Tag Archives: Telling Stories


The Slog and the Snyeg

Categories: A Day in the Life, Blue Pyramid News, From the Road, Telling Stories, Tags: , , ,

Don’t freak out if you’re getting scary-looking red screens from portions of the Blue Pyramid, especially the front page or the currently archived Women World Leaders Quiz. The site was hacked. It was actually hacked via PHP scripts that were hacked on the Camp Kupugani website (hence why the WWLQ is the epicenter of the problem and has accordingly been archived). Everything should be fine now and even look fine to everyone (i.e. no red screens) soon.

In the meantime, hi, how are you?

We made it to the Bay Area on Friday night for a whirlwind meet-up at Mario’s La Fiesta in Berkeley with a bunch of old friends and co-workers. Then we drove over to Tracy that night, down to Fresno Saturday morning, and have been holed up with the Garin Clan ever since, mostly still unassembled until later this week. I’ve been editing about as much as I can stomach, finally over the halfway point for chapters (51%), but still with about 60% of the pages to go. The later chapters are (apparently much) longer, although there’s one exceptional chapter that helps throw that off, and hopefully won’t require much editing.

New Year’s Day distribution to volunteer readers is looking less likely, but is still sort of the optimistic goal. I’ll keep you (probably excessively) posted.

The only other real news to report from this relaxing tenure with my manuscript and Em’s fam is how heartbroken I was to miss the foot-plus snow in Princeton that came the day after we flew away. The odds are overwhelming that it will be the largest winter storm in Jersey during our two years living there, and while getting snowed in and having to delay this trip would have been less than ideal, editing by the heater between frolics in foot-deep snow is just about my idea of the best living ever. I still can’t think about the storm without getting this gut-turning sadness. As I told Emily, I just don’t think I’ll ever really be happy until I live somewhere like Minnesota or Nevada City or Buffalo or Siberia for at least a year or two, where snow is so commonplace and expected that I don’t have to cling to every prediction and forecast, but can instead have confidence that it will abound. Suffice it to say that had I been born in such an environment, I think I would be a lifelong optimist. Snow makes me that happy.

I hope you’re as happy these holidays as I am in snow. Once I’ve sent out PDF’s of my fully edited tome, I will be too.


Never Been to Austin

Categories: A Day in the Life, Pre-Trip Posts, Quick Updates, Telling Stories, Tags: , , ,

For the first time in a long time (maybe since Reykjavik, Iceland?), I will be visiting a previously unvisited town today exclusively via airplane. Not that I expect to get much beyond the airport (which Em would have you believe doesn’t count), but hey, Austin! For a town in Texas, I’ve heard good things.

Thus begins a three-week tour of the West that seems all the more meaningful for our recent absence from said region. We’ll be in the Bay Area tonight (one night only – come see as at Mario’s in Berkeley at 8 PM!), then trekking down to Fresno for Christmas or so, then over to Albuquerque for New Year’s.

The trip is slated to feature family, friends, food, and hopefully the conclusion of my ever-lengthening editing process. Currently at 33% of chapters and 24% of pages, still aiming (perhaps stretching slightly) for a January 1 distribution to volunteer readers.

And now I have to go scoop up the cat, who will be spending the next three weeks in Philly. Oh Pando…


Life Just Keeps on Getting Better

Categories: A Day in the Life, Let's Go M's, Telling Stories, Tags: , ,

Holy cow. The Mariners, apparently not satisfied with filling step one of my philosophy on baseball (stock your team with speedsters like Chone Figgins), are apparently a little bit of paperwork away from filling step two, which is to stock your team with top-notch starting pitching.

Cliff Lee is about to be a Mariner. CLIFF LEE!

I haven’t been this excited since the Erik Bedard trade, the last time the M’s landed an ace-level pitcher. Except this time, the trade isn’t going to cripple our team, mostly because our current GM isn’t named Bavasi. Also, Cliff Lee is a proven multi-year talent, while Bedard had had just one great season as the basis of his success.

I mean, did you see Cliff Lee pitch in the postseason? Holy cow. I’m so glad we’re going to still be in the States for (at least most of) the 2010 baseball season.

In other news:

  • Emily prompted me to look up Rainbow Brite on Wikipedia tonight, after she jokingly embraced my sarcastic suggestion that we name a child, should we ever have one, Rainbow Bright Clayton. This led me to discover that the cartoon character of ’80’s lore starred in a whopping 13 (thirteen) broadcast episodes, almost exclusively in 1986, yet somehow grossed $1 billion (with a b) in 1980’s dollars from merchandising. Or $77 million an episode. And you think baseball players get paid a lot.
  • I have edited 19% of American Dream On‘s chapters and 14% of its pages in the last three days, working on a sporadic schedule. It’s exhausting. Completely wiping me out. I was in no way prepared for the sheer physicality required of intensely editing a book this size. At the same time, it’s been going far better than any major editing project I’ve ever undertaken, something I can credit in part to countless hours of editing grant proposals and other paperwork for Glide in my last day job. The amount of work I’m putting in, the amount of change manifest, and the amount of satisfaction I’m getting from the newly emerging draft are all great indicators that I’ve shed my reputation as someone who has trouble with editing. Unfortunately, getting to 100% is a must before anyone sees the thing, so we may be looking closer to New Year’s than Christmas for distribution to first-run readers. My interest in getting feedback is keeping me motivated.
  • Plus, I can edit in the Chancellor Green Library. So there’s that. Pretty much anything is worth doing in there, no matter how much energy it takes.
  • Spent Saturday in New York City, taking the train all the way from Princeton’s “Dinky” station to downtown Manhattan and (almost all the way) back to see former ‘Deisians for a day of games. Managed to tie for a win in Citadels and run a distant third in Railway Rivals, a stellar railroad game that was West Germany’s 1984 Game of the Year. Hm. I guess you don’t have to take my word for it.
  • Cliff Lee!



