Tag Archives: Upcoming Projects


New Toy

Categories: A Day in the Life, Read it and Weep, The Long Tunnel, Upcoming Projects, Tags: , , ,

I’ve made it pretty clear this year that I will neither be sending nor receiving gifts for Christmas or associated holiday seasons, though I’m still deliberating about sending out a New Year’s Letter. On the one hand, it’s a tradition that I started with Emily in 2003; on the other, it’s one that I was well more enthusiastic about and she basically pressured me into giving up. So there’s some opportunity to reclaim it. At the same time, what do I really have to send in a friendly greeting to everyone about the advent of 2011? “Thank God it won’t be 2010 anymore!”? An inspiring message, to be sure, but do people really need an 8.5×11 in their mailbox with such declaration? Not at all sure. Besides, it’s not a mystery to anyone who’d be on the list that this year was a setback. I could just send out an e-card or even post a holiday letter right here, where everyone’d inevitably see it anyway. But then isn’t most of the point that someone cares enough to go to the trouble of printing something out on actual paper, of signing their name, of finding the address of their friends? So, yeah. Nothing is simple these days.

So despite my moratorium on gifts, largely borne of exhaustion at the idea of giving and horror at the accumulation incumbent in receiving, I went and bought myself a big ol’ new toy this week, which arrived today on a Budget Rent-a-Truck masquerading as a FedEx delivery vehicle. It’s what I’m using to write this very post, a Dell Inspiron laptop that is my first ever computer of the portable variety. I don’t really need it, which begs the question of why I went out and spent ~1% of my net worth on it. There were a lot of micro-factors, including a desire to become familiar with post-XP Windows operating systems (while not having to rely on them, thank you trusty desktop!), a desire to utilize streaming Netflix movies while not trying to use my office chair like a couch, and a desire to be able to write in places that are not my apartment. None of them singularly compelling, but in combination enough to make an interesting case, especially when my misperception that any decent laptop cost at least $850 had been so roundly dispelled. This one was less than $500, including taxes and shipping.

I’m not intending to make it my primary computer, which really gets me on my case about spending money like this for a backup computer at a time when I intend to be saving for some indeterminate future. At the same time, I haven’t bought a new computer in about 7 years, and that one cost about the same as this one. $750 a decade is probably a reasonable computer budget, especially for someone who uses theirs as much as I use mine. Plus it’s a little lift, sadly, to get a new toy. I say sadly because I truly wish I were immune to the American-instilled pleasures of having a new material item to play with. But I am honest enough to admit that it gives me a little thrill, that it’s fun to explore and learn, that I enjoy the tactile pleasures of the shiny o-bespeckled base and cover. Am I nervous as all get-out that I will tire of using the keyboard which, although not bad for a laptop, is still annoying? Sure. Or that if I spill something in this keyboard, the whole computer is wrecked, something I’ve long criticized about laptops? Of course. But hey. Life is unpredictable. Might as well take some chances when the impulse strikes. And, y’know, it doesn’t do grievous harm or something.

Meanwhile, New Mexico continues to be a really mixed bag. I’m loving the food, splurging additionally to stuff myself with rellenos, enchiladas, and burritos. I continue to read a lot, now about a third of the way through John Irving’s behemoth Until I Find You. I can’t tell if he’s writing it absurdly simply to prove a point of some kind or if he really was always a very simple writer and I didn’t notice amidst his really engaging plots like Owen Meany or Widow. Maybe I’ve been reading too much Pynchon and DeLillo and Russian lit lately, but this work is coming off like a third grade composition. Maybe he’s just lost it as a writer. Nevertheless, it’s entertaining in the lurid way that most Irving pieces are. And I’m sure it will be ultimately convoluted and heartbreaking, so there’s that to look forward to.

Now that I have my laptop, I might move forward with the ambiguously talked-around quiz project that was laughably short of launching before I left NJ, despite my ambitious claims to the contrary. Of course, we’re also in the full throes of luminaria season, which gets going in earnest tomorrow as I take the 600 folded bags and start filling them with sand to be stored in the garage. My ambition was to place them a day early (the 23rd) – something I’ve often talked about but never actually followed through with for one reason or other. But they’re now predicting rain that entire day, meaning it’ll have to be another dawn-to-dusk marathon layout on the 24th, as per usual. And that’s assuming the rain doesn’t start to impinge on the actual display day. Now that I’ve got a camera built into the laptop, I even toyed with the idea of making a “How to Make Luminarias” video, but I probably won’t have the energy. At least the rate at which projects occur to me is steady, even if my inertia is larger than normal.

This has wound up being a rather prosaic post. Blame the latent materialism, blame John Irving’s low-vocab influence. I had more poetic efforts in mind last night amidst the lunar eclipse and the solstice. But after lying down on the rooftop for the better part of half an hour it was too cold to persist. By the time I went back out in search of a reddened orb, it was blockaded entirely by clouds, the world hemmed in from the astronomical convergence. It almost brought me to tears, and not mostly because I was sad to miss out on a direct visual of one of the most photographed events of 2010. The moon does funny things to people. It tilts the tides unseen within us all.

I’m about halfway through my month in Albuquerque. Up till now, almost all of the time has been with family. Much more of the time to come will be with friends. These twin pillars continue to radiate the import of this place for me, whatever toys I bring or hold, whatever meaning I ascribe to its tasty food and haunted corridors. In the end, as always, it’s about the people. The luminarias, laptops, and lunches don’t hurt. But it’s about folks. That’s all we are in the end.


