me, up next is another novel by the author of one of my favorite short stories, "Ass-Hat Magic Spider." I will be reading Scott Westerfeld's YA novel So Yesterday.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Is It Still Resolution Season?

Those damn Girl Scout cookies have proven to be just too much temptation. I've gone from eating one a day to two a day to three to five.

Today, I went around with the last six or seven cookies, and tried to pawn them off on other folks. I couldn't understand what was going on. Everybody but one person turned me down. "I'm good," they would say, and I would swear under my breath. It's not like I was offering them poop on a stick or something, these were friggin' Girl Scout cookies! And Samoas at that, the best of the Girl Scout cookies.

Maybe this year everybody is actually sticking to their New Year's resolutions or something. But it's March! No one is still sticking to their resolutions this late in the year.

What's going on?

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Method To The Madness

My wife has been struggling with the same cravings for our old lifestyle as I have. We both want to be able to indulge a little bit, without going overboard. I've been having one or two of those mini Hershey's chocolate bars a day (they're mint chocolate, so I couldn't just pass them up altogether). My wife decided that she would have chocolate covered almonds, because she came across a big bucket of them at Costco the other day.

The problem with Costco sized buckets of almonds, however, is that they are virtually bottomless. So, if you lose control and start eating beyond your self-imposed limits, there's no end to the damage you can do to your weight loss aspirations. My wife has been running into that problem, and so she has requested that I hide the bucket of chocolate covered almonds from her. Which, of course, protects her, but only puts me in greater danger. I guess I need to take that bullet for her though, because these almonds have driven her to some seriously neurotic behavior.

The other day, she had eaten too many almonds, and feeling guilty, she hopped onto the treadmill to walk off those calories. She couldn't however manage to quit chomping on those damn addicting things, so she ate chocolate covered almonds and walked on the treadmill at the same time.

I suppose, if you're going to eat chocolate covered almonds, the wisest place to do it is on the treadmill, after all.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Welcome, Newbie!

This week, I signed up for Twitter. I've been holding out and avoiding it for so long that I'm nearly the last person I know that still hasn't got onto this beast (luckily there's still Rish, who's even more of a Luddite when it comes to Twitter). But life can be difficult for a newbie.

I've found that I have a hard time following conversations a bit, but, you know, I'll get used to it eventually, I guess.

The worst thing, I've discovered, is that I'm stupid enough when it comes to Twitter to fall for things that I'd never fall for elsewhere. It's probably got a lot to do with the fact that I'm on Twitter in the first place to let listeners, who are almost all strangers to me, in on things a little better. So people follow me on Twitter, and I don't know who they are.

At first, I thought it would be common courtesy to follow them in return. Then I might be able to get to know them and perhaps they wouldn't have to be strangers. For some reason I never considered the fact that with anything like this (email, blog comments, facebook, etc.) there are the bastards who are out to screw everything up, or steal identities, or spread computer viruses, or spam the living sh*t out of you.

When you follow someone, they can send you a direct message. This is not a tweet that's open to everyone, but a private message. So, I did the common courtesy thing, following everyone who followed me, and I get a DM (abbreviation for Direct Message for those who aren't in the know like me) from someone I've recently added to my follow list. It's complete crap, and in any other non-newbie setting, I'd have seen right through it, but on Twitter...

DM: Nice pic you got there! What's with following Neilhimself?

I read that, and, naively thinking it's a listener, I try to figure out how to respond. I'm a little nonplussed. What do they mean nice pic? All I put on for my profile picture was the Dunesteef's spiral D logo. While I think it's a cool logo, it's not what I'd call a nice pic...

And the question, "what's with following Neilhiself?" Well, again for those of you not in the know like me, Neilhimself is the handle that Neil Gaiman uses on Twitter. At least I thought it was, but I'm a newbie. Maybe I'm following some bastard who is pretending to be Neil Gaiman but is actually something else. I check, and see that Twitter has put the little blue check mark by his name. Hovering over that confirms that this means that Neilhimself is in fact the real Neil Gaiman.

So here's where I fall off the newbie cliff. I respond to this person.

DM (from me): I likes Neil Gaiman. Just finished Anansi Boys the other day.

Why in the hell I didn't realize that this person wasn't genuine I don't know. It's always spammers and identity thieves that start off with the "Nice pic," line, I should have known better.

