“The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.”
Mark Twain

author: Nicole J. LeBoeuf

actually writing blog

Click for cover art notes. Too many to include here.
this fictionette is a week behind and ok with that
Fri 2015-03-27 23:48:56 (single post)
  • 916 wds. long

Hey look! A Friday Fictionette! Just don't look too closely at the date. It was supposed to go up last week, but I only just finished it today. It's called "The Divorce Arch." It came from a from a writing prompt and a bunch of random thoughts that all coelesced into the question, "If you made divorce into a ceremony, like we already do with weddings, what would that look like?"

It was a fun question to speculate on--but I was uncomfortably aware that, since I've never dealt directly with divorce myself (and have no plans to at this time, thank you for your concern!), it will only be a matter of speculation to me. I was (and, honestly, I remain) worried that this rosy-hued vignette would look like some sort of prescriptive statement about divorce in the real world, which would be a grave disservice to everyone for whom it forms part of their life experience, and probably not a particularly enjoyable one. So this one went through a lot of drafts, a lot of restructuring, a change of main characters, and more overhauls than a vintage roadster, in my (perhaps futile) hope that the piece would infallibly come across as just these characters' experience and not me preaching about something I have no right to preach about.

(For what it's worth, I do think there should be the option of some sort of socially acknowledged ritual to commemorate the end of a relationship. It's a life-changing event, just like weddings are. But I would not suggest that every relationship ending calls for a ceremony and a party. Sometimes it's a tragedy; sometimes it's a relief. Sometimes it's something else entirely. How to view the relationship's end really should be up to the people involved in the actual relationship. That's my only point here, really.)

(Also, "hallmark cards for friends considering divorce". Somebody thought it was a thing enough to google it.)

All that aside, writing the last paragraph made me absurdly happy. And not just because it meant I'd finally finished the dratted thing, either.

So now I just have the one I was supposed to post today, and I'll do my darnedest to post it this weekend. I know, that's what I promised last Friday. But last weekend was very, very full and exhausting. This one's looking to go a little easier on me. I think I can fit it in.

the wide world of Android apps, as illustrated by Default Dude
Thu 2015-03-26 23:54:24 (single post)

Some years ago I was introduced to the Pomodoro technique for time and task management. I tried it out. After a while, I drifted away from some of its tenets--like, tracking how many 25-minute sessions, or "poms," I got done, or considering interrupted poms forfeit, or logging my distractions, or limiting myself to 5-minute breaks between poms. But the basic idea stuck with me: Set a timer, work during the timer, take a break after the timer goes off.

The timer application I got in the habit of using was Focus Booster (which I see has come up a few version numbers since I last downloaded it). I think at the time the Pomodoro people were linking to it. It's designed for the Pomodoro technique, in that it alternates work sessions and breaks, whose length you can define separately (default 25 and 5 minutes, respectively). But I started using it for just about anything with a duration of 2 minutes or longer. It came in useful for physical therapy, for instance.

I never quite got around to installing Focus Booster on the ASUS laptop when I moved all my work off the Dell. Either I just timed myself off the computer clock, "I'm done at 15:45" kind of thing, or I maybe possibly perhaps didn't actually get my timed writing done at all. *shamefaced*

Meanwhile, in a seemingly unrelated part of my brain, I'd just gotten the news that there will be no new levels for Two Dots rolled out to the Facebook app. This made me all kinds of unhappy. I don't have a smart phone, I don't want to have to get a smart phone--and, thanks to John's smart phone, I managed to get addicted to Two Dots during our train trip to New Orleans back in December. We'd take turns attempting levels, passing his phone back and forth. I was so happy when I found out I could play it on my computer via Facebook--and so sad to learn the game designers would not be supporting it on that platform anymore.

The disappointment was enough to spur me to try just one more time to install the Android emulator BlueStacks on my laptop. I'd tried to get it to work back in December, but either the application froze on initialization, or once it launched it felt klutzy and laggy to navigate, or I couldn't figure out how to get Google Play to let me install Two Dots in the first place ("You don't have any devices!" Damn straight I don't--that's why I'm trying to install an emulator!). Well, this time I managed to get it to work. BlueStacks itself seems to have rolled out a more stable and fluent version earlier this year, for one thing. But the main thing is, I flailed harder at Google Play until I stumbled across the process for linking my "device" (i.e. BlueStacks) to my Google account. I'm honestly not sure how I got there. I logged into Google, I logged out, I Alt-Tabbed over to Firefox, I came back, the dialogue box was waiting for me.