Jersey, But Briefly

Categories: A Day in the Life, Politics (n.): a strife of interests masquerading, Upcoming Projects, Tags: , ,

It’s hard to believe that I’m already in the process of counting down to my longest trip to New Mexico in nearly a decade. In just a shade over a week, I’ll be winging my way westward to spend almost a month in Albuquerque and the surrounding environs, making undoubtedly endless appearances at the Frontier and Waffle House as I try to more thoroughly get my bearings on what my future looks like. Certainly I’ll be looking at Albuquerque with the new eyes of one searching for a new destination within the year to come. No doubt the place I loosely call my hometown will be on the shortlist for the future, alongside Seattle, Flagstaff, Denver, and probably a couple other cities.

Been working on a project that’s almost certainly going to come out shortly, maybe even in the next 24 hours. It’s another quiz that isn’t the Song Quiz, as I believe I alluded to a few days back. If optimally timed, the quiz would have been released in the early morning hours today, sandwiched neatly between the advent of the WikiLeaks story and what people colloquially call CyberMonday. Most of this year’s CyberMonday articles seem to be decrying the phenomenon as hype, something that never seems to be written about terrorism or national security threats. I don’t know if there’s a lot more Internet traffic today, but I do know that Romania seems to be really into the BP in the last few days. Hi, Romanians! Hope you keep enjoying the Book Quiz.

I’ve also enjoyed a lingering Facebook debate about the WikiLeaks article I wrote and about the phenomenon in general. I was sensing a sea-change in perception when I wrote the piece, but it seems I underestimated the emotional attachment of so many Americans to the sanctity of their government, no matter how far said government strays from its ideals or stated purpose. I think the debate has been robust and fair, but I am still a bit personally dismayed by the idea that almost anything pernicious could be revealed about this country and a large swath of its people would condemn the revelation rather than the initial act itself. All I can try to point people back to is that the principle behind democracy conceptually requires the informed consent of the governed. If the only way our government functions is by concealing reality, we no longer have informed consent, and thus we aren’t a democracy. It’s hard to be a beacon of democracy when one isn’t one.

Maybe I should just skip the west altogether and strike out for Ireland or the UK or something. Not that I’d ultimately wind up vastly more satisfied with those governments, but there’s at least some humility and sobriety to the general conduct of those countries. It’s probably hard to exist in modern Europe without a little more awareness of the balance of things as they really are. Then again, the last thing I need right now is further isolation. Would a small town in Ireland accept me as a novelty, a distant great-grandson come home to write and work? Probably not work – and here’s the real rub: an inability to economically sustain oneself in a place even more economically troubled than the good old USA. Probably better off building up a cache of cash first in the west.

If you like the Facebook debates, it’s a good week for debating. Monday and Wednesday feature two of our three public campus debates this semester, on green energy and vegetarianism, respectively. Basically none of you are in New Brunswick and most of you are horrendously busy, but it’s worth offering the invitation anyway. Debate tournaments aren’t especially well designed for outside observation, but both of these events will be, and there’s even cash on the line in the former one! The latter is for the hearts and minds of college students and my team is thus arguing against one of the fundamental principles of my own life. Of course, debate itself and its ability to endorse the core ideals of the enemy in a convincing way is, itself, a core value. So it’s all worth it.

Would that said core value were more broadly accepted by the American public, no? If the idea of making the case unthinkable for the sake of argument were standard practice rather than unpatriotic treason? It would be a lot harder to dismiss other rational agents as crazy, a lot harder to accept ourselves as infallible.


Other People’s Words

Categories: A Day in the Life, Metablogging, Upcoming Projects, Tags: , ,

The sidebar on this blog looks a little different now – I’ve manually added a bunch of links to the only active blogs I know of that my friends are keeping. If I overlooked yours, let me know and I’ll add it. And if for some reason you want your link taken down, we can do that too.

I’ve tried to just use titles and not identify anyone this time around, since it seems that a lot of people are into the relative anonymity thing. Looking over the previous rendition of my links to others’ blogs, it’s kind of remarkable how many people seem to have gone through blogging as a “phase”. But at least a handful are still into it at some level or another, so bully for that. One of these is also seeming to hope for anonymity, so I won’t identify who summed up my political thoughts better than I could just yesterday. Good reading, though.

I’m also not convinced that the whole Blue Pyramid Stories thing is working out. Frankly, no one seems that into it, given the view numbers. A lot of people have said they think it’s a little weird, especially with the candles and my somewhat toned-down demeanor. It’s an experiment, and one that I will probably continue to dabble in a little (I still have to finish the Scotland story, after all), but I’m not sure it’s going to be the multi-day-a-week thing I initially envisioned it as. Then again, once I actually revamp the sidebar to the BP page and have a featured landing page for the Stories, maybe people who haven’t heard them from knowing me will take an interest. Or maybe it’s all just too strange.

It’s been raining all day in Highland Park and it’s been a particularly daunting storm. The mood seems to be affecting everyone, especially those at the Cafe today, who were subdued amongst the quiet reclusion indicated by the absence of patrons. This storm seems to be winter’s declaration of arrival, the calling card of a season that may menace us with the portend of bundled coats and zipped up faces. I may have to drive to debate, not even to keep dry so much as to stay focused on not getting swept, like so many drenched leaves, down the road and into the river.

Might be working on a quiz at some point too. I know I’ve long promised the Song Quiz, but I’ve also been thinking about going with something really zany to mix things up. I need a focus, something lighter and more fun than I’ve been investing in. I feel heavy with the weight of reality. Maybe I should just join a bowling league or something, though that also puts a weight on one’s shoulders. Or at least one’s wrists.


Another Saturday Night

Categories: A Day in the Life, The Agony of the Wait is the Agony of Debate, The Long Tunnel, Upcoming Projects, Tags: , , ,

I was alone all yesterday, a Saturday. I’m not making that mistake again.

