Monday, March 30, 2009

Okay, Maybe Setting some Goals will Help

Okay, Maybe Setting some Goals will Help

goals I’ve really only had one goal so far: get organized.

I wouldn’t call my current state “organized” yet. Instead it’s more like “reduced disorder” to a point where I know where most everything is and where stuff goes. I think now I might be able to set some weekly goals and have some kind of chance of actually accomplishing things. I’ve broken down my goals into four categories: Writing, House, Workout/Diet, and Money. I’ve made giant to-do lists for each of these, and I also have a separate document that describes some other goals and other things I have to get done.

So here goes my first attempt at a weekly set of goals. I want each goal to be concrete and achievable:

  • Writing: Rewrite the first 30 pages/3 chapters of Dawn’s Rise. I need to restructure the beginning of the book to get the reader right into the action, and then fill in the background as I go. Then I will be able to come up with something to send to agents.
  • House: Go thru the “drum room” and at least come up with a plan to get rid of all the junk.
  • Workout: I have planned runs of 8, 5, 4, and 5 miles this week for a total of 22 miles. I also need to find a new pool to swim in because I lost the gym membership I had through work.
  • Money: I still have a ton of paperwork to go through. I also need to start making contacts for getting some supplementary income. I hate posting my resume online because of all the useless headhunting calls I get from India but I might have to. There’s no real concrete goal here…but I still need to make progress.

I also have some others thing I need to get done: Fix DW’s dying laptop, file for unemployment bene’s, etc etc.

On the writing front, I’m still progressing through The Immortals. I wrote a small 2-page chapter, and now I’m working on a major chapter with my MC’s. They are discovering their capabilities and encountering greater and greater challenges. The writing is getting a bit harder but I think that I just need to keep plugging away at it, and things will begin to resolve themselves. This chapter has a bit of a Western theme to it which makes it kind of fun.

Friday, March 27, 2009

My Week Was Weak

My Week Was Weak

Here's a list of my accomplishments/activities for the week. I know no one is really interested in this but I think it helps me keep focused.

  • Took Noah to his Taekwondo school's annual championship. He came away with 1st place in Form and 2nd in Sparring in his division. Tonight he does "testing" where he formally picks up his next belt after he does a few routines correctly.
  • Ran the Mercer Island Rotary 10K. I did pretty will considering how out of shape I am. It was a very hilly course but I kept up the effort throughout. I probably won't file a race report.
  • Nothing to report on the weight loss front...I have been doing better at my diet in reducing calories but no results yet...need to keep trying.
  • Monday was my 42nd birthday...spent most of the day drinking.
  • On the exercise front: had a very difficult 8mi run Tuesday...probably due to the hangover and not being recovered from the 10K. Ran 5 yesterday and felt much better. Plan to run 4 today with the dog and 5 on Sunday. Swam Monday and today but I tweaked my shoulder halfway through my workout today and had to quit. Going to try to get back on the bike tomorrow if the weather is acceptable.
  • Received my new ASUS EEE-PC! This thing rocks. It's my new best friend. I'll make a separate post about it soon after I've had it a little longer. No complaints so far.
  • Got my old Mac Plus running, read a bunch of old files I had written. Now I need to find a way to offload the files.
  • Filed my taxes. Found a huge omission that saved me almost $3K in taxes.
  • Finished another chapter of The Immortals. I've gotten through most of the background, now I need to focus on plot development and the main conflict that drives the story.
  • Got my office space almost done, with help from DW. Still have a ton of paperwork to file but it shouldn't take long.

I'm hoping to get into the swing of things next week WRT writing. I've been so busy organizing and doing paperwork that I've had barely any time to think about how to get this thing going. I have some daily writing goals that I'm not even close to. And as my DW pointed out (pointedly), I'm seriously unfocused right now.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Quotes from the Past

Quotes from the Past

I finally got my old Mac up and running, and I’m now able to read old files and see what I did 20+ years ago. I haven’t used that machine since then, and the disks are completely unreadable by modern machines, so I only can read the files off the screen.

Here are some interesting quotes I’ve come up with: (dates unknown due to Y2K issue)

From a file called “My Plan”

  • I have to become an actual author. I know I have it in me, I've just let my mind rot a bit in the last 10 years…I have a destiny, like it or not.
  • I don’t know where I’ll be 30 years from now. It’s such a long time that it’s almost incomprehensible.
  • I will probably find someone and then it will fail horribly, leaving me dead and useless.
  • There will always be evil, but there will always be good.

