“I love being a writer. What I can't stand is the paperwork.”
Peter De Vries

author: Nicole J. LeBoeuf

actually writing blog

three happy things and one late thing
Fri 2015-05-22 23:34:06 (single post)

Let's concentrate on the positive. We got the piano tuned today! And the piano bench is sort of fixed, enough to sit on at least; Monday I hope to have it fixed in a more permanent fashion. So I sat down and played the piano today for the first time since we moved. Since months before we moved, in fact.

In the piano bench, which I emptied out in order to fix the piano bench, there's a heap of sheet music that belonged, I think, to one of my aunts. I suspect they were handed down to her from a previous generation. There is a Victor Herbert songbook with pieces whose copyrights range from MCMVI to MCMXXXIII. Victor Herbert died in MCMXXIV, which is the copyright date on a couple of the songs in the book.) I played through one of them--as best I can, that is, which is to say slowly and with many pauses to figure out the next chord. It was pretty dang melodramatic. I think it was supposed to be a cheerful song, though.

In other cheerful news, we have a hummingbird. Or multiple hummingbirds, I don't know. They jingle-buzz around the building, on both sides, and you can often catch sight of one zipping from tree to tree. I hung a feeder outside my office window in hopes of having hummingbirds visit me while I write, but almost a week went by and they didn't find it. Then, today, a hummingbird buzzed our patio window--just flew right into the balcony space and hovered meaningfully in front of the sliding glass door. "All right, already," I said, and moved the feeder from the office window to the patio. And now we have a new friend.

Back when we lived in Oregon, we had a hummingbird feeder outside the kitchen window. We weren't always vigilant about keeping it full, but the hummingbirds were not shy about telling us it had run dry. They'd start buzzing every other window of the house, upstairs and down, hovering outside the glass and going vvvrrrreeeee! in a pointed kind of way. I think today's visitor was doing something like that.

I brought a pair of cheap field glasses to the bedside so I could get a closer look next time the hummer came in for a sip (which it did about once every 20 minutes for the rest of the afternoon), but I haven't quite identified the species. It's got a gray-or-green body, a white-or-light-gray chest, and a reddish throat, which could be one of several species that WhatBird.com suggests for Colorado. My best guess is a male broad-tailed hummingbird. I suppose it could also be a calliope, but I didn't notice that striping/striation pattern in the red/maroon throat of my visitor. (WhatBird.com does not suggest the ruby-throated hummingbird this far west.)

One more happy thought: Roller derby tomorrow! Our first home bout of the season--at least, this will be the first competitive event we're hosting in 2015. The January event was a mix-up tournament. Tomorrow's will feature actual rated-and-ranked teams. I'll be skating with the Bombshells against the visiting team from Pueblo in the first bout of the evening--that'll start at 6:00 PM, with the frontman for Big Head Todd and the Monsters as the celebrity whistleblower starting the first jam for us. Right after that, our All Stars will take on Denver Roller Derby's Bruising Altitude.

I was going to put an article up on AXS.com about the event, but literally minutes before I was ready to upload the article, I got an email from AXS saying that they would no longer accept "game-related sports news or timely recaps." Argh. I was not prepared to try to turn it into some sort of "5 things to watch for" listicle at this late date, either, so I just let it go. You get this blog post instead.

$15 at the door! Doors open at 5:30! I'm assuming Georgia Boys will be there, with barbecue and mac & cheese for all. I know there will be lots of local beers and distilled spirits for the grown-ups. Come watch me skate, and then come see me at the fund raiser table during the All Stars bout (at halftime, of course; otherwise you should be watching the All Stars skate, because they are awesome) and help us keep our travel fund in the black! And speaking of the All Stars, keep your eyes on them this season. Latest WFTDA rankings put them at #33, which means this year may well be Boulder's D1 debut.

Meanwhile, it's Friday, and there is a conspicuous absence of Fictionette. I hope to get it up this weekend (where have we heard that tale before? but I really, really mean it this time. Well, Monday for sure). It was taking me longer tonight than I'd budgeted for, and it didn't seem wise to stay up late with such a big day looming over me tomorrow. So you will just have to stay tuned for tales of painted shipwrecks and sinister countdowns, I'm afraid.