Barring a major change, I’m going to be booked the next 26* Saturdays:
30 October: UPenn tournament (Philadelphia, PA)
6 November: American tournament (Washington, DC)
13 November: GW tournament (Washington, DC)
20 November: Fordham tournament –> Greg’s band’s show (New York City, NY)
27 November: Thanksgiving with Friends in Philadelphia, PA*
4 December: UMBC tournament (Baltimore, MD)
11 December: Albuquerque, NM
18 December: Albuquerque, NM
25 December: Albuquerque, NM
1 January: Albuquerque, NM
8 January: Middlebury tournament (Middlebury, VT)
15 January: Dartmouth tournament (Hanover, NH)
22 January: Bates tournament (Lewiston, ME)
29 January: NorthAms tournament (New York City, NY)
5 February: NYU tournament (New York City, NY)
12 February: GW tournament (Washington, DC)
19 February: Princeton tournament (Princeton, NJ)
26 February: Rutgers tournament!
5 March: West Point tournament (West Point, NY)
12 March: Brandeis tournament! (Waltham, MA)
19 March: William & Mary tournament (Williamsburg, VA)
26 March: BU tournament (Boston, MA)
2 April: UVa tournament (Charlottesville, VA)
9 April: Swat tournament (Swarthmore, PA)
16 April: Bryn Mawr tournament (Bryn Mawr, PA)
23 April: Nationals tournament (West Point, NY)

Twenty-six Saturdays*. That’s half a year.

This also indicates that, as you may have noticed, I’ll be spending a month in Albuquerque. 7 December – 5 January. Very excited about that – a long-term homecoming is long overdue. This also means that, unless something surprising comes up in the next couple weeks, I will likely be suspending any sort of job search until 2011. I’m just not convinced I’m up to it and I’m more convinced that I need a month at home than I need income right now. It’s only six weeks till I go home anyway. Once I come back, hopefully I will be restored to the point where I can consider employment.

Anyone got ideas for 30 April 2011? Who says I don’t plan ahead?

*Edited 26 October 2010 to add Thanksgiving weekend in Philadelphia. It’s actually 26 Saturdays booked, not 25 as originally reported.


Friday Without a Cause

Categories: A Day in the Life, Keepin' it Cryptic, The Agony of the Wait is the Agony of Debate, The Long Tunnel, Upcoming Projects, What Dreams May Come, Tags: , , , , ,

There’s no debate this weekend. Not because there’s no scheduled tournament, but because that tournament doesn’t serve the purposes of the Rutgers team. It’s in British Parliamentary style, designed to prepare American teams for competition on the Worlds stage, with all its crazy four-on-four structure and rhetoric trumping analysis and lack of flowing. Rutgers would love to compete at Worlds (this year in Botswana!), just as much as we’d love to go to Stanford this year, but it’s not in the budget. We barely have a budget to get to basic regular tournaments when they give us deep discounts, let alone scurrying about like a team funded like the 7th-ranked team in the nation. Which, uh, we are.

The last few days have been about as eventful as any days are for me these days. Days, days, days. They cascade not like a waterfall or something glorious to be beheld so much as the drip in my bathroom sink. Day, pause, day, pause, day. The passage of time has become an annoyance, something to be swatted away like a lingering mosquito. There are moments each day that are almost okay… a good debate round or a fun practice, a moment of volunteering or walking that sparks imagination or hope, the second the heat started coming on in the apartment yesterday unbidden. But they’re rare and their ceiling is low. For the most part it’s a long trudge to school, uphill both ways in the snow. Sludgy, dirty snow, not the good kind.

Things are happening this Friday too, things I’m loath to preview here lest they raise concern from the worriers among you. It’s a long overdue meeting with my past, I can say that, and it comes at a time when the risks are low because I have nothing (almost nothing?) to lose. It’s something much better discussed upon reflection than anticipation. So I guess I’ll flag this post with a “Keepin’ It Cryptic” and move on. All will be revealed at some point.

Similarly, I have an upcoming project about which I’ll also be vague until you can see what it looks like. It’s adding a new dimension to the collection of things here at the BP, and it’s a major experiment. With any luck, it’ll be something that at minimum creates an archive of moments in time in a new and exciting way that can at least serve some posterity. At maximum, it could, like anything done serially on the Internet, become a phenomenon. So I’ll let that whet your appetite and, again, soon there will be much more to actually evaluate.

I have this last bit merely because of the Zen state of mind that came from tearing leafy greens from their stems for literally 150 consecutive minutes. This was my assigned task at the Cafe yesterday – I actually showed up an hour early because I’d misread the e-mail confirming my time, and thus was drawn up to the sink with a gargantuan box of greens whose name I never ultimately caught. Spinach? Arugula? An obscure lettuce? It was something like that. The repetition and the small satisfactions of working one’s hands against the bounty of the earth plunged me through the worst aspects of the mental void and into a deeper place where I could contemplate connections and possibilities rather than the mere horrors of the past. And it was in that state, not unlike a shower or even some of the better walks, that I was able to stumble over the obvious project I’m on the verge of launching. This was more of what I hoped for when I pictured volunteering as a key component of this year.

Of course I never really pictured this year and my subconscious is really having trouble catching up. This morning I awoke from a terrifying and disheartening dream that, while I was working at Glide and Emily was at the Labor Fed, she’d decided overnight to go to LA for six weeks straight. She was endlessly unconcerned about the toll this might take on our marriage, couldn’t seem to care less about my loneliness or missing her or anything of that ilk. I could detect, vaguely, in the dream that there might be someone in LA she was trying to see or some deeper thing to fear from this sudden trip arrangement which she was announcing to me the morning before she left. I panicked more and more as the dream hurtled toward her departure, clinging to her presence that I would soon lose for so long.

I awoke to a reality that made the dream look more ideal than nightmare.