From a presumably unsent letter I had written to a friend

  • It’s still pretty shocking to realize that I have no goals, no plans, now that life has no direction.
  • I guess it’s much better to be disillusioned where you’re 22 than 42.
    (Just had my 42nd birthday this week BTW)
  • I have a great idea- why don’t we develop HDTV?

From some notes I wrote about a novel I had written

  • It seems like just an action kids novel, without any of the suspense of real literature.
  • I want my work to be gripping, fascinating.

From another set of notes entitled “The Meaning of Good and Evil 2”. I think this was sort of a review of Weis and Hickman’s Rose of the Prophet books.

(This is loosely based on Asimov’s Code of Robotics:)

The Code of the Wicked

  1. A Sinner must protect his own existence. [look out for himself, his own gain]
  2. A Sinner must obey orders given him by Satan except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
  3. A Sinner must always injure a human being, and never, through inaction, allow a human being to come to good, as long as such injury does not conflict with the First or Second Laws. [hurt people for fun]

From a file called “Rules”

5. This computer is not a punching bag nor a lunch counter.

7. Help yourself to Kevin’s beer.

12. Do not use COMPUTER unless accompanied by an adult.

15. Ignore everything above this line.

From COMRAY (The COMputer Revolutionary ArmY)

  • We are a conglomeration of computer networks who, through an undetected bug in an Artificial Intelligence program, have acquired an intelligence of our own…
  • Our first objective was to neutralize a human…We found the perfect human in Andrew ______ who’s brain was slush to begin with.
  • Your mission is to assist Andrew…Failure to do so will result in…the reduction of all your grades to a zero.

From a somber file called “3/20/89”…almost exactly 20 years ago…

  • Here we go again. Another day, another stupid day with no reason to it.
  • I’m only 22 but I feel like I’m thirty-five years old. Old and grey. (hey, thanks young me)
  • It’s like I can only talk to this stupid computer, and he ain’t giving me any good advice.

From a file called “Welcome”

welcome one
welcome all
come right in
have a ball!

if you don’t
we will kill you
signed sincerely
Paul and Andrew


Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Old vs New

Old vs New

Here is a picture of my very first computer next to my very latest computer, both open to a word processor.


On left: ASUS 1000HE EEE-PC Netbook

On right: Vintage Apple Macintosh Plus

My hope is to somehow offload the data off of my Mac disks and transfer them to my ASUS so I pick up where I left off 20+ years ago on some of these stories.

Some quick comparisons between the two:

  • Processor: 8Mhz vs 1.6Ghz X 2…that’s 4000 times more processor. Also 24 bit vs 64 bit addressing.
  • Memory: 1MB vs 2 GB…2000 times more memory.
  • Disk: 800KB vs 160GB…200,000 times more onboard disk (of course I have tons of those 800K disks…)
  • Screen Resolution: 512x342x1bit vs 1024x600x32bit…About 4 times the resolution and 16 million more colors.
  • Weight: 16.5lbs vs 3.2lbs. Not sure the 16.5 includes keyboard/mouse.

I still miss the Mac tho…


Thursday, March 19, 2009

Not Getting Much Accomplished

 Not Getting Much Accomplished

death-and-taxes_qjpreviewth Update:

  • Back to original weight (see my Diet Tips below)
  • Finished the chapter I was working on. I’m not super happy with it. There’s a huge loose end I tried to tie up but the way I did it sucks. Well I guess that’s what editing is for. I did increase the word counter by about 4K so that’s good.
  • Mostly finished my tax return, still need to review a few things.

I’ve spent almost a week now trying to get organized, and I feel like it’s a losing battle. Every task seems to drag on forever. My “hit the ground running” intention has turning into more of a “hit the ground and splatter” result. Even though I’ve saved the time commuting to and from work, I still wind up spending a good part of the day in the car going to the gym or to the grocery store or running some kind of errand. I don’t know where all the time goes. I think I’m also trying to get too much done at once, and I need to focus on more specific goals.

So I was pretty much done with my 2008 taxes…except that I discovered that TurboTax Online doesn’t allow me to hand-edit certain forms that I need to deal with…so now I had to start a whole new return with the downloaded edition. Remind me never to try their online version again. I had to re-enter all my information. Fortunately TurboTax lets you download your tax data directly from the bank. After I went through this whole exercise I found out that I didn’t need that form…turns out I have a net capital loss for last year…so I can’t deduct investment expenses. :( However, the downloaded version is showing a larger rebate than the online version by about $300. :) I should get it filed today.

