Monday, August 18, 2014

A rant, and I might have burned out the weed whacker

There was a feeble attempt at plank last night after my run. I felt so bad about it I didn't even want to mention it. Only 60 seconds, and stopped with low back and right knee pain. Considering I'd been up to 1:45 and was going for 2 minutes, I was pretty disappointed.

And none tonight, not after the mega yard work. You see, we planted new grass when we did the back yard. As suggested we watered the heck out of it, and let it grow a bit long. I might have got carried away with that.

During the lodge staining I was laying cardboard down to save me from kneeling on stone, and from getting the stone spattered with stain. That cardboard carried over onto the grass and flattened it down pretty good.

It was pretty long. Really long. Long enough that when I started working on it this evening I quickly realized it was soaking wet underneath. It hasn't rained for several days now, and we've had hot sunny weather. Wet grass, thick wet long grass, is very hard to deal with. By the end of an hour of running nearly constantly my poor weed whacker was making a funny noise and beginning to smell. I'm not fussed, I think it's on it's last legs anyway. The cord feeding mechanism is getting very fussy.

It's still pretty uneven, but better than what it was. If it dried out I could consider tackling it with the push mower, or make another more careful pass with the weed whacker. The other day my neighbor was working his hedge, and it was only after I was almost done that I realized I should have asked to borrow it.

I suppose I should have taken a before picture, but there's lots of those if you look in the background of the lodge staining shots. Here's the after. A garbage bag and a half of clippings.

Have you seen those ice bucket videos that are polluting the internet lately? I shake my head at the videos that go viral sometimes, and this is one of them. Supposedly it's raised a lot of money for ALS, and so far so good.

But the name and shame thing troubles me. Dump a bucket of ice water on yourself, and you get to challenge others to do the same or send money to ALS. Pardon me for being blunt, but fuck you. I make my choices about charitable giving based on my values and where I see the help needed. I've given various one time donations when I've thought appropriate, and I've also participated in ongoing paycheck deductions. I don't need to be bullied into an either or choice.

I can appreciate that charities are hustling for a buck ever more aggressively as government funding is cut back. Everything is always more expensive, and there is a never ending list of charities for us to give to, each claiming to be more worthy than the last.

Don't get me wrong, many of them ARE worthy, no denying that. Some are not, given they appear to duplicate other organizations. Some are scams, and it's getting harder and harder to tell. But the needs never stop no matter how much money is given, and next year there are new charities for new conditions.

So I can understand the need for a gimmick to raise awareness and trigger the urge to give generously. Supposedly the bucket of ice water is to simulate what ALS does. I wonder if anyone has asked an ALS sufferer what they think of that idea. But do we give because it matches our values, or because it's the cause de jour? I suppose the charities don't care, as long as the cheque doesn't bounce.

One of my windmills to tilt at is the whole raising awareness thing. I think it's a fraud. It lets someone give themselves a warm and fuzzy feeling while not actually doing anything real for the cause. They're trying to persuade others to do something, and are hoping for a multiplier effect. I wonder how real that is. In the meantime, they've raised awareness, and other people start doing their thing to raise awareness, and everybody is aware, but nobody does anything.

That's why I say Bah! I think that one case of someone getting in and doing something real is worth a hundred cases of someone raising awareness. Something real can be donating money, if the group actually needs money, and most of them do. Or it could be actually doing something by volunteering your time to do something the group actually needs done. Which might not be obvious, but if you're really impelled to help out, you'll find a way to do it. I'm certainly far more impressed by someone giving their time than their money, and I'm more impressed with people giving money over those raising awareness.

At the bottom of the barrel are those that say "I"ll pray for you." Screw you too. What that means is you aren't willing to do anything, but want to feel good about it. Prayer, in the sense that most people use it, is a complete and total waste of time. It's actually insulting on so many levels. It implies that you've got an in with your god, and you can talk him into doing something for the group needing help. It implies your moral superiority in that you know what to tell god to give them. It implies that your prayer is more valuable than money or time. It implies that even if they had been smart enough to pray, that isn't good enough. You can't eat prayers, and they won't keep you warm in a Canadian winter.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Who inspired me today?

Saturday Linda and I went to the Dali exhibit at the Glenbow. Very nice! ( you'll never know how much it's hurting to pass by all the dalliance puns that are burbling in my brain.) I'm not a big painting kind of guy, but I really enjoyed them. Then there was a Bee Kingdom about some glass artists here in town that I really enjoyed, and here I'd never heard of them.