Miles walked Wednesday: 1.2
Miles walked yesterday: 2.8


East is East, but West is Best

Categories: A Day in the Life, The Agony of the Wait is the Agony of Debate, The Long Tunnel, Upcoming Projects, Tags: , , ,

Been doing a lot of thinking lately. Obviously. If you want to play along at home, imagine the best thing that has ever happened to you in your life. Imagine that this had lasted for nine years. Now, imagine that instead of being a source of solace and comfort for you, a font of inspiration and confidence, it is transformed almost overnight, without warning or even coherent reason, into a source of betrayal and pain.

Anyway, this prompts a lot of thought. And key among the thoughts is the one of where the future will be, if there is a future to be had at all. I have really made extremely little progress in figuring this out for myself. I know I will not be living in Princeton anymore, and I’m pretty sure there are wide swaths of the country I can rule out for either lack of friendship/support or lack of interest in ever being there. Georgia comes to mind. Iowa, maybe. Seattle, a town I’d desperately like to live in someday, is just too far from any close friends. Same goes for anywhere abroad, except maybe parts of Mexico. Though I hear it’s tough to do regular border crossings.

There was a list at some point, though the list sometimes feels too narrow and other times too broad. Two cities have risen near the top, though they both are towns where I have no super-close friends. In one of them, I do have a whole debate team that would be the main source of my sustainability and interest for the year I could spend there, there being New Brunswick, New Jersey. In the other, I know no one, but would be a short jaunt from the Grand Canyon, long established as my spiritual home and epicenter. This one being Flagstaff, Arizona, the town I just told my friends in LA after Kunkel’s wedding would probably be my first choice of places to live if practicality were no object.

It’s by no means exhaustive – there are plenty of other places both west and east that are in contention. And even if they contend for 2010-2011, there’s no telling how much longer I’d stay in the same place. Both New Brunswick and Flagstaff would kind of be project towns. The former being a place to throw myself into debate, hoping to find satisfaction from fulfilling the coaching commitment I already made to a group of exciting and improving youths on the verge of their potential. Probably for just one year at the absolute most, to fulfill the commitment and see this year’s batch of seniors through while still laying the groundwork for a program that will (hopefully) have arrived by that year’s end. Flagstaff would be about me becoming a bit of a Desert Rat, spending maybe up to half the nights outside or in tents as I tried to hike every trail in the Canyon or maybe even embarked on an endless jaunt through the wilderness. To get in shape, to heal myself and restore my faith in the soothing light of the high desert. The same could be done, with more familial support and less natural perfection, in Albuquerque. Maybe – maybe – even somewhere in southeastern California that’s in range of all the friends I have in LA.

In thinking about these choices, it’s become increasingly clear that I will have regrets no matter where I go. And not just in the sense of the decade of regrets I’m only starting to come to grips with in my own head that pertains to the crisis writ large. If I go west, I will forever regret reneging on my commitment to Rutgers, feel bad about leaving the program I was helping to build in the lurch at the outset of arguably their most critical year. I will writhe that the opportunity to work with those kids is another casualty of what Emily has done to me, that the kids I’d be turning my back on would be unwitting victims of her recent rash actions. Conversely, of course, staying east offers numerous challenges to forming new bonds with people. For reasons I have been routinely unable to fully explain to others’ satisfactions, I feel enormously uncomfortable in the east. I find it to be cold (not physically – I like that kind of cold), uninviting, harsh, unwelcoming, and populated with people generally even more emblematically so. The idea of embarking on my most fragile and vulnerable year of existence on Earth in such an unforgiving environment seems almost pathologically stupid. And so I would regret, every time I was sad or lonely or desperate, surrounding myself with the forbidding world of the east instead of the relaxed, warm, and welcoming confines of the American west.

These are not the only factors involved, of course. Proximity to friends and family are huge, and made more complicated by the idea of sort of choosing between friends, or rewarding friends in some de facto sense for being near other friends and thus creating more of a safety-net community. It’s arguable that I shouldn’t try to do anything this year, instead drifting for weeks at a time from one friend to another. This seems bad because of the aimless stasis and limbo it might engender, but also seems safer in some ways and more likely to remind me of how much I have to live for. Not one of these choices is easy.

There’s also the factor of being too much of a dead weight on friends. I’m not saying this so that forty people e-mail me in the next 24 hours and reassure me that they are happy to do whatever they can for me – I already know you all feel that way. And thank you. But at the same time, I can feel the palpable toll that I and this situation are taking on the people that I care about. Anyone I stay with for a while ends up seeming exhausted, drained, and almost annoyed. I get it. It’s human. I am too great a burden to be shoved on any one person right now, or even a collection of people. Folks have to live their own lives, get married, have good times, embrace experiences that are not convincing their friend why there’s a reason to go on. And here again is perhaps the case for New Brunswick or Flagstaff, somewhere that the relationships I rely on day-to-day are tinged with less overall overwhelm at the depths of what I’ve lost. Granted, that may be infeasible – it’s possible that no one will meet me for 3-5 years without immediately being confronted by me as a broken semi-person. I don’t know. But there’s something to be said for forcing me into a situation where I have to form new bonds. There’s also a lot to be said for the idea that I wouldn’t do that even in a town where I knew no one, that I would just draw inward until my very sense of an outside world collapsed entirely.

There are no right answers. Such is the nature of calamity. There may be hope – maybe, I’m not sure – but there are no right answers. And so I continue to spin my wheels in futility, to face my impossible choices and decisions, to try to talk over the repetitive intractability with those who’ll listen. I know how I feel about regions of the world, though, but this isn’t the only factor. And I’m still not sure how I feel about the world at all, and whether it can still be the place for me.

I am trying, as calmly and slowly and rationally and logically as possible (under the circumstances) to figure this shit out.


Leaving Liberia

Categories: A Day in the Life, From the Road, Pre-Trip Posts, Upcoming Projects, Tags: , , ,

About an hour from getting on my way toward the plane to take me away from Monrovia, which means I’m still a good five hours from the plane actually getting airborne. Things run at a slightly slower pace around here. The good news is that my flight is 16 hours from take-off to last landing (JFK in NYC), as compared to 30 hours on the way out here. Also two take-offs and landings this time as vs. four.