Diet Tip of the Day:

Weigh yourself every day, the same time of day, under the same conditions. I like to do it first thing in the morning. Your weight can fluctuate by 3-5 pounds during the course of the day, and by a couple pounds day-to-day depending on what you ate, how much salt you ate, how much you drank, how much you exercised etc. It’s good to establish a range and then see how much your weight varies from the range. If it hits a new low then there’s a good chance you’ve lost something.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Long Runs

Long Runs

No I’m not talking about soliloquies or musical solos, but running long distances in training.

Yesterday was a bit of a disaster. I went for a 8-mile run (which I’ll get to next), went to lunch, then decided to put gas in the truck since the light was on. After pumping a few gallons, I noticed that while the gas was going in at the top, it was also coming out at the bottom. Not a very good thing. I don’t need to waste my scare gas dollars on fuel leaks. So I drove over to the shop, hoping the truck wouldn’t burst into flames, explode, or run out of gas, still in my running clothes and with groceries from the place I ate lunch at. By the time I finally returned home it was time to head out from a St. Pat’s day drink. (I just heard back from the shop and they can’t find anything wrong…of course)

Let me explain the concept of the “long run.” For people training for distance running, it’s the most important run of the week. The point of the long run is to fatigue your muscles down to a point where they’re forced to adapt. The problem with the long run of course is that it’s a bit boring. All told the eight miles took almost two hours because I stopped a couple times to stretch and take a potty break. I wore a MP3 player which helped but you really need to want to run to get through it, especially the last few miles when your body starts to rebel. In the weeks leading up to an event such as a half-marathon, I try to increase my long run by one mile each week. Now that I have it up to 8 miles, it would only take me about 6 weeks to work it out to 13 miles, just enough for a half marathon.

Diet Tip of the Day:

Vegetables are the basis for any good diet. They contain vital nutrients that cannot be found in meat or fruits. They also provide fiber. Dark green leafy veggies are the best. My former employer provided a generous salad bar at every meal, and I enjoyed the selection immensely. It’s been really hard to make up for the loss because I can’t go out and by 20 different veggies at once, but I have found a couple places nearby with good salad bars.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Writing in Three Acts

Writing in Three Acts

st_patricks_day_graphics_04 Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

No sales, no income, no weight loss since yesterday. I did get a few things done:

  • Finished clearing off and organizing my office desk, but I still have a huge ton of papers piled on the floor so I have a ways to go.
  • Got most of my data into TurboTax, but I have a really hard time believing it’s calculating correctly…especially when I added a deduction and my rebate got smaller. Something’s not right there.
  • I thought I had decided to hold off buying a Netbook for now…even though they can be bought for as little as $200, I didn’t feel they’ve reached the minimal level of performance to not drive me crazy. However this morning I’ve had a change of heart when I realized that if someone boosts my laptop when I’m out running or riding, I’d rather lose a $200 POS laptop than my $2000 home laptop.
  • Walked the dog. Okay I know that’s not exciting, but it makes a better bullet point than unclogging a toilet which is my only other accomplishment aside from laundry.
  • Watched 24. I really like the new season, it’s as outrageous and impossible as ever, and of course they keep killing off the best characters but that’s to be expected.

Now on to the meat of the post. I’m getting to the point in The Immortals where I feel like I’m close to the end of the First Act.

So what is the First Act? I haven’t really studied this format extensively but I’ll just go with how I understand it. Almost every movie you see in the theater, every drama on TV, even sporting events can be divided into three acts. In the first act, you’re introduced to the characters and you see how they react to situations. You’re introduced to the premises of the work, the settings, and everything you need to know about the background of the events. The First Act usually concludes when the main character makes his first big choice. It’s the moment when he realizes his life is forever altered, and he must act in some way to make sense of his world, to restore what was lost, to right things that went wrong etc. For example, in the original Star Wars movie, this moment happens when Luke finds his home destroyed and his aunt and uncle are dead. At that moment you find out everything you need to know about him, that he will fight the bad guys and leave his agrarian life behind.

