Thursday, June 25, 2009

Day Four of the Cruise

Now it's Thursday, and just after 2:30pm, London time. I'm uploading some pictures to Flickr, just because it's easy and they get formatted conveniently. Our ship is resting outside of Cork, Ireland, and we've already done our day tour. Word to the wise: never take any "Leisurely Tour of _______" excursions, for though it sounds like walking around a town and learning interesting facts about it, it actually entails riding around in a bus, swiftly through the countryside, for a few hours. We did stop in Blarney, and after perusing their considerable gift shop, I did have a pint of Murphy's in their tourists' pub. The Murphy's would have been more appropriate in Cork, being the home of it, but there was no opportunity to drink--or walk--in Cork. I picked up a nice green wool sweater, however, and tomorrow I will visit the Guinness plant in Dublin.

Yesterday, what the hell did I do yesterday... That was Cherbourg, and we bused halfway back to Le Havre, where we started, and visited the beaches of Normandy as part of a comprehensive D-Day tour. As much as America loves to mock and ridicule France, I'm shocked that any part of France thinks favorably of the US, yet nearly every village in Normandy is continuously and unfailingly grateful to the US, posting American flags and fresh flowers everywhere you go. This is even more inexplicable when you realize that the Germans never destroyed anything in France, since France surrendered immediately, but the Americans bombed the holy fuck out of the countryside, obliterating homes, farms, all sorts of centuries-old buildings, in an effort to get at the Nazis, bombing that proved largely ineffectual and which did not contribute significantly to our success against Germany. Despite all that, they still like us, and we belittle and degrade them at every opportunity.

The day before, Le Havre showed me that just because a thing is European, it does not mean it is elegant or clean, and just because a person is French, it does not mean they are attractive or slender. There are things to like in this maritime settlement, but I think there's more to do in Minneapolis, which surprised me. Granted, we don't have any buildings from 1520 AD, but still.

Oh! And yesterday was the Big Dinner on the ship, where everyone was asked to dress formally. In honor of my trip to France, I did request the escargots bourgnonne for an appetizer. I didn't expect to like it, having a strong idea of snails in my head, but it was exceedingly delicious! Consistency somewhere between smoked oysters and portobello mushrooms, honestly, and it was baked in butter, garlic, and herbs, the sauce of which I sopped up with brown bread. It was a rewarding experience, indeed. Tonight, however, I'm playing it safe and going to the cigar-sampling event.

It's a good cruise. It's not enough to spend a day in a town and claim to have "seen" it, I know I'll need to come back and trek at my leisure, but when could I do that? Yet people do.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The Cruise, Briefly

Logging on from the ship's online system. At 55 cents/minute, I won't be on long.

The cruise is going well. It's like a big floating hotel, except the restaurant's open longer and there's more going on. We flew from Minneapolis to Amsterdam, where we spent two hours hanging out. I sent out the first batch of postcards from the airport.

We were a group of 19 people, from squirrely little kids to aging and disabled adults. We don't move at the same speed, but somehow transport like a slow, swirling mass from location to location. This brought out the border collie in me and I nipped at the strays and stragglers to keep the group coherent.

We flew into what I thought was Heathrow, England, but was actually a smaller airport in the vicinity and also under construction. Not very impressive, after Amsterdam's "fresh out of IKEA" appearance. We lingered around, forming a small fortress of our suitcases, until Rachel found the guy in charge of the shuttle buses. We loaded up, drove out to the cruise liner, registered for our ship's ID cards, and boarded. Oh yeah, we took off from Harwich but I didn't see any of it--I passed out on the bus, having been up for 36 hours straight.

Today we spent the day in Le Havre, France, and I sent out the second batch of postcards. Rebecca and I explored the town independently, covering more territory that way, and we saw quite a lot. I'll upload my pictures of the Notre Dame Cathedral, built in 1520, and containing the relics of St. Yves. I ate in a genuine patisserie and people have been mistaking me for French (and Amsterdamish) all trip long. In fact, I was hit up by a couple Jehovah's Witnesses on my way back into Le Havre and only escaped because they didn't speak sufficient English. "Bon chance," I told them as I walked away.