Today my buddy Michelle was signed up to do a duathlon out in Strathmore, and at the last moment helped another girl who had lost her relay team. Deb did the swim, and Michelle did the bike and run. What's more, she did it on her brand new (to her, late this week) Trek Madone. It's a sweet looking ride! They say never do anything new in a race, but the conditions were propitious and she went for it.

I had an amazing day watching the women only triathlon! Yes, watching pro athletes, and the elite age groupers is inspiring, but in a different way. These women, in all their various shapes and sizes and ages and degree of skill and conditioning, were out there giving their all. To them, a 500 m swim is a big deal. Watching some of them swim was actually a little bit painful for me as they thrashed and floundered.

But what's important is they got into the water and got'er done. They conquered their fears and stuck with it. That is HUGE! Next time they'll fear a little less, and that will make the swim better.

Deb laid down a solid swim time. They changed chips, and Michelle was off like someone who had done it a zillion times. It was sort of a wave start that I didn't really understand. Michelle was one of the last bikes off the relay rack, and was the first back by a long way. Then off on the run after a lightning transition. She had a really good run, and they ended up as first overall relay team!

Here's a bunch of photos, but blogger has mixed them up and I'm too lazy to fix the order:

Can you tell she is so excited and ready to race!

With her swim partner Deb.

And my swim buddy Deb from Renfrew pool days. We had a wonderful chat getting caught up while people were out on the bikes. I love her spirit of wanting to get out and try new things.

Nobody ever has to tell this girl to smile for the camera! Richelle did a great job announcing.

Here's Michelle just about to finish.

Showing off their medals.

They got some nice swag.

Great legs!

Yes, in the middle of all the hubbub of transition, she is taking a selfie. I think this is a soothing activity for her.

Chip fastening.

And she's off!

And she's back.

All in all a wonderful day. I'm inspired by Deb and Michelle winning the relay, and just as inspired by all the various women getting out and doing it.

I was out for a run as well in the evening, 5K, 35 minutes feeling pretty good. The actual pace graph is whacked. I am trusting Runmeter less and less. My brief glimpse at the other program gave me slightly different numbers, but I'm not going to go look at the moment. I want to hit publish and go pour a glass of wine.

So who inspired you recently?

Friday, August 15, 2014

Swim training fun

Sort of by accident on short notice, it worked out I could swim with a buddy that had wanted some feedback. We decided on Talisman, and it was no real surprise to also meet up with my buddy Katie that I water run with. We chatted a bit, and then got on with it.

I had thought about this a bit, and wanted to break it down into small steps, depending on how it went. After a bit of water running, and proving that floating worked, I took some swim video. This will be a great starting point to see progress.

From there we worked through body position in the water, breathing to alternate sides, and starting to work on stroke a bit. My buddy is a champ, and absorbed it all. The test swim after was much, much better.

This was fun in lots of ways for me. Swimming for me is a very cerebral activity. I'm not bored in the slightest swooshing up and down the pool. Part of the time I can be thinking about something else entirely, and some of the time I'm concentrating on my swim. Thinking about how to express that to another person was very interesting.

I didn't actually get to swim much, other than demoing want I wanted done, but that was fine.

In other fitness news I was somehow joined into a plank a day group. I'm up to a minute and 45 seconds, bathed in sweat. This is pretty good for me. I think I topped out at about 2.5 minutes at my best. It will be interesting to see if I can do better.

My back is still kind of stiff if I try to rush it. As long as I move slow and easy, all is fine.

No progress on the novel synopsis in brackets, but I've been thinking about it. You guys will be the first to hear.

Big day tomorrow at the Glenbow for the Dali exhibit!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Mid-week working vacation day with a DONE!

Such a productive day! It went zoom, but I got so much done.

Swim and water run for about 45 minutes altogether. Stretched in the pool for a while. Water feel was pretty good considering how little I've been swimming.

Visiting the famous Dr Macdonald. The ART was so good. The back crickle crackle wasn't too alarming, and it all felt really good.

Home, started staining the last coat on the lodge. This is the clear coat with UV protection and stuff. Fortunately it goes on much quicker than the white layer did. Much. It took about 5 hours in two goes to wait for the sun to move around so I could stain in shade.