This morning, I get on Twitter and I have several new DMs from this person. They say some crap about how Neil Gaiman has a lot of followers. Then in a second DM they say messaging is too limited in Twitter and they're going to send me a link to their other account. Then in a third DM they say that I should send them a message when I get logged in, and there is a link pasted in with the message. The link leads me to a sign-up page for a dating website. Am I a man seeking woman? A man seeking man? A woman seeking man?

I sat there looking at that and thinking, "There's no way I'm going to sign up for this to talk to a listener..."

That's probably the most embarrassing part. I'm still thinking of this person as a listener. It takes many more minutes before listener is replaced with spammer in my mind. This piece of human dung is out there simply trying to get people to sign up for a stupid dating site. If it's even that legit. More likely it's a steal-your-identity site disguised as a dating site. It's the worst thing of all about the internet, the fact that people will do and say anything they want on there without any fear of consequences. The anonymity of the internet has increased the number of con-artists out there exponentially.

And being a stupid newbie, I almost fell for it.

Thrasher

My wife has decided to start babying our youngest child. She says that when the girl was younger, my wife didn't realize that she would be our last child, so she didn't get to baby her properly. So, while she still can, she's going to baby her.

My wife is always going to bed very early at night, because she works really early in the morning. I, however, am not always keen to be in bed by 9:00. So, on days that I'm staying up "late", and she's in bed early, if our youngest comes upstairs with some story about bad dreams or whatever B.S. she has concocted, my wife gives in right away and lets her sleep in our bed. Then when I come to bed (grumble, grumble) I've got to grab the kid and carry her down the stairs to her bedroom, and somehow hoist her into her top bunk.

I don't know exactly how my wife can stand to allow that kid to sleep next to her though. The kid is a serious thrasher. She's flailing out with arms and legs all the time. I cannot stand to sleep by her. I never thought she could possibly be this bad though. Last night, when Rish and I finished our podcasting marathon, I came into my room to go to bed, and my daughter was laying there next to my wife. But my daughter had managed in her thrashing to turn completely upside-down!

I couldn't help but chuckle, and wonder how my wife could stand to baby her baby.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Temptation


Yes, those are Girl Scout cookies. Not just any Girl Scout cookies either. Those are Samoas.

Before we started into this whole losing weight thing, I was confronted with an order sheet at work. Who the hell turns down Girl Scout cookies? And at the time, I was a 295 lb. monster that ate a box of Girl Scout cookies for breakfast if I felt like it, then followed it up by eating the whole Girl Scout troop for lunch (okay, that's an exaggeration. I never ate a whole box of Girl Scout cookies for breakfast, but you get the idea). So, I ordered a box. Look at the restraint I showed already. I only ordered one box.

Then comes this whole diet B.S. I lose a lot of weight, and want to keep it off. I'm trying to avoid unnecessary temptation, and suddenly those Girl Scout cookies arrive. Could it possibly be worse?

Well, I'm here to brag. That box has been in my closet at work for a week. Eight hours a day for a week. So far, as the evidence in the photo proves, I've only eaten one, that's right ONE cookie.

Hopefully, I can keep it up. Of course, I'll have to eat them eventually, because it would be a travesty to let those cookies get stale enough to need to be thrown out.

Monday, March 15, 2010

My New Idea

So, I mentioned that I'd had a new idea for a story that I wanted to write, and that I'd talk about it next time...so I guess it's next time.

I was having a conversation with a guy at work who's really into music. We were talking about Van Halen, and he told me the story of a terrible Van Halen concert he'd attended. I think it might have been during the times that Eddie was really drunk and worthless, but he thinks it was right after he'd come out of rehab, and his problem was that he wasn't drunk. Either way, the concert had been less than impressive for him.

I told him that I'd never seen Van Halen live, but I wished that I had.

He said, "Why would you do that? They were terrible!"

But there was just no way he could persuade me. I have way too many positive, glowing memories of Van Halen from my youth. In fact, the conversation that I had with this guy inspired me to go and get some old music from Van Halen that I'd never heard. Van Halen's tenth album came out in 1995. By that time I was all about Grunge and Ska, and hair band rock had been pretty much forgotten. I didn't care about Van Halen's new album.

So there I was, listening to this Van Halen album I'd never heard before, and thinking, weird, this is like coming across an album from a parallel universe. That's when my mind started churning, and now, I'm partway through a story about Van Halen and parallel universes.

I'm excited about it. I think it'll be fun. I guess we'll see.

I'm going to try to write a first draft of at least one story a month, starting with March. This story will be my March effort.

I also plan on taking a story that I've already written and polishing it up to final draft state so I can submit it around once a month as well. The first story I'm going to do that with will be my Broken Mirror story from last year. I suppose that'll have to be sold as a reprint, since it's already available on the Dunesteef site.

