I was in Germany the first full week in May.
For reasons that may become clear later in this conversation, after I returned, Lisa and I were talking about work hours and work ethic and flexible work balance and whatnot. By flexible work balance I mean the ability to mix your work and life in whatever ways you need. This is something that’s very different today than it was when I first came into the workforce. When I started working, if you worked twelve hours a day it was likely to entail a stint at the office that ran from 7:30AM to 8:00PM (including a quick dash to the cafeteria for lunch).
In my younger days I ran at that pace, but these days I do about 9-10 hours a day in the day job (this will be important later), but it’s easier to do those 9-10 hours because they are often spread out across the day. I no longer really pay much attention to the 8:00AM start time or the 4:30 end time, or whatever. Instead, I work on work things when they are interesting (or just flat-out due, of course…nothing motivates like a due date). If I hit 11:00 AM and my brain is struggling to grab something about work, I step away. I take a quick walk, often accompanied by a manuscript I need to read or edit–basically anything that IS NOT work. That’s right. I do personal things during the day … but, then, I am also often doing work at nine at night or 5:30 in the morning or whatever.
This is flexible work balance and I’ve evolved my approach to it over time, morphing from an 11-12 hour a day office monster to a 9-10 hour a day flexible worker.
I find this interesting because people who are new to this concept can seem to struggle. Like Lisa. She joined the company I work for about six years ago after years of working for herself as s freelance copy editor. I see her struggling sometimes. Part of her struggle is because she’s always been a person who appreciates structure and process. She likes everything in their place and time, and when she ran her own business it marched to a very controlled beat. Another part of her struggle is that she came into the company through an office union which has rules that limit an employee’s ability to work from home or go the extra mile by adding hours. Her expectation of work is formed by the environment she’s worked in.
It’s interesting (to me) to note that our conversation was jump started by a discussion about the work culture in the area of Germany I was visiting–which is full of very hard workers, but is “shackled” (if I can call it that from my very mid-American frame of reference) with labor laws that very firmly limit the raw number of hours a person is allowed to work. (I should also note here that I am no expert on German culture as a whole. Perhaps things are different in different areas of the country … I have no idea of what I don’t know here).
Anyway, the purpose of this entire discussion was to note that I’ve been chewing on a new revelation for me. It shouldn’t be a new revelation, but it is. You see, I’ve been considering myself to be working 9-10 hours a day, and that’s still true. But that’s only the work I’m doing in the day-job. I’m certain I also spend 15-20 hours a week on this writing gig, which I approach as a professional to the greatest degree I can. In other words, it’s a job … though I’ve never really considered it as such, and so I’ve never considered the time I’ve spent on it as “working.”
If I change my frame of reference I see that I’m working 60-70 hours a week.
I find it interesting for several reasons, the first of which is that I now have a new perspective by which to grant myself the right to be tired all the time [grin]. The second is that I realize I do not resent at all the amount of time I put into by work. This is different from the past. When I was working 12 hour days in my younger-days job (and traveling a boatload) I often resented being away from home. I loved the work, mind you. It was great stuff, and very “romantic” from an engineering standpoint, very heady stuff for a late-twenties kid to be driving. But it wasn’t how I wanted to be. Especially when my daughter came along. The third thing I find interesting is that while I don’t resent the work hours, I do resent all the time we have to spend doing the base logistical things it takes to keep the world around us running. I don’t remember thinking that before.
I realize there are a lot of things tied up in this conversation. An advantage of the “old” days is that work very rarely bled into the home environment. Now everything is a mix. I also note that after Brigid arrived in our lives, Lisa stayed home. She did 99% of all the home logistics, so there was considerably less to be resentful of in those days.
* Aside: — Lisa has said a time or two that I probably appreciate her more now that she’s working and we have to do all the basics together in our “free” time. And I say, no, I’ve always respected and appreciated the work she did at those times … but that I don’t think she respected herself as much then as she does/would now. Having a spouse stay home is a major competitive advantage, and dads and moms who chose do to stay at home should be viewed as a critical enabler of the family unit.
But I also think it’s interesting that the breakage of work location with working schedule has allowed people to be more effective overall. At least that’s my take on myself. For example, when I need to break at 11:00AM from work because my brain is locked, and I take a fifteen minute walk, or whatever I do to remove myself from the situation, it pretty much never fails that when I come back to the work/problem, I’ve come back with a solid solution as well as a refreshed level of energy to apply to it. Same thing in the morning when I’m writing. I will often get to a blocked point, not know what to do and instead of looking at a flashing cursor I’ll hop onto my work mail to get a read on what the day will be like … and ten minutes later I’ll come back to the cursor and all will be well.
The downside, though, are months like this, where the two (three, counting life logistics) don’t fit into twenty four hours. In May the day job swelled to eat up a ton of time (including the trip to Germany), and my commitment to a writer’s conference this past Saturday ate up a lot of my normal time on the writing job. What hasn’t been taken by the conference was sucked up in launching “Three Days in May.” So I haven’t been getting the word count I like, and so I admit to feeling frustrated at that.
The problem with this modern work-life world, you see, (at least in the mid-American frame of reference) is that you need a lot of personal discipline to keep things apart. You have to make priorities and you have to subordinate one thing to another on any particular day.
And that’s hard.
To make it harder, you know that the decisions you make get viewed and judged by others. In some ways, they define you. Most of the time those judgments will be wrong, of course. And sometimes they will even be a bit unjust. For example, I am of the opinion that some of my mid-American co-workers (who don’t have any understanding of the German work environment) feel that their German counter-parts are incapable, or lazy, or merely unproductive. This is not correct, of course. Having been there, I know they are very productive, perhaps even more efficient than we are because, in some ways, work compresses to fill the allotted time. But they cannot possibly get the same amount of work done in 35 hours than we can do in 55. So what do they do?
Life is tough, you know?
