Monday, November 28, 2016

How Do I Work This?

Going back to work after a long layoff is tough, isn't it? I was last in the office on Monday; Tuesday was travel day to pick up the Catbird (about 9 hours of driving round trip, plus having to eat, plus she had one last class so we had to find some errands to do for an hour and a half, made for a long day). I had given myself the option of going in on Wednesday, but decided to skip it: there was plenty to do around here, I was tired, and I did not expect a whole lot to happen anyway. I have been in the office the day before Thanksgiving; nothing ever happens. Thursday and Friday for the holiday, then the weekend, and now? Wow, I really don't want to go in today!

Strangely, that's about how I feel about blogging today, too. While on the road yesterday, I thought about this post off and on; but now that I'm sitting down, drinking my coffee, trying to psyche myself up for the day, I feel like it's been far longer than a week since my last post. I feel like I've completely forgotten how to do this (maybe I never knew!). Holidays can do that, I guess.

Despite all the driving, we had a real nice time, and it was good to have the Catbird home for a few days, was nice to hear her and the Magpie being silly together. Nice, also, to know that we get to do the trip again in about three weeks, and that she'll be home for a month this time. We were fortunate that we caught a break: From Saturday through Monday evening, we ended up with about 8 inches of snow here; on Tuesday, the roads were (mostly) free of slop and slip, and once we traveled about 30 miles east, we found that there had been little to no snow, which made for good travel. Hopefully, we'll catch a similar break in December.

The RiP progressed nicely. I had hoped to be sending it back off to Agent Carrie this morning, but I fear it's not quite there. I have one small (I hope) portion of a chapter that I'm writing fresh to insert; three pages, give or take, but it's not quite there, frustratingly close. I spent a lot of time on it over the long holiday weekend. Not much time to do anything with it this morning, but maybe I'll be fresher later. After I hook up one of these bad boys:

That's all I got for today; how are you all?

Monday, November 21, 2016

Monday Musing: And There It Is!

Good morning, all. Various bits and pieces of brain drivel from me:

After pushing sixty degrees on Friday and Saturday, the temperature dropped, dropped, dropped. Drizzle on Saturday night turned into snow on Sunday morning, which hasn't stopped yet. Plows are busy, and I will soon be busy as well, shoveling out the driveway (again). Looks like I'll have the chance to try the 4-wheel drive out again today.

Had a pretty good weekend of work on the RiP. The WiP is pretty much dead in the water*, but I might actually be able to make good on my goal of delivering the RiP to Agent Carrie by the end of the month.

*Not entirely true. I've written all of 560 words this month (to 'win' NaNo, I'd need to average 5,493.33 words per day between now and the end of the month--yeah, not gonna happen!). BUT parts of the WiP have been rattling around in my head at odd hours, which is a good sign. I think I'll be able to pick it up right away once I've put away the RiP.

Tuesday is our travel day, when we head out to pick up the Catbird for Thanksgiving. The weather is looking as promising as can be so far. On the other hand, we have to drive through about five colors to get there!

This will, of course, look completely different tomorrow.

My brain is proving to be a little empty at this hour, on this day, so I will leave you with that. To my American friends, happy Thanksgiving! May you have a lovely holiday filled with family, good friends, and good food! To everyone else--have a great week, and thank you to all of you who take the time to read and share your thoughts.

Monday, November 14, 2016

My Last Word On The Elections (for now)

This goes out to the Trumpites out there:

For the last sixteen months or so, you've been supporting Donald Trump, and it must have been frustrating for you, a thinking, feeling person, being painted with a very broad brush because of your choice of candidate. You were voting for Trump because you didn't like Hillary--but not just because she's a woman. You didn't like Hillary because she represents more of the same, and you don't feel the Democrats were leading us to a very good place. You don't like Hillary because of her Wall Street ties. Or because of her e-mails. Or Benghazi. Fine.

Or maybe you're a business owner, or a top earner, and you were not looking forward to yet another round of tax hikes on your income bracket. Or you are not confident in Hillary's ability to get us out of the Middle East and end the threat of ISIS. Or Russia. Maybe you're from coal country or gas country or oil country and view the push to renewables to be a threat to your livelihood and were fighting to keep your job. I get that.

And I get that it must have been frustrating over these last sixteen months or so to constantly have friends and relations on social media calling you a racist, a bigot, a xenophobe, a homophobe, a misogynist. The memes that were all over the place basically equated your choice for president as a Mussolini, a Hitler--and, by association, they lumped you in there, too.

"I am not those things," you said. You were not one of those people chanting "Build the wall" at Trump rallies, or "Lock her up." You were not one of those people throwing punches at protesters, or spitting on them, or calling people who looked like they might be from south of the border "beaners" and telling them they'd soon be deported. That wasn't you. The thing about politics is there's no such thing as a perfect candidate. They all have some kind of baggage, some position that we do not like, and that forces us to prioritize, make choices, and live with things that make us uncomfortable. Maybe you're not comfortable with things Trump has said (and done) in the past, but you really feel like the nation is being strangled by over-regulation, and Clinton sure isn't going to cut any of that back. So you put up with the bad stuff and say, "That isn't me. I'm not like that."