I will report on whether I achieve either or both of these at the end of each month. If I don't, complain. I could really use some support to keep after this. I'm known to give up easily.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Round Two

The things one will do to keep one's wife happy with her husband.

My wife has decided that we should do another round of HCG coming up. I may have lost 35 lbs., but I'm still a good 40-60 lbs. overweight. So, we will be going through that hell again. I'd like to have a little more time to be a normal person eating normal stuff before I go back to that madness, but it's not like I'm in charge or anything. At least, I think my past experience will make it an easier matter for me to deal with.

A victory for me, however, is that I persuaded her to wait until after Easter. This time I won't have to go through the Superbowl parties, birthday parties, and Valentines Day looking but not touching. Although I'm sure there will be about ten similar events jammed into that three weeks following Easter. It's just the way things work.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

I'll Miss You, Baby!



The podcast is going to be pretty late this time around.

For the last several months, I've been having problems with my computer. It picks the most inopportune times to freeze up and quit working. Usually it happens at least once while Rish and I are recording. It happened three times this Monday. Rish has been on my back to get the computer looked at and fixed. I didn't have the money to afford it, but, after getting our tax return back, I finally took it in.

My wife didn't appreciate the joke I made as I was packing the computer up to put it in the car.

"I'll miss you, baby," I said.

I could hear my wife's disgusted snort from the other room. "Would you miss me that much if I was gone for a week?" She asked.

It was just a joke, just to be funny, but sadly, the reality is that the computer has become the hub that I revolve around, and increasingly that my family revolves around as well. We shut down our cable more than a year ago, and have done without TV for all that time. Instead, we get our TV shows from the likes of ABC.com or NBC.com or whatever. Besides that, we use Netflix. I've had to impose upon my friend, going to his house to watch TV every time something comes up that I don't expect to be able to see on the computer, like the Superbowl or the Oscars. Add to that the amount of time (the unbelievable amount of time) that I spend working on the podcast, and finish it off with the amount of time a normal person spends checking emails and surfing the net, and I hardly do anything that doesn't involve my computer. I'm like a friggin' William Gibson character, jacked in to my Ono-Sendai deck, and I don't even do that much compared to some real computer nerd types.

After giving my computer to the guys at the shop, and walking out the door without it, I had the weirdest feeling. It was almost like I felt when I dropped my kids off for their first day of kindergarten or something. It was really hard for me to leave my baby in the hands of someone else. What if they screw it up and I lose all my files? Have I backed up everything important? What if my computer comes back worse than it was before?

And what will I do for the time while it's away? They said there was a day and a half wait until they'd be able to get to it. I asked if I could bring it back tomorrow and still be in the same place in line, and they said no. It has to be physically there to be in line. Damn. I suppose that I'll catch up on a lot of reading (I've got two Scott Westerfeld books that I checked out from the library that I've been ignoring), and I'll watch some of the movies that I've been meaning to watch (on New Year's Eve, I borrowed about ten comic book related movies from my brother-in-law, and I still haven't watched them).

I also expect that I'll get that call on Saturday when they get to it finally, and they'll say, "We can't get it to crash at all. It seems just fine to us." Maybe computer mechanics aren't the same as auto mechanics, but I get that call every single time I take my car in to get fixed. It makes me scream.

"Come on, guys, the car overheats if you drive it for 5 minutes or less, how can you not get it to overheat?!!?"

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Trying To Be A Real Writer

Since I was a little kid, I felt the urge, the pull to become a writer. I wanted to write books. In my teens, I decided that what I actually wanted to be was a filmmaker. That was something that involved writing...and some other stuff too. I went to four years of film school, and discovered, upon graduating, that I had been on a wild goose chase. I realized that I didn't want to be a filmmaker all that much. The same thing that gripped me as a kid still gripped me. I wanted to be a writer, a writer of books, of novels.

So, I started writing short stories. I wrote non-stop for several months, then soon, life got in the way, and I cooled off. Over and over since then, I've tried to get back on the horse. I've written a handful of short stories over the years since college, while always eventually being distracted away by other worries. I never have actually sold a story, though (You can't count what I wrote and we aired on the Dunesteef selling a story). Hell, I haven't even submitted many stories for that matter.

So, inspired by the willpower I found in losing weight, I have decided to throw my hat in the ring again. I'm going to try to get something published somewhere, and I will report on how things are going here on my blog.