Cover art incorporates a photo of an oven taken by Wikimedia Commons user ArnoldReinhold and licensed under the terms of a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.
a fictionette, a typewriter, and a new occasion for carpet snow-angels
Mon 2015-05-11 23:53:58 (single post)
  • 779 wds. long

Ok! So. Got a Friday Fictionette for you. It's the one for May 1, so I've still got last week's and this week's to go before I'm all caught up. But! I have been doing all sorts of catching up things, and then some.

First things first. The May 1 Friday Fictionette is called "To Come Before The Queen" (click for excerpt and also links to full versions). At 779 words, it's probably the shortest one I've posted yet. Any shorter and it would feel like a waste of time to publish an excerpt. But it's precise. Once I had the basic structure and story in mind, I set myself the challenge of writing only half the dialogue such that the other half could be inferred. It's a neat exercise, and it forces you to really think about word choice.

I wanted the cover art to be a huge honkin' commercial oven like the one the pastry chef baked hundreds of breakfast treats in every morning, back in the university dorm cafeteria where I worked in the mid-90s. You really could imagine a grown woman climbing in and sleeping in it at night. Alas, Google gave me very slim pickings. I might as well have just photographed our own oven (in which John, incidentally, has been baking lots of bread and other yummy things lately; I am, even more so than usual, a very fortunate spouse).

Another thing I caught up on this weekend: I typed up a Fictionette on my typewriter for the first time! See, at the $5/month pledge tier, I send you one of the month's Fictionettes typed up on an actual typewriter with actual typos and everything. Also illustrated capitals, watercolor doodles, and other unique surprises. Now, in my eternal optimism, I limited this tier reward to the first 10 Patrons to sign up for it. However, I think I'll have to lower it to 5. Why? Because 1400+ words on a typewriter takes a lot longer than I remembered! And not just because I'm no longer able to touch-type flawlessly in QWERTY! (I lost that skill when I learned the DVORAK layout. Apparently my fingers only have room for one layout for typing 90wpm with my eyes closed in.)

At least we now live on the bottom floor, with nothing beneath us but the garage. I'd be worried about shaking the floorboards otherwise.

So that was cool, and it's already gone out in the mail. (I was going to take a picture, but I forget to before I sealed it up in the envelope. Oh well. Next week!)

And here's one more cool thing I did this weekend:

I wrote a whole brand new story.

I did! It was for a contest on Codex, the annual Title Rummage Sale, where you pick a title from the virtual hat and then you write a story for it. I just barely made the lower word limit, and the story is about as drafty as a draft can get, but I finished it and I uploaded it and people are going to read it. And then I can make it better, and submit it somewhere.

That's exciting! It's been months since I last submitted something anywhere! Despite my intention to send out something new every month, and resubmit something every week! Well. Better late than never, right?

Also also also, I cleaned up the office. I took most of the boxes and things that have been hogging the floor and the futon since we moved in, and I shoved them all in the closet. Actually, I arranged them neatly and thoughtfully in the closet such that they can be accessed whenever necessary. So now I have a functional closet, and I can sit or sleep on the futon, and I can walk from the office door to the office window without dodging boxes.

How awesome is that? So awesome.

I... I think I have to make snow-angels in the carpet again.

'xcuse me.

cracking the ice and climbing back in
Tue 2015-04-28 23:43:24 (single post)
  • 5,391 wds. long

Today was the first time in mumble-mumblety weeks that I managed to squeak out some work on the short story revision. Finally! That's what I call literary excitement.

It had been so long that I was honestly daunted about coming back to it. (Not that the project is anything less than daunting at the best of times, mind you.) I spent more hours this afternoon than I care to admit simply putting it off and putting it off. Which meant that everything on the day's agenda slated for after work on the short story was also getting put off.

Finally I just opened the darn project and read what I had written on the new draft so far. This, as always, magically led to me making notes in the margins and tweaking the text. For the better, I hope. Cleared up a logical progression here, headed off a potential point of confusion there, stuff like that. When I put it away this evening, the draft had progressed only two paragraphs or so beyond the point where I'd left off mumble-mumblety weeks before, but the overall word count had dropped by about 100 words. And of course there's simply having cracked the ice on it today, which means it shouldn't take me all day long to get into it tomorrow.

