It's 2023 and I'm still alive

It's not been a great year for me, but I'm posting this here just to make sure the world knows I'm still alive.

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The End Is Nigh For Twitter

Today's dose of flailing lunacy from the Mad King of Twitter:

True fact: I saved this jpg as "twitter death spiral". The whole thing has a desperate, Berlin Wall vibe about it.

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Believe me, I am still alive

... for now, anyway.

Since it looks like Twitter is going down the tubes now that the Worst Person In The World (Runner-Up) is running it, this is a reminder that you can find me here, like an unquiet spirit hovering over what's left of the meat puppet it used to enhabit.

TBH I'm not sure if I will continue to exist if Twitter becomes uninhabitable.

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The TBR pile... it just keeps growing

When you already have dozens of books on the TBR pile, ranging in difficulty from light and fluffy to seriously complicated and challenging, does it really make any sense to visit a used book store and buy yet more books to add to the pile?

Sure. Take joy where you can find it. What is a book if not hope in physical form?

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Tracking the traffic

It was on this date in 2009 that I put a tracker on this blog so that I could dig deep into Google Analytics. I could see which posts got what traffic, who was looking at my posts, from where in the world, at what times, etc. My thinking was, "you can't improve what you don't measure". I had a brilliant career as a novelist waiting right around the corner, right? I needed to get off on the right foot and build my audience right from the start.

Now, from the perspective of 2021 as I survey the withered husk of this cobwebbed wasteland, that level of literary ambition seems like escapist lunacy.

Anyway, here's a link to a popular post about what a lifecoach would tell an assassin about how to kill people better.

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2020: The Last Year

I feel as though 2020 is The Last Year.

The Last Year we shook hands instead of bumped elbows or bowed.

The Last Year we blew out candles on a birthday cake, getting all of our vaporous exhalations all over the food we then served to the friends and loved ones gathered around us.

The Last Year we had parties where friends and loved ones were gathered around us.

The Last Year we could sustain the illusion that the people in charge were competent or cared.

The Last Year for averting the coming climate crisis.

The Last Year for NATO, for Inspectors General, for ethics regulations.

But maybe, just maybe...

Also The Last Year for blind acceptance of exclusionary power structures designed by oligarchs.


Maybe this is The Last Year.

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Idea: "Boomtown"

“Boomtown”: A novel about:
  1. the world’s first antimatter factory
  2. the quasi-governmental agency that runs it
  3. the company town that fears/depends on it
  4. the oil cartel that hates it
  5. and the time-traveling aliens trying to infiltrate it.

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#NaNoWriMo 2019: At Least I Tried

Final word count for NaNoWriMo 2019 is 26,300. This is far from the winning goal of 50,000 words, which I've hit with satisfactory regularity in the 12 (13?) years I've been doing NaNoWriMo. But it's OK, and I'll take it.

I knew as far back as the spring that this was going to be an exceptionally difficult November, schedule-wise. That, I can handle. Finding time to write in airports and hotels, on airplanes and trains, up early and up late... that I can do, and have done.

But I didn't anticipate that there would be emotional trauma that distracted and derailed everything. I sank low this month, and things that should have been fun... weren't. Although I have plenty of supporters to offset the haters, the calculus of emotional leverage is such that just the effort of seesawing one against the other is exhausting.

In writing my NaNoWriMo for 2019, I originally wanted to do something light and fun and silly, something diversionary. Without my wanting it to, it took a dark, bleak turn, and went to places that were far sadder than I expected. It became real work, and I avoided it. My repeated efforts to turn away from the dark and force the prose into the light were, paradoxically, not helpful, because the book felt - you guessed it - forced.

So I think I need to go into this effort, pull out the sad stuff and set it aside.

"Yes, I WILL write that book," I'll tell myself, "but not now. That is not THIS book. THIS book will be silly and fun and ridiculous. The serious book will wait. I will pack a lunch and some extra batteries for the headlamp and head back into that cave later, explore it some other time. But for now, here on this sunny beach, somebody needs to build a sandcastle. And that somebody is me."

Stay tuned. Or don't. Your call.