Categories: A Day in the Life, Quick Updates, Telling Stories, Tags: , ,

I am pleased to announce that about seven minutes ago, I completed the first draft of American Dream On. Currently clocking in at 145,003 words, it has taken me 7 years, 6 months, and 2 days to write, though over 85% of it was written in the last 100 days.

I will be spending most of the time between now and my flight to Oakland (Friday, 18 December) furiously editing the work so I can have it in good enough shape to distribute to readers by Christmas. Please let me know if you want to read it (and haven’t told me this already).

Actually, I’m going to spend a ridiculous amount of time in the next week celebrating, seeing friends I’ve been neglecting, preparing for the trip, and basking in the glow of 100 days that have salvaged my faith in my life and its potential. But seriously, you should be able to read it by Christmas.



Sprinting for the Finish Line

Categories: A Day in the Life, Telling Stories, Tags: ,

Technically, December just became the most verbose written month of my life.

And it’s been here for eight and a half days.

I have contributed over 35,000 words (~140 pages) to the novel in the last eight and a half days. This is technical, because a decent chunk of that (~9,000 words) was pre-written in one form or another. So the pace is a little misleading, though still blistering. I have been able to process very little other than American Dream On this month.

I have a whopping two chapters to go. The total piece is over 140,000 words and looks like it will be shy of 150,000 in final form. Which is good, because I’m totally not ready to edit a 600 page book. 580 pages should be much more manageable.

I’m a little loopy at this point. But I’ve written 6,500 words in the last 24 hours alone, so I’m going to let myself slide. Slide into bed. And then wake up and eat, sleep, and breathe more novel.

You haven’t seen euphoria till you’ve seen a finished novel from a manic depressive. Sometime this week, watch out people.

And it looks like my streak of being ahead of deadlines will be intact, unless it somehow takes me 5.5 days to finish two chapters after I’ve knocked out 11.5 chapters in 8.5 days (1.35 chapters/day). Not that I’m trying to tempt fate or anything. But this would say I should be done this time Friday morning and that would be just grand by me.

If you can’t tell, I really need to sleep.


First Snow

Categories: A Day in the Life, Just Add Photo, Telling Stories, Tags: , ,

Today I was reminded why I came to the East Coast. Sure, I may have written 3 chapters in the last 24 hours and be capping the officially most productive writing period of my entire life (the amount written here has surpassed the entire length of Loosely Based in a slightly shorter timeframe), but this is what I really came for…

Snow!: the view from our porch.

Watching snow makes me happy:

Who needs a Christmas tree?

Starting to stick…

Starting to accumulate…

Pandora is unimpressed:

The world transformed:



Categories: A Day in the Life, Let's Go M's, Telling Stories, Tags: , ,

Didn’t write a D&C today because the focus was on catching up on chapter 51, left unwritten yesterday because I was hanging out online with the Meppers all night.

But it’s done and now I’m very excited that the number of chapters remaining is now a single digit number, especially since the number of days remaining till deadline is not.

But I want to take this brief break from my writing play-by-play to express my jubilation at this development, fresh from the hot stove. Chone Figgins is a Mariner.

Russ’ heckling of him on my behalf in Anaheim aside, Chone Figgins is exactly the kind of player I love to root for. Essentially, the Rickey Henderson School of Baseball is that which I most enjoy – it’s how I create lineups in baseball video games and it’s how I’d stack a real life team were I ever a GM. Lots of speedy, bunty guys who steal bases, get infield hits and triples, and basically make life a real pain for anyone they’re playing against. It’s my favorite brand of baseball offense.

And with Ichiro and Figgy joining up (and presumably hitting 1-2) in Seattle next season, it seems like the M’s GM is on my wavelength. Already looking quite promising, 2010 just got a little better.


Mo Mentum

Categories: A Day in the Life, But the Past Isn't Done with Us, Politics (n.): a strife of interests masquerading, Telling Stories, The Agony of the Wait is the Agony of Debate, Tags: , , , ,

The sample size is only 41 hours, but December’s been awfully good so far.

I wrote another 16 pages last night (early this morning), bringing December to a startling 8,149 word count (~32.5 pages) in just two overnight sessions, or 45% of the total from the entire last month combined. It appears I’m prepared to take this deadline seriously. Eleven chapters remain in twelve days, so this is no time to get complacent, but I’m feeling quite good about the whole picture as it’s shaping up for the home stretch. For what it’s worth, last night really felt like work, too, which most of this book hasn’t. So maybe the writing will seem forced (though I doubt it from a quick review), but if nothing else it’s a sign I can struggle through not feeling 100% motivated (which I felt the night before). I know I’ve been going on about the writing process a lot lately, but it feels something like a sport… and this month I appear ready to play through any pain that might arise.

Speaking of sports and pain, I turned in perhaps my worst session of basketball in my life on the last night of November, but am looking for a shot at redemption in tonight’s closing game of the end-of-year 3-on-3 IM season. Our team’s 5-2 and tied for second (with the team we play tonight) and I am ready to not overthink my shots, which I’ve concluded was responsible for my something like 0-8 performance on Monday. Nevertheless, the night of crappy basketball led to an overnight of amazing writing, so I’m prepared to make that trade again if need be.