So now I'm happily playing through the Two Dots levels all over again, eagerly anticipating the happy day when I finish level 185 and keep going. Cave levels! Jungle levels! More dots! More!

I'm also happily discovering the world of free Android apps. Oh my gosh, y'all, is this why everyone loves smart phones? All the apps! For doing everything.

Maybe for timing poms?

I was completely app-happy by now, so I went looking for timer apps. And I found the Pomodoro Challenge Timer. It's like Focus Booster with more stuff: the ability to define projects, to track poms completed on each project, to define both short breaks and long breaks, and, best/worst of all, a tendency to nag you until you get to work. Seriously. When it's time to get back to work, it whistles at you. Like a sports coach. If you do not promptly click the START POMODORO button, it whistles at you again and displays the message, "Any reason why you're not working?" Nag, nag, nag! I'm not sure it motivated me per se, but it amused me, and I played along. And I logged five poms today before I had to do other stuff to get ready for tonight's roller derby scrimmage.

Did I mention it has achievements? It has achievements you can unlock. They are very sarcastic. Today I worked for at least two hours in a single day using the Pomodoro technique, thus unlocking the coveted "One foot off the couch" achievement.

Anyway, all that stuff comes with the free version. If you pay a whopping $4, you unlock Pro mode, which gets you a few other perks.

My only complaint about the thing, really, is about its front page design. The WORK button is illustrated by Iconic Construction Man! The PROJECTS button is illustrated by Iconic Science Guy! The ACHIEVEMENTS button is illustrated by Iconic Triumphant Business Dude! Like, would it have hurt to make one of these three Iconic Dudes a Dudette? How hard is it to insert a Rosie the Riveter type figure, or Marie Curie? For the love of little bran muffins, people!

It's a little piece of discouragement that looks me in the face every time I fire up the app: Male is the default pronoun, and Man is the default human. (Yes, even in women's sports. The number of times I've heard a roller derby coach or trainer tell a bunch of women on skates to form a "four-man wall," or describe the goal of our pack sprint as "no man left behind," exceeds my patience for keeping score. And don't get me started on "if you can't do a boy push-up, do a girl push-up!") "Everyman" really is a man, by whom women are expected to feel adequately represented and with whom women are expected to seamlessly identify. We shouldn't need to see female protagonists or pictures of women using the products we enjoy; of course that male cartoon figure stands in for everyone. What, don't you have any imagination? Are you really so selfish that you have to see pictures of yourself everywhere you go? (Meanwhile, when a woman is on the cover of a book, just for instance, or invited to speak at school, boys are expected, even obligated, to tune out.)

I'm sure the developers made their Iconic Humans men because they just didn't have a good reason for making any of them women. Now, if the app were primarily designed to help Mommy time her baking, or her children's time-outs, that would have been a good reason to include a picture of a woman. Or if the app was rewarding the user's hard work with pictures of sexy supermodels. Good reasons like that, see?

("Because about half of the population is women" never seems to be a good enough reason. See also.)

It's disappointing. Not enough to keep me from using the app--today's use of the Pomodoro Challenge Time was indeed useful!--but enough to itch every time I use it. And this is just the mildest example of what is called microagressions.

Which is a bummer of a note to end on, but it's past midnight and I'm out of clever exits. So. In sum: Two Dots is fun, the Pomodoro technique works, and human beings come in a wide variety of genders and colors that are all worth acknowledging. Do better, app designers!

(Oh hey! Also, I have downloaded Hybrid Stopwatch and Timer. Just in case it's ever not awkward to sit in the infield and time a skater's 27-in-5 with my laptop.)

i mean if you can fit every kind of weather in just one day
Wed 2015-03-25 23:44:38 (single post)

Today we got every kind of weather. We got hail and rain and snow and blissfully warm sunshine too. To fit all that into a single day takes a strict timetable, I imagine. "Hurry up," said the weather coach. "We have a lot to do today. And no chit-chatting between drills! Move it, move it, move it--"

Or maybe Colorado was presenting its meteorological portfolio to a prospective employer. At the job interview, when the Rocky Mountain Front Range was asked "What's your greatest weakness?" it probably answered, "Inconsistency." Or perhaps, "I have a tendency to try to do everything at once. But I make up for it by being a great multitasker!"

