Monday, November 30, 2015


Where am I? Who am I?

It was a great weekend, don't get me wrong, but it ended as it began on Tuesday (though that wasn't the beginning of my weekend; I had to work on Wednesday), with ten hours of driving to collect two little birds from two different college campuses. The good thing is that they ended up in schools that at least are in line with each other, and not in opposite directions. The unfortunate thing is that we ended up dropping off the Magpie about 2-1/2 hours before anything--and I mean anything--opened up on her campus. Dorm? Locked. Campus Center? Locked. Library? Every light in the place was on, but locked. She got into the foyer of her dorm, but couldn't get beyond that. At least she was not out in the cold. The good news is we got a text about an hour after we left her that someone let her in. I don't know if it was a staff person or one of the students who stayed over break (I guess they re-code the locks so only students who are approved to be there can get into the buildings), but she didn't have to wait too long. All's well that ends well, and all that.

It was nice (well, that's too mild a word, really) to have them home, nice to hear their voices and their laughter and the way they sing together, and now the house is quiet again and it's time to settle back into the routine, until it's time to collect them again in about 3 weeks. But my routine is all fouled up again. I was struggling along with my current project, writing at night for a couple of hours, but this weekend I found once again the joys of morning writing, particularly on Friday and Saturday. The problem for me is that I am a slow starter in the mornings; sleeping late on those two days ('late' meaning 6:30 one day, 7 the other), I probably didn't actually start writing until closer to 8. The fact that I'm writing this post about 20 minutes after getting up is encouraging, but I feel pressure also to shower, make lunch and get to work a little early. Still, maybe I can disappear into the zone for a little bit each day.

I think that's all I'm going to say for today. I hope you all had a nice Thanksgiving, a nice weekend, or a nice week since the last post. Off to the zone for a little bit!

Monday, November 23, 2015

Monday Musing

Part I: Teaching an Old Dog a New Tick

As you may know from reading this blog, in what has shockingly-become my distant past, I used to live here:

How many times can I possibly use this picture?

"Here" was in a 1600-acre state park on Long Island's north shore, a wonderland of woods and fields and seashore. The primary job was to take groups of schoolchildren, mostly from New York City, out and teach them about the environment. As a result, I became quite familiar with several tick species, those rather annoying, blood-sucking arachnids that can make people quite miserable. I thought I was pretty knowledgeable about ticks, and I could teach the kids enough so that, if we found one on a kid, they didn't freak out too badly.

Despite having to know this stuff, I found rather recently that I didn't know everything. Last week, in forty-degree weather, I spent about fifteen minutes on a trail in a shrubby wetland investigating a report of giant hogweed, a noxious and potentially dangerous invasive plant. I didn't find any (it was wild parsnip; remember that one?). What I found, instead, were ticks. Deer ticks, i.e., the kind that transmits Lyme disease. This prompted some more investigation on my part, and I learned that adult deer ticks, which have a pretty darn high chance of carrying the Lyme-causing bacteria, actually become active in September/October/November, but they'll be active throughout the year if a) they haven't fed; b) the ground is not frozen; c) the ground is not covered in snow. In other words, if you live in the northeast, where Lyme disease rates are high and the deer tick population is growing, keep your eyes peeled.

 I should have known this already, but now I do. Lesson learned.

Part II: Thanksgiving!

Tomorrow, the wife and I set sail for a marathon day of driving where we will pick up the Catbird at her school, then pick up the Magpie at hers. We'll probably spend about ten hours total behind the wheel, which is not fun, but it will be the first time since late August that both girls will be home at the same time (it will actually be the first time since late August that the Catbird will be home at all; she's a little far away for a weekend visit. The Magpie took the bus home for a much-needed mental health break in mid-October.). On Sunday, we'll reverse the process. This is probably the most-anticipated Thanksgiving for us in quite some time.

Part III: What Do YOU Do?

On Friday night we went to our local Audubon chapter meeting, which is always a nice time (and despite our advancing ages, my wife and I are still among the youngest in attendance!). This week, we arranged to meet a guy and his wife for drinks after the meeting. My wife worked with this guy on a big website project this summer. They attended the meeting but I did not meet them until after; it was kind of a busy meeting. We met at a nice little bar and ended up sitting with them for about two hours, and had a very nice time.

What's interesting to me is how often things like this end up becoming about work. "What do you do?" we ask each other. What we really mean is, what is your job? What is your career? How do you earn your living? I'm curious about why we do this. Is it just because it's easy conversation, a way to find common ground? (Hell, if nothing else, we can always grouse about work, right?) Is it a way to try to establish some sort of pecking order? (MY job is better-paying than his, therefore I'M better) And, I'm curious if folks who live in other countries are as hung up on "what do you do?" as we are. Perhaps it's something rooted in our culture, that what we do somehow equals who we are.

At any rate, perhaps it's because my wife and this fellow worked together that those questions weren't asked. They already know what each of them do. As a result, I knew what he did, and he probably knew what I did, and neither his wife nor I were all that much interested in asking each other that question.

Part IV: Coffee

In my sleep-addled state this morning I botched the coffee brewing process. I am drinking what has to be the absolute worst cup of coffee I've had at home since the last time I ran out of 'the good stuff' and was forced to drink 'the bad stuff.'