Last night rounded out the first of four debate semesters in my tenure as Rutgers coach, though the team may scrounge together the funds to send a team down to UMBC this weekend while I pound away furiously on the keyboard in the office here. The team made me a card and debated a joke-round about me possibly regretting my decision to coach at Rutgers that kept the mood light and hopefully optimistic at the end. I am, in sum, quite satisfied with the success of the team after one term, recognizing that the first semester was always going to be the hardest and it being among the most successful semesters Rutgers has ever had on APDA is a promising sign.

The Book Quiz II is starting make the rounds, fueled in part by a campaign I’ve launched to contact a bunch of people who posted the original and get them to take the sequel. I really should have done this with the Country Quiz II when it launched, but you may recall that November/December 2007 was among the most intense times of my life, probably the hardest two-month period of my day job career outside of April/May 2005. It’s interesting to note that said quiz also was launched around Thanksgiving, though I failed to make the strategic decision to hold it till after the holiday, instead choosing to launch it on the Wednesday before.

Okay, that’s creepy – I just realized that both quiz sequels were completed precisely on the day before Thanksgiving. Bizarre.

Anyway, it appears most people (at least those taking it so far) consider themselves more “old school” than “with it”, as books from the older chain off the first question are vastly outpacing the latter. So far the leaders are Much Ado About Nothing, Jane Eyre, The Scarlet Letter, Romeo and Juliet, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, The Importance of Being Earnest, The Good Earth, Little Women, Treasure Island, The Canterbury Tales, and The Life and Opinions of Tristam Shandy, Gentleman. The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, at twelfth overall, is the top answer linked from the second answer to the first question.

This may be unsurprising, however, given a Facebook/blogging gap that seems to be opening up. After perusing so many blogs that were initially taken in by the Book Quiz, it seems that the surviving blogs from the last five years belong disproportionately to older Internet users, consisting roughly of people my age or older. Meanwhile, the people currently in compulsory education seem not to have picked up on the blogging habit, preferring instead to focus on shorter media like the endlessly discussed Facebook and Twitter. Mesco has urged relentlessly that I create a Facebook application for the quizzes, something I’ve long aspired to do, but my options now are mortgage all my time learning how to code one or use a cookie-cutter application machine that doesn’t even know how to process the BP quiz format. So it goes. Someday, maybe after I bank two or three books, you’ll be able to get my quizzes on Facebook too. And then everyone will be all Infinite Jest and Freakonomics.

An interesting byproduct of the BQ2’s popularity has also been a bit of a revival in the book-referral-ads that are in the corner of the answer pages, exhorting people to buy the book they were just associated with on Amazon. I haven’t sold a book in a long time through one of these, but someone just bought not one, not two, but three copies of Sarah Palin’s Going Rogue through one such link, in what I can only assume was complete fulfillment of their Christmas shopping. So just in case you think I’m not doing any good with my website, I’ll have you know I just pocketed $1.74 of what is rightfully Sarah Palin’s money. Not quite inspiring Michael Steele to condemn her, but it’s not my fault if he doesn’t take his cues from APDA demo rounds.

Man, I really meant to get around to talking about my fabulous Thanksgiving break down in DC, but I was on too much of an Internet moratorium to write about it at the time and I’m too caught up in the heady present to write about it now. I may flesh out the details, but suffice it to say that there were great friends, a fabulous view of the stormy city, lively debates, spicy corn soup, Settlers, a scorching Ticket to Ride victory, more than a hundred pages of War and Peace, an unexpected meet-up with Anna, Chipotle, the Smithsonian Natural History Museum, and Waffle House. Yeah. It was like my birthday for four days or something.

If only two-years-ago me could see me now.


Hampered by Illness, Holiday, November Disappoints

Categories: A Day in the Life, Telling Stories, Tags: ,

After a roaring October that seemed like the most prolific month of my life (though it actually trailed September), November was a struggle that made things close again for meeting my self-imposed December 15th deadline for first-draft completion of American Dream On.

Missing a full week because of illness, as well as a half-week due to Thanksgiving, plus spending two weekends at debate tournaments, I managed just 18,004 words (~72 pages) during the month. The good news, of course, is that that’s still 72 pages, which is pretty good for a pretty bad month. Still, you might consider this “blowing my lead” since I had been on pace to coast into the deadline and now have to hustle to complete 13.5 chapters in half of December.

Last night didn’t hurt any, though, as I wrote 16.5 pages and completed 1.5 of those 13.5 chapters, giving me a fortnight to write 12 chapters. No picnic, but certainly something I can accomplish at roughly October’s pace.

Here’s a look at how each writing period has gone, if only to reaffirm that this schedule is still working out, even with the hindrances faced in November:
November 2009: 18,004 words (~72 pages)
October 2009: 34,533 words (~138 pages)
September 2009: 34,811 words (~139 pages)
June 2002-August 2009: 19,083 words (~76 pages)

So yeah, even a lousy month was competitive with seven full years of writing on the side of day jobs. And while the decline looks precipitous month-to-month, it’s certainly worth noting that my schedule is almost completely clear for the next two weeks, free of any projects that are not the novel. If I need to start writing during daylight hours, having two or even three sessions a day, so be it.

Also worth noting that this thing is probably going to be over 500 conventional pages when it’s done. Huh.