I had foolishly, optimistically thought that we needn't turn the heat on ever again this spring--in fact, ever again at this address, as we're moving in about two weeks. (Two weeks! Shit-bird, that's scary-soon. I should be making check-lists and writing an inventory of stuff-still-to-be-packed!) But it got cold while the snow was driving at 45-degree angles this afternoon, and it got cold on the drive home from roller derby practice this evening too.

Tomorrow is supposed to be warm and sunny, just like yesterday (and the day before, and the day before that) but more-so. Tomorrow, Colorado will wake up with a hangover and declare that it doesn't remember and has absolutely no desire to be told what it got up to on Wednesday the 25th. It's just too embarrassing.

Speaking of roller derby (as I always am), Bombshells team practice failed to kill me. It didn't try all that hard, mind; it only lasted two hours instead of three, but more to the point, it's the environment in which I've been practicing for almost three years. I'm comfortable there. Which is not to say it goes easy on me either, but it's the level of practice I've grown used to. I'm more accustomed to its demands. Whereas yesterday's All Stars practice was a shock to my system. Everything was faster! stronger! harder! longer! and done by people who are so much better at this stuff than me. It's intimidating.

But yesterday's the only taste I'm going get of it, just a dip of the toe in the pool, until next week Thursday. The All Stars are going to the Dust Devil Tournament this weekend in Tucson, Arizona. I was added to the team far too late to go with them, which is just fine. Frankly, I need another week of Bombshells practice just to remind my body, after its enforced two-month "vacation" from skating, what regularly practicing is like.

And it's not just practice I need. I need to adjust my entire lifestyle. Well, that's a bit strong. I mean, I need to get into better self-care routines so that my body is able to handle not just a higher intensity of physical activity when it comes time to skate, but also my unreasonable demand that I do more with my days than just skate.

Just look at all the different kinds of weather that can fit in a single day. If Colorado can do that, I should be able to cram all my writing projects into a day that contains roller derby, right?

But the body is a machine that needs regular maintenance. I haven't been taking very good care of mine. I've been up until all hours and staying in bed late with headaches and exhaustion because of it. Which then leads to a failure to eat right or hydrate sufficiently.

This has been less than ideal for my ambitions to productivity. It probably also has something to do with the way this past weekend laid me out flat.

Preliminary steps to fix this include getting up at 8:00 AM--no excuses!--regularly feeding myself breakfast and a good multivitamin, drinking a glass of water for every cup of hot caffeinated tea, having no caffeine past five in the afternoon, and getting to bed no later than midnight.

I have not been very good at that last thing. Days aren't long enough to start with. I can't get nearly as much done in one as I'd like. Naturally I'm reluctant to let one come to an end.

But this one is coming to an end now, because new good habits have to start sometime.

Goodnight, everybody!

the things you don't even know you don't know, until you know them
Tue 2015-03-24 23:34:48 (single post)

A thing I learned today: It's amazing how much one can do if one actually gets out of bed up on time.

However, it's also amazing how easily a small roadblock can dam that fresh flow of productivity. To wit:

A thing I really wish I'd learned today: Why the heck Scrivener will only successfully launch once on the ASUS.

That's it. Just once after install. After I exit the program, the next time I attempt to use it, it will completely fail to launch ever again. Sometimes it signals its failure by a big blank window that includes the parenthetical "(Not Responding)" in its title bar. Sometimes it just sits there, invisibly, in the Task Manager list of processes. In neither case will it enable me to write. Recovering functionality then requires uninstalling Scrivener, rebooting the computer, and reinstalling Scrivener. Some service or background application is clearly jamming up the works, and it's not Dropbox, because I got rid of that sucker. It may be time to disable pretty much every service listed in msconfig and see what happens.

A thing I already knew: What doesn't kill me makes me stronger.

It is still too early to determine which of those two categories, "things that kill me" or "things that make me stronger" All Stars practice will ultimately fall into. But if you illustrated that venerable saying by means of a Venn diagram, with "things that kill me" in one circle and "things that make me stronger" in another, non-overlapping circle, you would then draw a larger circle such that it encompassed both of the smaller two, and that larger circle would be labeled, "things that are, in fact, trying to kill me."