I admit I’m not fully certain what the point of this discussion really is. All I can say is this: Calling writing a “job” (rather than just something I’m approaching as a professional) has me looking at my use of time in a different light. It’s making me step back and assess the way the world works and the places that Lisa and I sit in it. It’s making me thing about my own sense of self-discipline in fresh ways. It’s making me asses who I am again.
I thought you might find it valuable to do the same thing.
May 16, 2013 Life
So my place of work has kicked off this Virgin Health Miles program. One of the features of the program is that you can challenge other employees to special events, which is cool enough. Of course, the Health Champion of the building challenged all employees (several hundred) in our building to what is essentially a year-long challenge of who can take the most total steps.
Challenge, of course, accepted.
It started a couple weeks ago–or just a little after I left for Germany. I was wondering how I would do. I mean, I expected I would be in the top tier. I do roughly 23K-24K steps a day on average, so that should be pretty good, eh?
Well, first off, it turns out that’s more than good. It’s (grin) the top of the charts so far. I check the standings every day, and I’ve got competition from two or three guys. For a moment early I was as low as third place. But I seem to have created some space now.
I have no idea if I’ll be able to keep hold of #1. Lots of problems can arise, after all. But I have to stop here and have everyone note the name in the number 11 slot. It’s not every day one can say you’re beating that guy, eh?
A couple weeks back, I noted that John Bodin and I were collaborating again. This has resulted in the short story “Speeding,” which will be prominently featured in a short anthology that we’ll be releasing in about two weeks. The anthology’s title will be Three Days in May, The Greatest Spectacle in Science Fiction, and will include our previously published short stories “Oh-oh” from the Fictionwise anthology School’s Out: Switchblade and “The Day the Track Stood Still,” of Analog fame. All of these are based on the Indianapolis 500, naturally, and the goal is to have it available as the track opens up.
I’ll drop you the cover later today or tomorrow.
I think I can speak for John when we say we’re really excited about this work.
I can’t begin to tell you how busy this past week or more has felt. Besides getting Three Days … together, I can announce this morning that Episode Six of the fantasy series is finally “done” (meaning it’s ready for a beta-read and copy editing and all the other “post-creative” work it takes to make it into a real thing that I want others to have access to.
And work. Three days in Indy last week (fitting, given the anthology, right?), and then four days “off-site” this week, and an entire week next week. These off-site things change the dynamic of the day, and can be really wearing–especially since it seems like nothing else really gets done in the everyday of the process, you know?
Then there’s been reading. Of course. There is always reading. In addition to a bunch of short stories, I’m currently reading astronaut Jerry Ross’s memoir–which was a gift from Lisa Silverthorne.
And there’s fitness–well over 20K steps a day, and several trips to the health club to make sure we hit our monthly “quota.”
And grass cutting.
Mar 31, 2013 Life
As you might remember, I made three New Years’ resolutions. One of them was to average taking at least 20,000 steps a day. I just finished adding up my steps for the month of March (not counting a few more this evening…but close enough, eh?). Here are my results over the first quarter of the year:
January – 676,911 (21,836/day)
February – 697,959 (24,927/day)
March – 710,028 (22,904/day)
Average Over Q1 = 23,054/day
So, I’m doing pretty well. These March numbers are particularly exciting for me since I started in such a hole as a result of my lack of activity during the workshop in Oregon (I averaged only 8K stpes a day for the first four days of the month).
Stay tuned to hear updates on my other three resolutions. Oh, the excitement!
If you follow this place at all, you know that Lisa and I have undertaken a fairly diligent approach to both activity and diet over the past few years, and that this has given us some pretty good results. All good for us. Our frames of mind are similar, but a bit different in the area of food–wherein Lisa has a tendency to bucket food types into “good/healthy” and “bad/unhealthy,” and I tend to attempt to not put a qualifier on any particular food-type, but look at each eating decision in context of all my others.
In the end, it winds up doing the same things (we agree on the best ways to eat, for example), but it means that we occasionally get in discussions about food that end up with us chasing our tails.
This is a lead-in to the fact that I’ve recently come upon two reports on the food industry that I thought were interesting. One, a link from Lisa that outlines how the food industry cannot be trusted (hence must be forced to change from the outside), and the second a new way of labeling food that (1) appears to really help people make choices, and (2) seems to make a heckuva lotta sense to me.
Take a quick look at those links (especially the last one).
I think the thing that makes Lisa and I go around in circles sometimes is that I take it for granted that the food companies are going to sell things that people want to eat–and that most regulations that get put in place on these companies will be ineffective unless people want to change and are given reasonably easy-to-understand information about what is in various foods. Given this, I absolutely love the idea of putting walking miles (or time) on the labels of food products in order to give people an idea of how much extra MOVEMENT they need to accept in order to eat it. And, of course, I have to like the fact that it seems to actually change how people make decisions.
Calories in ve. calories out is not absolutely perfect, by any means. But it’s a great shorthand for making right decisions in the big picture. But folks have a hard time converting calories into effort. I know this because I’ve been doing it in my head for the past three years, and when I talk to people about how I’m working it out I get the most god-awful stares I’ve ever seen.
A Dairy Queen Blizzard, for example, is about 600 calories. I burn about 1 calorie for 20 steps (give or take). That means eating that Blizzard is going to cost me 12,000 steps. Using my treadmill desk at home, I generally walk at 2.5 MPH (unless I’m doing high concentration work and need to scale back to 2.0 MPH). I take about 2,000 steps in a mile, so one hour on the treadmill desk is about 5,000 steps. So, to get rid of that 600 calorie Blizzard I needto walk about 2.4 hours, or let’s say 2 hours and 25 minutes.
That math changes if I go to the health club and set my treadmill to 4.8 MPH (which is my norm, unless I run for a bit). At that speed I get nearly 10,000 steps in an hour, so I need only about an hour and a quarter to kill the Blizzard.