Travel Wednesday Round-Up

Categories: A Day in the Life, Pre-Trip Posts, Quick Updates, Telling Stories, The Agony of the Wait is the Agony of Debate, Upcoming Projects, Tags: , , , , ,

Have been working furiously to prepare for Thanksgiving, which we’re spending in DC with Fish & Madeleine (think I got that spelling right), starting in just a few hours. Have been terribly remiss in updating things about my life, but there’s a good deal of news to report, if only blippily under the time constraints…

1. The Book Quiz II is done, but not being launched yet, because I’m actually being (gasp!) strategic about my webpage for once. Launching the quiz on one of the least Internety days of the year (everyone’s out traveling today) would be a classic Blue Pyramid approach, but I’m thinking that a launch at weekend’s end when everyone’s returned to their computers and are preparing for CyberMonday is actually optimal timing. So you’ll have to wait just a few more days to find out what other book you are. Quick preview, though: I’m apparently Jane Eyre.

2. Fordham went pretty well. I got to debate in a demo round between 4th and 5th round, running an emergency case I’d written about why RNC chair Michael Steele should publicly condemn Sarah Palin. One of our novice teams broke to novice semifinals, then won their semi round, advancing to finals and ultimately finishing second. While it’s not as glorious as being in the varsity outrounds, it shows that I’m probably doing something right that the younger generation is having such success. And it bodes well for the future, which is where it’s at. Taking the long view is a big part of coaching. At the end of the semester (we’ve basically hit the end of the line for tournaments the team can afford), I’d say we’ve exceeded expectations, with a varsity break, a novice break, two novices on the NOTY board, and countless winning records.

3. American Dream On is 105,820 words (~423 pages) and counting, with 14 chapters to be written in the next three weeks. Last night’s session was one of the best, writing a highly anticipated chapter that went even better than I was hoping, I think. I have to review it, but I’m pretty excited. The final push will take the book up to about 125k words or so, but I’m pretty optimistic that I’ll make deadline with other priorities (quiz, debate, etc.) fading out as December 15th approaches. I can’t wait to have people read it, but I’m highly conscious of the need for one solid round of editing before it makes the rounds of the volunteer reading corps. I do think that the palpable excitement of getting it out to people will fuel my energy for making a more prolific than average push to actually hit the deadline, which only further ups the excitement.

4. We got our car back, not having to pay any part of the ~$11,000 worth of damage to the vehicle. It’s pretty sobering that a crash where one’s car receives an out-of-control onslaught while stopped can do damage worth about 40% of the car’s original paid value, but such is the nature of things. So far, all the repair looks good (it’s guaranteed), but it’ll get a nice little workout on the way to DC today. All signs point to it being fully functional, though, so I’m grateful for that (in addition to, you know, surviving the ordeal in the first place).

5. I’m now running late.


Does Not Compute (or How I Learned to Start Worrying and Love Task Manager)

Categories: A Day in the Life, Let's Go M's, Telling Stories, Tags: , ,

I have just leveled up in computer knowledge.

Drawbacks include the fact that I wasted most of my night doing this, that the knowledge gained was largely unnecessary, and that my writing session may or may not be shot as a result.

But hey, knowledge.

It all started when I wanted to know the voting breakdowns of the AL Manager of the Year. In the old days, media outlets would provide the full voting summary of any given award in the same article where the award is announced. You know, with the number of 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place votes and then the complete vote total at the end. But for some reason, at least in the last year or so, a lot of outlets stopped doing this. Especially Yahoo!, which for whatever reason (fantasy sports tradition, I guess) has become my personal favored provider of sports news.

So I went looking for the AL Manager of the Year voting. You see, I happen to think that Mike Scioscia was a pretty bad pick and I wanted to see who agreed with me. Not that Don Wakamatsu, rookie Mariner skipper, was a shoo-in or anything, but I actually think Ron Gardenhire deserved the award, with maybe Ron Washington and Wak duking it out for second. Since I agreed heartily with the AL Cy Young (even though my boy Felix Hernandez didn’t get the award) and NL Manager of the Year, I figured the voting on AL MOTY had to be closer to reflect my dissent.

One of the first sites I found, however, failed to tell me the full voting record. It turned out to be someone’s personal ballot, probably not even a baseball writer. And then my manual cookie-acceptance filters started going crazy and extra windows started popping open and I tried to shut down Firefox as fast as I could. Firefox closed and instead of shutting down my computer as fast as possible, I stupidly reopened the browser and started looking for those elusive vote totals.

I found them (Wak got 2 first-place votes! Gardenhire was second overall! Generally intelligent votes abounded, save for the inane voting for Joe Girardi), but also soon found that there was a weird-looking virus “detection” pop-up message on my screen too, letting me know that a program called “System Defender” had found all these viruses and wanted me to take action right away.

I’m not a fan of anti-virus software in general or even conceptually, since almost every anti-virus software program I’ve ever found either (A) charges money, (B) is actually a virus, or (C) both. Making differentiations between the programs seems almost impossible and their effectiveness is often dubious even at the highest level. Recently, though, I have had a good bit of success with the popular (and free) Malwarebytes Anti-Malware program which seems to be pretty well regarded and has yet to act like a virus itself.

Judiciously wary of the purported software, the name “System Defender”, and the Windows-look-alike shield that just says “I am phishily trying to trick you” all over it, I avoided clicking on anything in this program and furiously got my Anti-Malware running. It found several problematic files, then did its magic, and I figured I’d be all set.