I dunno; maybe I'm being a little overdramatic. I plead not guilty by reason of being under the influence of my body, which is top pro at complaining, y'all.

Complain or not, it's going to skate again tomorrow evening at Bombshells practice.

(This may or may not occasion more Venn diagrams.)

the thrilling and exhausting immediate future I've been waiting for
Mon 2015-03-23 19:36:37 (single post)

The weekend was as full of derby as advertised. Fuller, even. More full than I actually expected; turns out that I was permitted to participate in C Team practice. So I did. The only thing I wasn't allowed to do, as a skater without an up to date skills assessment, was scrimmage. Except I ended up scrimmaging a little after all so that the coaches could score my jammer, blocker, and pack awareness skills as part of my assessment. (John typically writes our numbers on our shoulders with a Sharpie marker before scrimmage. "Five Zero Four. It's been a while since I last wrote this number," he said. "I know," I said, "I've missed it.") Then, after scrimmage, they put me through the rest of my paces and completed my assessment. I didn't expect that, either; I thought we'd get some of that done, but that some of it would have to wait for Thursday.

I also didn't expect to utterly collapse during the post-derby periods of each day, which includes today as well. It's amazing how eight weeks off-skates can return a body to a state of Utterly Unprepared to Exercise.

So no, Friday's Fictionette remains not done yet. I might manage to finish it tonight. I might not. I am having trouble with Scrivener, which seems to be having trouble with Dropbox, which is itself having trouble believing me when I tell it I don't want it to run at startup, nor do I in fact want it installed. In any case, I thought I'd write this blog post now rather than leaving it for my usual midnight scramble.

In addition to roller derby, there was bowling. We had a small team-building party after practice Sunday at the bowling lanes in Longmont. It was a lot of fun, and I hope we do it again sometime. But it was fun that involved Unaccustomed Exertions, namely, hefting a 12lb bowling ball for two hours and nearly three whole games. My upper back and right shoulder were tight and sore by the time we were done, and they just got tighter and more sore over the course of the evening. This probably has something to do with the headache that kept me uselessly horizontal most of today.

I'm hoping that as I get back into condition, physical activity will cease to exact quite so high a price. It has to if I'm going to function at all, because there's going to be a lot of physical activity in my near future.

I understand that the "Respectable career woman by day, hard-hitting roller derby skater by night" format of skater bio causes a certain amount of exasperated eye-rolling among participants and fans, and for the same reason fans of the sequential art storytelling format roll their eyes at yet another headline of the "Wham! Bam! Pow! Comic books aren't just for kids anymore!" format. And yet, that skater bio is so accurate. Full-time writer by day, roller derby skater by night. Pretty much every night, these days. And also all day Sunday. And some Saturdays, according to the current season's bout and tournament schedule.

Because the result of this weekend's skills assessment is, I'm a "BombStar." I've not only been put back on our B Team, my beloved Bombshells for whom I've skated since the team's formation in 2012, but I was also offered the chance I've feared and hoped for all this time, to additionally join our A Team, the All Stars. The practice schedule of a crossover (two-team) skater is a crowded and exhausting one. I'm having a hard enough time fitting all the things I want to do into the same life with only one team to skate for. But this is the next step in my roller derby career, and I'm going to take it. It's not just the chance to compete as part of our league's WFTDA charter. That's exciting, yes--and also terrifying! But more important to me is the chance to practice at the WFTDA charter level. More will be expected of me, and I'll become a stronger and better skater because of it.

That's the season-long view of things. Meanwhile, my immediate goal is to not have this development change my cheesy bio to "Hibernating bear by day..." I suppose, given a few weeks of practice, I'll adjust. But today, Monday the 23rd, I'll just have to accept as more or less a complete write-off.

Tomorrow, Tuesday the 24th, isn't looking very good for writing, either. Besides having Tuesday All Star practice, I also have my final physical therapy appointment and I'm meeting the CPA about our taxes. Which means I have to get all our documentation in order between now and then. Argh.

And then Wednesday is volunteer reading and Bombshells practice. And Thursday is scrimmage. And we're moving in April.

Somehow, I'm going to make this all of this work out. It oughtn't to be that hard. Compared to some of our league skaters--some of whom are parents, some of whom are students, most of whom have full-time jobs outside the home--I've got it easy. I should be able to do this! All I have to do is figure out how.