More later...

Friday, June 19, 2009

Never What I Thought It Was

Well, I didn't write a short story Wednesday, and I didn't write one yesterday. I'm not going to bother making excuses, and not having any ideas is no excuse. I just didn't make time for it and I feel guilty about it. And I'm not going to write one now, and this weekend I'll be packing and preparing for the two-week cruise. And you can bet I won't be writing short stories during the two weeks I'm gone. If I happen upon a reasonable online connection, maybe I'll stop in once in a while.

I can't even guess what I'm going to do there. I went to the Royal Caribbean Web site, I looked up my cruise, got the right name of the cruise, right name of the boat, and somehow pulled the itinerary out of the swirling ether. I went home last night, so proud I managed to pull off this research, eagerly talked it over with my wife whose expression suggested I suddenly lapsed into the Navaho tongue.

I thought the Web site said we would be spending 2.5 days in London and take off from Harwich. Apparently, we will not be spending any time in London, outside of Heathrow Airport, and we will be in Harwich only long enough to catch our boat.

So, actually, I have no freakin' clue what's going on.

Prior to being married, I was a bit of a flake but still largely competent. I could plan a trip, pack for it, and come back in one piece. I don't know what magical element there is to becoming a husband that has robbed me of that power of cognition. The end result is that I stumble around in a haze and frustrate my wife who ends up taking over everything.

I'm pretty sure I'm going on a cruise. If I login from work Monday morning, you can guess that something went very wrong.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

D = R * T (my progress is quantifiable)

I'm coordinating my address books, lately. I have some addresses in Yahoo, some in Gmail, and some written down in my Moleskine. I've made some significant corrections and consolidation of information. I even recalled my account info for and copied down all the birthdays my friends volunteered several years ago! Now they're much more cagey about that information, less forthcoming, but I've got it (and I'll keep it secret).

Gmail allows me to attach photographs to these accounts in my Contacts, too, so I can easily paste a face to someone's multiple e-mail addresses, street address, birthday and anniversary, note their personal Web sites and significant others. If Gmail Calendar could only read the birthday information in Contacts and set up recurring events automatically, that would just be the bees' knees.

But the photos... these are killing me.

On my laptop, SCHopper, I have a certain database of friends' photos but mainly those are to be stored on my workstation, SCMagritte. (SCValery was my old machine: I thought I'd name all my computers after Surrealists, but I like Edward Hopper better. And "SC" stands for "Supa Computa" because of how specifically I build these machines.) So I'm digging through years and years of old photos, looking for the best shots of some of my friends, and then comes the nostalgia. Nostalgia for great parties and social events in the past.

And then comes the regret. The regret for being so drunk so frequently, thinking it was hilarious, urged on by acquaintances who also thought it was hilarious but not for the same reasons as mine. The regret for being so insane or immature, missing something intrinsic in my development, and sharing the brunt of that on a number of failed relationships, poor women who deserved much better than I was capable of providing. A friend accused me of having great style but lacking in substance, and I was resentful of that at the time but with each passing year, with the increasing clarity time and distance provide, I'm only more and more aware of how true it bears out.

Sometimes I feel like I'd be a prime candidate for mind-wipe technology. Unable to digest or subsume my incredible grief over my actions, it would be more mercy than I deserve to have those sections of my life surgically excised from my mind. But I've read enough sci-fi to know that when people receive such a gift, they also lose the terrible lessons they gained from those experiences and run right out to reenact them all over again. It would solve nothing.

It would only be more awkward, now, to live out the stupid mistakes I've made, now that I'm older and less attractive. We grant considerable latitude to youth and beauty, and while it would be difficult for me to proclaim myself beautiful around the time I was inarguably young, there really is no other explanation for why I haven't had my nose broken or my throat slit by now.

Did I burgle/pillage/impregnate/rape/kill anyone? No. I did none of the worst and most visible crimes. My driving and police records are unblemished and featureless. But I was not always honorable or honest, and I did not always behave with the highest integrity. Mostly I tried to be a good, decent man, but sometimes my cowardice or greed got the best of me.