Part V: Music

When I'm alone in the office at work, I often live-stream a radio station I used to listen to when I lived somewhere else, far away. It plays a more preferable mix of songs and artists than either the classic rock station or the today's best hits station that is just about all the radio we can get here. On a regular basis, I grab a scrap piece of paper and scribble down the name of the artist and song playing so I can remember. And then I can't find the paper. Today, I found the paper, so here's one. Enjoy Andra Day, and have a Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 16, 2015

On Retaliation

NOTE: I'm stepping into a potentially dangerous zone of commentary here.

The easy thing to do is to hit back.

The 2011 Stanley Cup final was a brutal affair that made for great television and drama, even as it threatened to set hockey back 20 years. There was an unpunished incident of one player biting another, three players were knocked out of the series with serious injuries, and there was almost as much back-and-forth sniping in the media after the games as there was ankle-chopping and 'face washing' during the games.

Late in game 6, with the Bruins comfortably ahead, a series of scrums broke out on the ice. Boston 'superpest' Brad Marchand grabbed Vancouver superstar Daniel Sedin and did this:

The reaction of the person who recorded that was echoed across the hockey world.Sedin was ridiculed for not being tough enough, for not having 'grit' and 'heart' and all the sort of stuff that hockey fans in Canada and the US value over everything else.

Last Thursday, Marchand was on the receiving end of a bad hit to the head by Colorado's Gabriel Landeskog. Marchand, who had already missed two games earlier this year due to a concussion, was pissed. He picked himself up off the ice and did this:

Landeskog received a match penalty for intent to injure on the play. It meant he was tossed from the game and Boston would receive a five-minute powerplay (he was later suspended for two games by the NHL). However, Marchand's punch earned him a roughing penalty, negating two of Landeskog's five minutes. Boston did not score on the three-minute powerplay they ended up with and ended up losing the game 3-2.

Had Marchand not reacted the way he did, would things have worked out differently? We'll never know, but the reaction of the hockey forums I check out indicate that most people didn't blame him (and that's saying something; Marchand is popular pretty much only with Boston fans). After all, it's about "sending a message" to the other team, "sticking up for yourself", showing others that "you can't mess with us." It's the way of hockey.

Looking at the two incidents, though, Sedin's reaction is actually the harder road to take than Marchand's. There's almost no thought process to Marchand's; it's a straight-up reaction. Meanwhile, Daniel Sedin, even though he's no fighter (not that Marchand is; he starts trouble but rarely fights), surely had to want to sock Marchand in the jaw. Instead, he took the punches, trying not to put his team at a disadvantage, or potentially get himself injured in a fight with a Stanley Cup-deciding game coming two nights later. Having been in both positions while playing hockey, it's far, far easier to react, to let your temper get away from you, even if it costs the team.

Having been both Marchand the instigator and Marchand the reactor, I can tell you that goading an opponent into taking penalties is satisfying. I can also say exacting some form of 'frontier justice' with a cross-check, a two-hander, or a punch to the chops is also satisfying, in the moment. However, when you've been tossed from the game or you're sitting in the penalty box watching the other team score on the powerplay, you realize your short-term satisfaction can hurt the team.

In the wake of two horrific attacks last week that killed close to 200 people in two cities, it's easy for people to react like Marchand in the second instance and look for someone to hit. We're already hearing a lot of noise about refugees in Europe, and immigrants here. My fear is that we're going to see vigilante--or worse, state-sanctioned--acts carried out against Muslims in Europe and America. Will we see crackdowns and brutality? Bombings of mosques and beatings of Muslims in the streets and in their homes? I surely hope not. Aside from the potential loss of innocent lives, acting out will only serve to drive more people toward the Islamic State. It might actually be a better recruiting tool for them than mass killings.

My heart goes out to all who lost their lives or had them disrupted forever. I don't know what the solution is to the mess in the middle east, but I know it's not throwing a punch at the nearest target.

Monday, November 9, 2015


Folks, it's time for another entry in the query critique over at Carrie Pestritto's blog. Check it out, help a fellow writer out!

That's it for me, I really got nothing else this week. I started a post this morning but never got anywhere, then all day at work ideas were floating around but now that I'm home? Gone. Anyway, hopefully you've all been well and more productive than I! Be well.

Monday, November 2, 2015

The NaNo Train is Rolling

And I'm not on it. Again. As it turns out, given the way my yearly writing calendar works (not that I really have one), I don't always seem to have a draft to produce when November rolls around. This year, I fully expected to either be A) somewhere in the publication process for one of my completed projects or B) somewhere closes to wrapping up the drafting process of a new, new project, while C) the project I completed my first draft of last spring was either on submission or getting a final fine tuning before going on submission somewhere around the end of the year or early the next.

Man plans, and God disposes, as they say, and my plans are completely feshittled. In the case of being on submission, there's really no news since the last time I broke the "What happens on submission &c." rule, so, sadly, I'm not in the publication pipeline. As for B, unfortunately, C has gotten in the way. Regrettably, I'm not near to fine-tuning that manuscript. It's proven more difficult than expected, and while I've seen some good progress in the last few days (Saturday and Sunday were both very good for me; I think I may be turning into a morning person), there's still a long way to go. I also have not really learned how to be a person who can really write two projects at the same time.

What it comes down to is that there is no NaNo for me this year, but that's OK. Maybe I'll be able to finish this mule of a manuscript once and for all. I do suspect this is at least partly responsible for my extra-cranky blog posts over the last couple of months. I'm working on getting out of that funk.

How about you? Are you on the NaNo train this year?