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Review: Rocketbook reusable notebook

For a few months, I've been using a Rocketbook reusable notebook. It works a lot like a regular notebook for writing, drawing, etc., except that it's got a special reusable paper. The sheets are coated with a kind of plastic (or maybe they're made of that plastic - IDK, I'm neither a paperologist nor a plasticologist) such that the writing stays on the page until you're ready to reuse it. Then you wipe it with a damp cloth and *poof*, the ink is gone. The sheet is blank again, ready to be reused.

By itself, that's no better than a pad of throwaway paper which reduces all of your deathless prose to transitory ephemera. But the real trick is in the app that comes with the notebook. You point your phone at the screen, and it will automatically line up the shot, take a picture of your page, and assemble all of your pages into a single document. Then it will automatically send that to you wherever you want: email, Google docs, Instagram, Twitter, Dropbox, etc. It'll send the pages as a PDF, or (and this is a snazzy touch) it will do OCR of your handwriting, convert it to text, and send along the transcription as a Word doc, Google doc, etc. Every page, every line, every word, captured for the ages.

What I like: I like the reusable pages, the ease of wiping away the old to make way for the new, the auto-send to wherever I designate, and the OCR/transcription of my handwriting is lovely black magic. My handwriting is pretty crap, but the OCR has done a decent job of making sense of it.

I also like how I can can carry a very light notebook (only 40 pages!) instead of a thicker, heavier notebook, or a really heavy laptop.

What I don't like: The Rocketbook will only work with pens from the Pilot FriXion line. These are erasable, and use a special kind of ink. It's a pity I can't use any of my own pens. Also, I wonder how limiting this will be, since I can't just grab any old writing implement that's close to hand if my pen runs out.

The FriXion ink comes out quite wet and although it dries instantly on regular paper, it takes 10-20 seconds to dry on the special plastic pages. This probably isn't a problem for most use cases, but if you're steadily writing page after page of prose, racking up words by the thousands (as I've done with mine), you run into a situation where you have to wait a few seconds before turning the page and continuing to write. If you turn it while the ink is wet, it will blotch all over the facing page. A kludgy solution is to use a blotting sheet - a sheet of regular paper - to blot the fresh, wet ink at the bottom of the page before turning to the next sheet. However, that tends to gray out your writing, since you're soaking up ink. The pause to let the ink dry interrupts my writing flow. Fussy me, I guess, but there it is.

I was planning to use my Rocketbook for NaNoWriMo 2019, but that pause in turning the pages is, well, giving me pause. I've done the last couple of NaNos longhand, and once I'm in the flow, I'd like to not be interrupted. FYI, each page holds ~275 words of my longhand, so 182 pages of prose will give me the 50,000 words of a NaNoWriMo. I'll have to fill, erase, and reuse the notebook four times, hitting 50K on the fifth time through the book.

What I don't like that isn't the Rocketbook's fault: The FriXion pens feel kinda cheapo. Since I've got a lot of really great pens, and I'm used to writing on pretty good paper, I wonder what kind of issues I'll have with fatigue after using these FriXions on the Rocketbook for hour after hour after hour of longhand. You can swap the FriXion cartridge into a Pilot G2 body, though. Since the G2 is a lovely pen, and far more comfortable to write with than the price might suggest, that's what I'll probably do for a Rocketbook NaNoWriMo. I'll just have to be sure to NOT mistake a regular G2 for the FriXion-enabled one, since a regular ballpoint would ruin the special Rocketbook pages.

Also, the FriXion inks aren't uniformly great. The blue is a nice, solid blue, but the black is more of a darkish gray. Red is blotchy. (I haven't tried the teal, green, purple, or pink because I am a Serious Writer.) Yes, I know complaining about the quality of the ink is picky, picky, picky, but if I'm limited to this kind of pen for use with the Rocketbook, I think it's fair to identify the limitations that will face you should you want to give this thing a try.

Yet another semi-serious concern is that the FriXion pens run out pretty quickly. In my experience over the last few months, each pen will only last for about 4300 words, max. As the folks at Rocketbook noted, this is a pen thing, not a notebook thing:
(Not part of the review, but I rather appreciate the "Sir, this is a Wendy's" quality of that response.)

To do a NaNo will take about a dozen FriXion refills. That's not a huge problem, but it's something I'll have to consider and prepare for, if I commit to doing it this way.

