23 January 2014


(Every once in a while I get a little thoughtful. Don't worry, I'm sure it will pass soon.)

I was leaving the gym today and it reminded me of an experience last semester. That day, I was leaving the gym after racquetball. When I came to the stairwell, there were some labored noises from around second flight of stairs. I couldn't see what was going on at first, but the students at the university work with disabled students as part of their course work, so already had some idea. (Regardless of whether or not it's for their classwork, I think those students—or anyone who works with the disabled—are saints.)

When I made it to that level, it was as I suspected. Two of our students and a faculty member were helping a disabled individual down the stairs. She had a helmet on for her own safety and obviously needed the assistance to get down the stairs. There is an elevator that they could have used, but even though she couldn't speak, I could see how determined she was to get down those stairs. She was also immensely frightened.

Her head occasionally snapped back—something beyond her control—but the students were there to help her. She walked down, step-by-arduous step. Her breathing was labored from the effort, but there was no stopping her. I walked slowly behind the group, listening to the encouragement from her entourage. It took a few minutes and I was more than happy to let her make it down without feeling the need to squeeze by and rush about my day. Her foot cleared the last step and she made it to the bottom safely. A small cheer went up and smile spread across her face. Everyone, including myself, congratulated her.

I counted my blessings and was even thankful for my problems as I walked back to my office. I also realized the power of achievement. We don't all have the same skills in the same degrees, but you should always be proud of what you have pushed yourself to do. Don't let anyone belittle your accomplishments and, more importantly, never belittle anyone else's. For some, two flights of steps is their Everest.

12 January 2014

Old School at the Bowling Alley

I'm sitting here at my son's bowling league writing this and I realize this is the best notebook I've ever had. It has an excellent boot-up time and shuts down even faster. I have a single app that does writing, revision, brainstorming, mindmaps, and even diagramming. Okay, the app is actually my pen and the notebook is an actual notebook--with paper in it. It's funny since I'm an IT guy. I run servers and work with computers all day. I have access to laptops, tablets, and desktops (no smartphone though, I don't believe in them) but here I am with pen (not my beloved fountain pen, though) and paper.

Almost all of my writing drafts start out on paper. I like the feel of it. It's tactile and sensuous and feels more like creating. It's also much faster for me. I can draw arrows to rearrange stuff easily, cross things out, and make notes in the margin without having to click around on a page and interrupt my flow.

I also like it because it never runs out of charge and I don’t worry about the kids darting around here and knocking on the floor--it’s rated pretty well for drops. I can even spill stuff on it and access the data afterwards.

Another nice thing about it is that this draft gets some slight revision when I enter it into whatever program. As a result, some of the suck falls away. Generally not enough to spare me from another revision, but every bit helps.

Everybody’s process is different though and not everything works for everyone--or even for every occasion. What’s your process like? What are your favorite tools for writing? I’m curious if you would care to drop me a comment.

06 January 2014

Writing goals and other weirdness

Being a writerly type, I've got some goals set for the year. One is to finish the four encyclopedia articles that are due by Tuesday, but three are done and one is under a few hundred words left, so why not procrastinate and write a blog entry?

Other than the articles, it's the usual stuff you would see on any writer's platter ... write every day, submit one short story a month for the first four months (old ones and to-be-written ones) and focus on one novel. The last one is the most important. I have five going on right now and I think it's time to end the madness and bear down on one. The daily writing has been going well for the past few months, but that hasn't always been the case with me.

Back in early 2013 I was writing on and off, but not enough to sate my pestering muse. I turned to the Internet in an attempt to find a writing buddy. I thought we could both check in with each other and make sure we were getting writing done and do critiques. Sounds good, doesn't it? I posted an ad on a site. The site is actually for people seeking "co-writers," but I thought if I explained myself well enough I could find a good match--because that's what the Internet provides without fail, right?

Here's a list of the people contacted me:

The first guy we'll call the movie guy since that's what he wanted to do. I didn't, but I figured I'd learn something. His suggestions for my stories were good and I learned a lot about writing for the screen, but ultimately he wanted to develop his idea sans my interference. That's okay since I had no desire to write my story into a B- C-movie with a 75 dollar budget. No regrets there, I learned a lot.

Next came emo blogger girl. She didn't seem too bad at the outset, but oddly, she didn't have any ideas for anything. It seemed mostly like she was looking for someone to support her in her quest for racking up oddball posts on her blog. ...and she was pissy. Like in a "needs meds" and "should wash her hair more" kind of way. Dropped.

Then came "I'm not a writer but I have lots of good ideas" girl. She had bad grammar. I think I've said enough already with that last sentence. Dropped.

Then came British songwriter girl. We developed some good stuff--one serial killer novel plotline (my contribution) and one dreamland/alternate universe plotline (her idea.) We got rolling and then she discovered she really wanted to focus on singing in bars. Hopefully the next song she learned was, "Another One Bites the Dust."

Finally came superhero girl. She really wanted to write about teen superheroes. Whatever, I'm flexible. We came up with the characters, plot, and some chapters. There was some weirdness like the occasional probing questions along the lines of "do you think sex between teens is a bad thing?" and "do you think I should have my superhero take her clothes off here?" There was also a constant feeling that I was dragging her along instead of a nice quid pro quo feeling. To test this last theory, one day I gave her something to work on and didn't follow up with a "how's that coming?" email. Eight months later, I still don't see the response in my inbox.