I don’t think Lisa does this math when she thinks about these things. While I’m asking “Is this Blizzard worth the work?” she asks “Is this worth the calories?” Similar questions, but asked from slightly different (and sometimes important) perspectives.
And, yes, I know I’m insane. I know this is why I get those god-awful stares. It’s okay. I’ve learned to live with them just fine, thank you!
Happy anniversary to my sweetie!
So, yeah, I’ve been working on the fantasy series again, and it’s been going well enough. But this morning I finally figured out what episode 5 is about, and suddenly things seem so much easier. Like most such epiphanies, this one had a sense of “well, duh” about it.
The problem, I think, is that the parts of the story I’m working on now had only been complete through first draft in their novel form. Since my base work is to cut the story back into its novella chunk origins, I’m left with some ragged edges. Once the surgery is done, I need to be able to step back and look at the whole thing and re-image it in ways that makes sense as stand-alone pieces as well as within the full context of the macro-story arc.
Anyway, this means episode 5 is in the bag.
Not in the can, of course. But in the bag. Episodes 1 and 2 are “in the can” (as in ready to release into final production), and episodes 3 and 4 are in the final beta reader stage–beyond “in the bag,” and very close to being “in the can.” Episode 5 is merely “in the bag.” But that’s all good.
Hey, it’s writer logic. It doesn’t have to make sense to anyone but me.
Mar 14, 2013 Life
There’s a certain ballet associated with getting off a treadmill desk. When you hit the off button, it doesn’t just come to a stop. It s.l.o.w.l.y … slows down, which is danged inconvenient. So, instead, you just hit the button, take two steps, and then let the treadmill carry you back about half its throw, and then step to the side.
Simple, elegant, and … well … kinda fun.
Until someone steps into your landing space, anyway.
BTW: 21,367 steps today, and counting.
Yes, I did say that yesterday I started back on the fantasy novella project, and I did say that yesterday it went well. Of course, today I was diverted by some work I needed to accomplish on a pair of short stories. Welcome to the life of a writer with a day-job. One of those short stories is now out in the cold, cold world wherein it’s soon to be submitted to the harsh reality of inspection wherein it could be gobbled up, or could be spit out for some perceived faulty use of characterization or weak-kneed attempt at metaphor or perhaps some problem that might exist in a run-on sentence. The other remains in process.
Tomorrow I assume it will be back to the fantasy novella’s.
Quick recommendation. Here’s “Creator of the Cosmos Job Interview,”a fun little story from Nick DiChario found on the new online mag Galaxy’s Edge. It’s very Nick-like, which is a good thing. I think. [grin]
Finally — my latest step-quest update.
I have to be straight here, while going to the workshop in Oregon was an absolute, and maybe life-changing event, it played holy havoc on my step count. Only one of those days did I manage as many at 14K, and at least two of those days I was down between 3K and 5K. This the means that even with a 30K day or two recently, I need to hit it pretty well the next few days to get back into the ballpark of my goal (which I remind all is to average 20K/day).
I’m only at 15.5K so far today.
Mar 6, 2013 Life
While I was in Oregon, I had zero time to focus on anything except the workshop. That’s how it’s supposed to go, I suppose. But what that means is that I missed my monthly window to update my status against the notorious resolutions you make each New Year. If you recall, I made three resolutions. I’ll discuss the first two here, and follow up with my fiction list for February on the next rock.
RESOLUTION, THE FIRST – Average 20,000 steps a day.
Pulling up my Verizon Health Miles Account, I get the following data: January – 21,835 steps/day, February – 24,927 steps/day (for a total of 1.37 million steps in those two months, or 23,303 steps/day). Not bad. You can see the difference installing the walking treadmills have had just by looking at the jump between months. Gotta give myself the old A+ grade for this one.
RESOLUTION, THE SECOND – Write fiction every day
I have to admit that I took a day off in February. It was Monday, February 18–the Monday after all our stories were due to the workshop. I had been working on two different stories at the same time, and I hit my deadline, and I was just flat-out mentally drained because I had been writing nearly non-stop since Friday night. So, yeah. I missed a day. It was a wise choice. I’ll note that I did not miss either the 27th or the 28th–both days of the workshop itself, and the 27th being a travel day. Grade: A, (rather than A+)
I’ll note that I’ve already missed a day in March, also, having not written at all the Sunday that ended the workshop. Brain-dead. It happens. Given everything else going on around, I’ll not grade myself down at all. For the year, I’ve missed a total of five days–two days off due to the need to recuperate, and three spent reading Brigid’s work. Overall, that’s a big-old, Yay Me!
Mar 6, 2013 Life
I drove from Indy to Columbus Monday night. Knowing full well that I was down on sleep, I was particularly careful to stay many car lengths from other drivers wherever possible. Somewhere south of Greenwood, I came upon a van that was driving so slowly that it made me get on the brakes quite hard (even in my state of caution). I waited a bit, and realized it was traveling at maybe 35, so I pulled out to pass, and as I did pass, the van sped up to match me at my 65-70ish. I went a touch faster, and he matched me again. Annoyed, I backed down.
The van ran up, then moved over to block me–half into my left lane and half in his. He stayed that way for maybe twenty seconds.
Not up for an Interstate fight at 10:30ish, I just slowed on down. A moment later, the guy goes back to the right lane, and then exits. As I came along side of him, I actually wondered if he would swerve to hit me. But all was fine. I was a little annoyed, but no worse for the interaction.
Then yesterday morning I heard both lanes of the interstate right where I was driving were closed for several hours shortly afterward due to a fatal accident. It was a van, driving the wrong way on the Southbound lane …
Made it to about 2300 words on my new story. One more, short scene and I’ll be done with the first draft. I don’t think it’ll need too much clean-up to be ready to go, but I’m saying that without having read through it. Note to self: I’ve been wrong before. I’m guessing this will be about 2500 words at final draft. Probably about right for a story inspired by an 80′s pop song.