Conclusion: the Rocketbook is pretty cool, and its technology works exactly as advertised. Worth considering if you do a lot of longhand.

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Nothing to announce

Nothing to announce, but when anything happens, I'll be sure to let you know.

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A new review: "as smooth as grandma’s turkey gravy"

There's a new 5-star review up for "Verbosity's Vengeance":

I laughed so hard at this, I spit coffee out my nose.

To understand why this is funny, you'd have to be following me on Twitter. If you're not... well, all the explanation in the world won't help.

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"Why didn't you call her?"

Recently, on a whim, I asked a successful TV writer on Twitter if she'd be willing to read my novel WIP and offer any comments. She kindly agreed, although she said she didn't know when she'd be able to get to it. I gave her my email address and asked her to send me an address that would be good to send the file to.

I could have just gone to her website, located an address, and sent the file. But this is an easy way to leave the ball in her court, and for her to decide if she actually wants to follow through on a spur-of-the-moment thing she agreed to do for a nobody she doesn't know. A successful writer's impulse to help out an aspiring writer is a real one, and it's a generous, admirable one, too. But it's also something that will drown you in extra work if you give in to it too much.

Whether she was serious about accepting my request, or if she was just being polite to some random guy on Twitter, then this is a minimally invasive way to either continue the interaction (if she's truly interested) or to nip it in the bud (if she's not).

The alternative is for me to send her the file without really knowing if she actually wants it or has any time or inclination to do anything with it. Then I'm in a position of either forgetting about it and going on with my life, or sending her that dreaded email two months from now: "So, did you get it? What did you think?" Guilt, irritation, and obligation all around.

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How's the WIP coming?

My WIP first draft is now at 64K. Probably another ~20K to finish the story. Much of it crap that I'll have to delete and replace, but it's a first draft.

I've heard it said that a first draft is just you telling the story to yourself. I must admit, I'd like to finish this, so I can find out what happens.

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October frosts

It's that time of the year when autumn is undeniable. Chill nights, shorter days, pumpkin spice and the wretched scourge of eternally-disgusting candy corn... these are the hallmarks of the season.

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Another year, another renewal

I have once again paid the annual renewal fee to retain ownership of this domain name, Things have certainly changed in my life since I was updating this site almost daily. I rarely post anything here now.

So why renew? It's not like there are hordes of people eagerly waiting to scoop up if I let it lapse.

I guess it's because, against all rational thought processes, I still kinda have hopes of one day taking up writing fiction again. It's never far from my mind, even as it gets farther and farther from my schedule. And my priority list, and my skill set.

Right now, I'm not a writer, not anymore. I'm a guy who used to write, a guy who once wrote a novel. And since it was self-published, it wasn't a "real" novel, not the kind of thing you discuss in decent society. The childish effort of a Dunning-Kruger amateur, best forgotten.

But the novel I'm thinking about NOW, the one where the planet-killing asteroid headed toward Antarctica leads to a cultural reexamination of the nature of God and the ultimate purpose of humanity? THAT novel will be worth reading.

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Ten life lessons that you need RIGHT NOW