It took about three full restart runs of this pattern (restart, swear at the fact that the System Defender dubiously reappeared upon restart, run Anti-Malware, restart, repeat) before I started looking for an end-run solution around this tried and true methodology. And then I had to go to intramural basketball (my triumphant return after a week of illness), so I just shut my computer down for a while to let it think about what it had done.

This post should just be about basketball and my love of the game and how good it felt to be healthy enough to play and still fell I was getting air to my lungs, how I need to start playing twice a week with or without IM’s, how my muscle memory has preserved my downtown 3-point shot but the streakiness of said shooting remains, how we lost by a point in a hard-fought struggle, and so on. But System Defender had other plans for my night.

I won’t regale you with every twist and turn in my battle with this nefarious software or my ultimate conquest. Some highlights of things that I learned or remembered along the way, though:

  • Internet forums are generally helpful in aiding the deletion of known virus software, but they only go so far. Eventually, you will be on your own and have to outwit the beast.
  • You will have to reveal hidden files, INCLUDING system files that Microsoft warns you against revealing as though it were the file that proves Microsoft is a monopoly.
  • You should search by date and try to pinpoint files created within the first 2-3 minutes of infection. Narrowing file searches by date will allow you to find and delete most everything.
  • Safe Mode is your friend. Restart in Safe Mode by pressing F8, then delete the files that won’t go down because the nefarious program is still running.

Even if this doesn’t help you, this list will be invaluable to me in the future, so chalk it up to notes on how to combat the dangers of the future.

Of course, once I’d finally deleted everything, had a successful restart without the bad program, danced around the room, and gotten over my euphoria, I realized that Task Manager was still down. It had gone down in the wake of System Defender’s original attack, never to return despite repeated pressing of control-alt-delete and right clicking of the taskbar and so on. Even with System Defender defeated, it had left this one vestige of its success.

To which the answer was, of course, System Restore. That only took 3 Internet forums and several bad pieces of harder advice to figure out. System Restore timestamps the Windows settings every 24 hours or so and saves them for a while in case you want to backtrack in time from a serious mistake. This alone would not have wiped out the virus, but it was enough to put a bow on the restoration effort once I’d taken out all the mysteriously buried files it had installed.

For those of you reading this narrative in terror for the status of my novel which has been written in its entirety on this computer, fear not. I’ve been backing it up almost constantly in several different locations, including my secret cache under the mountains of Utah (seriously). By far my larger concern was lost time in working on the novel if the problem persisted or if I would have to get a new computer or do some larger restart of the whole thing. Not that this program ever looked threatening enough to do such things – after all, I could still access all my files, just with an annoying series of occasional pop-ups in the background.

But System Defender may have won this night, if not the war. My beloved word counter in WordPress tells me that I’m closing in on 1200 words for this post, aggravating if only because that would be a half-decent night of writing, but instead I’ve been regaling the torments of my last few hours. Sigh. Maybe there’s something still left in the tank. Time to go find out.


Sick But Happy

Categories: A Day in the Life, Telling Stories, The Agony of the Wait is the Agony of Debate, Tags: , ,

Just a quick line so that you all know I’m still around… the lack of any updates has mostly been the result of an ambiguous sickness I’ve contracted recently that I have tentatively diagnosed as potential walking pneumonia. It may just be a weird cold, but I’ve never heard of a cold without nasal congestion where it all goes into the lungs directly instead.

Anyway, it’s been a good few days, illness aside. The Rutgers team broke (made the elimination rounds – it’s a good thing) for the first time in two years at American Pro-Ams last weekend, prompting perhaps more excitement from me than even the kids at the time. They dropped their quarterfinal, but by all accounts it was close. Our speeches in the round, which was about pregnancy quotas in a post-apocalyptic liberal democracy, were recorded and are being posted on YouTube.

I also played intramural basketball on Monday, having joined a Monday/Wednesday night league that fits pretty well with Tuesday/Thursday debate practice, giving me something to do out of the house most nights. Although playing as hard as I did on Monday without having played in a long time may have had something to do with breaking myself down enough for this illness. It’s not entirely clear.

In any case, everything’s more or less fine except that I’m exhausted and this is playing a little havoc with my ability to write anything interesting, so I’m having to take a longer break than is ideal when up against the December 15th deadline, now perilously close to just a month away. This last month is going to have to be a barn-burner, especially if this sickness lingers in any way.

Overall, though, things are good. Debate and writing and life are all going pretty darn well. If I can just take a full deep breath, I’ll be set.


Assessing October

Categories: A Day in the Life, Pre-Trip Posts, Telling Stories, The Agony of the Wait is the Agony of Debate, Tags: , , ,

October 2009 is one for the ages.

It wasn’t the spookiest October, though one could easily argue that the moment I resigned myself to death made this the literally scariest October on record. Certainly one hopes that this much abject fear is not revisited frequently. And the renewing inspiration of surviving what looks like a deadly threat is always worth experiencing… it had been since May 2005 that I’d had a near-death experience!

It wasn’t the most volatile October by any stretch. Most any prior month seemed stormier for one reason or another. Not that this was devoid of ups and downs. The obvious aforementioned down aside, Em struggled with a more difficult time in grad school than anticipated and I flitted between exhaustion, frustration, and excitement in wrestling with my book and getting some perspective on debate coaching.