So much regret in these photos. Better than a mind-wipe would be to crash all my hard drives, sell all of my crap, and flee to Denver, Lexington, or Osaka. Chalk it all up, the second half of my life, to a loss, declare it non canon, and start all over. Amazing, that that would be the "easier" solution.

But I couldn't get rid of everything: I'd still be stuck with myself. I'm looking at me in all of those photos, too, with loathing and contempt. Is there really, really any such thing as true redemption? I don't think so. I think, in the best-case scenario, you cut your losses, vow to start all over, and most people around you agree to let you. I think that is the most that is possible.

Still. The idea of setting up in Denver with five cats and a small library has its appeal.


New Rule: I'm not expected to produce a short story on the days when I have a writers' group meeting. And that was last night, so, no short story yesterday. The point of the "daily short story" challenge is that I keep in touch and in shape with writing, and if I'm at writers group, I'm doing just that.

Today's bike ride was, again, awesome. I was running a little late, and there's a difference between running late for the bus and running late on your bike. With the former, you're screwed and you lose an extra 15 minutes; but with the latter, you simply pedal a little harder. Consequently, I was still early for work.

Some time ago I grabbed a small flyer from a café, detailing the process to make one's own cold-press coffee, and I posted it to the fridge. Over the course of days it embedded itself within Rebecca's imagination and last night she whipped up a preliminary batch. So this morning, crunched for time though I was, I was dead curious to see how it turned out and filtered out the grounds and stored the brew in the fridge. When I get home from work I'll taste it--again, no time this morning--and will report on how it turned out.

I'm trying to decide whether I have manic amounts of energy from cycling these past few days or from the three cups of coffee I had this morning. It's funny: I hate the idea of wasting coffee, so when I find my wife has brewed an extra amount, I feel very strongly that I must consume it all rather than dump it down the sink. Hence: three cups this morning, when normally I cut myself off at two, and those two are at home--I don't have coffee at work anymore.

My next quest, in the back of my mind: where to find a supply of good-tasting water within a one-block radius of my office.

Also: I can tell someone new has been reading my blog, because I noticed some of the reader reaction check-boxes have been checked off. Whoever you are, I appreciate you doing that. It really makes a difference in my mind.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Day Two: Biking to Work

I took a more leisurely pace, only kicking it out to make a couple green lights, and the commute was still under 30 minutes. This is awesome. Today I biked in one of my workout shirts and packed a light sweater for work--I generated enough body heat to be comfortable and kept cool. Also, I filled up my Sigg bottle and brought it in the bottle holder I had drilled into the frame of my bike.

That's important because I bought this Sigg bottle to help me stop using glass or plastic bottles. Glass, because that's a depletion of resources, and plastic, because of the BPA-leaching. Don't need it. But it's not practical for me to walk around all day, doot-dee-doo, with a big red Sigg bottle in one hand. Whichever hand that is, I need it for action.

But! Today I mounted it on my bike and brought it to work! And I've been drinking more water because of my return to food-journaling, and two plastic bottles of water represents four servings of water (out of a daily recommended eight), so I was drinking half as much water as I required (which was still over twice as much as I usually do) but tossing out a lot of plastic bottles--health issues aside, that's a lot of waste.

But now I have my reusable steel bottle! I filled it up at home and I can fill it up at work! I'll stop using glass/plastic bottles and get enough daily water intake! Another couple problems elegantly resolved by biking to work. What's the total now...
  1. Getting my required 45 minutes of required daily exercise.
  2. Using absolutely no gas (car or bus).
  3. Cut travel time by at least ten minutes each way.
  4. Practical means of carrying Sigg bottle around.
  5. Starting to meet my recommended water intake.
  6. More energy (last night: mopped kitchen and bathroom, washed two loads of dishes, vacuumed bedroom and hallway, on top of grilling hamburgers (and put grilling supplies away in timely fashion)).
  7. I think it's mitigating my depression.