Thankfully, I'm getting words down now without an accountability partner. (I just recently found the term "accountability partner" in a pretty good book on writing, "Butt-in-Chair" by Jennifer Blanchard--that term would have been nice to know before my search.) If you go looking for one, perhaps you can find someone local that you know is reliable and partly sane. Ultimately, I just hope that I can help someone else avoid the crazy train that I felt compelled to ride on. Consider this post my writerly public service announcement. Also, if you go searching for my post that looks for "someone to swap critiques and check in with to encourage each other to write" it's been duly deleted.

01 January 2014

Happy New Year

Happy new year to all of you--well, more like none of you since I doubt there's anyone who reads this anymore. A two-year hiatus will do that.

I've had the urge to write on this blog for a little while now. I dodged it for a while with thoughts along the lines of, "What if what I have to say isn't interesting anymore?" I got over that with a quick resolution (even though I don't believe in them) and with the notion that I'll be writing on this blog just to write. Note that I don't say "I'll be blogging" since I do see a difference. Blogging implies playing the game--commenting, getting comments, seeking out kindred spirits, etc. I'm just here to write now. I guess I'll just jump right in ...

While my new-found motivation to write here might be considered a resolution, my main goal for this year is to lose a little weight. I don't need to lose much mind you, but we all have this image of what we'd like to look like and mine does not include anything that rhymes with 'dove candles.'

Enter the fitbit (not an ad for the product, just commenting on a gift, people) which my lovely wife (not an ad for my wife although she is pretty awesome), Bernadette, got me for Christmas...

It's a neat little device that basically is a pedometer with Bluetooth. I can log my totals online and see how active I was during the day. That's interesting enough and I like keeping track of that kind of stuff, but I didn't know how that was going to help me lose any weight and get back to a sensible running form. Then I discovered another feature on the website that the information gets posted to.

Food logging.

If you haven't done any, it's the process of writing down what you ate during a day and keeping count of the calories you're eating. I think we can safely and appropriately portmanteau the phrase 'food logging' to a simpler 'flogging.' I think that's fitting for two reasons. The first is that when you first start doing it, you quickly realize that unless you are exercising vigorously, you are limited in how much you can eat. Severely so if you've been noshing over the holidays. Since I don't run in the winter, my caloric intake (if I want to lose any weight) is limited to somewhere between consistently peckish and nigh-ravenous. The second reason is that it's just a pain in the ass. In all honesty, I won't eat something just because I don't want to have to drag my butt to the computer and put it on my log. I guess this is a good thing, since it inspires me to achieve my state of persistent, gnawing hunger. Could I find some filling foods that are lower calorie? Perhaps some leafy greeness that would start a small-scale war between rabbits and hamsters? Sure, I could, but that sounds like work too. There's research and the buying of new foods to deal with. My lazy side kicks in at some point and says, "Hungry is pretty simple. Let's just go with that." I do have an exercise bike upstairs but it's a hassle to convert it from a clothes rack to an exercise device.

All told, my issue is a minor problem that I'll overcome (albeit in an underfed state) and count it as a blessing and a challenge. Here's to hoping you have a fantastic, happy, and healthy new year and any issues you encounter over the year are slight.

21 September 2011

The Dam Half

Ahh, the wonders of nature.

It's one of the reasons that we who run engage in trail runs. You get some nice scenery and some exercise...not a bad deal. This past weekend I ran the Dam Half at a state park. I had run it the year before and decided I would do the same this year. Like the year before, I found myself a little pressed for training time and ended up well-trained for a 7 mile race. The Dam Half is 13.1, not too much more than 7. No biggie.

That and it's all about enjoying the scenery, right?

It was about 40 degrees when we were waiting around (read: freezing our asses off) in our shorts, but once we got started, I knew we would warm up quickly. I started out running with my buddy, Brad. He pushed our pace in the beginning and then we got caught up behind some slow guy. I thought we were running too slow, so I told Brad to pass him once we had a chance on the single track we were on and we did. Then I thought Brad was running too slow, so I told him that I would set the pace and passed him.

The one thing I almost never do in a race is look back. A) It slows you down B) taking your eyes off the rock-strewn course we were on is plain madness and C) it just feels like a sign of weakness...as if you're worried that the person behind you will catch you. Evidently, looking behind you can also be used to see if your partner is still with you. Brad was not.

Whatever. Slow poke.

I was tempted to look around at the scenery...it had turned into a beautiful day. I then remembered that until you got to the short sections of fire road, it wasn't a good idea to look around thanks to the rocks in the trail.

Hmmm, the wonders of nature.

I kept a steady pace and ground up the occasional steep climb. I was running pretty good around mile 10 and hit a technical (read: miserably rocky) flat section. I was a little tired at that point and a rock -- cleverly disguised as a much shorter rock -- tripped me up. I stumbled and realized I was heading rapidly for the 'lose it' stage. I put a hand out and saw a cluster of rocks best quantified as a "face full" coming up at me, so I came up with a better idea and threw myself sideways off the trail. Sadly, my plan also involved a tree which I ran my shoulder into. I stopped abruptly -- as planned, of course -- and since the tree was only about 5 inches in diameter, I got to hear the leaves rattle as well.

Uh-huh, the sights AND sounds of nature.

Anyway, I jumped up and did the most important thing -- looked around to see if anyone noticed. No one was around, so I trotted off down the trail and then thought to check my shoulder to see if it was working.

It was. After a quick -- well, not so quick actually -- 700 foot climb over rocks and a field of largish boulders, it was only another mile and a half until I made it to the finish line.

Despite the lack of proper training for the distance, I did run really well. I made it in 3 hours and one second, which is a half an hour better than last year's time. It was a great race with great organizers and I got a nice medal and a really cool, bark-textured bruise.

Brad clocked in after the 4 hour mark, so it turned out that I had plenty of time to enjoy the park after all.