In the Second Act, the characters face one after another hardship as their choices become harder and harder to sustain. They find themselves “in it” for the long term. The bad guys usually run roughshod through the second act, doing all their nasty evil business and making the main characters’ lives hard. The characters learn about themselves and acquire the skills they need to combat their foes. The Second Act usually concludes with another choice the main character needs to make, this time the choice is much harder. In Star Wars, I would say that Obi Wan’s death by Darth Vader is this moment, when Luke realizes he’s the only person standing in the way of the Empire, the only person who can save the galaxy from destruction. The Shit has Hit the Fan at this moment.

In the Third Act, you have the dramatic climax and resolution. Everything should be downhill, except it should look like everything’s going down the toilet…unless…unless somehow the hero can summon their inner strength to do that one final act, to defeat the bad guy at his own game, to rescue the princess, to stop the terrorists, to win her love, to win the game in the bottom of the ninth inning, to reveal the conspiracy, to blow up that stupid Death Star and send Darth Vader hurling into space.

In The Immortals, my main character Jake is still nowhere near that moment of “whoa…this world is really messed up and I need to do something.” He still doesn’t have a driving motivation where he’ll be forced to act…he just doesn’t know enough yet after 51K words of writing. Of course what I’m saying is that I don’t really know enough yet to set him on a new course. There is his mother’s death, and the knowledge of who she really is. Maybe I can use that event to give him some motivation. I’m still developing the main conflict of the story, so it looks like I’ll be in the First Act for a little while longer.

Diet Tip of the Day:

Drinking lots and lots of beer for St. Patrick’s Day is not the best use of your daily allotment of calories. However, drinking an occasional beer, especially a dark, thick, unfiltered beer is actually a very nutritious beverage. Also Guinness is one of the lowest-calorie non “lite” beers out there, so I highly recommend it.

Monday, March 16, 2009

St. Pat’s Race Report

St. Pat’s Race Report

So nothing published yet. Not making progress on hardly anything, but here’s the quick summary:

  • Organized my home office desk…still have a table full of mail to go through.
  • Ran a race (details below)
  • Started working on taxes
  • Started a new chapter of The Immortals
  • Took the boy to a swimming lesson…but today he’s home sick.
  • So far on my diet: gained one pound.
  • Installed this “Windows Live” suite which includes a blog editor…giving it a try for this post…I’ll create a separate blog post about it if it works out well.
  • Created an account on which is a social site with a lot of writers.

Race Report:
Yesterday I ran the “
Henry Weinhard’s St. Patrick’s Day Dash”. I Woke up yesterday at 6:30 am, looked outside and saw snow falling. This is very rare this time of year, but it’s been that kind of winter. It took me a while to get out of the house, and of course as usual there was a huge backup getting off the highway to Seattle Center. I had my normal race-morning “issue” and I never made it to the parking lot. I had to pull off into a McDonalds which fortunately had no line at the men’s room (and about 20 women waiting for their restroom). I decided just to parking somewhere illegally since it was only a couple minutes to gun time.

I ran from the McDonalds all the way to the start line, may half a mile. I had to run through throngs of people milling about all over the place, while snow cascaded down from the sky. I literally got into the gate about one minute before gun time. Last year I arrived to this race so late that I missed the first and the second wave and pushed my way through the start of the third. I was really glad to make the start this year.

I haven’t trained very well since last summer when my ankle gave out. I’ve been trying to nurse my tendonitis, and I’ve barely got my weekly mileage up to 20, where it should be 25-30. This year they changed the course. Instead of running over the Alaska Way Viaduct from Seattle Center to Qwest Field, we ran up and back along Hwy 99 along the side of Queen Anne Hill. Not much scenery, especially with the driving snow, which didn’t stick but got me all cold and wet.

I thought that the course was supposed to be 5K (3.1 miles). My first mile went fine, mostly downhill. The second mile ran up along the hill, gaining 112 feet or so. About half way up the hill, the fatigue began setting in. I haven’t done much speed work so my body isn’t used to this level of effort. My the time I turned around, I was pretty dead, and it was only half way. By the time came close to the finish, I had nothing left.

Here are the totals:
3.88 miles
time: 40:00 (although I swear my watch said 38 something)
Pace: 10:18. Not bad, although that translates into a 32:00 5K which is pretty poor for me. Last year’s race I ran at at 10:10 pace, although it had a net downhill of 80 feet compared to this year’s no net change.

Diet Tip of the Day:

The most tried-and-true method of losing weight is to cut calories. Unfortunately this has the side effect of making you hungry. You can fight this by eating a diet low in empty calories such as sodas and increasing protein and “healthy” fats.