Well. Good luck to me!

predictions of literary honey and a mouth full of ulcers
Fri 2015-03-20 23:32:48 (single post)

Alas, but the Friday Fictionette for March 20, 2015 will be be late. I don't have a particularly good excuse for it. It's giving me trouble, and I'm giving me trouble, and so it'll go up over the weekend. Also I think the cover notes post for last week's fictionette still has to go up. Argh. I hate getting behind on things. It tends to snowball.

And there's still this short story I'm supposed to be revising. To editorial request. Why is this not done yet whyyyyyyyyy.

While I'm making excuses and admitting temporary defeat, I ought to give y'all a heads-up that things are going to get a little crowded with me, schedule-wise. Our closing date for selling this house is coming up on April 1st (no joke, ha ha). Presumably our closing date for buying the new place will be shortly thereafter. Then we're moving between April 7 and April 12. And then John and I will be taking a little road trip to Bloomington, Indiana, for a roller derby tournament on the 18th and 19th. Whether I will actually skate in said tournament will be determined by whether I succeed at assessing and getting placed back on our B team. (Despite the kind words and encouraging expectations of my league mates, I am not taking this for granted; the universe likes to smack you if you get smug.) But at the very least, we've committed to going. So that's three nights reserved at the hotel bracketed by two days of driving each way.

These are all very exciting developments, but they are also somewhat pressurizing. I suspect by the end of April my mouth will have blossomed in ulcers, which is my body's typical reaction to periods of sustained stress. I suspect I will look back on March 2015 as "the halcyon days."

Anyway. I'll do a bonus weekend blog post when the fictionette goes up, so's you'll know.

Meanwhile, I'm going to skate my legs off. I'll attend Phase 2 practice at noon tomorrow, and before that I'll join some of the Derby Lite folks for trail skating in Boulder. Then on Sunday I'll attend Bombshells practice. Which is to say, I'll gear up, hopefully knock a few items off my assessment checklist, and participate in as much of team practice as I'm allowed to given that I'm not technically on the team yet this year.

And next week I will be a busy little bee. A busy little, productive little bee. A busy little pen-wielding, fast-typing bee making large amounts of literary honey.

OK, that metaphor got weird. Let's just say I'll be busy, right?

literature and sports take turns taking bites out of my brain
Thu 2015-03-19 23:18:39 (single post)

So I was a penalty timer at the Shamrocks And Shenanigans scrimmage tonight. When you're a penalty timer, everyone comes to visit you. Everyone gets penalties, after all. Maybe not everyone on every night, but everyone eventually. If you never ever get penalties, it's questionable whether you're in the game.

When I arrived, I told our head coach, "I'm ready to be assessed! Whenever works for you." (I got injured before the league went through skills assessments and travel team tryouts. I still need to do that before I can skate with any of our teams.)

She said, "Great! Get your gear on."

And I said, "Er, tonight? I... didn't think that would be an option." I hadn't brought my gear. Drat.

By next week, though. Between Sunday practice and the following Thursday scrimmage, I should have ample opportunity to demonstrate my skills to people empowered to fill out my score sheet. After that... team practice again? Please? As soon as possible? Back with my Bombshells? Pretty-please?

Obviously this has been much on my mind.

It has been sharing space in there with something very random: the Mark Reads archives for the Discworld novels.

You know about Mark Reads? Blogger Mark Oshiro began a project some years ago to read the Twilight novels and comment on them, chapter by chapter. And, well, a lot of people came along for the ride. It wasn't so much that they enjoyed watching him suffer, per se--it was that he suffered so entertaingly. And also enlighteningly, if that's a word. His criticisms were spot-on and his pain was shared and familiar.

Inevitably, the blog community began urging him to read something he'd actually enjoy. As soon as he got through Breaking Dawn, they said, he should treat himself. Read Harry Potter, they said. Because, as it turned out, he hadn't read those books yet. There were a lot of books, beloved classics of the fantasy genre, that he'd just never been exposed to. And his fans not only wanted him to enjoy a reading experience, but they wanted to enjoy watching him experience it.

And Mark read it. And it was wonderful.

