Liebster Award

The talented Meg Writes Stuff nominated me for the prestigious Liebster Award.

liebster-award-rules

Without further ado, here are 11 fun facts about me:

  1. I took a few fencing classes in high-school.  One time, my opponent and I lunged simultaneously, I had the longer reach, and she ended up moderately injured after my foil bent in half against her chest.
  2. I once pedaled my road-bike downhill, with traffic, at over 47mph.
  3. I wrote a short novel, you should read it.
  4. Two of the scars on my right hand are from a surprisingly violent pillow fight at my cousin’s house.  Those metal zippers are no joke.
  5. I have never left the North American continent, but I desperately want to travel.
  6. My favorite movie is Fight Club.  It’s had the most impact on my world-view and philosophy.  I understand how worrisome that sounds.
  7. I changed my Business major to Criminology and Criminal Justice when I realized I couldn’t stand my Accounting, Economics, or Statistics classes.  With Winter and Summer classes, I still graduated on time (with exactly 120 credits.)
  8. I bouldered at a local rock-climbing gym last year.  My best accomplishments were a top-out V5 and a few tricky dyno V4s.  I miss climbing.
  9. My first car was stolen in college.  I walked outside on a Tuesday morning and it wasn’t where I left it.  So for eight months, I had to carry groceries back from the store every week.
  10. I once lost consciousness while sledding.  The tube slid downhill backwards and the back of my head smacked into a concrete wall I hadn’t seen coming.  No one checked on me, I staggered home with a concussion on the only snow-day that year.
  11. After 25 years I’m still not entirely sure what I want to do with what’s left of my life.

For my next trick, I’ll answer Meg’s 11 questions:

What kind of music do you like to listen to while writing, if any at all?

I usually don’t listen to music while I write, I tend to find it distracting.  However, I’m listening to Lorde’s Pure Heroine right now because it’s the best.

What is it about writing that keeps you going, even when you’re not sure you want to continue?

About halfway through the book, I didn’t want to do it anymore.  But I’d built these characters and the world they lived in, I felt I owed it to them to finish the story.  And I refused to be another person who wrote half of a novel.  Other times (when inspired) I’d furiously hammer the keys to get it all down before the plot-threads slipped from my clammy fingers.

Who is your favourite author?

George R.R. Martin.  The universe he’s created is the most complex I’ve encountered.  Also, he was the first writer I read who killed main characters.  I had never seen that before, in any media, and it changed my perspective on storytelling.

What genre do you read, but swear you’ll never write?

I’m afraid of writing Fantasy.  I don’t think I could keep everything straight with the magic, different races, and creatures.

What do you do when you tell yourself something along the lines of ‘I’ll only procrastinate a little bit longer’?

I usually cycle through Twitter, WordPress, and YouTube until sufficiently distracted.  But usually, I just get on with it so I can relax after the work’s been taken care of.

What brings you right into a writing mood, and how do you keep it that way?

I have to consume in order to create; could be a movie, TV show, or written word.  Talking about writing also helps, bouncing ideas off someone else to develop a point.  But I’m not very good at keeping it that way, I have to take notes right away and build from there when I can.

Favourite series, and favourite stand alone?

Harry Potter, I’ve read them many times.  Those seven books are responsible for making me a lifelong reader.

Pride and Prejudice, especially re-reading it after watching the Lizzie Bennet Diaries.  The social nuances and snarky sparring are like a window into another universe.

Have you ever seriously screwed up your sleeping schedule because of a book? Was it worth it, and what were you reading?

I don’t think so.  Unfortunately, I don’t get carried away with reading anymore, probably because I’m an old man who has to get up early for work.  If it ever does happen, I’ll most likely be reading the next installment of A Song of Ice and Fire.  In which case, it will absolutely be worth it.

What do you do to remember those ideas you come up with when you’re not able to write?

I write it down as soon as possible, sometimes mid-conversation.  On my phone usually, but if I have an idea when drifting off to sleep, I’ll get up, turn the light on, and scribble it on a notepad.

Are there any books or series that you thought were great, and then the ending just ruined everything for you?

I wasn’t thrilled with how The Great Gatsby ended, but it’s still a great story.  An opposite example would be Crime and Punishment, where more happened in the epilogue than the preceding 500 pages.  I still regret committing so much time to that one.

Why do you write?