Interesting article: Minneapolis rates fifth worst city in the nation for road rage.

Monday, June 15, 2009

One More for Biking

OhmanthatwasAWESOME! So, I've got later hours, now, right? I go in at ten and leave work at three, with an hour off for lunch. I have to get used to a whole new schedule and I'm not sure when to catch the morning bus.

My guess today was wrong. I thought it was 9:31am, but no, it was 9:29. I was at the stop at 9:29 but the bus was a few minutes early and I spotted its taillights about three blocks north of me. FOUL.

I sat down to wait for the next one, but it didn't come until quarter to ten, and it would be a half hour trip so I'd be 15 minutes late for work. It wasn't worth waiting to me (and I'd just slammed two cups of coffee) so I thought I'd bike to work.

I hauled our bikes out of the basement on Saturday and we went out to Freewheel (I think it's called) to get a rack for the panniers Reb got me for my birthday. They installed the rack, I put the panniers on (they seem kind of loose so I'm doing something wrong), and this morning I decided to see how long it would take to bike to work.

I left at 9:44am and arrived at my office at 10:03am.

WHAT?! Biking to work is not only easier than catching the stupid bus, it's faster?! That's it. That's it! I'm biking to work every day! There is no reason to shell out $80/month for an unpredictable, grouchy bus service, not when I could be saving time and losing this gut!

But--and this is important--now that I'm biking, I have something new to gripe about in my other blog, Small Laws. I've complained about the hazards of being a pedestrian, and I've railed about the harrowing driving experience. Now I'm on a bike: I wear a helmet, I stop for red lights and stop signs, and I use hand signals... and almost nobody else does. So I've got a lot of material to cover, and now that I've picked up a SuperHeadz Baby Holga, maybe I'll have some interesting photos to share.

I mean, just this morning there were two offenses. A woman drove her car down the biking-only lanes (not even in the bus lane) going south on Hennepin, and a cyclist cruised through a red light right in front of me. I yelled at the cyclist.

UPDATE: My friends Bobbi and Eric told me about a couple interesting Metro Transit-related programs:

2009 Commuter Challenge - I don't really know how this works. I signed up, started an account, noted biking to work today and busing to work in the two prior weeks of June, and... that's it. I don't know where the challenge comes in. Is someone supposed to bet me something?

Guaranteed Ride Home - This is a little more obvious: I fill out my information, pay nothing, and receive two coupons for cab fare or bus/LRT transportation in case of emergency (the 1st and 3rd options entail paying and then submitting for reimbursement).

UPDATE: I shut down my work computer at 3:00 PM, got my bike, took the service elevator to the ground floor, walked to the end of the block, and joined traffic.

I went south on Hennepin Ave, turned to ride through Loring Park, went down Lyndale to the bike overpass; took Bryant Ave all the way home.

Parked my bike in the garage and, in walking to the house, noted the time: 3:26 PM.

Just astonishing. And that, with headwind and some uphill pedaling. I got a full day of exercise and saved $3.50 in bus fare and almost 30 minutes in commute time. Just astonishing.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Iran Elections

For whatever good it will do, help crash Ali Khamenei's Web site:

Leave that link open in a browser/tab, just let it run. It's a form of protest against the true power behind the presidency.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Blast of Writing

Yesterday afternoon I got home and realized I hadn't written my 'daily story' here, so I knocked that out on my laptop. I made up a vignette in a vaguely India-based region, inspired by a postcard on my desk. I hope it was entertaining.

But in the evening, when my wife left to see a friend, I sat down at my workstation and started a story idea that's been rolling around my skull for some time. I wanted to challenge myself with a genre that doesn't particularly appeal to me, and I wanted to write within it as though I were fully into it. I picked out a large goblet, hoisted my jug of Carlo Rossi sangria, and closed myself up in the office, writing.

Five hours later I was done. I did not stop typing in those five solid hours. Rebecca came home, touched base with me, and gave me my space as she prepared for bed and went to sleep. I'm very grateful to her, I know it's hard to live with an artist who needs large amounts of time alone, necessarily leaving one's spouse alone too. She has been very supportive of my writing career, in every way, for as long as I've known her.