Times like this I wonder what I would say to myself if I could go back in time and sit beside myself. Here’s the scene:
Time Traveler Ron: Hey, how are you doing?
80s Ron (startled): What the f**k?
TT Ron: Don’t worry. I’m you, here from the future.
80s Ron: Huh?
TT Ron: Hear that song? (I say, pointing to the radio as it plays the 80s pop song)
80s Ron: Sure.
TT Ron: Someday you’re going to write a story inspired by that.
80s Ron: You’re kidding me, right?
TT Ron: I wouldn’t kid you about this. In fact, I just today nearly finished the first draft.
80s Ron: You mean they’re still playing this crap on the radio?
TT Ron: Yeah, and on the Internet, too.
80s Ron: Internet?
TT Ron: Hum…yeah. Let’s just say that today might be a good time to buy Apple stock.
80s Ron: Man, I look old.
TT Ron: Hey, you’re lucky you made it this far.
80s Ron: I’m going to write a story about this song?
TT Ron: Well, not about it, but inspired by it.
80s Ron: What’s the difference?
TT Ron: Believe me, you’ll know.
80s Ron: Crap. Just shoot me now, okay?
Feb 20, 2013 Life
So, I broke my “GoZone” (pedometer) a couple days ago. Yes, it was traumatic. It was a bit over two years old. No, it wasn’t’ the electronic read-out, that broke. It wasn’t the body cracking or splitting or whatever. In fact, the actual step counter worked just fine.
It was the strap.
Or, to be technical, the clip that holds the strap to my belt buckle or edge of my pocket or whatever I’ clip it to. It’s the safety catch, of course. The thing hanging there just in case the actual pedometer falls off.
The irony is kinda funny.
It just snapped off as I was trying to attach it. Life is so danged tough.
Here’s a picture of the broken part.
These are special pedometers distributed by Verizon through our company’s health program, meaning the pedometer unit itself connects through these fancy Internets to the central tracking center, which can then pump lots of info to us that no one would ever use for anything but our benefit. Luckily, I thought that my pedometer had been killed before and ordered a second one. I raided it for spare parts, and now have a spanking new clip.
I hope it lasts another two years.
While I’m on the topic, here’s a quick update on my step count resolution … not only am I averaging over 25K steps a day at present (just barely), but I’ve been over 20K every day of the month. The wonders of a treadmill desk at home cannot be discounted, eh?
With a day full of meetings at work today, I have to admit this record is in danger this evening.
Considerable steps to go.
Feb 19, 2013 Life
We listen to a lot of Radio Paradise. This is an independently programmed, listener-funded internet station. It’s a beautiful piece of the internet as far as I’m concerned. We listen to it pretty much all weekend long–leaving our week-day mornings to local commercial radio to ensure we get any morning news about road conditions or other weather-related things we need to know about.
The fact that we listen to them both means I get to truly appreciate the art of being a great radio programmer.
Yesterday morning, for example, the local station played a wonderfully stark ballad from Dave Matthews, and followed that with the harsh sounds of Pink Floyd’s “The Wall.” These two should never go together under any circumstances. Even though I wasn’t deeply listening, the pairing jarred me. Then this morning I sat down to my normal word production time and sat through a series of songs that were knit together in such a brilliant fashion that it was almost like the station was talking to me.
The capper was the paring of Stevie Wonder’s “Sir Duke” with Duke Ellington’s “Sassy,” which one online forum member posited had been written about Sarah Vaughan, whose nickname was, natch, Sassy (technically, it was one of her nicknames). I don’t know if that song was written about her, but I can tell you that the act of listening to a station that is so lovingly programmed is a wonderful thing. You should try it some time.
There’s a time in every story when I think it’s just about the most perfect thing I’ve ever seen. Literally perfect. This is always immediately after I’ve written “The End” for the last time and I’m still awash in the sense of power that has brought me to that piece. Makes sense, eh?
Unfortunately, there generally then comes a time when I decide I was wrong. This is generally right after I’ve hit the “Sent” button to submit it to an editor.
Such is life, eh?
Today, though, I finished a story and hit the “Sent” button and still think it’s pretty danged okay. Gotta love that. That piece was the focus of my weekend, which was kinda fun.
Here’s an interesting article on competitiveness that Lisa sent me. I’ve been thinking about it on and off the past few days as it has some bearing on how teams (and probably individuals) should look at strategy–in particular, I’m thinking of the portion labeled “performance.” Here’s a key quote:
“After additional analysis and three studies of their own, they concluded that when people are trying to excel — playing to win — their performance improves. When they’re trying to avoid messing up — playing not to lose — their performance goes downhill.”
Using basketball as an example, two things come to mind:
Free Throws at tight games — If this article is right, shooting FT with the lead is harder than shooting FT when you’re a few points behind. This “feels” right to me just based on watching games for years.
The old “Four Corners” argument — If this article is right, it explains why the four-corners was doomed to be just a fad. It’s the epitome of playing not to lose, and the facts of the matter were that fans were getting tired of coaches blowing games at the end–which was happening A LOT. I’ll go to my grave thinking that if the shot clock had not been installed, the 4-corners would have become a niche strategy, like the box-and-1…occasionally used as a trick or gimmick. Here’s “science” that might prove why.
Feb 10, 2013 Life
Ok, so I’m sitting on the couch and watching Lisa walk and work. I would be, I suppose, walking and working, too … but I’m tired. I’m up over 30K steps already, and I’m just kinda feeling lazy. I don’t suppose being up until 1:00 last night watching the Cards lose in 5 overtimes had anything to do with it. I did want to give a bit of a treadmill update, though.
Here’s a screen capture of my steps measure (taken earlier this morning):
Bottom line, the treadmill desks seem to be doing their job. We took a few moments to clean them tonight, which consists of lifting them up and vacuuming around. Took only a few moments. Can’t complain.