What it might have been, almost certainly was, was the most productive October ever. And given that October tends to be high-energy and high-productivity for me, that is saying something. I have tended, the summer of Loosely Based aside, to write more in October and to feel more inspired during the month than any other time in the year, although March tends to be competitive. But this October, though there are about 38 hours remaining in the month (that I won’t be writing during), I have written 34,533 words of American Dream On, making it arguably the most prolific month of my life. That’s over 1,100 words every day, on average, counting several days of no writing. It’s also ~138 pages total, putting me on pace to write well over 1,500 pages a year at this pace. Not that I’m saying I can keep that up, but at the same time, it makes my 3 books/year aspiration look pretty manageable.

American Dream On now stands within 1,000 words of Loosely Based, meaning the next writing session will almost certainly make it the longest piece I’ve ever written. The target size is increasing a bit over time, standing now in the vicinity of 125,000 words as I try to tie everything together and leave myself enough time to explain things. It may run longer as I’m thinking I may need 65 chapters instead of 55, which may even put my December 15th deadline in some jeopardy, though this can be mitigated by stepping up my game. After all, I’ve hardly felt like I’m writing at a breakneck pace. This has actually felt pretty comfortable, pretty sustainable. I’ve likened it to cruise control. I think I could get closer to 50,000 words a month if I really pressured myself.

I know I’ve talked about all this a lot, that I’m probably becoming a rather dull stuck record on the numbers games, writing, and the issues entailed therein. But the discovery of this productivity, really unfolding and getting into high gear this month, is almost certainly the second most exciting discovery of my life (behind finding Emily). The idea that I could conceivably write six books in Princeton, creating a serious portfolio for myself after nearly three decades of struggling with endless ideas and only one manuscript, this makes my whole life seem worthwhile. Let alone if any of those six books catch on, securing some sort of life for myself in this state on a permanent basis.

I’m trying (and failing, evidently) not to get too far ahead of myself. One book at a time, one idea. This book, being in the works for eight years, is certainly going more quickly than something that I just came up with might. It may prove to not be very good when I get around to editing – I can already anticipate that it will require more revision than LB did. There’s a lot of slogging to come and I can’t imagine that I’ll really end up averaging 1,000 words a day over 365 days.

But it’s possible. And after going to sleep at night for the better part of three decades asking myself what I’ve accomplished, telling myself that I’m falling short of my potential, it’s a mighty fine change. I somehow think it would be hard to keep up that narrative for myself if I wrote 4-6 books by the time Em’s done with her program. So, yes, one book at a time. But I can start to see the light on the edge of my life and it feels like the culmination of most everything that’s ever mattered.

And I can’t wait to have people start reading.

UPenn this weekend – debate has given me the perfect break and pacing and interspersing my secluded life with real human contact and discussion, just as planned. Very excited about the teams that are going and the potential to do well. Every weekend, like every book or chapter, is a new opportunity to maximize potential, to start fresh. Every round one starts with the possibility of winning the tournament. It’s amazing how easily I’ve been able to manifest my own need for competition into the vicarious joys of coaching. Maybe not that amazing, if one thinks about how competitive coaches can be, but it’s a relief for me that I don’t feel a big void from not competing. And if I start to, there’s always APDA Cup.

If you need me, I’ll be in the rented 2010 red Corolla with a spoiler and a sunroof. I miss the Prius already.



Categories: A Day in the Life, Quick Updates, Telling Stories, Tags: , ,

I love how a bad day can be salvaged by a good session of writing.

I love how I can transform from feeling utterly unproductive, a blob waiting around for nightfall and wondering why I’m squandering my time, into the most productive joyous person graced with a ticket to hang out on Earth.

Most of my days aren’t bad now, most of them have been productive in their own right with shorter works or web projects or just taking care of the household chores. But when they are, what a nice surprise it is to be saved by the “work” of these days. How strange would it have been for any prior job to save me in this way? To keep me going when the chips were down in other parts of life, even if for only a day at a time?

This must be what it means when people say they love what they do.

I spent the better part of a decade, let alone what kind of a use of time even more years at school were, spinning wheels at pseudo-productive pursuits while somehow claiming that this prevented me from doing what I really felt driven to do. Always apologizing to myself, others, the world at large, my earlier years, that I wasn’t able to be productive, wasn’t on the road I needed to travel.

How satisfying, then, that this is what’s going well in my life now. That this, my work, is the antidote to any troubles that arise.

I hope this doesn’t sound like bragging. I hope it sounds like inspiration. To you.



Categories: A Day in the Life, Telling Stories, Tags: ,

My head has hurt most of the day, I’ve been sore, and I’ve been trying to convince myself that the doctoral advice to rest was indeed on the mark. I’ve been reading and watching TV-on-Netflix and generally grumping about, worrying about the “soft batch” spots on my head and wondering how I managed to bruise it without actually hitting it against anything. It’s an external couple of bruises, not a concussion, and the idea that whiplash could bruise the outside of one’s head is just baffling to me.

Nevertheless, I know that getting back on the writing horse is just as important as getting on the driving horse as soon as I can. And last night I wrote, but I felt pretty bad about what I wrote. It was so choppy and challenging that at times I was wondering whether I had sustained more head trauma than I initially thought because it was clearly impacting my writing. I slogged through, but I still think that section is going to need some major reworking.

Tonight, thankfully, despite hours of wasted time and false starts, I finally got a really solid chunk done, pushing toward nine pages, all some of the smoothest and sharpest production of the whole novel so far. The work stands at over 82,000 words, closing in on Loosely Based for the longest thing I’ve ever written. I’m maintaining a pace to get the thing done early and at a clip around 1,000 words a day, every day since I started writing it again.

