Strange Brouhaha

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Eighty-seven words to spare

After two tries, where the official counting program didn't give me the same count as NeoOffice/J and I had to tack on extra endings, I finally managed to push my word total up over the official 50,000 mark. According to the "winner's page" at, 80% of participants don't finish, for whatever reason.

It was an interesting journey. I'm not necessarily sure I'd do it again, but there was certainly nothing objectionable about it. The most difficult parts were the first 10,000 and the last 10,000 words--the first because beginnings are tough, and the last because motiviation and inspiration dried up when the finish line was in sight. The middle just seemed to kind of melt past.

I've added the official winner's graphic to the sidebar (just scroll down). There's also a nice little banner on my profile page.

Update: Huh. The winner's page also says that the middle is "notoriously difficult". I must just be weird, because the middle 30,000 words were nothing compared with the last five or ten thousand. I didn't even really want to write at all today.

Friday, November 25, 2005

R.I.P. Pat Morita

Pat Morita died Thursday.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Mrs. O'Leary's cow becomes firefighter

Or maybe "Joe Hazelwood (Exxon Valdez) and Edward Smith (Titanic) form seamanship school." Or "Paris Hilton to teach people how not to be a publicity-grubbing whore."

Or, possibly, "Michael Brown to start emergency planning business".

Happy Thanksgiving

We went to The Old Feed Mill for Thanksgiving, just like we did last year. Everything I said then applies now, with the exception of the amount of food I ate. I remained relatively sane about the whole enterprise.

Right now, I'm thankful for taking the day off from writing.

Monday, November 21, 2005


  1. I am at 40,000 words. It's all downhill from here.

  2. Señor Frankie Crisp sent a link to a Quicktime movie of an incredible synchronized Christmas light display. It must be seen to be believed. And then we can all be thankful that we do not live next door to these people. Again, it's Quicktime.

  3. I'm sorry, but the Internet-enabled Telecaster is easily the stupidest thing I've seen in a long time.

Friday, November 18, 2005

What have you learned?

Savannah asked me this morning what I had learned from working on my National Novel Writing Month project.

First of all, I'm at 30,100 words right now, which I think means I'm about a day and a half ahead. I feel absolutely no pressure to get done. I can't imagine not finishing. If the rest of the weekends go the same as the first two, I don't see how I can fail. This means that I'm in real danger of becoming complacent. Yes...that means that I'm so guaranteed to finish that I'm probably not going to finish. So I've learned that I need to have some discipline and write anyway.

Second, I've learned that it's absolutely vital to have some sort of plan. From now on, when I hear a writer claim not to need an outline, I will say "Bullshit," loudly and clearly. I don't care what form it takes, whether it's a canonical outline or a bunch of notes scribbled on cocktail napkins. I went into this with no plan at all, and what I'm writing doesn't make a whole lot of sense. Oh, it tells a story alright, but the characters aren't consistent and I think the plot has changed a half-dozen times. The project is all about word count, not art, but it should be possible to have both. What I'm doing right now is pretty much like running a D&D game, where you need to be ready to make things up from whole cloth at the drop of a hat, and if your precious storyline gets trashed, well, that's tough. (Disclaimer: it may well be possible to write some things without an outline, but a plot-driven genre novel is not one of those things.)

Third, I've learned that without a plot, characters, or a plan, I'm reduced to writing filler in between action sequences. *Those* I can write without a plan. It's getting to the fight that's the problem.

That's what I've learned. Well, that and the fact that I can make stuff up while "Law & Order" is on.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Excellent Reason To Work

Mr. F. Crisp said a very wise thing to me as we left work: "Today you played guitar at work...for work." And it's true. I did. AWESOME.

R.I.P. Eddie Guerrero

I know nobody but me will care, but wrestler Eddie Guerrero was found dead Sunday. They're not saying just yet what killed him, but given his history, it was probably an overdose of something or other. That's the implication, anyway.

I used to watch a lot of wrestling; it's soap opera for boys. Eddie Guerrero was a great competitor; I was always a WWF fan, but I would watch WCW--back when they were separate entities--just to see Guerrero and the rest of the lWo wrestle. The storyline with Rey Mysterio, Jr., was just awesome.

Viva la raza, Eddie.

Update: Eddie died of heart failure.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Well, okay, I will. Err, won't. Err, will. Wait.

Let's say that you graduated from a private school in Hawaii. Its initials, let's say further, are "Iolani School." Its current K-12 tuition rate is over twelve thousand dollars a year. (Remember that number.) It provides very strong education in the sciences, arts, and humanities. At least, it did twenty years ago; we can assume that it still does.