It was very gratifying to knock out this written piece. Fourteen pages, all told, and an extra half hour to comb over what few typos/grammatical lapses the word checker can't pick up. I was stunned to look at it all, lean back in my chair and become fully aware of what I'd just cranked out. I cheated myself out of a lot of sleep last night, but I'm proud of my accomplishment.

I wonder if it can be replicated?

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Postcrossing, I Love You

This is a selection of postcards I've received through Postcrossing, so far. They are from Lower Saxony, Germany; Vilnius, Lithuania; and Porvoo, Finland!

I've also received a couple postcards from people I wrote to, and from whom I requested a return postcard. You can do that: you just provide your return address and, if they're game, they toss one in the mail back at you.

Once I get these cards from around the world, I try to fit them into a photo album. A postcard has to be small enough to fit into one of the horizontal pockets, or else I have to put it in a vertical slot regardless of how the picture is oriented. Many cards are just slightly too large, so I'm filling up several pages of vertical slots and have huge gaps of horizontal pockets. Some are far too large to fit at all so they are being bunched up in the front, by the cover. Probably I should have gotten an album where you glue those little corners onto the page and, thusly, create custom-sized mounts for the cards.

Anyway, I'm thrilled to chat with people around the world. Many people in Europe and Asia specifically request postcards of Obama (which I don't have). I've got some whimsical cards I can share, and everywhere I travel in my own nation I pick up a small stack of postcards, so from one location I can actually send a person overseas cards from MN, LA, KY, WI, and... I guess that's all I have. I also get to mail the postcards I made of my own Holga photographs, so I get to distribute my creations to a global audience.

It's a fun hobby, and I'm excited to talk to and hear from all these people. My international friends on Facebook clued me in to Postcrossing, and I'm grateful they did.

It's the Same Wherever I Go

Ugh. Life apparently wasn't conflicted enough, that I felt the need to play pinata with a potential bees' nest.

On OS, a very excitable woman wrote a post about her objection to another user's word choice. Apparently, the man in question is a writer and was expressing his angst over designing a show, only to have the producers revise it all to hell. He's a creative type, he's excited that his vision will be broadcast, and, like a Gervais skit, he's shot down almost immediately after takeoff.

But he's an insensitive male who used a popular and profoundly distasteful colloquial expression--likening these rewrites to a "gang-bang"--and this very excitable woman read it. She retold the story, building it up overmuch to increase the drama, and then dropped her bomb.

It's my guess she has never interacted with society at large, Dickenson-like, outside of her own home up until this point. It's my further guess that she is unaware of what's going on in Somalia, North Korea, or Iraq, because she has spent very much energy blowing this up into the worst thing she has ever heard. That she has never interacted with the public and is completely nescient of world events would justify the effort and drama with which she recounts her story.

And me! Well, I just couldn't shut up. I wrote a comment, deleted it, rewrote it, deleted it, rewrote it one more time... stared at it... and clicked to post it. My parodying response was intended to highlight the excitable woman's conscious decision to vilify and impugn the insensitive male, to focus all attention upon her personal distress rather than to counsel or guide the man to a point of enlightenment. Her piece was written to entreaty others to share and embody her shock and outrage, to recruit others to hate this man with all their emotional reserves. Because, obviously, he's the only person who's ever said anything like this, and he surely intended it in the worst way possible. Clearly, he does not deserve to live.

Even the Dalai Lama said, "Some people do not deserve compassion." Surely.

I know I should have just shut up and let her tempest rattle away in its little teapot. And, truly, my comment was the only dissenting voice, such as it was: everyone else was at least as outraged as she was. Everyone agreed this was truly the worst thing they had ever heard in their lives, too. I commented that if this writer was not shot in the head and dragged around behind a car, there was no justice in the world. That sounds like an exaggeration, and I was exaggerating, but it really was in line with what many other people had written. If the excitable woman and everyone who commented were in a room with this hapless TV writer, he would not, Shirley Jackson-like, survive the encounter.