There was a pumpkin party in there too, thanks to a lot of help from our friends and the ability to reserve the community room at the Butler Apartments when the weather is inclement. Probably a story best told in pictures, which we don’t have that many of since we ran the camera batteries out taking snapshots of the accident. I am tempted to post some of those too, once I’ve put a little more time between myself and the incident (and I should probably get some kind of insurance sign-off that it’s okay). We had a great time at the party, but the timing has been a bit exhausting. Very stressful for Emily, who is up against midterms this week.

This is mostly just a little recap post, the chaff of another great writing session and further crystallization of my gratefulness, both for being alive and for being able to recover on the writing front while so much else still feels stalled out or downright lousy. As unfortunate as it would have been to die, it would have been perhaps worse to suffer severe brain damage. So I am thankful not only to be here, but to be able to continue doing what I feel I have long been called to do.

And now, for the moment, I am called to rest.


Words, Words, Words

Categories: A Day in the Life, Just Add Photo, Metablogging, Telling Stories, Tags: , , ,

So, there’s this thing called Wordle that I just discovered on Facebook, which allows you to analyze any piece of writing or webpage for commonly occurring words. Then it spits out something like this:

Pretty neat stuff. My big complaint is that it doesn’t draw on the whole history of the blog, but only the very recent history, which is why this thing reads mostly like a schizophrenic recap of my last substantive post.

I am wholly torn between my temptation to plug in the entirety of American Dream On and the concern that it would somehow find a way to capture it or just fail to function under the weight of 76,000+ words.

Maybe trying Loosely Based would be a good compromise…


Good Tired

Categories: A Day in the Life, But the Past Isn't Done with Us, Telling Stories, Tags: , ,

I woke up early today (really yesterday, but you know my schedule) because a friend of mine was coming over. Early these days is around ten or so in the morning.

My friend (Ariel) and I met up with Em for lunch, who had already completed a couple classes in the morning. We relived old times we never had at the Frist cafeteria, imaging the student center of Princeton to be the basement of Usdan. With the new student center, even the basement of Usdan isn’t the basement of Usdan anymore.

We then proceeded to the Chancellor Green Library, undoubtedly the coolest interior space on the Princeton campus we’ve yet found. Most people, upon seeing it, immediately dub it the “Harry Potter Room,” though that distinction arguably might be more apt for the Grad College cafeteria, which generally looks primed for an address by Dumbledore himself. In any event, Chancellor Green is an octagonal room with two floors topped by an ornately woodworked dome, adorned with stained glass and bookshelves galore on each level and each edge. Below are comfortable reading chairs and above study desks. The expectation is silence throughout, if not to read than merely to appreciate the hallowed halls surrounding.

I rejoined my Russian friends in Toltsoy’s world, lamenting how little I’ve been able to read amidst the writing lifestyle I’ve developed. Some have said that one should never be writing at a higher volume than one is reading, but I feel that writing takes its toll on the desire to read. Besides, most of my reading is usually done either during a commute or just before sleep. I have no commute and I’m going to sleep after writing sessions that leave me utterly drained as dawn is threatening to break. Yeah, not exactly conducive to reading.

So I appreciated the opportunity to bury myself in a book for the afternoon, spending hours with 75 pages of the world’s most reputedly epic tome. Having discussed my general progression of becoming a slower reader for much of high school and college with Ariel, I was grateful to have sped up enough in subsequent years that I could read at such a pace. There was a time that I was convinced I would someday have to take whole days to read just a single page at the rate I’d been going.

Then home, phone calls, dinner, a brief time with Em as she worried over the day to come and we finally caught up to the current episode of “The Office”, having traversed the show’s entire history with frightening alacrity via Netflix and Hulu. Not everything I’ve done out here in Jersey can be strictly described as productive.

And then writing, the whole of chapter 35, a chapter I’m profoundly fond of suddenly, unanticipated in its depth and implications, all the more satisfying for how much it surprised me. There are chapters I know are going to be powerful, momentous, vital. Some have already passed. This one I wasn’t expecting and I deeply appreciate the characters therein for revealing themselves to me in this way. Really.

And here I am, just this side of five in the morning, worn out and really content. Not content as a proxy for slowly settling into the sediment that one’s life has become, but content in its truest, highest form. Not happy or elated, for I lack the energy for either. Just satisfied, at peace with my place in the world. This life is everything I hoped it would be, for all its solitude and strange freedom. God help me find ways to never let go, now that I’m here.



Categories: A Day in the Life, Awareness is Never Enough - It Must Always Be Wonder, Pre-Trip Posts, Telling Stories, The Agony of the Wait is the Agony of Debate, Tags: , , , ,

As bad as I felt last night at this time is as good as I feel tonight. What a difference, as they say, a day makes.

I have just rattled off over 3,000 words (~12 pages) tonight, in a remarkably fast and focused session that has yielded what I am convinced is some of the best work of the whole novel so far. This brings American Dream On over the 70,000 word threshold (71,408 words/~285 pages) with just under two months to go and helps offset the fact that there will be no writing tomorrow night. It’s kind of too bad, because I’m in one of those grooves where baseball players find the ball looks as big as a grapefruit. Suddenly, after a week of angst, the dam has burst and things are flowing once more. (Though it probably doesn’t hurt that I’m on to a different chapter entirely, one that did not carry with it some consternating problems from the get-go.)