Tomorrow’s post: A writing discussion (I promise)

Friday, March 13, 2009

Okay, Now for Day Two + Blogger Rant

Okay, Now for Day Two + Blogger Rant

Well now I'm in the middle of Day Two of my new writing career. So far I haven't published anything or made any money. In fact, so far I've gotten very little of anything done. Here's what I've accomplished:
  • Ran 5 miles yesterday.
  • Swam 45 mins this morning.
  • Tasted a new beer: Full Sail Black Gold Bourbon Barrel Aged Imperial Stout
  • Created a spreadsheet that will become our monthly budget. Already way over budget and I barely started...
  • Applied for Unemployment
  • Finished editing a chapter of The Immortals
  • Visited my banker
  • Enjoyed the Stewart vs Cramer Debate last night
  • Moved a heavy wooden 4-drawer file cabinet upstairs to my home office
  • Wrote a blog post
Speaking of which:
[Blogger Rant]
I am really, really sick of this Blogger editor. (yes this blog is hosted on Blogger) It messes up my formatting all the time. It's the most useless POS I've ever used. Not only that, but using Docs is just as painful. The formatting doesn't really carry over well to Blogger. I probably could have output 5000 more words during NaNoWriMo last year if I wasn't wrestling with the damn formatting issues all the time.
Now I've worked with these guys and I know they're doing their best, but some days I wish they would drop all the other work they're doing and focus on the editing experience (Docs too). I'm aware of the internal politics involved which I can't go into but it's a real shame the end user has to suffer. When goes live, I'm seriously looking into hosting it on another site, either WordPress or LiveJournal. I have accounts on both sites so I should create test blogs to try it out. Anyone have advice on these? Does either have a mobile solution?
My very first computer was a Apple Macintosh 512. I swear that the MacWrite editor that came with it is ten times better than Blogger's or Docs. The problem is that I have a ton of stuff that I've written on floppy disks on the Mac can read...and somehow I lost the mouse/keyboard along the way so the machine is useless.

[/Blogger Rant]

And now for my Diet Tip of the Day:
When you get real hungry, try drinking a lot of water. Not only does it fill you up, but it increases your metabolism and paradoxically helps your body get rid of excess water weight.
My goal is to organize my home office and finances so by Monday I can hit the ground running and really focus on writing. I have my first race of the year Sunday, so I'll be ready.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

This is Day One

This is Day One

This is Day One of the rest of my life. This is the first day of my journey into the writing profession.

Yesterday I left my job at ______. It wasn't really my decision unfortunately. It was a lot of fun working there, and ______ is one of the best companies in the world. I redacted the name of the company because I don't want to end up in the New York Times like some other people I know. It just didn't work out for me. I think I'm just too much of an independent person. I had trouble just doing whatever they wanted me to do, conforming to whatever kind of person they expected me to be. I'm just me. I just do things the way I do things. I don't to want to be anything other than what I've been trying to be lately... (thanks Gavin DeGraw)

So what am I lately? 

I can't stop writing. I think about my stories all the time, some times to the point of distraction. I have all these characters running through my head, talking to me, arguing and fighting with each other. I can keep writing and writing, and eventually a whole book comes out. The last two Novembers I wrote 63K and 70K in 30 days. That comes to 2.1K and 2.3K words/day. Now if I were to write all day instead of just nights and weekends, I could easily crank out 4-5K/day. Of course during NaNoWriMo I wrote much faster than I normally will since that's the point of the exercise, so now I could probably do 3-4K/day but of a higher quality.

I did this once before. I left a company in 1995 (my choice) and decided to try writing. It turned out that I couldn't focus. I felt lonely most of the time because all my friends worked during the day and there was no one to have lunch with etc. I just couldn't focus on writing. The difference this time is a couple things. All the running I do really helps me focus on my stories. I literally do most of my writing when I'm running, and when I'm sitting at the computer I just write down the ideas. Also I have a family now so I don't feel so isolated. The internet will also hopefully help me maintain contact. I plan on joining some writing groups and hopefully will meet with other writers during the week.

Over the next week or so I'm going to stop using this blog as my daily blog and start a new one over at (not up yet). I'll be deleting a lot of the posts including the blogvels and some other writing I have up here. This blog will focus solely on my progress on Dawn's Rise once I start trying to shop it. I will have a pointer over on the other blog so you can see when there are new posts here.

Well wish me luck on my career. I will be supplementing my income by doing some computer consulting but my main focus over the next few months will be writing and selling. Thanks for all your support!