Wait, no, Jackson wrote "The Lottery." Who wrote that short story about the Group Hate event? The government organizes Group Hate events where people sit in an arena, a criminal is drawn to the center of the field, and everyone focuses all their hatred upon him and he bursts into flame? Like that.

And yes, I realize my sarcastic comment will not bring any more peace to people than her incendiary, hyperbolic rant will. And no, my wife will probably not approve of my actions in this case. And yes, I agree that rape is wrong and I in no way approve of it as an analogy. His disappointment over what happened to his TV show is in no way comparable to the trauma and horror of rape, not a fraction comparable.

Regardless, I don't think the excitable woman handled this in a precisely mature or useful manner. Did I stoke the flames? We'll see.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Search Engines Part 2: Finances

Now Microsoft has tossed a new hat into the ring: Bing contends to challenge Google as the hot new search engine. Clusty and Leapfish, while useful, aren't flashy enough (or lack suitable PR) to make them competitive, and Wolfram|Alpha is user-hostile unless you dual-majored in Math and Logic at the graduate level.

I ran a very simple test through Google and Bing: convert 299 Euros into US dollars.

Query: 299 euro into US dollars
Bing: 299 EUR = 418.83 USD
Google: 299 Euros = 417.3741 U.S. dollars

Wha..? That's almost a buck-and-a-half difference. If you're in another country, that's a matter of getting an extra candy bar or not. So it's not a huge deal, but why the discrepancy?

MSN's Bing cites MSN Money for its financial information, while Google uses Citibank N.A. as its resource. Google appends a cautionary disclaimer with its information; Bing does not. Why would it? It's saying, "We get our information from us, so you know it's reliable." Google iterates their figure is only an estimation based on one financial institution but that people "should confirm current rates before making any transactions that could be affected by changes in the exchange rates."

Do you admire Bing's bravado? Will we ever read a news item about an irate consumer who relied on Bing's information and found himself unable to buy a cheeseburger at a McDonald's in Luxembourg? Probably not, but... heads up, all the same.

Side note: Uncharacteristically, Wolfram|Alpha actually gave me an answer when I entered the above query into it. And not just an answer, but a chart, minimum/maximum trends over several months, and further conversions into multiple world currencies. However, it also differs on the ultimate answer, coming up with $418.68, and I have no idea how it came to that outside of its own "curated data."

Cuil, on the other hand, was still completely useless. At least that's holding true.

Monday, June 8, 2009

My Wings Have Gotten Rusted

The pain in my neck is all but abated, so I just need one pill in the morning to get me out the door, and that's all. I feel better about that.

My current physical regimen is working out pretty well, too. I've gone back to My Daily Plate (now and am forced to reckon with how much I eat on a casual and daily basis. This makes me less willing to snack and unwilling to eat junk food. I've also stuck with My Fitness Coach fairly consistently, and during today's Physical Challenge I was pleased to note I've lost eight pounds and gone down a size in the last two weeks. Not a dramatic improvement but still something. I just have to keep at it.

i got a couple postcards from friends in Genoa, Italy and Helsinki, Finland. This always gets me chuffed, writing to acquaintances around the world, hearing a little about their lives. The guy in Italy has sent me about five postcards, a feat unheard of among most of my domestic friends. Why is that? Why is the rest of the world still into postal correspondence? What would I lose if I moved to Genoa, Helsinki, Braunschweig, or Bruxelles?

OMG! Blogging Isn't Guaranteed Success!

I just read this article in the NYT about the high failure rate of blogs. They ask the rhetorical question, why do blogs have a higher failure rate than restaurants?

Two reasons spring to mind: 1) Because it's harder to start a restaurant, while any jackass with an online connection can start a blog with no capital, but the fact that they can do so doesn't guarantee they have any writing talent. 2) Define "failure."

Obviously the goal of a restaurant is to generate and nurture a loyal customer base, make some profit, and hopefully expand (e.g., floor space, additional locations, diversity of menu). You can put a lot of money into running a restaurant and, if it doesn't do well, you can lose a lot.