The English teachers you had there were mostly competent. Some of them failed to understand, say, science fiction, and some of them were so wrapped up in teaching The Right Way that they needed to beat down creative thinking, but the majority of them left you with an appreciation for the English language and the vast number of ways in which you could use it.

For whatever reason (certain persons can feel free to refrain from commentary! <g>), you decide to look up the listings in the school's Alumni Database for your class. You notice that some of the names have "Send email" links next to them. Why...YOUR name has one of those links!

You decide to send yourself a message. You click on the link, noting with approval that you are not shown your own email address, a very nice touch. You wonder which email address the message will be sent to, so you fill in the form (sender's email, subject, and message), and click the send button. You recall with icy terror that the school's website had been in the habit of adding words in your name that you did not write.

You're looking at the email you sent yourself. It's very nice--the "from" address is the email address you entered on the form. There is a note attached, clearly from the Alumni Office, stating the origin of the email. They kindly inform you of the following: "If you do not wish to reply to the sender of this email you may feel free to do so."


Earlier, I asked you to remember a certain number. Recall it to yourself now, at whatever volume you feel is appropriate.

Okay. I realize that I'm picky. Part of it is natural, part of it is the result of having had to be picky professionally for the better part of the last decade--as an example, I've been known to submit technical writing bugs for misplaced commas. I'm painfully aware that my own spelling and grammar are not perfect, no matter how much I might wish the opposite.

This email, however, is part of the public face of an educational institution! Everything, and I mean everything that could possibly be seen by a human being should be checked, checked again, and then checked a third time to make absolutely sure that it's correct! Who okayed this?

What's worse, how many people using this service have seen this and let it slide?

Update: I decided to email the Alumni office and beg them to have that changed. Might as well let them know. I have now spent 1100 words on this topic, counting this entry, email to the alumni office, and a private rant to fellow travelers. That's 1100 words I haven't written for NaNoWriMo.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Quick Hits

Here are some things that caught my attention today...

  • God has better things to do: I saw a little story in CNN about beloved lunatic Pat Robertson warning the voters of Dover, Pennsylvania that God was going to unleash His wrath on them for voting out the eight members of the Dover School Board who were up for reelection. I'd like to unleash a little Shut The Hell Up on old Pat.

  • LET ME OUT!: As I've noted before, I'm a horrible traveler. Frankly, they'd be carrying me out of the world-record longest transatlantic flight in a body bag. Just thinking about being cooped up in an airplane for 22 hours gives me the shakes.

  • The Legend Lives On: Today is the 30th anniversary of the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald. I just figured I'd mention it. I like the song by Gordon Lightfoot, particularly the line "The lake, it is said, never gives up her dead when the skies of November turn gloomy." For other Great Lakes music, check out Lee Murdock.

  • Good Eats: If you live in Madison, you need to go to Urban Market at 1 Sherman Terrace and have a chicken salad sandwich. Just thinking about this sandwich makes me smile. Yes, it's that good. I have no idea where they get their chicken salad from, but it is almost--almost!--better than the best meal I've ever paid money for. I honestly don't know which I'd choose. No, really. I'm smiling now just thinking about the damn sandwich.

Well, that's a double-wide assload of words that I didn't spend on my NaNoWriMo project. Better get cracking.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

The Greatest? Not anymore.

You know what? Screw Muhammad Ali. What happened to "I’m not going 10,000 miles from home to help murder and burn another poor nation simply to continue the domination of white slave masters of the darker people the world over. This is the day when such evils must come to an end"? Frankly, for him to stand up there and joke with Little George and receive praise from the same kind of people whose actions caused him to say those words about Vietnam don't even have the words. Maybe the Parkinson's and the adulation he's received over the last decade have gone to his head.

There's always a chance that he'll throw his medal in the Ohio River, I suppose. Let's not hold our breaths.

This is the hard part

The most difficult part of NaNoWriMo so far has actually been staying awake to do the writing. Now that I'm employed full-time again, I'm finding it really difficult to stay awake much past 11:30. I fell asleep writing again last night--and I mean I passed out in my chair for over an hour. By that time it was too late for me to want to bother to update my word count or anything, and I just stumbled off to bed.

I'm behind again, though. Not by much. Hey, at least I put a new excerpt in my NaNoWriMo profile. The formatting is kind of messed up: trust me, it doesn't look like that on the page.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005


Sadly, what's-her-name in Kansas is exactly right: start laughing.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

The most annoying thing...

