Wednesday, May 26, 2010

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Thursday, May 11, 2006

New Things

There is stuff going on...

First, in what is a change for me, I'm actually willing to say that I'm working on a novel.

I've tried novels before. And, invariably, I'd get between 75-100 pages into them and run flat out of gas. My characters would be two-dimensional. My plot would shrivel up like a sun-ravaged flower. Everytime, I'd realize this, get fed up, and quit.

As part of my current writing class, we have to turn in the first draft of a novel in, jeez, three weeks! I'm not sure if I'll be done by then, but at least this time I know I'll finish. The most important lesson I've picked up from this class is an idea as to the actual mechanics of writing a novel. Before, I'd always attacked the challenge like it was a short story, which was one of the main causes of my frustration. With the realization that novels are their own artistic form came a new approach, and in the relatively near future, the fruit of that approach may be edible.

No guarantees as to the taste.

I'm still working at the law firm, and there is now some possibility that the job could become permanent. There is nothing set yet, but the option has been mooted.

I'd be for that happening. In addition to getting paid more, I'd actually have benefits, which I've been told is a situation that people want to be in. The only real downside of working with lawyers is that...I'd have to work with lawyers. In my current position, I'm effectively shielded from having to deal with the attorneys. If the job became permanent, that shielding disappears. A worthwhile sacrifice.

Next, I'm running a race.

One of main goals when I came back from Japan was to keep off the weight I'd lost through running with my kids and...well, living in Japan. It's a miracle the contribution that human sized servings can make to one's health. Early days in America weren't so successful, but since January I've been running four times a week.

And now I'm running a race. I mention this here because the race is a fund-raiser for the Junvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, which is the largest private diabetes research foundation in the world. The race, Beat the Bridge, is one of their main fund raisers. I realize that if you read this, you're probably, like me, broke. But if anyone's willing to give, it's easy to do. You can donate with a credit card here.

And last, the family dog passed away.

Thirteen years ago, my dad and step-mom arrived at our home in Ballard. They had a puppy, a little ball of butter-yellow fur. I fell in love there, at that moment. I'm the one who suggested her name: Visor. I have always loved dogs greatly. I loved this dog more than all.

Visor gave us more tales than I would choose to recount here, but a few are worthwhile. All of them involved eating, because it was her favorite activity and one that often seemed to short any sense that ran through her beautiful head. Before a long car trip, she got into a neighbor's basement and ate an entire jar of Vaseline. A rather big jar. Vaseline doesn't do any damage, but it does lube up the insides, resulting in more road-side stops than we'd originally intended. She got into masses of chocolate twice, resulting at least once in a late night trip to a veterinary hospital and a pair of my pants covered in crumbly acidic dog vomit. She'd eat things even when they were still wrapped in plastic. My uncle said she was the only dog he knew who bagged her own poop.

In the end, age and cancer took over. On Monday, we put her down. We buried her on a small hill on our property and while we dug, the family's other dog and our three cats joined us. I don't know why they came. They were probably curious. But I choose to believe that they came to pay homage. Visor deserved that.

I am grateful to be in a family that understand the connection we can form with pets. Not just immediate family, but extended as well. The night we buried her, I went to visit my aunt and uncle, who live only a few hundred feet away. They've buried many animals, and we talked about that and the pain and the love that makes the pain worthwhile. Everyone knew that we'd made the right decision. They also knew how hard that decision was to make.

And still, I miss her.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

The triple slap and other things

Last Friday, a group of us got together for drinks. At the end of an evening, one of the girls had to go. She said goodbye and then she gave the host of the get-together a hug. She gave him the old triple slap.

Somewhere in the realm of human existence, there was a good reason for this to develop. Whatever that reason, the current meaning is utterly clear. If a girl slaps you on the back when giving you a hug, you are totally and completely friends. Guys dothe triple slap as well, but it has a different meaning. Think of the triple slap as a kind of Morris code, with each slap tapping out the words "I'm not gay." (the apostrophe is artfully worked into the first slap). Why is this important? Because men are idiots. But a guy could be married to your sister, be the father of three children, and if he doesn't do the triple slap, you've got worries. Why? Again, because we're idiots. I'm not going to defend these ideas or behaviors because, really, what would be the point.

There is other behavior similar to this. Go to any bar. Find two guys talking. I guarantee that if they're under the age of thirty, the two of them will not be facing each other but will be at an angle, like two sides of a triangle. More than likely, each of them will have a beer in one hand. The other hand will be in a pocket. I'd love to know how this evolved. All I know is that I do it automatically.

A behavior in women that I've become curious about is arm crossing. One of my co-workers and I will occasionally go and grab coffee in the doldrums of the morning and whenever we leave the building, she immediately crosses her arms. This isn't individual behavior either, as you see it regularly. A man and a woman walking, in which they clearly aren't together, and more likely than not, if they're of a certain age, her arms will be crossed. Maybe the reason for the action is in that last sentence: it sends a clear signal to all present. But if there are other reasons, I'd be curious to know them. Or maybe it's like the triangle or the triple slap. The reasons are lost in the mists of time, but the herd still demands compliance.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Team names

A trivia team name from last night, because this still makes me laugh:

"I found Jesus. He was behind the sofa the entire time."