You can never go back and read a favorite book for the first time all over again. Not so long as your memory is intact, that is. But the privilege of watching someone else read that book for the first time, witnessing them falling in love with the characters you've come to know so well, that's almost as wonderful. Maybe it's even better.

Mark has since then read many, many wonderful books, and his fans have enjoyed the heck out of watching him discover all these worlds and characters. And for a commission of $20, I think it is, he'll add to his written review video footage of him reading the chapter aloud. And that's the best. His reactions are priceless, hilarious and touching by turns.

So about a year ago he embarked upon a chapter-by-chapter read-through and review of Terry Pratchett's Discworld novels. In--and this is important--the order that they were published. (Which means he's only now making his way through Eric.) Discworld fandom is large and it is contentious; veterans will often try to curate newbies' experiences by telling them which books to read first. "Oh, don't start with Colour Of Magic, he hadn't gotten good yet, you'll be turned off. Read Reaper Man first," or, "Rincewind is tiresome. Read the Vimes books instead," or whatever they'll recommend.

Which is understandable, but at the same time, it's kind of arrogant. Like, dude, you're so proud of having been around when Colour of Magic came out, you read them in publication order because you had no choice--you still fell head over heels in love with them. Why do you think someone approaching them for the first time today couldn't do the same? Why do you think they need you to shepherd them through the experience? And why is it so important to you that they come to the same conclusion about the characters that you did?

Sometimes it's understandable, like I said; you love a thing, you want them to love it too. You want to spare them the jarring moments of the not-quite-good-enough. But sometimes I think, there are some fans who have a bit of ego involved in being the living filter through which someone experiences the material. I suspect that, either consciously or un--, it makes them feel important.

To hell with that. Mark is going into this as completely unspoiled and unbiased as a reader on publication day would, only without the three-year wait between The Colour of Magic and The Light Fantastic. His spoiler policy is aggressive, and I share it: If I haven't gotten there yet, don't talk about it. Allow me to experience it the way you did--without you hanging over my shoulder saying, "Oh, this is when it gets good" and "Just wait until you meet [CHARACTER] in Chapter [X]!"

I only heard that this was a thing the week after Terry Pratchett died. And it's been fantastic. I've been watching his videos or, where appropriate, converting them to MP3 and listening to them in the car. Not only does it convert these old familiar books into brand new experiences for me, but it comes at a time when 1. I wanted to commemorate the author's passing with a read-through of my own, but 2. all my books are in storage and I can't easily get to them. So I get to have Mark read them to me! And I get to hear him react to the awesomeness! And the hilarity! And the puns, dear Gods, the puns. (Oh Gods the "horse d'oeurves" pun. Mark's reaction to the pun. It takes him like three minutes to get past it, it hits him that hard. I love Mark this much, y'all.)

I've just gotten up to Mark's read-through of Mort. And it occurs to me I may never actually have read Mort before. I could swear I'd borrowed it from a friend back in the late '90s, but I'm not recognizing any of it at all. Maybe my memory isn't intact--which would be odd, for me--but maybe The Last Continent isn't the last Discworld book I've yet to read? This is such a treat.

Like I told John, "Mark's reading Discworld! Expect my productivity to dip a bit." And so it has. Drat.

i did not tell you to create a new track why would you create a new track
Wed 2015-03-18 23:52:56 (single post)

Updates!

On skating: Phase 2 happened. I hit people. They hit me back. I fell down once, but at no time did I reinjure my knee. I sure tired it out some good, though. It was starting to make grumpy noises at me by the time we did our five-minute sprint. But I still got 27 laps in 4:52, so I'm happy.

On content writing: My article about our upcoming St. Patrick's Day scrimmage got approved yesterday (huge thanks to Boom for giving me permission to use her photos; hers are the ones that actually look good), so I have indeed successfully posted my first content to AXS.com. However, AXS doesn't appear to believe in RSS feeds, at least not so far as I can tell. So until I have enough time and the necessary attention span to figure out how to write some sort of benevolent screen-scraper, I'm creating a feed by hand so that my AXS articles will show up in my Grand Unified Blog Post Feed.

On other sorts of writing: Life is just one damn thing after another, isn't it? Today's writing time got primarily eaten up by Audacity, the free audio editor. It's Wednesday, right? So I have to read an hour's worth of employment ads from around the Rocky Mountain region and upload the resulting recording to the Audio Information Network of Colorado by 2:48 PM at the very latest, right?