But, yeah, I’m more than a bit brain dead right now (no comments from the peanut gallery, all right) and I think I’ll head off to bed pretty quickly. In that light, here’s a link Lisa sent me on getting away from work, and (partially) the value of sleep. So, go get some.
Feb 6, 2013 Life
I was standing in the hallway today at work today, waiting for a meeting room to open, when my gaze happened upon one of those posters you see so often that epitomize to me exactly why corporate environments have such dorky reputations. It included a photo, a logo, and a definition.
Here’s the definition as it was written:
“Technical Productivity” — Using resources effectively and efficiently to deliver innovative products and services to customers.
Now, don’t get me wrong. Every organization should be interested in using their resources both effectively and efficiently, and that delivering innovative products and services to customers is the name of the game. These are good things. But that definition is pure white bread. It’s bland. Generic. But mostly it’s not technical productivity.
That definition, as written, would be better applied to project management.
Technical productivity would be better defined as something like: Using technology, science, math and logic effectively and efficiently to deliver innovative products and services to customers.
Of course, I don’t even really like my take on the definition, yet. I would need to think about it a little more. But it’s at least defensible as technical productivity.
When I see these things I just have to wonder. How does this kind of sloppy thinking happen? Is it a reflection of basic laziness or is it due to using the wrong people to come up with the definition? Where did the phrase come from? Who reviewed it? Who approved it? I’m inclined to think the the problem is that someone who runs projects wrote the statement. I assume, in this case, that the writer actually thinks he or she got it right, which would mean that the writer is not actually doing anything related to technical productivity. Just my hunch.
Of course, the rest of the “problem” is that these posters are generally tucked away on a wall someplace where pretty much no one sees them (like this one was), and that people who work in corporate offices anymore are so numb to the slate full of buzzwords that they don’t really even see them. Except, of course, they do. I mean, I have to assume I am mnot the only person in the world who sees these things and thinks “Did someone actually think about that definition?”
The writer in me just shudders.
What’s the problem with stating the thing in a way that is specific and true rather than in a generic way that is nothing but buzz phrases? Does it really have to be this way?
As I’ve noted in a few places, Lisa and I bought ourselves a pair of treadmill desks for our Christmas present. They arrived last week, and we started using them immediately. That means we’re moving into week two of our desktop treadmills, so I thought I would give you a bit of a report on how it’s going.
Bottom line: I would say they are a success. My numbers on the treadmill yesterday include:
- Time: 5:39 (yes, that’s five hours and thirty-nine minutes)
- Calories Burned: 1,082
- Distance Walked: 11.45
Realize that’s just my time on the treadmill. It doesn’t include my 45 minute trip to the health club, or any of the other stuff I do throughout the day. All total, I topped 40K steps for the day. Of course, that’s a weekend day that included both a Louisville basketball game and a Super Bowl on the treadmill, complete with the 35-minute delay for the Niners to get their groove on. I don’t expect to get 5.5 hours on the tread every day. That said, I don’t think either Lisa or I have been under 20K steps a day. I find it’s fine for just about all kinds of typing, including writing–though I think I prefer the editing process here rather than raw creation.
There’s something about the steady rhythm of walking that seems to fit the editing mindset (especially the line-editing process)–which I was doing part of the time yesterday. Pretty much all of my real creation is still happening downstairs. I don’t find that I make any more typos while I’m writing.
One interesting fallout tat I wasn’t expecting–I’m finging that when I do a half hour or more of light walking just prior to going to bed, I feel ready for sleep almost immediately. And I think I’m sleeping better. Probably too little sample size to say that with any surety.
Here are some details on the machine itself:
Make/Model: Lifespan DT-5
Max Speed: 4 MPH (I tend to walk at 2 MPH while typing, as I am now)
As we’re drawing toward the end of the month I’ve been touched on progress toward my resolutions of the new year. The only one I haven’t commented on yet is: “Write fiction every day.”
The fact is that I’ve missed three days. Well, technically I guess I’ve only missed two days, but I admit it’s hard for me to accept a day where I spent, like, two minutes touching up a paragraph as a real day of working on fiction. Even then, missing only three days would be pretty good. That’s 89.6%. Solid B, maybe a B+. But I’m still giving myself an A, maybe an A+ even, because during the three days I wasn’t writing fiction, I was reading and commenting on Brigid’s work.
That’s right. Brigid finished up “Singer,” her NaNoWriMo book, and she shipped it off to me, and I commented on it. Very cool, indeed. Not an experience I would have really expected all those many years back when I started this whole thing–though it seems obvious now. And it’s a nice effort, too, which makes it even better. The first half is actually quite smooth and well done, the second half held water for me, but was a little crunched at times. But a great effort for a first draft of a first novel. Who knows where it will lead, but I’ll admit I’m really quite jealous.
So, you see why I’m a bit lenient on that B or B+ for myself. Writing is too tough of a gig to be a tyrant about yourself.
In the meantime, this month saw me (1) complete work on one novella, (2) send two more out for first reader comments, (3) finish “The Teammates,” a short story that I expect you’ll hear more about in the next few days … Yay! (4) Finish the first draft of a yet-to-be-titles short story, and work about half-way through the second draft, and (5) develop the framework for another short story based on beetles. Not bad for a month that included a couple days travel, and three days of convention. And, of course, “real work” … which I shall toddle off to now.
Have a great day, eh?
Jan 27, 2013 Life
I generally attempt to stay away from deep politics here. Not completely, of course. I’ve talked about health care a little, and I’ve touched very lightly on guns and our latest epidemic of mass shootings. In the old days, I wrote a bit on the Clinton impeachment that got some play on the main SFF.net page for a bit, and with the help of Brigid I wrote a series of pieces right after 9/11 (1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th)that I still feel pretty proud of. So, yeah, I do delve into things here and there.