And now it's time to prove it. Your man is president elect. In two months, he'll take the oath of office and he'll have a semi-friendly Republican majority in Congress at his back. And sometime in the next year--more likely, within a few weeks of taking office--something's going to come out of the White House. It may be a proposed law. It may be a program. It may be a plan. Whatever it is, it's going to tick off one or more boxes: racist. Misogynist. Discriminatory. There's no telling which group it will target. It will almost certainly be gussied up as some kind of action that will keep our borders safe, or boost the economy, or limit voter fraud, but it will be definitely targeted at a group and close inspection will reveal it for what it is. And that's when you will have to prove that you are not those things people have been saying you are.

I hope you do.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016



Went to bed at one last night, the buzz from a shot of vodka and a White Russian not able to sufficiently dampen the bewilderment of what I had been watching unfold all night on the election map, or quiet the anxiety building over the prospect of a Trump presidency--and Republican control of both House and Senate. The math was not adding up, and that was even before Pennsylvania flipped from light blue to pale pink.

I went to bed hoping it was wrong, hoping that the late tally of ballots would be in Democratic stronghold precincts, while also knowing that a deficit of thirty, forty, fifty thousand votes is a lot to overcome. I went to bed hoping I could wake up in the morning, look at the results, and say, "Whew, that was a little dicey there." Instead, I wake up and wonder how President-elect Trump will behave, how he will  govern, whether he'll squander his majority by attacking the senators and representatives who didn't support him wholeheartedly throughout, whether he'll follow through on his promises to sue  the women who have accused him of sexual assault, whether he'll actually ultimately launch (more) investigations into Clintons e-mails and throw her in jail. I wake up and realize that I'm actually going to have to put into practice--somehow--Stephen King's words I posted here on Monday: "he's not just the president but my president." A good line, but it sure don't taste too good right now.

Monday, November 7, 2016

A Last Word Ahead Of Election Day

It's nearly over. At least I hope it is.

Tomorrow is the day we here in the United States officially cast our ballots and choose the next president. Though the events won't be offically official until January, when Congress counts the electoral votes, God willing, we'll know the result either late tomorrow night or early Wednesday morning, and then we can get on with the business of fixing the parts of our country that are broken, and strengthening the parts that are not.

I know where I stand in this election, and what I want to see happen, so I'm not going to belabor the point. No matter the outcome of tomorrow, there are going to be millions of people who are disappointed with the results. Some will be beyond disappointed: distraught, maybe; super-righteously pissed, perhaps. So, once the election is over and the results are in, I think we need to look at some wise words penned by that master statesman, Stephen King. In his book, 11/22/63 (about a man who travels back in time to save John F. Kenneday from assassination), King wrote:

"I didn't vote for him, but I happen to be an American, and that makes him not just the president but my president."

We can be upset with the result. We can be upset with the winner. But at the end of the day, that person will be our president, and we will have to work with him or her for the next four years.  Let's do it.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Another NaNo Upon Us

Here we are, once again on the cusp of November, which means it's time to ask two questions:

-How the hell did October go by so fast? and
-Are you doing NaNoWriMo?

(On the odd chance someone is reading this who has no idea what NaNoWriMo is, follow the above link; or, here's the nutshell: a national program in which participants attempt to write a 50,000 word novel in the thirty days of November)

It seems every year I approach November with that same, doubt-filled post: To NaNo, or not to NaNo, that is the question. Some years, I've done it. Some, I haven't. I succeeded on my first attempt (2010, though the folks at NaNo seem to have lost that record) and my last attempt (2014). I failed to break the 20K mark in 2011, and I don't have any other records in my history, which is strange, because I know I've tried on at least one other occasion. Oh, well.

The first criteria for committing to NaNo is whether I have a project or not. This year, it turns out that I do, sort of. Now, in looking at the 'rules' for NaNo, it doesn't exactly say you have to start at the beginning of your novel, and the folks at NaNo seem to be pretty flexible in their interpretation of the rules. My WiP is currently sitting at 57,292 words (hey, I've won! ). But it's not done. Based on my past history, my first drafts typically end up around 105-110,000 words, and there's no reason to believe this one will be any different. Hmmm.

The real question now becomes, "Can I add 50,000 words to this in the next thirty days?" It's only 1,667 words per day, if I write every day. Hell, on Saturday morning, I squeezed out 1597 words in the space of about two-and-a-half hours--and then added another 509 in commercial breaks and in between periods of the Boston-Detroit hockey game (seriously, I'm sometimes amazed at how fast the words will come). I can hear Agent Carrie saying "Imagine what would happen if you were really working on this, four solid hours a day?" Indeed, that would be wonderful, but alas, life gets in the way, and those thirty days of November get chewed up mighty fast. Looking ahead at the calendar, thirty becomes twenty-eight, because we have to spend two days driving to pick up and drop off the Catbird for Thanksgiving break. And then there's my organization's annual dinner. So we're already down to 27 days, or 1852 words.