If anyone who reads these comments would like to be one of my "first readers" just drop me an email at editor (at) dunesteef (dot) com, and we'll set it up.

I was just inspired the other day with a new story idea, and I've written the first scene. I'll tell you about it in my next "Adventures in Writing" post.

Monday, March 8, 2010

I, Robot


I love Isaac Asimov. It's funny, because Asimov has a writing style that is not particularly conducive to being liked. It's not like he writes things in a way as to make them deliberately hard to understand, which seems to be en vogue these days. Instead he has a style of writing in which nothing actually happens. You usually have one or two scientist-types sitting in a room, or in a space ship, or in a robot factory, and they talk about something that has happened. Then, after they've debated things a while, the chapter ends. Then we skip ahead a bit, and find these two (or two other) scientist-types, who are now discussing something else that, again, has already happened. You would think that would be boring, but I don't find it to be so. I love Isaac Asimov.

I've read his Foundation trilogy, and his Elijah Baley robot books, but for some reason, I'd never read what is perhaps his most famous book, I, Robot. So, with some encouragement from Jason Sanford's Book Scouts Of The Galactic Rim, I set out to do so.

It was pure pleasure to me. As is my custom, for the most part, I listened to an audio version of the book. It was read by Scott Brick, who is an excellent reader. The book is actually a collection of Asimov short stories in his robot series. The stories included in it are, Robbie, Runaround, Reason, Catch that Rabbit, Liar!, Little Lost Robot, Escape!, Evidence, and The Evitable Conflict. These stories are no different than most Asimov tales. They involve some strange thing that has occurred to a robot that must be figured out by the scientist-types. Usually, they involve some sort of tug-of-war between the first law and the second or the second and the third. I tell you, though, they are fun stories. I wonder what it would take to get Asimov's estate to let us podcast a story. I know Steve Eley did it once, so it's possible.

I'm not going to go into detail about each story. I'm just going to say that I loved the book, and anyone who is trying to decide whether to read it or not should go for it. You won't be sorry.

I will talk momentarily about the 2004 movie with the same title as this book.A lot of people hated this film. I expected myself to be one of them. When I saw the commercials, which were filled with robots attacking people, I wanted to scream. This movie surely had nothing to do with Asimov's ideas, because after all, how could any robot be attacking a person when there was a first law to prevent that from being possible.

I watched the film, though, and I turned out to like it a lot more than I expected. Rish still ridicules me for that, but I stand by it. Rish one time wanted to do a podcast in which we discussed the movies that we liked that everyone else hates. This film would have been my choice.

Unlike what I expected, which was a wholesale throwing out of Asimov's concepts, instead the movie was a sort of homage to all that Asimov wrote about. Susan Calvin, Alfred Lanning, and Lawrence Robertson all make an appearance. The plot sort of mirrors that of The Little Lost Robot short story from I, Robot. Sure they action-filmed it up, but in the end, there was even a good reason for the robots to be attacking people. It was basically what we discover at the end of Foundation And Earth. Robots evolved to a point that they have gone beyond just helping each man as a separate individual, and they are now trying to help mankind as a whole to supersede their base nature. In Foundation And Earth it is done benignly with telepathy and the like, but in the I, Robot film, it is instead done with violence (but it was an action movie! A friggin' Will Smith movie even!) Asimov wasn't opposed to robots killing people; it happened on occasion. For proof, check out Sally (that one's kind of a bit creepy for an Asimov story).

So, yeah, in the end, since the ideas used in the script seemed to jibe with Asimov's own ideas, I was satisfied with the film. It was fun, and not the travesty that most others I've spoken with about the movie thought it was. At the very least, it was better than that crappy Robin Williams movie, The Bicentennial Man.

Of course, if I sat down and listened to someone who hated the film explain to me why they hated it, I might change my opinion. So, to keep my memories good, I will plug my ears, and chant, "La la la la," at the top of my voice whenever anyone tries.

So, next up for me, I've got to get a listenin' to this library copy I have of Neil Gaiman's Anansi Boys before I start getting charged late fees.

Friday, March 5, 2010

A Little Smaller Anklevich

They used to call me Big Anklevich because I was big. But these days, most people call be Big Anklevich because I'm fat.

I guess, in reality, I've pretty much been content with that. I like to eat, and I like to eat good food. I've never bothered to cultivate self-control or any of that new age nonsense (like anyone could control themselves...ridiculous).