But, on the whole I want this place to be a little less intense than the average political bloviariness that goes on elsewhere, so I generally clench my teeth pretty hard and keep myself from spewing. On the other hand, there comes the very rare occasion where a piece of thinking comes along that just makes me hafta go “Seriously?” I’ve read just such a piece. It goes like this:
In order to get married, you have to be capable of responsibly creating a child by mistake. Am I reading this right? What the heck does that mean? Am I reading this right? I have been thinking about it most of the day, and I just can’t get my brain around it any other way.
Of course, it’s a sham of an argument, but if I play the game of “I’ll grant you …” (meaning I say I’ll grant your position is true) this opens up lots of interesting concepts that, while making many people miserable and disenfranchised, I think would actually result in some good things. Kinda.
So, let me grant you that in order to get married, you have to be capable of making a child by mistake and be able to responsibly raise that child.
First, that means you won’t see many, if any, kids married while in high school, or just out of high school. I mean, unless you’re a kid from a family of money, you can’t possibly afford to raise a kid responsibly at this age. So that cuts several out right away. And then we have to find a good way to identify which kids are emotionally ready and which aren’t. Pick a way, there’s a bunch of psycho-graphic tests out there–one of them must be good enough. Perhaps a Cosmo quiz would do the trick. Good luck on getting Congress to agree on one, though.
Next, let’s talk about ensuring these responsible mistake parents are going to be there long term. Just showing up is, after all, 90% of success (as Woody Allen once famously said). Clearly you’ll need to find a way to prove your relationship is going to last through a child prior to being granted a license to marry. What test do we have that will prove this? Or even just suggest it? Just think how many broken homes this little law will save! Once we have this in place the divorce rate will, by definition, go to zero, and we can therefore reap the benefits of driving the number of children from broken homes down to zero. That will be great.
What? You mean you think these folks we save from marriage due to their inability to responsibly raise their “mistake” children might actually have children anyway? Crazy talk, eh? Totally crazy talk.
And what about folks who for some medical reason are just unable to have children? Clearly they would no longer qualify to achieve their license of marriage, seeing as they are unable to make a child by mistake. Makes total sense, eh?
Also, when we pass this idea into law, what do we then do about all the opposite-sex marriages that no longer pass muster? I suppose we’ll be looking at a lot of forced divorces. And that brings me to Lisa and myself. We’ve proven, I think, that we’re capable of raising a kid responsibly, but without going into great detail, we’re not going to be creating any children by mistake anytime soon. Please, please don’t tell me we no longer qualify to be married. We’ve been planning on growing old together for a very long time now. This is suddenly quite personal.
Look, in all seriousness, I think I understand the root of the folks arguing against the concept of same-sex marriage. At least I think I do. I don’t agree with the position. I think it’s wrong. But (1) I’m just one guy, and (2) despite the fact that I don’t agree with them, I respect what, for the lack of a better term, I’ll call religion-based arguments against equality in marriage laws. Everyone is free to think and believe what they like. But seriously, this just seems to me to be (how can I put this perhaps not so delicately) … uh … stupid. So I ask in all seriousness, what kind of thinking is this?
Surely I must be misreading something.
Or is it some kind of joke?
Jan 26, 2013 Life
Since we’re nearing the end of the month, I thought I would take a look at my New Year’s Resolutions. To remind, I made three of them.
- Average over 20K steps a day
- Write fiction every day
- Read a short story every day
Today I’ll talk about he first one–personal activity.
Let me start by saying I was in a meeting earlier this week, and one of my co-workers asked how many steps I was up to, and then went on to relate the story of a guy who worked out every day and who recently keeled over of a heart attack. Let’s just say that I have a reputation. [grin]
I replied that that’s the differentce between statistics and the individual. Then we moved on.
For me, this staying fit is not about weight or not even about length of life (though they go hand-in-hand in the realm of statistics, which I admit I enjoy). But this staying fit is about quality of life, it’s about feeling good, and about staying sharp throughout the day. When I’m not moving, I getr tired in the afternoon. Simple as that.
Anyway…onto results this month.
Assuming my little pedometer is accurate, as of last night I had registered 540,962 steps in January. I know this thanks to my handy-dandy health miles program at the day job, for which I wear that pedometer momst all the time, and whic captures all my data. That 540K total grades out to 21.6K steps a day. So that’s a big checkmark.
My daily variation is quite large, ranging from a low of 7,457 steps (January 13th) and a high of 43,174 (January 2nd). Other than that 7k day, I’ve never been under 12,000 steps, and I’ve been at or over 30K two times in addition to the 43K day. My pedometer reads 19.2K today, and it’s 3:00 PM, so 20K is a given barring a broken ankle or something here really soon.
So, for now I’m reporting that I’m 1-for-1 on resolutions.
More on the next rock, perhaps tomorrow.
Jan 23, 2013 Life
So it takes 18 days to get over a cough. File this under Something I Should Have Known.
Of course, the thing I think is most interesting is the piece about how the use of antibiotics in these cases tend to support people in their misguided perception that they helped–despite the fact that they are probably useless.
The quote at the heart of the matter:
…if a patient has not started getting better after about a week—when they expect the cough should be tapering off—they might head to the doctor to get antibiotics. This timing, however, is troublesome. “If they begin taking an antibiotic seven days after the onset of symptoms, they may begin to feel better three or four days later, with the episode fully resolving 10 days later,” the researchers wrote. “Although this outcome may reinforce the mistaken idea that the antibiotic worked, it is merely a reflection of the natural history” of the illness.”
Totally logical, I suppose. But still … humans are just the strangest creatures, eh? I’m willing to bet that most people, even when they learn that antibiotics won’t help, still press for a dose.
Now to the real question: what do you take for a persistent case of crappy writing, eh?
Three things that sucked this morning:
- Waking up at 4:30 to see the temperature outside was 9F, then finding it was 7F two hours later. Dear World, You’re going in the wrong damned direction, okay?