It’s been emotional. It is utterly clear to me that it was the right decision, though even clearer that the best possible decision would’ve been to come out here on Monday the 19th. I will never get to undo that one, though at least I didn’t make it worse by not flying out here at all.

Still an incredible number of decisions to sift through on my return, including how to try to craft a life for one after living for two for so long. Every assumption, location, and activity is on the table. Options start to narrow in my mind, only to explode again with further thought. It’ll probably take at least a month before I’m anywhere close to a single decision.

Tag, August, you’re it.


Go West, Young Man!

Categories: A Day in the Life, Pre-Trip Posts, Telling Stories, Upcoming Projects, Tags: , , ,

When Emily was here as an undergrad, she had unlimited printing of whatever she wanted at local computer clusters. This year, for the first time, they implemented limits on printing, which is a big part of why my distribution of American Dream On to friends was electronic, not paper.

Nevertheless, the limit is still sky-high and so she had a few hundred sheets left that expire on 1 July of this year. Today, I decided to use up as many of those as possible, printing a clean single-spaced copy of the most up-to-date versions of ADO and The Best of All Possible Worlds for posterity in case something happens, plus fifty sheets of Duck and Cover blanks in case something doesn’t. It’s always good to be prepared for all foreseeable possibilities.

I am heading to Philadelphia any minute now, then on to the greater LA area to see a bevy of friends and the wedding celebration of David Kunkel. Then finally a week in Albuquerque before returning here briefly only to set out again across the East Coast and then on to Africa. Quite a bit going on in the next few weeks and months, hopefully.

For reference, here’s the Tour image again, still accurate to date:

Feeling generally pretty good. Looking forward to editing TBoAPW, to spending some serious quality time with a lot of friends and family who I don’t see that often. Looking forward to the relaxing, renewing feelings of summer. Looking forward to lots of things.

But as I held the near-ream of paper in my hand, the more than 230,000 words worth of novels I’ve written in the last nine months, I was also looking at now. And for the first time in a long time, feeling good about right now. About the recent past. This feels as much like an arrival as it does a departure.

See you soon.


Leave this Website!

Categories: A Day in the Life, Pre-Trip Posts, Quick Updates, Upcoming Projects, Tags: , , ,

Not much time to post at the moment, but hopefully yesterday’s gave you something to chew on. If not, and you can’t get enough of playing Pac-Man on Google, my Dad is apparently considering selling his Pac-Man table if the price is right.

In any case, the main point of this post is to get you to go off-site, but specifically to two key sites from the women in my life.

The first is my wife’s new blog. Those familiar with past efforts may be the slightest bit cynical, but this is likely to stick since she’s blogging specifically about her upcoming internship in Liberia. Given the massive lack of distractions in Liberia and the overwhelming fascination the trip itself will likely inspire, I’d say it’s going to be a mighty interesting series of posts, assuming the internet stays up. So stay tuned there.

The other site is my mom’s sock doll auction to benefit KUNM, the Albuquerque NPR station. For those of you who’ve seen her adorable sock dolls, this is a chance to get two for the price of whatever the ABQ public deems appropriate while benefiting a good cause! Pretty neat all around.

The blog runs through the end of the summer (at least) and the auction runs through June 6th.

And I’ve gotta run because we’re going to Philly and DC for a whirlwind weekend before Em ships out Wednesday.

And if you want to leave not only this web site, but web sites altogether, may I recommend you head to the Barrow Street Theatre and watch Our Town? Em and I did last night and it was a religious experience. Seriously.


2010 Summer Tour Announcement: The Best of this Possible World

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

I am a pretty lucky guy.

It’s nice to get reminders of this, lest I begin to give in to consternation with any given personal quest or quandary at any given time. Though the below-announced “tour” is not a book-signing tour, yet, or anything of that ilk, it is a hearty reflection of how great my friends are, how many of them I am blessed to be able to see, and how fortunate I am to be in a position to contemplate some serious world travel as well.

Coming off a non-weekend weekend spent with the Philly crew, playing endless Wii Mario Kart and real-life tennis (6-4, 4-6, 6-5* over Fish in a reaffirmation that we are just as evenly matched as we were in the ill-fated Spring 1995 intramurals), I cannot express sufficient excitement about the summer ahead. More than anything, my visit just now was marked with exceptional depth and breadth of conversation, the greatest gift we humans can give those we are personally tied to. To have so many old friends with whom I can converse about such an array of topics at a high level makes me even luckier than I know I am.

*We didn’t do the proper tiebreaker thing because both of us forgot how to score it and we were exhausted already.

It is with this incredible fullness of heart that I announce my complete summer plans – possibly the most ambitious and wide-ranging itinerary I’ve ever undertaken. The “theme” is of course related to the thread that runs through these summer plans, work on my third novel (second this year), The Best of All Possible Worlds. The summer kicks off on the actual first day of summer, which happens to be my deadline, and will take me straight through the week of the first debate tournament of next season. I am preparing to be overwhelmed.

Here we go:

If we haven’t made specific contact about spending time on the tour in the above places and times, please send me an e-mail and we can sort things out. Some of this may be subject to a little tweaking, especially the dates that revolve around driving on the Eastern Seaboard rather than booked plane tickets. I may release an edited draft of this with some of those Eastern cities more specified before it’s all upon me.

Now the focus is making sure I can hit that deadline so everything else is viable.


Emily’s Summer Plans!

Categories: A Day in the Life, Upcoming Projects, Tags: ,

I am proud to announce that Emily has secured an internship for the summer and will be spending early June through mid-August in Liberia.