...about losing the VCR is that there is now no longer a clock in my direct line of sight when I am watching television. I didn't realize how much I depended on that clock. Even though I just need to turn my head ninety degrees to see another clock (not counting the computer clock, here), I really feel the absence of the VCR clock. Fortunately, we are awash in clocks.

Saturday, November 05, 2005


It's raining and thundering outside today, with the occasional flash of lightning for good measure. This afternoon, while Lani and her friend were playing and I was typing away, I heard a loud *SNAP!* followed by a crack of thunder that sounded like it was in the room with us.

"What was that snap?" I asked.

The girls shrugged.

"Are you guys okay?"

They nodded. I took a quick look around. It had sounded electrical, but my iPod was hooked up to the stereo and still functioning. Everything else looked fine. The power, obviously, was still on. I looked nervously at my iBook, which was plugged into its adapter. Since it was fully charged, I unplugged it, locking the barn door after the horse escaped. There had been no howl of outrage from upstairs, so I figured that the computers up there were fine.

Around dinner time, the girls were eating in Lani's room and Savannah and I settled down to watch some TV. I wanted to know what time it was, so I did the easiest thing: I looked at the clock on the VCR.

Hmmmmmm. No clock on the VCR.

I guess I know what the snap was.

It's interesting, though: it's plugged into a spike protector, it's not the first device plugged into it, and everything else in the whole house is okay. I'd like to know why the VCR was the only thing to go?

Fortunately, with Black Friday coming up, it's a great time for the thing to have died. I'm hoping that at least one retailer will have a DVD recorder on sale for cheaper than the price of a VCR--maybe I'm not looking in the right places, but the cheapest VCR I've been able to find online was about $68, which is honestly more than I want to spend on something we use at most once a month, if even that. It's only $22 less than the cheapest DVD recorder I saw. (Don't tell Savannah, but we need a new DVD player anyway, so we might as well get a recorder.)

I'm not eligible yet for a discount on products from my new employer :(

(P.S. Yes, I should be writing something else. My profile now has a novel excerpt attached to it. Read it soon, because I'm going to change it. By tonight, I should be all caught up, and maybe even a little ahead. At this point, NaNoWriMo is 1/6 of the way done.)

Update: According to the NaNoWriMo, 10,002 words by the end of Sunday is "on pace." I will be past that by this time tomorrow.

Friday, November 04, 2005

This is WRONG!

Slashdot this morning linked to a story about a guy--I "forget" his name, so let's just call him Idiot Asshole--who is attempting to patent PLOTS. If the Patent Office grants this one, be prepared for the death of all creativity.

No, I'm not making this up. He's trying to get the Patent Office to issue him a patent for a plot. This is not the same as copyright. He wants to own plots, not just a specific instance of a plot--in other words, he wants to own any and all applications of "the son and daughter of two warring factions fall in love and meet with tragedy," not just "West Side Story". You can kiss movies, plays, books and short stories goodbye if this goes through, as the USPTO is flooded with patent applications and authors start needing to do patent searches before they start the next Great American Whatever.

It will fail, or at least I hope so. Not just because it's utterly, utterly stupid of Idiot Asshole to even conceive of this idea, but because there has to be prior art out there that's close enough.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

I love my iPod

(Yes, I should be writing something else.)

In my capacity as a private citizen, I want to say something that I don't say often enough: I frickin' love my iPod.

Right now, I'm listening to the Beatles' "The Beatles." You know, "The White Album." I don't know how many times I've listened to it over the years--it's a lot--but this is probably the first time I've listened to the whole thing on the iPod. I'm hearing stuff on every track that I swear I've never heard before: instrument detail, mumbled vocal parts, just...stuff. The bass on "Helter Skelter," way over on the left, I actually *hear* it, as opposed to just getting a general impression of its presence.

Yeah, part of it is that in the past, I've listened to it through stereo speakers and not headphones. MP3s are not particularly detail-revealing, since MP3 is, you know, lossy and all. However, the iPod is in the right place at the right time--and I am willing to swear that for whatever reason, the same MP3 doesn't sound nearly as good if I play it through iTunes on my iBook. Maybe it's the headphone circuit or something. Who knows?

I love my iPod.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Last one, I promise.

I'm 2,000 words in the hole already. Fortunately, there's no "Law and Order" on tomorrow night so I can start a wee bit earlier. Heh heh.

If you really want, you can look at my NaNoWriMo profile to see how I'm doing.

NaNoWriMo II: Electric Boogaloo

I'll not bore you with daily updates, but I have at least started my NaNoWriMo project. Although I fell well short of today's 1700 words, I have words on paper. Or characters onscreen, as the case may be. Beginnings are difficult, as they say, so I've gotten the really hard part out of the way. Yay me.