A run in the hot sun. Lovely. 30 minutes, 4.5 K. Fairly steady pace. I've decided that the Runmeter elevations are truly whacked. So much so I'm wondering what the point is. In the half K stretch or so along 24 St, it showed elevation changes of up to 10 m, which is more than 30 feet. This is a flat road, people, slightly downhill.

My next door neighbor chanced to see me running, and said I was awful slow. My response was that I was out in the heat, and still moving.

Lunch. Errands. Bison Burgers. More lodge staining, and DONE!!!! At last. But now there's a fence...

Then drinking wine while working on my novel, looking at a couple of scenes, and trying to think critically about if they are really necessary. They still are, though maybe they can be shortened. Blogged. Looke at the plants Linda rescued from a buddy.

Time for bed.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Map a network, find holes. Sigh

I felt like such a klutz today. Normally I think of myself as reasonably graceful on my feet for a big guy. Not today. I nearly tripped over my own feet twice, and came perilously close to dropping a full glass of ice water on a tile floor. That plus a headache and feeling cold all day gave me some disorientation. I felt that not running was the better part of discretion.

Then there was the real mental aspect. I'm all fired up after WWC to move full steam ahead on my book. One bit of advice I got was to back out a bit, then write the synopsis to make sure I know where the story is going, and the arc of each character. So I started.

Some of my new readers might not know what I do for a day job. One thing is to map processes or data migration. One of my prime rules is that if you can't make the map or diagram neat, then either the process is a mess or I don't fully understand it yet.

I've been working on The Sweet Elixir since the beginning of last November. NaNoWriMo and all. I thought I knew the story and the 5 main characters fairly well. I've got the arc of how each character evolves during the story, so far so good. I once upon a time built a map of who was best friends with who, within the group of close friends and immediate family. So far so good there too. I used Aeon Timeline to ensure I kept the ages and sequence of events straight, and that's mostly so far so good, though I messed up at first.

Then I started mapping out which character steps up to help another character in a major way when they need it most. You'd think in a group of close friends, it would all balance out. Oops. I missed a scene. And I have an extra scene. Well, really, I'm sure a ruthless editor would say several extra scenes. That's ok.

One thing that Brandon Sanderson said that made a lot of sense was about building to the climax. It's really hard for pantser like me (he called us discovery writers) to come up with really good endings. And he nailed it. I've never really been happy with my ending. Any of the 3 that I've written so far. So either my story isn't ending in the right place, or I'm goofing on the ending structure itself. Brandon had some suggestions that I'm going to try.

The one that I think will really help is to treat the chunks of story as being inside the brackets in a math operation. The opening and closing brackets have to match, and they have to be properly nested. Now, there's two ways of doing this, normal math order or Reverse Polish Notation. I see puzzled looks on some faces. Look it up, or try math on an HP calculator. I've been doing that since high school, and still have trouble using a "normal" calculator.

So I'm planning on writing out the synopsis in brackets, both ways. Which makes me wonder if I could write it like a SQL statement. Hmmm.

A as (SELECT Char_E
         FROM Middle_Aged_Men
         ORDER BY buried in work, heart attack, rediscovers love for family)
B as (SELECT Char_P
ect, ect, ect.

Hmmm, maybe that's too much like work. And speaking of work, here's the view from my new office. Splendid, I'm sure you'll agree.

Monday, August 11, 2014

WWC or, The Cat Judge Shall Hear Of This

Much of my weekend was spent at the When Words Collide convention. Conference. Whatever. I'm still mentally unpacking it, and having to drag my tail into my day job and unpack my office didn't help.

The best part of thew weekend was running into people I haven't seen for a while, and actually having the time to chat with them. Over the 3 days I attended 15 hours of programming, though I bailed out before the end of the 2 hour one with Brandon Sanderson. I was doing really well, and it was interesting, then it got a bit off the rails at the very end.

I don't intend to give a summary of all the panels, suffice to say that all had at least some moments of interest, and that almost all were well worth attending. A few were hard choices, but such is the life of multi-stream programming. I talked a bit the other day about buying the book if you like it. That's still the big message. Much of the rest was of interest to me in revising the book I'm working on, and in a little while, marketing it.

I really enjoyed the whole weekend, and have already bought a membership for next year. Based on one of the panels I attended, I'm planning to volunteer to present one myself. It was all well run, and all the volunteers I ran into were friendly and helpful.