- Cat puke on carpet. I assume it was an editorial comment on our decision to leave her behind for five days while we were in Michigan.
- Breaking off writing at 0700. Yeah, I’m used to compartmentalizing this way, but with my ConFusion bounce, I really, really wanted to keep going.
Three things that didn’t suck this morning:
- Finishing what I think is the final draft of a story I’ve been working on, complete with a fancy new title.
- Wife making the Sacrifice de’Spectacular! She continued to defer our one pair of ear muffs to me. The woman is apparently angling for some form of sainthood. This alone should be worth neverending chocolate in whatever afterlife exists.
- Heated car seat. Toasty buns are a good thing.
Jan 1, 2013 Life
Am I a total seerer, or what?
In early December I had a brief Facebook conversation with a friend who bemoaned the political shenanigans of the fiscal cliff. I said not to sweat it, that the best thing to do was to go away and check back at the end of the year to find out what last-minute deal got done.
I said this because the dice were already cast.
The Repubs and Dems had to dance in a completely unproductive swirl for weeks because if either gave an inch before they absolutely had to the radical followers of their side would skewer them. This meant that once there was no more time they would throw a dart and make a deal happen, which was almost certain to be a short-term fix that would serve to give them more time to discuss the matter–which is pretty much what appears to have happened, though even I didn’t believe they would go so deep into the timeline as they did (as in, an hour past the deadline).
Politics is such a ridiculous game at its core, but obviously fascinating to watch. I just wish there was a party whose platform matched mine better. Both parties regulate too much, and regulate stupid things. Neither group can cut a program once it’s in place. The Repubs (a wing of them, anyway) are too exclusionary for my tastes, the Dems too willing to put people on the dole “for their own good.” But at the highest level, they are the same–all for big government, as long as it’s their guys pulling the strings.
They don’t agree on much, but that’s just because they are like siblings, wired to fight regardless of their positions.
We’ll see what the House does in a few hours, but the cliff seems to have been side-stepped.
What a lovely post to start the year with, eh?
I’ve been thinking about the coming year, and trying to come up with some good resolutions. It seems like resolutions should be made. Really, it does, doesn’t it?
I can think of a lot of things I could or should make resolutions about–things like working on being a better person, being a better husband and father and son and brother and friend. But that all goes without saying, and doesn’t seem to really be quantifiable. As a member in somewhat good standing of Corporate America/Earth, it seems to me that a good resolution should be measurable as well as be something that makes a difference to you. In this light, I don’t think work-related things are going to fit into my resolutions because they already get measured like mad and I already know I’m going to work on them because outside forces will make sure I do. A good personal resolution should be something that you control, at least to a reasonable degree.
Not that all those other things aren’t good things to be doing. I have every intention of trying to be a better person and be my best at the day job.
In addition, I think good resolutions have several other traits. A good resolution is fairly simple. A good resolution leads to good habits, or at least habits that you actually want to form. I also think there should not be too many of them, lest they get bogged down in the mire. And so, after thinking things through, and after deciding that three is the magic number, here are my stated resolutions for 2013.
#1 – Write new words of fiction every day
#2 – Average 20,000 steps a day
#3 – Read a new short story every day
I chose these three things because if I am successful in achieving them, I expect other good things to result. It’s possible they won’t of course. And if they don’t, well, that would be a bummer. But you work hard, and you control what you control. At that point things work out however they’re supposed to.
With that I’ll leave you to your New Year’s festivities.
Well, I’m off to spend the rest of the last day of the 2012 practicing for resolution #1 of 2013.
At the day job, I put together a Year End Review of achievements my team had accomplished in 2012. You know the gig–the standard set of before and after metrics that show progress in the murky, complex world of Corporate America, or, since I live in a multi-national, perhaps I should say Corporate Earth.
After thinking about it a little, I figured I should take a moment to do the same thing here. After all, no one will really remember those day job things 20 years from now, I suppose. But all this personal stuff lives on and on.
In my own inimitable style I’m going to call it “Great Things That Happened to/for Me This Year.” I need to caveat that, though. Not 100% of these things are great, and not 100% are about me (yes, I know … but there are at least a few things that occur in this world that do not circulate around me. If you don’t believe me, just ask Lisa or Brigid and I’m they would fill you in). To make this easy, I’ll break this into four groupings (so you can skip over any parts that you don’t care about). These topics will be Personal Things, Writing Things, Fanish/Webish Things, and Reading Things.
That said, here are some …
Great Things That Happened to/for Me This Year
- Over the past 18 months, I’ve bumped my total average to 19,000 steps a day, and managed to keep going to the health club at least 10 times a month. Weight is slowly sliding up, but my body fat ratio is dead steady, and well, I’ll just say that my overall shape is not terrible for a guy my age.
- In the same light, I was able to run a string of ten or fifteen 30,000 step days together that made some people in the area doubt my veracity. That was kinda fun, I guess. Why do some folks let their own mental framework get in the way of their ability to achieve things? Dunno.
- Lisa got the Cutest Car Ever.
- Seeing my brother release “Bold Little Stranger,” his indie CD. Jeff’s an incredible musician. Every time I hear his music I think of him down in the basement fiddling around with chords and running scales.
- It’s a great time to be a Louisville Cardinal fan. The Cards made it to the Final Four last spring, and are in the top five this year with a really solid team of kids who are both fun to watch and fun to pull for (which are two different things). On top of this, the football team is slated to get drubbed in the Sugar Bowl … unless, of course, they can somehow manage to make it through the big, bad SEC representative from Florida. No way, right? Right? Go Cards! (Update — beating UK today is a great cap to the year, eh?)