So, I wasn't very excited or positive when my wife told me in January that she had decided to lose weight by using HCG, which is some sort of hormone thing, I think. She has many friends that have already done the same thing, and lost weight. She's had enough of being referred to as Big's wife because she's fat, instead of because she's my wife. So she decided to do something about it.

Oh, I forgot to mention, I was required to participate in this program with her.

You can only do this thing for between three to six weeks. And we decided we would do the three week variety. While on HCG, I was only allowed to eat 500 calories per day. Now, if you're like I used to be, and you have no idea what 500 calories means, I'll elucidate. A normal fit male usually eats around 2,000 calories a day. Big Anklevich used to eat closer to 3,000 calories a day. So in other words, I had to get by on one sixth of the food I used to eat.

Like I said before, I've never bothered with that self-control stuff. But here I was, required to employ massive amounts of self-control to comply with this regimen. Worst of all, during our time of eating nothing, free food showed up at work with unprecedented regularity. One day there was so much food that someone proclaimed it the best free food day ever. I had to turn my back on all of it. I'll admit, I was a little bitter with my wife.

The idea behind the HCG, as explained to me by my wife was to block some of the feelings of hunger, to give you the energy that you would normally have gained by eating food, and to keep your body from going into that starvation mode that causes it to hold onto fat and burn muscle. I don't know if it did all that stuff or not. I do know that I was almost always hungry, even moments after having finished my meals. The whole process sucked massively.

However, I did lose a lot of weight. After the holiday season, I was weighing in at 295 lbs. I was just short of three bills, and I'd been teetering on the edge of that infamous distinction for around a year, maybe more (but never once had I actually weighed in over 300, so I can at least say that). After all that suffering, however, I had lost approximately 35 lbs. I weigh just a touch over 260 these days, and I'm doing my best to keep it that way.

Below is a picture of me from November, not long before we started into this thing. It's a little blurry, but I think it gets the point across of what I looked like before.
Now, below is a picture from February, just as we were finishing the program. I think 35 lbs. looks much better off of me than on.
Hopefully, I can continue to keep this self-control that I discovered during this ordeal. I set aside a bunch of Hershey's Kisses that came into work while I was on the diet to eat when I finally finished. I've been eating only about one or two per day. That's my goal, to eat food like a skinny person does--not turning things down, just not transforming into a monster and eating the whole bag of kisses or the whole pizza by myself.

A little encouragement would not be unappreciated.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Roller Coaster Ride

On the trip to and from my sister's house, there is an enormous, and I really mean enormous, ravine that the road goes through. Rather than building a bridge across it, the good folks of the city planning department decided to allow us all to experience a roller coaster ride in our car. There is a very, very steep decline, followed immediately by a similarly steep incline.

Every time we go to my sister's house, the kids and I pretend to be on a roller coaster. The kids raise their hands above their heads, and scream, "Weeeeee," the whole way down, and usually at least part of the way up.

The other day, on the way to my sister's house for our family get-together, I decided to try something new. When we went down the hill, I never hit the brakes to slow my acceleration. I wanted to see if the momentum we gained on the trip down would be enough to carry us over the top of the hill on the other side. I didn't think it would be, and it turned out I was right, but we came very close. It was only a few feet to the top of the hill when I had to hit the gas to get us over the lip. We were also almost stopped by then, and my wife was getting embarrassed of my antics (as usual).

I should have been satisfied with the experiment, but I wasn't. So, on the way home, I tried it again. We screamed down the hill, hoping to see how far up the other side we could get without running out of momentum. As I came close to the nadir of the ravine, I saw a white car sitting there. My heart dropped at about the same time as this car's headlights snapped on. On the roof of this white car was a rack of red and blue lights. I knew I was busted.

At the top of the hill, even though the policeman hadn't gotten close enough to indicate that he was after me, I pulled over to the side. I knew who he was coming for.

The police officer grabbed my license and proof of insurance, and headed back to his car.

"What is he doing?" asked the kids. They were confused as to why he'd just walked away.

"He's going back to his car to check and make sure I'm not a criminal," I replied.

Unfortunately, while at his patrol car, he discovered that my wife was a criminal. She had let our registration lapse. Even though she was nearly finished with the process, and was just waiting for us to have enough money in our bank account to pay the registration fee, the law shows no mercy. We got a ticket for speeding and for having expired registration.

As the policeman left, my daughter tried to give me a vote of confidence and support. "Daddy, I know you're not a crinimal." (No, that's not a typo, she transposed the syllables just like that. She obviously hasn't heard that word a lot in our house).

"Thanks," I said. At least my kids still believe in me.