This is from the ever-insightful Brain Pickings:
1. Allow yourself the uncomfortable luxury of changing your mind. Cultivate that capacity for “negative capability.” We live in a culture where one of the greatest social disgraces is not having an opinion, so we often form our “opinions” based on superficial impressions or the borrowed ideas of others, without investing the time and thought that cultivating true conviction necessitates. We then go around asserting these donned opinions and clinging to them as anchors to our own reality. It’s enormously disorienting to simply say, “I don’t know.” But it’s infinitely more rewarding to understand than to be right — even if that means changing your mind about a topic, an ideology, or, above all, yourself.
2. Do nothing for prestige or status or money or approval alone. As Paul Graham observed, “prestige is like a powerful magnet that warps even your beliefs about what you enjoy. It causes you to work not on what you like, but what you’d like to like.” Those extrinsic motivators are fine and can feel life-affirming in the moment, but they ultimately don’t make it thrilling to get up in the morning and gratifying to go to sleep at night — and, in fact, they can often distract and detract from the things that do offer those deeper rewards.
3. Be generous. Be generous with your time and your resources and with giving credit and, especially, with your words. It’s so much easier to be a critic than a celebrator. Always remember there is a human being on the other end of every exchange and behind every cultural artifact being critiqued. To understand and be understood, those are among life’s greatest gifts, and every interaction is an opportunity to exchange them.
4. Build pockets of stillness into your life.Meditate. Go for walks. Ride your bike going nowhere in particular. There is a creative purpose to daydreaming, even to boredom. The best ideas come to us when we stop actively trying to coax the muse into manifesting and let the fragments of experience float around our unconscious mind in order to click into new combinations. Without this essential stage of unconscious processing, the entire flow of the creative process is broken.
Most important, sleep. Besides being the greatest creative aphrodisiac, sleep also affects our every waking moment, dictates our social rhythm, and even mediates our negative moods. Be as religious and disciplined about your sleep as you are about your work. We tend to wear our ability to get by on little sleep as some sort of badge of honor that validates our work ethic. But what it really is is a profound failure of self-respect and of priorities. What could possibly be more important than your health and your sanity, from which all else springs?
5. When people tell you who they are, Maya Angelou famously advised, believe them. Just as important, however, when people try to tell you who you are, don’t believe them. You are the only custodian of your own integrity, and the assumptions made by those that misunderstand who you are and what you stand for reveal a great deal about them and absolutely nothing about you.
6. Presence is far more intricate and rewarding an art than productivity. Ours is a culture that measures our worth as human beings by our efficiency, our earnings, our ability to perform this or that. The cult of productivity has its place, but worshipping at its altar daily robs us of the very capacity for joy and wonder that makes life worth living — for, as Annie Dillard memorably put it, “how we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.”
7. “Expect anything worthwhile to take a long time.” This is borrowed from the wise and wonderful Debbie Millman, for it’s hard to better capture something so fundamental yet so impatiently overlooked in our culture of immediacy. The myth of the overnight success is just that — a myth — as well as a reminder that our present definition of success needs serious retuning. As I’ve reflected elsewhere, the flower doesn’t go from bud to blossom in one spritely burst and yet, as a culture, we’re disinterested in the tedium of the blossoming. But that’s where all the real magic unfolds in the making of one’s character and destiny.
8. Seek out what magnifies your spirit. Patti Smith, in discussing William Blake and her creative influences, talks about writers and artists who magnified her spirit — it’s a beautiful phrase and a beautiful notion. Who are the people, ideas, and books that magnify your spirit? Find them, hold on to them, and visit them often. Use them not only as a remedy once spiritual malaise has already infected your vitality but as a vaccine administered while you are healthy to protect your radiance.
9. Don’t be afraid to be an idealist. There is much to be said for our responsibility as creators and consumers of that constant dynamic interaction we call culture — which side of the fault line between catering and creating are we to stand on? The commercial enterprise is conditioning us to believe that the road to success is paved with catering to existing demands — give the people cat GIFs, the narrative goes, because cat GIFs are what the people want. But E.B. White, one of our last great idealists, was eternally right when he asserted half a century ago that the role of the writer is “to lift people up, not lower them down” — a role each of us is called to with increasing urgency, whatever cog we may be in the machinery of society. Supply creates its own demand. Only by consistently supplying it can we hope to increase the demand for the substantive over the superficial — in our individual lives and in the collective dream called culture.
10. Don’t just resist cynicism — fight it actively. Fight it in yourself, for this ungainly beast lays dormant in each of us, and counter it in those you love and engage with, by modeling its opposite. Cynicism often masquerades as nobler faculties and dispositions, but is categorically inferior. Unlike that great Rilkean life-expanding doubt, it is a contracting force. Unlike critical thinking, that pillar of reason and necessary counterpart to hope, it is inherently uncreative, unconstructive, and spiritually corrosive. Life, like the universe itself, tolerates no stasis — in the absence of growth, decay usurps the order. Like all forms of destruction, cynicism is infinitely easier and lazier than construction. There is nothing more difficult yet more gratifying in our society than living with sincerity and acting from a place of largehearted, constructive, rational faith in the human spirit, continually bending toward growth and betterment. This remains the most potent antidote to cynicism. Today, especially, it is an act of courage and resistance.
For the record, I struggle with all of these, but with #10 especially.

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