If you’ve forgotten which country that is, here’s a refresher:

You’re Liberia!
Free at last, free at last, thank God almighty, you are free at last. You’ve said this many times in your life, but today you’re really hoping that it sticks. As a child, you ran away from injustice and oppression, only to
find new forms of it as you became older. Despite your many pains and struggles, you have eternally turned a hopeful eye to the future. You have long felt tied to those who first held you down, but their help has been dubious at best. Your favorite book is Roots.

Take the Country Quiz II at the Blue Pyramid

You could even celebrate with a T-shirt.

In all seriousness, though, I’m very excited for her, though not wild about how much of the summer we’ll likely be spending apart. This should fill in the details of my summer pretty quickly, though, which will lead to further announcements before too long. We’re both elated, though, to finally add Africa to our list of continents visited.

She will be working for the Liberian government directly, in their National Capacity Development Unit. More details to follow at some point on what exactly this entails.

April, you seem to be doing your best to make a late save here. I like it.


Become a BP Fan on Facebook!

Categories: A Day in the Life, Blue Pyramid News, Upcoming Projects, Tags: , ,

Despite my concerns with Facebook’s impact on blogging, the time has come for me to recognize that the train is leaving the station and I might as well get on board…

The Blue Pyramid on Facebook

Click the above to become a fan of this site which, if you’re here, you already enjoy!

This is certainly no reason to join Facebook if you haven’t already, but it will make your enjoyment of the BP a little more streamlined if Facebook is a big part of your life in the status quo. I will be updating every time there’s new content (why did I sign up to do this again?) here, including D&C strips, blog posts, quizzes, updates, and so forth.

Plus, this is clearly the gateway to the long-awaited Blue Pyramid Facebook quizzes, which have been in the works for a long time, but might actually come to fruition once the BP has a fanbase to launch from on Facebook.

If the entire Internet is going to take place on Facebook in the future, the BP might as well be part of the picture. So click away! See you on the ‘book…


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.


The Shorter Story

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

Yesterday, I completed* the first short story that I’ve written in years – possibly more than five years. Entitled Name Game, it still needs some editing before too many other people read it (hence the asterisk), but I think it has a good deal of potential. More importantly, it took me just two writing sessions over two days to write the whole thing, which weighs in around 7,000 words. If I can write 3,500 words a day, I’m going to be in good shape.

Granted, I’m here in this situation now to write books, not really short stories. Though I have been newly inspired to write some stories, they aren’t exactly intended to be my focus. So this success offers a bit of a dilemma – how much do I divert my efforts if the stories keep coming? On the one hand, stories have a lower threshold for publication and indeed may almost be a prerequisite for getting a larger work printed by a significant press. On the other hand, my success in writing books is going to depend on setting a deadline and making it stick. And if my daily 3,500 words are being diverted from longer works to shorter works, it’s going to be hard to keep to the deadline.

All of this is coming at the same time as I contemplate a major overhaul of the Blue Pyramid, both the front page and subsequent pages. I’ve decided, for example, that it’s time for me to have a navigation bar. The BP is suffering its biggest drought of traffic since the quizzes came out, which is hardly surprising in the face of how much I’ve neglected it. And I don’t want this to distract me from any sort of writing, though one can’t be writing 24/7. And I can’t help but think that a traffic revival could only help the general momentum of all my projects – getting my name out there and having something serious and creative to refer people to when they’re asking who the heck I am anyway.

Regardless, I was contemplating all this and wondering what to do about having a possible writing section of the BP linked on the nav bar when I remembered that I once assembled my so-called collected works before. And I was shocked to rediscover that I wrote no fewer than 51 short stories in a 3-year period from September 2003 through August 2006. Fifty-one! Now that’s productivity.

Granted, of course, few were of really sustainable value (other than the process and its incredibly helpful practice in improving my writing – hard to imagine being able to write Loosely Based without that kind of narrative experience behind me) and many of them were outright absurd. Although, it does make me wonder how many plots are retrievable – rarely were the ideas the dealbreaker in the stories so much as the execution. But still, 51 stories while going to school and living a full teenage life. That was some dedication. I really used to be so much cooler than I am now.

So I’m newly inspired as I stare down my tentative deadline of December 15th for American Dream On and contemplate a full slate of stories to compete with its completion. Surely I should be able to outpace my fourteen-year-old self in volume of output. Surely, like anything, enough work input will lead to worthy output.

And speaking of output, if you’re interested in being on the list of potential readers for either stories or the novel when they’re ready, let me know. I sort of threw Loosely Based at most of my close friends at the time it was done, with mixed results. Some of the recipients still haven’t read it. I’d prefer to take a much more measured, opt-in approach to the next stage of my writing life. A few folks have already volunteered through Facebook, which is great. My only request would be that you are completely honest in your readings and that you look on the work as an attempt at art, not an opportunity to try to analyze me or find yourself in my writing. You won’t be there. And I don’t need cheerleading – I need earnest, critical feedback.

Standing in the shadow of my youth, here I go.


Summer Sojourn Tour Dates Announced!

Categories: A Day in the Life, Summer Sojourn 2009, Upcoming Projects, Tags: , ,

Garage sale was a big success, though we wound up exhausted and sunburned when it was all said and done. I’m now sitting on a stepladder at our computer, but getting rid of so much furniture was a huge relief going into an expensive shipping-based move.

Speaking of the move, though, we finally have a rough outline of the six-week trip across the country:

So we’ll be coming soon to a town near you!


2009 West Coast Farewell Tour Commences!

Categories: A Day in the Life, Pre-Trip Posts, Upcoming Projects, Tags: , ,

If you need me, I’ll be at Russ’ for the next nine days. If you’re David Kunkel, please respond to my e-mails because I’d really like to break the streak of years where we’ve just missed seeing each other.