- The publication of “Midnight at River’s Edge” in Daily Science Fiction, and the publication of “The Collector” in Misty Lackey’s Elemental Magic anthology. Both of these stories mean something to me, and were interesting pieces to write. I’m really pleased they found homes. “Edge” is a short little piece that people either liked or didn’t–which is cool either way, of course. “The Collector” is a considerably more ambitious piece, which makes me glad to note that 2012 also included …
- This PW review of the Elemental Magic anthology that called out my work in a particularly satisfying way. Realize that it will always be acceptable to say that a writer’s work “stands out with passion and disquieting depth.”
- I actually heard my beloved wife call one of my stories “brilliant” after she read a first draft. Admittedly it was a tiny story. Hopefully you’ll hear more of it later, but even if you don’t, well, it’s already served its most important purpose–making me think my wife thinks I’m cool. (Note, I know this is completely different from actually making my wife think I’m cool. Don’t freakin’ burst my bubble here).
- The release of Five Magics, a collection of some of my fantasy work that I’ve been wanting to get together for some time. It’s nice to have them available. Two or three of those works have really special places for me, including “The Time of Leaving,” a 3,000 word piece that always reminds me of Lisa’s grandmother, who was a truly remarkable woman in many ways.
- I wrote the first draft of Wakers during NaNoWriMo. It’s a short piece right now at 55K, but will expand on second draft. Best part was writing alongside Brigid, Nick, and, of course, Lisa Silverthorne. This is the first “new” novel that I’ve written in some time, so it was nice to know I could make this happen again.
- In a similar vein, I’ve also spent much of the past four months (not counting November, of course) restructuring Glamour of the God-Touched and Lords of Existence, two of my fantasy novels, into a series of novella-length works that I will attempt to market under the Lords of Existence title, but that will each also stand on their own while conveying a full story arc. The first four episodes are pretty much in the can, having experienced a pair of fairly extensive scrubs, and are at a collection of early readers to see if they stand up. Goal for early 2013: Cover art. Marketing plan. Make it happen. Somehow.
- Rejections. All right, these don’t generally fit in the “Great” category, except that they represent action. And, well, let’s just say that the data shows there’s been a little action this year, and that is quite great.
- Went to WorldCon again. First time in a decade. Yes, I got deathly ill the last two days of it, and that cost me a bunch of dollars, but still. WorldCon is wonderfully weird, and I think I missed it. Goal: more cons in 2013. As a starter, you can look for me up in Michigan this Jan 18-20 at Immortal ConFusion in Dearborn, Michigan.
- Attended and spoke at the Bartholomew County Writers Conference. The best part was meeting all the other writers, as always. My talk focused on rewriting, and while I have no idea if anyone else gained from it, I enjoyed researching the topic and getting my mind focused on what it means to write, and of course to rewrite. In true Corporate Earth style, I made a PowerPoint slideshow of it, natch.
- I actually managed to keep this site a bit more up to date than I have in the recent past. Yay, me!
- Perhas as a result, traffic here is up. Noticeably. The numbers don’t lie, and the numbers say you’re finding your way over here more than in the past. Thanks! I’ll see what I can do to make it worth your time as we move into next year.
- Somewhere in the next week or so I may actually pick up my 50th Twitter follower. Depressingly low, I know. But, hey, you could be #50. That’s pretty cool, isn’t it?
- Read John Scalzi for the first time. Besides the fact that it was much fun, I just don’t think you’re allowed to say you’re in the SF community these days if you haven’t read the guy. Can you?
- Read The Count of Monte Cristo. This is one huge book, and given how I read, the fact that I finished it is remarkable. Due mostly to time available, my reading style is much more attuned to short fiction or non-fiction, but I decided I was jumping into this thing, and that I was going to finish. It only took 3-4 months. [grin]
- Kris Rusch‘s Free Fiction Mondays. Kris does remarkable things with short stories, and I admit I look forward to her Monday postings. Time to buy another one of her books to pay for it, eh?
- Read Stephen Leigh’s The Woods. Really special book. Fun to read an early work from a writer and person I admire.
- Read Ruth Nestvold‘s fantasy collection Never Ever After. Ruth is always good.
- Read Lisa Silverthorne’s Shipwrecks in Sea Minor, a beautiful pair of short stories centered on the Titanic and Lusitania disasters. In a just world, Lisa Silverthorne would be doing big book tours these days.
- Backed Vera Nazarian’s Cobweb Bride Kickstarter project. Can’t wait to read it.
- Joined Goodreads. Not sure this is good, bad, or indifferent. But I’ll give it a few months and see if it changes my life in any way.
So, there it is. All the Great Things That Happened to/for Me This Year. Sometime I suppose I should think about planning for great things to happen in 2013, but you know, I really didn’t PLAN much of any of this. But I look back on it, and I see there’s a lot of stuff here. Amazing, when you think about it. All this stuff, and not a bit of it is work-related. I see why I’m so tired all the time. [grin]
So, today, as usual, I expected the cat to wake me up at 6:00. This is what the cat does. It’s my fault, of course. I’ve trained her over the years that breakfast is served at 4:30 AM give or take. So now I can’t sleep particularly late unless I go to a hotel. If you’re owned by a cat, then you understand what I mean.
Anyway, it turns out she didn’t do the deed until 7:30. This makes me wonder. Was she asleep on the job, or did she actually attempt to do so but I just slept through it–kind of a feline snooze alarm thing. I dunno.
I’m of two minds here.
First, I kinda liked the extra sleep. I mean, seriously, who doesn’t need an extra hour and a half of shut-eye these days.
But I also intended to get a little futher in what I’m hoping is a last pass through the second episode of this fantasy series I’m envisioning as Lords of Existence. As in, I wanted to finish it. Turns out that was probably optimistic thinking, but I probably coulda gotten another 15-20 pages in that 90 minutes.
I live such a hard life.
Dec 21, 2012 Life
Here’s something Lisa dropped my way a bit ago, and I just thought was pretty danged cool. Why didn’t they have these when I was a kid? Of course, Brigid, having been a swinging enthusiast when she was a young’un, may never have come home if she had found one of these.