Part of the messages from the editors and publishers was very interesting. They talked again and again about making your query letter perfect, and to follow the submission guidelines exactly. Perfect (spelling, grammatically, and info content) and following the guidelines. These aren't a secret formula, they are printed in books and everything. How hard can it be? Well, considering I've been reading that exact same advice for at least 30 years, and been hearing it for several, I guess some people have difficulty with it.

Other than that, the best advice for me came from Robert J Sawyer. It happens I already knew it, since it came from Robert Heinlein, and I'd read it many years ago. But I forgot. This is slightly paraphrased.
You must write. (so far so good)
Finish what you start. (working on that.)
Do not rewrite except to order by editor. (I only wish)
Put it on the market (soon, very soon, I hope)
Keep it on the market till it sells. (Princess Bride was rejected 18 times, or so I've read. I'm not sure if this encourages me, or discourages me.)

Now, bear in mind that this advice was written by the person who is widely regarded as THE science fiction writer of all time.

Now, you are wondering, why will the cat judge hear of this? Our various cats have made it clear to us that eventually we will all meet up again, and this time it's the cats in charge. A cat will judge the various human cat interactions over our lives, and will reward us, or not. It has been made clear to us the best reward we can expect is to be buried in a giant kitty box for several eternities.

My great crime this weekend was to be out of the house for much of it, when Curtis wanted a lap. Then when I was home there was a brief episode of tooth brushing, which he doesn't particularly mind, but little lap time. Guilty he says. Guilty, guilty, guilty.

To assuage the guilt, here are some more pretty flowers in bloom. Stupid photostream. You'll have to wait until tomorrow. I can't wait till Apple replaces the whole darned thing. It's always the photos I want to put in the blog, or show someone, that don't show up. Sigh. Wait, there they are.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Well, THAT was popular

You guys really liked that rant I published on Thursday. I got some very nice feedback on it, thank you very much. Upon re-reading it wasn't quite as frothing and trenchant as I might have liked, but still, my blood was up and I pounded that out in about an hour. There may well be a followup. Stay tuned.

Since then I've been buried in the When Words Collide conference. It's a major writing and readers conference, and it's been a lot of fun for me. There's a ton of people I run into that I know, and the panels have been very interesting.

I just got out of a panel where 5 medium and small publishers talk about the state of publishing in Canada. It was fascinating. I wouldn't dream of trying to sum of the hour of discussion, except for this. If you pick up a book and like it, buy it. Right then. Books are cheap, in the grand scheme of things. Do not put it down. I had not realized bookstores return books much, much more quickly than they used to. A book that isn't selling well in a month, A MONTH will be returned.

A book that is displayed at the store on Tuesday will have it's sales figures reviewed on Thursday. Those sales numbers will influence what little promotion budget might be given to a new author. So you can't dither. If you want to continue to see bookstores in your community, buy the frigging book. Buy it and give it to someone you think might like it. Otherwise, when you get around to, thinking, yeah I should have bought it and want it now, it's probably too late.

One of the panels was about wit, especially on twitter. Brevity and all. You may have seen the traffic on it, and if you're curious, search the hashtag #lolyyc. Immortal humour, I tell you. But what was fun was attending the panel in person, at the same time as participating on line. That's really the first time I've done this, and would like to do it again.

The autograph lineup was interesting. Brandon Sanderson, the guy that finished up Robert Jordan's The Wheel of Time series had a line up down the room. Jack Whyte, Robert J. Sawyer, no line up. If I was an autograph junkie I could have them all autographed and time to chat with both to boot. As it is, I did get to chat with Robert Sawyer a bit. In his panels he has stressed the need to build a relationship with readers, and by golly he delivers. It isn't blah blah blah nice to meet you gotta go. It's an actual chat. He looks at your name tag. I want to go buy all his books that I don't have.

There's also been some quiet time between panels where I've done lots of work on my current book, and I've been having major thoughts about what happens next. I think I know what I'm going to do for NaNoWriMo later this year.

The conference isn't over yet, still some panels to attend. I should go buy some books. And somehow, once I get home I need to find the time to do some things that need to be done. Drink some wine, talk to the cats, BBQ some rack of lamb. I should probably iron some clothes to wear to work next week. Mowing the lawn is a bonus. Don't come by expecting to see a neat lawn, though the flowers are really doing well.

The clouds were really pretty last night, what with the super moon rising off to one side, and the light from the sunset lighting up some higher clouds. The photo doesn't really do justice to it. Plus one of Curtis willing me to give him some crunchies. The blog posts with photos of Curtis in them usually get more readers.


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