Except here's the thing: I just switched laptops.

John's series of programming jobs over the last ten years have not only supported my writing habit monetarily; they have also been beneficial from a hardware point of view. Which is to say, several of the jobs he's held have provided him with work laptops, and most of those employers did not ask for said laptops back when they parted ways. So there's been a sort of graveyard of neglected laptops on and off throughout the years, stacked under my desk, stowed in the closet. When my 15" Dell Inspiron outgrew its three-year warranty and began to sort of implode, I hopped off that sinking ship onto John's 14" Dell Inspiron, which he'd bought at the same time but used very little, having soon after that been assigned an Asus U56E by his job at the time.

To my eternal envy, that Asus acted like the gaming laptop that I'd spent extra money trying to ensure my Dell would be, but, as it turns out, wasn't. Since when were work laptops any good at gaming? And yet when we sat down to play Spiral Knights, he was always waiting in the elevator lobby, ready to play almost a full minute before my machine finished loading the next clockworks level. And, as it turns out, it handles Second Life with amazing smoothness.

Anyway, I got a good two, two and a half years out of his abandoned Dell Inspiron. And then it started to fall apart over the last few months. It began throwing more keys than that typewriter in Stephen King's Misery. (Dvorakly speaking, first the "o" started coming loose, then the "e", which are "s" and "d" in Qwerty, respectively. Then the right arrow, of all things.) The rubber strip contacting the tabletop began to stretch so that this loop of it hung out and caught on things; I eventually just ripped the dang thing off. The battery began to reach the end of its life. Its power cords broke, one after the other, and the replacement off eBay turned out to really mess with the functionality of the Alps touchpad--which was never that brilliant to begin with. (Seriously, Alps drivers need to learn a thing or two about effective touch-check. I'd have its sensitivity set so low, and its touch-check set so high, that I could barely use it at all--and yet it would still accidentally click on the position of the mouse cursor because the edge of my right palm pierced its airspace.)

Much of those things are fixable. A new keyboard, a new battery, a power cord from a different manufacturer--but would these be worth acquiring given that the thing was starting to run super hot, and that it sometimes crashed when I unplugged the external monitor, and it never could play a video all the way through without buffering, and it didn't have an HDMI jack--

And it gave me a Blue Screen of Death yesterday. First time I'd seen that since the 15" Dell Inspiron began to die.

So I grabbed the Asus from its spot near the TV--it had sort of turned into a dedicated but infrequently used HDMI media source--and began moving in.

(This, by the way, is my not-very-good-excuse for not getting to that AXS article until quite late at night. I was moving files from the 14" Dell to the Asus. Watching files cross the network can be mesmerizing.)

And then today it was time to do my reading. Now, generally I've used a copy of Studio Recorder with a non-profit license provided by AINC to its volunteers. But I really, really didn't want to go dig out the install CD from whatever box I'd stowed it away in at the back of the top of the closet. And Audacity is free, right? Any number of LibreVox readers use it! Why shouldn't I?

And Audacity is free. And it is powerful. Audacity is to Studio Recorder as GIMP is to Microsoft Paint. And the learning curve is just as steep.

Which means that by the time I finally got my recording finished and uploaded, I was sort of staring at spots on the wall and faintly laughing at them. ALL MY BRAIN. USED UP. CANNOT NO MORE.

Got by brain back just in time for derby! And then, you know, derby. I'm about to drop, y'all.

So now I have a date with my foam roller, and then I am due to plop into bed, where I will sleep very easily tonight.

Tomorrow, there shall be better writerly things to report. And also a roller derby scrimmage. You may have heard. Some skater from Boulder seems to have babbled about it on AXS.com. So.

wait i can use my blogging superpowers for derby
Tue 2015-03-17 23:42:57 (single post)

Ahoy! It’s a brand new week, and I have done a brand new thing. I just put up an article on AXS.com. Probably. I mean, I completed and submitted it. So it’ll show up sometime tomorrow, I think, pending editor approval.

Back in October, Examiner sent out an email inviting its bloggers to apply to be AXS.com contributors. So I thought, sure, OK, why not? They’re all about local sports and entertainment, and I like to go to shows. Maybe I might want to write about them. Maybe do an article about best sports bars to watch NFL games in? I dunno.

And then I wrote nothing at all for them for months and months.