Because I need to.  At this point, I don’t think I could stop writing if I wanted to.  It helps me process my life and think through difficult decisions.  It’s like I’m meeting someone new every time I write another short story.  I’d love to get paid for my efforts someday, but even if that never happens, I’ll keep writing because it’s what I’ve practiced the most.

Because while the truncheon may be used in lieu of conversation, words will always retain their power. Words offer the means to meaning, and for those who will listen, the enunciation of truth.

The rules state that I’m to nominate another 11 bloggers.  Unfortunately, I’m only connected with 2 bloggers with under 200 followers who weren’t mentioned in Meg’s original post.

If anything, this means I need to find some more WordPress Writers!

Smiles Per Gallon

Officer, I made it all up.  I’m a very safe driver.

Yesterday, on a sunny afternoon, I went for an exuberant drive with a friend.  He brought his NB Miata, and my mk4 GTI lumbered along for the festivities as well.  We found a smooth stretch of road, with no police activity or cameras, and started with a few runs in the Miata.

I briefly owned an NA Miata, but this one was in much better shape.  The responsive 1.8 pulled through the corners just fine.  He was more aggressive since he knew the car, but my course knowledge balanced the scales.  Nothing like a top-down backroads blast on a Sunday afternoon (all while remaining under the speed limit Officer).

Then we switched to the GTI, which had to warm up a bit since 169,700 miles is a worrisome odometer reading.  In my car, on a road I drive every day, and with a point to prove, responsible antics ensued.  I’ve never gone through that hilltop chicane so fast in 2nd gear with someone in the passenger seat losing their mind (again, well within the law).  He did a burnout on his turn, sent the tachometer into the red, and I swear I heard the clutch sobbing.

Finally, we might have gotten back into the Miata to slide around an empty parking lot.  Even with newer tires, on a warm day, he got it sideways.  I had less luck, since everything I know about drift, I learned from Fast & Furious and Initial D.  I tried a weight-transition drift in 1st gear, ended up going too fast (but still under 10mph Officer), and bounced the tachometer off the rev-limiter.

Before any of this, we shook hands and agreed that “If you break it, you bought it.”

It was the best motoring experience I’ve had thus far, and on a completely unrelated note, my neck really hurts right now.

Journey to the Library

Once a month, the local library hosts a booksale.  Paperbacks are $0.50 hardcovers are $1.  It’s an event worth attending, since my “to read” list grows at an alarming rate.  I purchased five books there in March, only one was on my list, which tends to happen in bookstores.

This time, I thought I’d raise the stakes and make an adventure out of it.  Instead of driving to the library, which would take 10 minutes and a few tablespoons of liquified dinosaurs, I decided to walk 2.5 miles to the library, and 2.5 miles back.  I packed my old college backpack with the two books I was donating, some cash and coin (they don’t take cards…what year is this?), and my “to read” list, hastily scrawled on a DoubleTree hotel notepad I borrowed from a training course in Virginia.  On my voyage I crossed over the railroad tracks, went around the vague yet menacing research building, past abandoned bus stops and the kid’s soccer team outside Dunkin Donuts.  I tried to decipher a discarded Chinese newspaper and took the long way around the building to not disturb the Tai Chi group.  The walk took about 40 minutes, so I was tenth in line outside the door just before 10am.

Minutes later, I followed the crowd into the conference room/book market.  I was immediately surrounded by hundreds of mediocre fantasy novels and old IT reference tomes.  Kids hopped with excitement over finding the perfect VHS film and sobbed with despair over the outrageous $2 price.  I wasn’t the only one with a list, some of the old people turned up with a half-dozen tote bags to haul their repositories of sacred knowledge off the premises.  I didn’t find anything on my list, but I bought two books anyway: Gates of Fire by Steven Pressfield and The Thousand Autumns of Jacob DeZoet by David Mitchell.

On the return trip (There and Back Again), I was passed by the brightest blue Ferrari 458 I’ve ever had the privilege to witness.  Cherry blossoms fluttered in the gentle breeze as the birds chirped overhead.  Thanks to a few pre-emptive Advil, my swollen knee didn’t give me much trouble.

Walking as a form of transportation is somewhat rebellious in the sprawling suburbs.  No one walks, and certainly not too far, because they have two or three cars.  If they don’t have a car, they’ll strangle whatever utility they can out of the inconvenient public transport system, so I had the sidewalk to myself most of the time.  Walking also offers the most direct travel experience.  No other method has the same sensations; the grit underfoot, the roar of passing cars, the fatigue of propelling oneself inexorably forward.  It takes much longer, but it’s far more interesting.  As an added benefit, the sun replaced my sickly pallor with a tan more appropriate for my mixed ethnicity.  The small decision to walk, made the difference between an errand and an adventure.