Monday, May 01, 2006

Litmus tests

A few weeks back, a coworker lent me a book. She had it on her desk, having just finished reading it. It was her second time through the novel (A Confederacy of Dunces, but John Kennedy Toole), and she was reading it again because it had an effect on her personal life. Her boyfriend loves the book, so much so in fact that he uses it as a litmus test. In her words, he won't date anyone who hasn't read it, or perhaps is willing to read it. Familiarity with the book is one of his criteria.

That struck me as odd, and I said so. I said I didn't like the idea of a litmus test. But, as I've read the book, I've harkened back to that previous conversation and it has occured to me that while very specific, this guy's test is, at a basic level, no different from any other. We don't tend to put such things into terms like litmus test or qualifications. We talk about what we like. What we're attracted to. But down deep, they're basically the same thing.

But wanting a partner that's read a specific book? I started wondering, what are my specifics? I don't think I have specific red-lines, such as having to read a book. Maybe things I don't want people to do, such as running a meth-lab out of one's basement.

And as I thought about it, I came upon one. This has been true for a while, and probably always will be: I'd love to date a woman who know the proper timing and usage of the phrase "look three, go one." That's damn hot.

Also, someone who regularly proves to me that I'm wrong. Very attractive.

How about the rest of you folks? Any specifics? Married people can play too.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

At one with your inner character

Today, for lack of anything better to do, I went to a reading/signing by Elizabeth Moon. Elizabeth Moon is a fantasy/science fiction author of some note. I've only read one thing by her, which was part of a novel excerpted for an anthology. In the field of speculative fiction, she's pretty well known. At least the fifteen people at the signing seemed to know who she was.

I'd never been to a reading/signing before, and I quickly learned that it helps to go to those involving authors with whom you're familiar. Moon read a piece of her newest book and opened the floor for questions, and most of those revolved around, not surprisingly, her previous books. I spent a good portion of the time listening to exchanges about plots and characters I didn't know.

However, in the middle of all this, she talked about writing perhaps her best known recent book, The Speed of Dark. The novel is notable for, among other things, having an autistic protagonist. (The one excerpt I've read of monk's was from The Speed of Dark and it featured a scene involving people fencing without masks. But I'll let that go for now. For now...) Moon said that the novel was difficult for her to write because it required her to get into the voice of an autistic, and that she continued to speak and act in certain ways that could be considered autistic for the six months following the completion of the work. This level of involvement with her characters apparently wasn't a new thing for her. She also said that during the writing of a fantasy novel set in a poor village, she put on 35 pounds because the village was full of hungry people and she "was eating for everyone who lived there".

I found myself (oh, there you are, self) fascinated, and honestly, a little jealous. I've had those moments that I think most authors love, when a character spontaneously does something in a story and the action is both interesting and honest. But nothing at that level. And, honestly, I'm not sure if it's something I want to shoot for. I like my characters. I want them to live. But I'd rather them live on the page than in me. One of the best parts about writing is the ability to play God, and that seems hard to do when you're no longer the Almighty, but one of her subjects.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Things you should know...

...well, you probably know.

If you click this link, you will find the President's latest poll results. Not surprisingly, they're not good. The meager 32% of Americans who approve of Bush's performance is a personal low for this President, though I'm willing to bet he can push them lower if he tries. Of those remaining, 60% disapproved of Bush's performance while 8% had no opinion.

I have a bone to pick with this poll. Not with the 38% who still approve, because really, if you still approve at this point, is there any reason to spend time arguing? No, my concern is with the 8% of those interview who had no opinion.

How can you have no opinion about how the President is doing?

I mean, come on. Really. No opinion about the President's job performance? Are there really 24 million people in this country who don't care one way or the other about how the President is doing? Even if you go as far as you can within the estimated 3% margin of error, you still get 15 million people, which is 15 million too many.

In college, my debate partner and I ran a case calling for mandatory voting in the U.S.

Yes, I was and am a geek.

Anyway, our argument was as follows: voting should be seen as a responsibility, much like paying taxes. If you don't pay taxes, people suffer through cuts in services and poorer infrastructure. Similarly, if you don't vote, people suffer by having a democracy that loses some of its legitimacy. There are many arguments in opposition, but the one I wish to mention here stated that there are a lot of dumb people out there who really shouldn't vote. Not forcing the stupid or the ignorant to vote keeps at least some of them away from the ballot box.

During debate, we would counter this by claiming that the opposition were a bunch of elitists. Really though, they had a point. I'll tell you right now, if someone can't come up with an opinion on President Bush, I'd rather they not vote. They might do a good job. They also might try to bring the Bull Moose Party into power.

Actually, that might not be such a bad thing.

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For the guys out there, here's a great word to try with the ladies: pulchritude. Honestly, I have no idea how you're supposed to use it, but I'm sure you'll come up with something.

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