And then, I also hear Agent Carrie whispering, "What about the RiP?" Yes, the RiP. The RiP needs some RiPping, so it can get back out in the world and be sold and make it so that I can work four hours a day plus on the WiP--and I can't say for sure how much more work the RiP is actually going to take (not 50,000 new words, thankfully).

So, after all that, where do I stand? Well, I certainly like the idea of NaNo-ing the WiP to completion. On the other hand, the RiP is more important. So it looks like the more sensible goal is to sit out NaNo, aim to have the RiP back in Carrie's hands by the end of November at the latest, and maybe turn December into DecNoWriMo.

What about you? Will you be back in the NaNo game?

Two other things before I go: Check out Agent Carrie's blog later today, or tomorrow, as she is expecting to post her latest Query Critique Winner. If you're like many writers who struggle with writing an effective query letter, Carrie's insights can be very helpful.

Second, maybe it's because Bob Dylan just won himself a Nobel Prize for Literature, or maybe it's something in my mood, but I just can't get the song "Visions of Johanna" out of my head. And, because this is me, I'm particularly partial to this version performed by the Grateful Dead way back in 1986. The lyrics are a little hard to make out at times, but I find it to be a rather powerful performance (and Garcia was unusually animated for this period of time). Have a great week!

Monday, October 24, 2016

It's Not Just About Trump

More than thirty years ago I had to make one of the first decisions of my semi-adult life: which political party should I join? After much consideration, I registered Republican.

This decision was not made lightly. It was not made without a great deal of thought. Back then, there were some issues where I leaned right, and issues where I leaned left, and plenty of issues where I didn't care a whole lot one way or the other, but I had to make a choice, so I made one. The decision was made both rationally and irrationally (rational: on the issues that were most important to me at the time, I leaned right. Rational: registering as an independent would mean I couldn't vote in the primaries. Rational: I thought I might want a county job and I lived in a Republican dominated county. See? I was cynical even then. Irrational: my father was a Republican. Irrational: I wrote a letter to President Nixon during the energy crisis and got a letter and a neat little book).

Over the years, I've pulled the lever (and, now, filled in the circle with the pen and fed the ballot through the scanner; this is much less satisfying than the loud ka-thunk of a mechanical voting machine) for Republicans and Democrats alike, for every office from President down to Town Clerk. I've tried to be informed about my choices, and I've never been a person who votes simply by pulling the lever for any candidate with an 'R' after their name. Party, to me, has always been less important than the person running for office. I was a Republican, but hardly the card-carrying, sign waving, campaign contributing type.

And now it's time to get off the bus.

This is not about Donald Trump. Or, mostly, not about Donald Trump. In a certain way, Trump's ascendance to the role as Republican standard bearer is a sign that the system isn't broken, that it's working as intended. The people spoke, the Party swallowed and said, "Yeah, okay, he's our guy. We don't like him, but we can't change the rules." (And here's a note to the still-smarting "Bernie Bros" out there: the DNC was against you, but the rules is the rules. Don't complain about not being able to vote in a Democratic primary if you're an Independent or a Green or a Working Families if your state doesn't allow it. House Rules work great in Monopoly, but not in an election) We can trace the rise of Tump to the rise of Newt Gingrich back in the 90s, which, coincidentally, is around the time I first started thinking, "Why am I a Republican?"

Some time ago I wrote in this space about change, and my belief that, in general, people in the real world change slowly. My change from Republican to Democrat has been thirty years in the making. Who has changed? I think it's both of us. The things that brought me to the Republicans in the first place are no longer as important to me, while other issues are more important. And of the issues that weren't issues for me then? I consistently find myself on the other side of them. As I've gotten older, I've moved to the left. At the same time, the Republican Party has been moving further to the right. I am not the same, but neither is the Republican Party I signed on for all those years ago.

The final straw for me was not Trump standing there smugly in Cleveland in July. It was reading the Republican Party platform. As much as I can agree with certain Republican principles (fiscal conservatism, smaller, less intrusive government), there is so much in here to object to. If allowed, the Republicans would:

-attempt to overturn Roe v. Wade, either by judicial review or constitutional amendment returning abortion control to the state;
-attempt to overturn same sex marriage;
-allow individuals and business to discriminate against same sex couples under the guise of religious freedom;
-ignore the preponderance of scientific evidence regarding climate change and would also gut environmental protections offered by the EPA, the Clean Water Act, and the Endangered Species Act;
-remove women from combat roles and infantry battalions;
-replace "'family planning' programs for teens with sexual risk avoidance education that sets abstinence until marriage as the responsible and respected standard of behavior";
-push this country further toward what I think of as Judeo-Christian sharia.

Maybe some of you have read this and you say, "Yeah! I'm all for it! What's your beef?" To me, this document, this policy statement, is just not reflective of the modern world, which is in keeping with the platform writers' statement that "We believe the Constitution was written not as a flexible document, but as our enduring covenant." Welcome to 1789, folks.

Maybe it is just me. Maybe if I went back and read the Republican platform from when I registered to vote, I would find the same thing. Either way, I'm glad I changed. And when this election is over, I will be changing my voter registration.