But if you start up a blog, there are hundreds of free blog-hosting Web sites available, and if you logon via your local library or coffee shop, you don't need to spend any money for an online connection. You can start up with no money in your pocket, rant for as long as you like, and if you somehow manage to generate any income you necessarily have greater than 100% profit. But if nobody reads you and you lose interest and quit, you're breaking even (not counting the time you spent). Restaurants put in a lot of money and stand to lose a lot more money; a blogger can rant with poor typing and writing skills and lose nothing. I don't think a blogger's "failure" equates to an entrepreneur's "failure."

Sure, if you start a blog and set your goals high--hoping to secure a book deal or become a journalist for a print publication--then you can say you failed to attain those goals. In that sense there is a failure, but you've only lost the potential outcome. You're only worse off at the end because now you have proof that you need to work on your writerly skills--be a better observer, learn to shape lyrical prose, focus on timely topics--but you still haven't lost anything.

I think that propagating a headline like "the staggeringly large failure rate of bloggers" is misleading, especially when comparing it to any other business model. I would even venture to say it's a non-issue. When I started my own blog I hoped some people might find it by accident, or others would come here at my invitation and find reason to stick around. Both of those moderate goals were fulfilled, so am I more successful than the restaurants in my own city that lose their business and shut down? I would never say so.

Friday, June 5, 2009

I Have No Audience, and I Must Perform

I'm not setting any time aside for writing. This is bad. Yeah, I can sneak a moment to crank out a little blog post, but I really don't have much to say because nothing's going on currently, or nothing I feel comfortable with publishing publicly. The pinched nerve in my neck seems to have migrated to beneath my shoulder blade, and last night my left hip responded with stabbing pain whenever it bent back, like when my right leg strides forward to walk. Am I totally falling apart?

I started to read Shopgirl by Steve Martin, and it appears to be an interesting character study. I'm also slowly chipping away at The Very Best of Gene Wolfe, reading a story every couple of nights. I downloaded Think Smart for the Kindle, so I can glance at that when I bus home. But overall I feel a tremendous sense of needing to get things done and I'm not setting time aside for any of them. I won't have any time this weekend, so it's up to me to ask for an hour alone at night just to begin to get a little reading in. How can I not have a free hour each weeknight?

I'm still sending out postcards for Postcrossing, and I've only received one. Rebecca's already gotten two and she's only sent out three cards, I think. It's a little discouraging. I'm still sending out postcards, though. I wonder how much money I'd be saving if I wasn't buying postcards and postage? It's almost a buck a shot to send a card overseas.

I've started up with (now It's all junked-up with advertisements and other pay-attention-to-me features, but with a little diligence and study I have deciphered its interface to make it do what it used to do: keep track of everything I eat in a day. Knowing that I'm going to hold myself accountable for my snacking has already impacted my eating habits. I brought a bag of muesli to the office so I'll always have breakfast and I'm drinking more water--how regrettable that it's coming in plastic bottles, so wasteful. Too bad the water from the water cooler tastes so nasty. With a little more discipline I could bring my Sigg bottle to work regularly.

It's all just to lose my gut. I don't kid myself that I'll ever be buff or ripped or whatever, I'm just trying to become less unattractive. My wife is very flattering and says I'm fine as I am, but I don't like how I look. And also, the fat that builds up on the stomach is unlike the fat anywhere else on the body and is more prone to cancer. And Think Smart has been going into what foods help build and support the brain: none, really, but a little red wine is beneficial, and anything that's good for the heart is necessarily good for the brain. They recommend the Mediterranean diet, which has my interest piqued.

The high school politics at Open Salon are making me reluctant to contribute. There's nothing wrong with the Admin; if anything, I feel bad for them. An open-door policy for a blog is... dicey at best, even if you're starting with an intelligent constituency such as regularly reads But there is a grade of contributors there who are as poor at writing and organizing their thoughts as they are skilled at popularity contests. They work to promote other crappy writers who know how to suck ass, and they gang up on people they decide they don't like, where I was hoping a blog service run by OS would by nature be a meritocracy. It's still a useful place to practice my chops, I have to keep reminding myself about that.