Unidirectional Decisions

I worked in IT support when I was in college.  In that department, you were either an Apple Fanboy or you were wrong.  So my decision to empty my account of surplus loan funds and purchase a MacBook Pro worth more than the car I drove was a foregone conclusion.  And I’m glad I did because it helps me illustrate my point: There are unidirectional decisions in life.  For example, the number of people who have gone from PC to Mac is far larger than the number of those who have gone from Mac to PC.

After reading the first few chapters of “The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari,” I noticed a similar decision.  I’ve heard a lot of stories about powerful executives, high-powered lawyers, and stressed-out CFOs leaving their career and simplifying their life somehow.  Maybe they’ll become a monk, an organic farmer, or a freelance consultant.  Maybe they’ll retire early instead of waiting until after the inevitable heart attack.  Maybe they’ll find whatever it is they’re still looking for.

But I haven’t heard about any of the satisfied, enlightened, creative individuals waking up with the sunrise and declaring “That’s what missing from my life, a partnership at a leading firm.”  And then they sell their yurt, get three part-time jobs, and start climbing up the ladder.  That never happens.  They know they’ve already figured it out.

The Great Blog Hunt

Since I’ve recently returned to WordPress, I’ve started looking for interesting blogs to follow.  Over the last few days, I’ve found a few that look promising, and I look forward to reading more of their work.  Today I waded into some travel sites, which I usually try to avoid.  You see, I want little more right now than to travel the world, see incredible sights, and amass thrilling tales of my exploits.

However, I’ve learned that pining after something I can’t achieve anytime soon, and feeding that hunger with travel journalism, is not the best choice.  I look at the clock hours later, shocked but not surprised that I tumbled down the black hole of researching my theoretical future instead of doing what I can to make it happen.  As much as I appreciate auto photography blogs, if I have no money to build a project car, there’s little I can do with that desire.  As much as I love the vibrant posts of the world-citizen nomads, I still have student loans keeping me here.

I did follow one travel blog though (so far).  They’re posting from Hanoi at the moment, and I was immediately snared.  The writing is amazing.  I’ve never read something and wanted to grab my passport more than when I perused Hanoi is for Fugitives.  I highly recommend The Squeaky Robot, for what my quiet voice is worth.

Do any of you have other blog suggestions?  I’m mostly interested in short fiction and personal posts, since my bank gets nervous whenever I stay on a travel site too long.

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I Am A Writer — And I Am A Total Slave To Page Views

Geoffrey:

AdRevenue ensures a homogenous slurry of content that appeals to the lowest common denominator and gains the most page views.

Originally posted on Thought Catalog:

I feel like I am a slave to page views. Which writer doesn’t? I’d like to meet the writer somewhere who isn’t forced to give a shit about page views.

Now look, page views do matter in a sense or could matter if they directly correlated with excellent content. I believe not all voices should be heard or rather, should not be given equal credence, but the way the system works now, the voices with the most page views are given the most credence. This system of majority rules is supposed to be ideal, it’s an ideal that governs our democratic society but when the general interest is in literal trite nonsense or when the purveyors of trite nonsense are using questionable tactics (baiting headlines) then the system isn’t really fair, is it? So we (writers, publishers) can’t use that as a defense can we? We can’t just say we…

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Rabbit Food

I pack my lunch Mon-Thu and get some tasty fast food on Fridays.  Every week I go into Arby’s, order one of maybe three options, and enjoy a hot fattening meal in peace with a grin across my stuffed face.  After two years, I’ve become a regular there.  They know my name without asking, they give me free drinks and fries if the managers aren’t paying attention, it’s not a bad arrangement.

However, as you may have heard, my back breaks occasionally, and The Doctor says I need a stronger core.  I’m still not sure how to improve upon my chiseled titanium abdomen, but it could always be better.  And fast food is not helping that cause.

For two weeks now, I’ve pulled into a grocery store near work and cleaned out their salad bar instead of going to Arby’s.  I know it’s just a matter of time before they go into their back office and cross my name of their list of valued customers.  Arby’s stock will drop, employees will be laid off and forced into a life of crime, restaurants will stand abandoned like rotting corpses in a dilapidated parking lot.

But a huge salad and a bagel feels much better than an instantly regrettable Chicken Bacon Swiss Sandwich.