Possible posting from the road, depending on how much time I can spare from sun, video games, and cards.


Ten Weeks Notice

Categories: A Day in the Life, Upcoming Projects, Tags: ,

Everything’s back out in the open. I’m leaving Glide, my place of employ for a staggering three years, on or about May 15th. Emily and I will be moving some indeterminate number of miles east (between 2,800-5,400) this summer for Emily’s fall enrollment in a school to be named later.

So far, she’s only heard from Yale and she’s in (congratulations to those who cracked the code a few days ago). We will be getting their financial package in the (physical) mail sometime this week, along with e-word from Columbia. Then Princeton probably next week, with Harvard and Oxford a weekish thereafter. While possible stipends and such will impact the final decision, Yale is looking like the clubhouse leader at the moment. It was tied with Oxford as Em’s “first choice” and she can’t stop looking at New Haven apartments on Craigslist. But a lot can happen in a month, so don’t count on Connecticut just yet.

Meanwhile, something of a West Coast Farewell Tour is emerging already, with trips to LA over the March-April border, Seattle in late May, and a return to LA in late June (though we may have started moving by then, so it may be a post-farewell return). It’s going to be hard leaving the region of Earth whose land and people make me feel most comfortable (though Russia was close), but it’s clearly time to move on. It’ll be approaching seven consecutive years by the time we leave and that is really longer than I was cut out to live anywhere.

The next ten weeks are going to be emotional. I wasn’t really prepared for the outpouring of shock and grief that people have shown me at work upon my announcement. I told several people in person, sad that I couldn’t tell a couple more face-to-face because of conflicting schedules or untimely illness. I was prepared to surprise some folks, but the rate at which people thought I would be staying for 5+ more years blew my mind. I sent the All-Staff e-mail just after hours yesterday and have already gotten several responses, including a very moving visit and hug from someone I work with weekly at most. Besides a nice big helping of guilt (perhaps my resident emotion), I just feel overwhelmed by this reaction and can’t even imagine how much more I’m going to feel today when most people actually find out. It’s one thing to be able to intellectually articulate that a lot of key people might not see this coming ahead of time; quite another to witness the series of stunned faces and e-mails.

And yet, even most Gliders can recognize it’s exciting and for the best. Almost equal to the shock has been an incredible offering of support and energy for new adventures and opportunities in a new town. Emily now has hundreds of people pulling for her, between her work, mine, and all our friends and family. It’s good groundwork for the very foreseeable announcement of a move to Africa in 2011. Though if you can accurately predict one thing about the year 2011, you are well ahead of pretty much everybody.

And as that sentiment may indicate, this is only the beginning of the uncertainty. The move and transition will be highly time-consuming. We have to move the world’s least mobility-inclined cat across the country or even the Atlantic. We have to potentially prepare for switching countries. We have to find a new place to live, make decisions about how much stuff we really need, determine a whole new pattern for our lives that have really only been settled in one metro area. And the exciting boundlessness of possibility still lingers, more tantalizing than scary, beckoning toward a multifarious future whose options will narrow, but slowly.

People, this is an exciting time to be alive.


Programming Note: Noon (Pacific) Today

Categories: A Day in the Life, Quick Updates, Upcoming Projects, Tags: , ,

If you’re going to be on a computer today, you’ll want to do this at noon (Pacific Standard Time) today:

1. Go to AdamsBlock.com.
2. Watch.

I don’t sponsor or endorse the site fully, though I did just hear that the site’s owner learned about my workplace yesterday and was “inspired”. Apparently he’s donating some ad revenue and donations to Glide. He may even change the reference on his FAQ to something other than calling us “apparently some sort of Methodist church”.

Tune in today. Trust me.

That is all.


The Winnebago Drove with its Propane Stove

Categories: A Day in the Life, But the Past Isn't Done with Us, Politics (n.): a strife of interests masquerading, Upcoming Projects, Tags: , , ,

“He lost his money in a geyser bank,
Ho ho ho ho ho,
First it floated and then it sank,
Ho ho ho ho ho.”
-Traditional Clayton Family Song, c. 1987 trip to Yellowstone

My family used to write songs in the old folk tradition, through oral telling that was created impromptu and then sung and resung. Sometimes the lyrics would change every time and sometimes they would be solidified and codified into one set of lyrics to be passed on through the ages. Occasionally, as with the epic spoof “Santa Shark”, the lyrics were written down entirely for future generations.

Of course, there were only ever two generations (three people total) and they stand today. I did have grandparents then, but they have moved on and probably never would have appreciated songs like “Hooray for U-Haul Trucks”. That may have been my favorite song of the old travels, a telling anthem for an unstable period in our lives that was all the more exciting to me because I didn’t fully understand the financial implications of our nomadic and volatile lifestyle. And yet I was the one who came up with the only lines of the song:

“Hooray for U-Haul trucks,
They take you away from bad places,
Hooray for U-Haul trucks,
They take you into bad places.”

There were many ironies to this song, not the least of which was that we were using our blue Saab that already had close to 100,000 miles on its record as our own “U-Haul truck” to take us from one bad place (Visalia, CA) to another (Washington, DC). The protocol, of course, was that this song was to be sung whenever passing any sort of brand-name moving truck, and adapt to the one being seen on the roadway. “Ryder trucks”, “Hertz-Penske trucks”, and “Mayflower trucks” were most often referred, though U-Hauls were dominant. If we were lucky, they would be the U-Hauls with exciting illustrations of another state that we would visit, had just passed through, or would some day live in.

It’s the geyser bank song (actually one of two – the other was relatively lyric-less and peppy) that sticks in my head of late, for a variety of reasons. Not the least of which is that a Winnebago has decided to spend the last week parked in front of our house, and occasionally in a non-parking-spot down the block on the corner. It perfunctorily moves every 48 hours or so, but it’s clear that life in Berkeley got too expensive for someone, so they decided to “go RVing” in front of the Nation’s by the campus. Parking tickets sure make great rent when compared to an adjustable rate mortgage.