So this month I caught myself thinking, like I often do, “My league is doing another public event! I should publicize. Too bad it doesn’t really fit under either of my Examiner channels. Should I apply to create a Boulder Roller Derby channel…?” I have had that thought quite a bit since joining the Boulder County Bombers.

And then I smacked myself in the face. “Wake up, silly! You do have a roller derby channel.”

So that’s how my first AXS.com article came to be written and submitted. (Over the course of three effin’ hours. Why. Whyyyyyy. Five hundred words should not take three effin’ hours. Why.) It’s not up yet, so I can’t link you, but, better still, I can link you to the event:

Shamrocks & Shenanigans 2015: Another public holiday-themed mix-up scrimmage hosted by the Boulder County Bombers! Thursday, March 19, 7:30 PM, at the Ed & Ruth Lehman YMCA in Longmont (950 Lashley Street, zip code 80304). Wear green for St. Patrick’s Day and prepare to LIVE GOLD BLEED GOLD! …*ahem* Free admission, but bring cash for several fundraiser raffle/bake sale/drink stand type goodies.

I will be there in some non-skating capacity--not because I can't skate at all, but because I have not yet been reassessed. I went to Phase 1 practice on Saturday and last night, and aside from the expected morning-after experience of I am sore, dear Gods I'm sore, all my bits are sooooore, there have been no adverse effects. And I got 26 laps in I think 4:58 last night, with much hacking and coughing afterwards. I should easily be able to cram 27 laps into 5 minutes simply by skating on a less crowded track. (Our current Phase 1 class has like 20 new skaters. It's amazing! And wonderful!) I won't turn down any chances to practice between now and assessments, though. After eight weeks off skates, I'm in dire need of getting my wind back. The less hacking and coughing I can manage to do, the better.

Tomorrow night I'll go to Phase 2 and see how I handle contact practice. After that... well, I don't know for sure. I'll work with my coaches to schedule a time to make up the assessments that I missed thanks to my injury and to try out for the 2015 travel team roster. When that happens will depend on a lot of moving parts of which I am merely one, so I'm not going to make any positive statements about when I'll be back in the game for reals. I'm just going to get as much practice in as I possibly (and reasonably) can.

Which is, come to think of it, a pretty good aspiration in the context of writing, too. ROLLER DERBY IS TOTALLY A METAPHOR FOR WRITING. True story.

Original photography, notes about which will be posted to my Patreon Activity Feed.
this fictionette is exactly the right shape
Fri 2015-03-13 23:17:14 (single post)
  • 848 wds. long

Which is not to say it's perfect. Fictionettes are never perfect; that's the point. They're a slice of process made presentable. (Again, I really know how to sell these things, don't I?) But the rightness of the shape of the world is relevant to this fictionette. I like to give the Friday blog posts a title that's relevant to the fictionette I'm posting. Even if it makes no sense to anyone but me. When do blog post titles make sense to anyone but me, right?

But anyway! The Friday Fictionette is here, while yet it's still Friday. It is called "No One's Home." You can read the excerpt in the usual places (here at the actually writing blog, there at Patreon, and I'll get it up on Wattpad over the weekend). Anyway, it's kind of this sad little creepy thing that ends in a kind of cautious hope. It's got bittersweet layers to it--in my mind, at least. Both the cat and the human are scarred by their pasts. All they've got is each other. And then this happens, whatever this is.

I'll want to come back to it, find out more about the two characters. The human calls the cat Micah, for instance, which is short for what she actually named it, which is Formica. Like the countertop laminate. Which is one of those odd and loveable details I want to know more about.

Boilerplate about Friday Fictionettes: I post a new story-like object every first through fourth Friday to my Patreon page for exclusive download (PDF) by Patrons pledging at least a dollar a month. Think of it as a short-short story subscription service with free access to all the back-issues while you subscribe. If you're not a Patron yet, you still get access to the one I release as a freebie at the end of each month, plus, again, access to all past Fictionette Freebies. I've been doing this since September 2014, so there's a good chunk of reading material in the archives by now.

Boilerplate ends. Thank you for reading.

Now! Now I must go to bed and sleeeeeeep. Because tomorrow I wake up bright and early and go to my first roller derby practice since getting injured on January 10th. Roller derby practice! With the skates on my feet and everything! So excited!

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