As for LiveJournal... I just don't do anything there. I place comments that get ignored and I write posts that get ignored. It's not a pool in which I can swim any longer. Why did I go back to it?

All this boils down to a basic need to communicate and being stonewalled at every turn.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Wednesday Update

Okay, I fixed the domain name for Heavy Boots once again. I guess there's no way to trick Google Sites into accepting a naked URL. That's okay, because their error page links to the correct address. Plan B is not a bad plan at all.

I pinched a nerve in my neck this weekend, Sunday saw me lain out until we drove to Urgent Care. Now I've got one set of pills I take thrice daily (when I remember to bring them to work) and Vicodin right before bed. Even on meds, it's hard to hunch over my desk at work to correct typographical errors, and writing postcards or doing a crossword is just as painful. In fact, it makes me fear I'm developing a mighty, Burnsian hump. I know that scribes in ancient Egypt and calligraphers in the Middle Ages had stooped posture for just this reason. My mom, ever helpful, suggests it could be spinal meningitis.

Yesterday I bought a new book bag, smaller than my courier bag (but both by Victorinox) so I can't overload it with books, which I suspect contributed to the pinched nerve. It's a marvelous little satchel and it holds a couple Moleskines, my Kindle, an array of pens and ink cartridges, new postcards, received postcards, iPod Nano, bus card, and lots of things. I'm surprised it's not now as heavy as my courier bag was. Maybe the bag itself is substantially lighter.

Last night I had a night to myself, as Rebecca went to her reading group. Whenever she's around I have a hundred little projects to do, little hobbies that take up my time, but as soon as she's gone, I have nothing to do but pass out on the futon. What the hell.

I've received one post card through, I'm excited about that. I've sent several more and am just waiting to hear back from people. My pen pals in Italy and Singapore--independent of Postcrossing--sent me some gorgeous cards from their areas. I've renewed my pastime of scanning in the interesting postage stamps and found a large, cheap album at Marshalls to store my international postcards. It's awesome! It feels good to get back into writing correspondence, even if I'm not writing any short stories, like I should be. And speaking of that, I've written Gene Wolfe another letter, a longer one in which I took my time to explain myself and frame better questions, as well as to express my admiration.

And that's about it. Not much changes around here. The cats need more attention than they're getting, and they have no qualms about claiming it.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Vicodin, Work, and Domain Names

Yesterday was the worst day for the pinched nerve. When I woke up completely tense and unable to move, I took (read: was handed) four ibuprofen and waited for them to kick in. SO, instead of going to the St. Paul farmer's market for some delicious fresh fish, we went to Urgent Care instead.

The doctor didn't really do much, just checked the most crucial issues: tingling in arm (none), pressure points (no pain where he indicated), and movement of arm (free and painless). For this he prescribed me some daytime meds and Vicodin for night. Last night was a very good night indeed, as my entire body felt very comfortable and everything around me became a pleasant tactile experience. I really regret not using, then throwing away, the bottle of Vicodin that came with the extraction of my wisdom teeth. I wonder if Vicodin would help carry a boy through heartache?

Today I feel somehow removed from everything around me. I can move throughout the city and do my assigned tasks, but it's now a trust-based operation, where I trust the things I'm doing are what I should be doing, and I trust the signals I send to my limbs are the correct ones. Everything strikes me as a joke that I don't get, seeing all the pieces in play but not understanding their relationships and/or significance. And I forgot my daytime meds that I was going to bring to work, but we do have ibuprofen at work and that's almost as good. My emotions are at once dulled and slightly childish, so I'm being careful to do as little talking as possible. At least that much of my faculty is intact. (etc.) now point to my Google Sites page, and I think I've successfully directed the naked URL to the site as well... oh no. The URLs are now pointing back to the original hosted location, even those with the WWW subdomain. That is completely incorrect. Back to the drawing board.