This is particularly poignant for two reasons. One, in a conversation foreshadowing just this kind of reality two months ago, my father and I argued profusely about the legality of just such an RV-type vehicle parking on the streets of Berkeley over even one night without being towed. I predicted that it wouldn’t get towed for ages. Well, Dad (yes he’s blogging again), we’re on day six in the neighborhood and the Winnebago hasn’t gone anywhere (and I’ve only seen one actual ticket). The other poignancy is the titular line of this post, which was another lyric in the somewhat melancholy ode, “He Lost His Money in a Geyser Bank”.

I have spent the entire day writing what will probably be the fastest-written and most completely ad hoc quiz in the history of the Blue Pyramid efforts, tentatively dubbed the Bailout Betrayal Quiz. In it, you’ll get a slightly in-depth look at the 59 Congresspeople who changed their mind between Monday and Friday of last week, plus 5 of our favorite folks who lobbied so hard for the bailout in the first place. I have vacillated greatly on what I want to get out of such a quiz, and how vengeful to make it (especially since I agree with many other stands these people took besides turning their coats on the bailout), and whether I should offer alternatives and promote opponents, many of whom would’ve voted for the bailout even earlier. I am still working out these compromises and the quiz won’t be up till this time tomorrow at the earliest, since I still have 40-some answers to write. But I’ve done nearly everything else that makes up a quiz since about this time yesterday, if you can believe it.

I am sitting here, wired and tired, unshaven and unbathed, overwhelmed and just beginning. I have expended tremendous energy on a project that leaves me ambivalent. Sometimes I think I’m just like the people I’m railing against – taking action because I can, when perhaps inaction would be more sober. Yet at the same time, I can’t just let this moment in history go unmarked. The US is careening, faster than even I imagined, for the Greatest Depression. Everything I ever was concerned about, speculated wildly about, thought may be happening, is beyond true. It’s here, already, and to stay. Everything up till now has just been prelude to what’s upon us.

The decisions we make, going forward, count double. It feels like one of those signs on the highway: “Traffic fines doubled in construction zone.” That’s what we’re in, except it’s a deconstruction zone. Everything’s coming apart and people are grabbing what they can on the way down. Friday’s vote was a public looting of stores that no one was bothering to guard. There will be more and faster and there will never be any bounce or payoff, just more looting.

I am reading Camus’ The Plague this week. I watched “Blindness” on Friday. I can’t imagine two more fitting pieces of media experience for what is coming.

No one can say they weren’t warned. And coming from America, no one can say they don’t deserve it. The world makes remarkably more sense than we give it credit for.

There’s that word, credit. Heh.

“He Lost His Money in a Geyser Bank” was initially the product of a pun, as were so many Clayton family tunes. But on a day that is about to dawn with “real” banks seeming comparably safe to geyser banks, it begs all kinds of questions. Questions whose answers may be in another 64-answer quiz. Or in nothing at all.

What’s your interest?


A Snowball’s Chance on Mars

Categories: A Day in the Life, Politics (n.): a strife of interests masquerading, Quick Updates, Upcoming Projects, Tags: , , ,

Well, I was wrong. The market didn’t go up 900 points today; only 485. (Third largest point total gain ever.) Even dead cats can only bounce so high. Or maybe it’s just waiting for official October.

I woke up late this morning, but inspired. Not in recognition of the ancient new year so much as yet another new project, another “chapter one” for me. I plunked down my ten ethernet dollars and picked up a domain name that seemed resonant. This may yield, in short order, an incredibly prolific and time-consuming “next big thing”. Or it may pan into nothing, a product of me being realistic, for once, about my time constraints and expenditures. At this point, I’m squarely 50-50.

If I decide not to do it, I’ll at least post some of the prototype stuff somewhere on the BP. And if I decide to do it, you won’t be able to stop hearing about it for a while.

These times have been labeled interesting, trying, unprecedented. Somehow, in the shuffle, we’ve lost sight of the fact that it’s becoming more and more obvious that there’s some sort of life on Mars. I know I’ve already been over this, but snow? Snow?! I feel like the next article will talk about the Martian radio broadcast that some linguist in a lab is working on translating, only to be met with similar lack of fanfare in a world so self-absorbed as to believe it is alone in living at all.

Maybe they’ll have to cart the Mars Rover into their underground lair before we really start to see it.

Maintaining a lasting feeling of relevance is difficult in a period like this. I feel as fickle as the market is volatile, as uncertain as everyone else. What inspires me in the morning seems blasé by the afternoon. What depresses me one day seems almost okay the next. I know I have unstable moods, but this is just getting silly. Is everyone feeling this way? Is everyone’s world this inconsistent, unstable, murky?

This isn’t exactly something people are prone to sharing. Like so many widely held perceptions, people assume that it’s “just me” or “something only I’m going through”. We are trained to be independent, to be scientific, to be immune to larger growing understandings that border on the universal. We are given inoculations of isolation and uncommunicativeness from birth, in the hopes of eradicating the virus of our humanity.

But there is power in the viral, a term the web has started to turn on its head. There is seemingly impossible potential in people, both alone and in groups, working toward common purpose. I would never have believed that the bailout, even if it’s just a first round, could be defeated by a populous united in opposition to their politicians. Couldn’t even conceive of the possibility. And now, in the face of it, it seems like anything is similarly probable. We could be on the verge of something very real.

And yet I have despair, debilitation, almost no energy to get anything done. I want my recreation, rest, distraction. Once more unto a breach of working overtime on top of a day job just seems… sigh.

But what if this is the one? What if the next mountain is the one we have to get over to find the valley below? What if this door is the exit?

Someone show me a sign.

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