And Vassar pulled back on their threat to only break to semis, once again going with quarters, joining the ranks of virtually all modern tournaments. And it looks like I will be participating in the APDA Cup, thus getting a chance to compete in rounds that are adjudicated and are not demo rounds for the first time since 2006. (Yeah, I guess I thanked the BU Finals panel for judging my “last round ever”. Oops. We all know I’d debate professionally for a lifetime if I could.) And while I knew that this time yesterday too, it seems a lot more exciting today for some reason. Probably because the whole world does. And I’m almost short of breath and insanely full of energy for quarter till five in the morning, when I should be lapsing and a little tired. And given that the alarm’s set for 9:00 tomorrow, the earliest I’ve been up in weeks, to get ready to go to Vassar, this is all looking a little problematic.

But I don’t care that much, mostly because I’m in the throes of a manic phase of the sine-curve lifestyle. And the mania may be seen as problematic for some people, but I don’t know who those people could be. Being on the upswing of a roller-coaster, sailing upward on a high-energy high-productivity euphoria, this is about as good as it gets in this lifetime. I mean, yeah, the super-contemplative revelations are perhaps a little better, but this is a darn fine second place. I feel like running out into the middle of the early morning rain, whooping with joy at the fact that I get to be alive to see this kind of mood. I wish everyone could be here to feel this. I feel I’ve known people who never get this excited their whole lives.

I don’t know how I’m possibly going to sleep. It may end up an all-nighter and I’ll crash hard after round three at the tournament. But I should try all the same. Try to walk away from the euphoria to get a little shut-eye that’ll ultimately serve me well tomorrow. In the meantime, I leave you with this:




Categories: A Day in the Life, Telling Stories, The Agony of the Wait is the Agony of Debate, Tags: , ,

Chapter 32 may be long remembered as the one that got away. After four nights and just shy of 5,000 words, I think I can finally put it behind me (for now), but it’s taken its toll.

A lot of how I feel about all this is the fault of the ease with which I’ve been able to settle into the writing life again. I’ve been remarking to everyone how amazingly things have gone, how smooth its all felt, how quick the transition was from moving in to writing full-time. Everything’s been a piece of cake, so the slightest change in the wind looks like a big problem. And compared to serious writer’s block or something truly problematic, it’s not at all. It’s just a vaguely exasperating series of things to write.

It’s hard to discuss exactly what’s frustrating about this chapter without divulging far too much of a plot I’ve kept close to the vest for over half a decade. But a lot of it’s about pacing and timing and trying to cram a whole lot of events into a small space when I haven’t necessarily been on a pace to do so. To make it seem smooth and effortless and intended. To realize that one has written oneself into a bit of a corner and then figure out how to delicately extricate without rewriting half the book.

Ultimately, it’s good for me. Every word written makes you stronger, even if most of those words will probably be rewritten. The chapter felt less elegant, less muse-inspired, pretty much throughout. There were some good turns of phrase and some moments, sure, but it’s just not my best work. On a first draft, though, holding the whole piece to the standard of best work means blowing deadlines. And today is significant on that front: exactly 2 months to the day till the deadline. December 15th or bust, come what may.

The context for the whole chapter is probably a big part of it – it just hasn’t been the best week. Coaching hit some of the first snags, with a low-energy meeting punctuated on either end by low attendance and frayed nerves leading to rising tensions. It all came out okay (I think – we’ll see for sure at tomorrow’s meeting), but my hopes of a potential break this weekend were mitigated somewhat by the surprise announcement that this weekend’s tourney is breaking to semis, not quarters. I didn’t know any tournaments on APDA had broken to less than quarters in some time, so this was quite a shock and one I don’t relish discussing with the team tomorrow. Not that it precludes breaking; it just makes it twice as difficult.

And Em’s sick, given a cold in exchange for her (conventional, not swine) flu shot. Despite the protestations of the injectors, it’s pretty common knowledge that the flu shot gives people cold symptoms and these have hit Em particularly hard this go-round. I’ve been dancing on the edge of catching it from her, but hoping to escape healthy by the time we (the Rutgers team and I) head up to Vassar on Friday. The whole thing has brought our collective home morale down even further though, and it was already on the wane.

It’s just been one of those weeks, more headaches than necessary, writing like pulling teeth, anticipation of everything weighing me down a little. I need to get out and do more, but it’s getting colder and making retreat the more likely response. It’s weeks like this that I’m so grateful to not be working, since at least I can find solace in bulldozing the writing problems in front of me and working through things rather than the dissatisfaction of frustration reminding me how far I am from my life goals. And I’m not much closer, and feeling it, but at least I’m starting on the path. Which is good enough for now.

I just need to set some limits on how I distract myself, on how I keep my focus and stay sharp. Up till this week, it’s been easy, so it can be easy again. But the last couple days, nothing’s felt easy. It’s all been pulling teeth and the desire to pull hair. And now I’m repeating myself and probably frustrating you too.

Join the freaking club. Augh.


Streak On!

Categories: A Day in the Life, Metablogging, Quick Updates, Telling Stories, Tags: , ,

The streak didn’t end tonight after all (as I just just alluded – in fact, I had one of my most productive writing sessions of the whole week. And the word count was higher than it would have been had I been watching the count the whole time in some silly tracker.

Moreover, I just noticed that the URL assigner is all messed up in this format, somehow skipping numbers. All my posts are numbered and there have been a couple discards, but generally the number of the URL of the post aligns with a straight count of the number of total posts I’ve written. But since I installed the beloved “upgrade”, posts 656 and now 659 have followed 653. I guess it counts by 3’s. Hooray.

You know what other number has 6’s and 3’s in it? 63,315. I like that number best of all. At least for tonight.

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