Which is good, because tomorrow I have volunteer reading in the morning and roller derby in the evening. I will need to be exceedingly on the ball about getting my work done in between those things. Hooray for the Pomodoro Challenge Timer! Despite its being studded with Default Dudes, it does help.

It has recently been upgraded, in fact. It now has a feature called "Don't judge me." If you check that, it stops nagging you. That is, it doesn't repeatedly whistle at you if you don't hit the button immediately. It just whistles once when it's time to start your next work session, and then it leaves you alone. Also, activating this feature deactivates achievements and rankings, so that you don't get messages about having been demoted for taking a week's vacation (or a week's trip to Indiana in order to live, breathe, eat and sleep roller derby, which is like a vacation only much less restful).

Of course I immediately checked it. Sometimes I have a darn good reason to be a minute late coming off my 5-minute break. Also, once, when I started up the app and opened the WORK screen, but didn't immediately click START POMODORO, it began blowing on its coach whistle non-stop while I scrambled to shut down Bluestacks. This was embarrassing. With "Don't judge me" checked, that is unlikely to happen again.

On the other hand, with "Don't judge me" checked, if I remember to click SKIP BREAK but then forget to click START POMODORO, well, there I am without a timer and not knowing it because the app isn't going to let me know about it. This is a thing that happened. I think I actually worked longer than I would have otherwise, though. "Gee, aren't 25 minutes done yet? ...oh."

I don't know. I may yet deactivate the feature in the end. For now, I'm happy to have the app's timer functions and stat tracking without its "motivational" nagging habits (which I honestly don't find that motivational).

Anyway, I'll be using the app a lot tomorrow.

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.)

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!

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.

Someone threw a snowball at me. Now I am a snowpeep.
cooperative solitaire, and a way of keeping score
Mon 2015-01-05 23:13:37 (single post)
  • 5,300 wds. long

Oh boy! First full week of the new year! Whatever shall I do with it? How about "everything I've been putting off, ever"? Or at least those long-procrastinated tasks which I've codified as "to-dos" in HabitRPG.

I started using HabitRPG early last year. (I may have mentioned it once or twice since then.) It aims to help you break bad habits, foment good ones, and generally be more productive by "gamifying" your life, role-playing game style. You gain gold and experience points for practicing good habits, getting daily tasks done, and completing to-dos. But you lose hit points for succumbing to bad habits or leaving daily tasks incomplete.

It is an oddly compelling interface. I wondered, though, how compelling it would continue being once I'd earned enough gold to buy all the armor, weapons, and shields, once I'd tried all four character classes, and once I'd acquired all the pets and mounts.

Turns out that one key to keeping HabitRPG alive, for me at least, is being in a party and accomplishing quests. I began using HabitRPG along with other writers in the online Codex community--and if you are a neo-pro writer with a pro sale or a pro workshop under your belt, consider joining! Codex has rejuvenated my writing practice and career like nothing else. Having a community to cheer you on, a hive mind whose brain you can pick, and a group of friends you can safely vent to, is more valuable than I can say. I can post, "I just submitted X story to Y market," and there will be a chorus of "Woot!" I can post, "Y market just rejected X story," and there will be a chorus of sympathetic groans--and also woots, because these are writers, and writers understand that there's a satisfaction in collecting rejection letters. Rejection letters mean you're doing what a writer should do, which is finishing and submitting stories. And then there's contests, and market news, and the ability to compare notes about contracts and experiences with editors. If the Absolute Write Water Cooler were a big city, Codex would be the liberal arts college situated in that city.

So imagine how much more motivating it is to team up with a bunch of fellow Codexians in quests to defeat boss monsters! When you're in a quest of the boss monster variety, any daily tasks you leave incomplete will not only do you damage but also your whole party. Many an evening I've contemplated my remaining dailies and considered leaving them undone, because I'm Just That Tired. But then I consider the shame-faced "Sorry for the damage, ya'll" I'd have to post to the Party chat room. So I reconsider, and I set a timer, and do my freewriting after all.

Another thing HabitRPG does to stay fresh: The designers are constantly releasing new content. Every few months a new quest will appear, one that rewards you with a pet you've never seen before. Every season, there's a "Grand Gala," which is to say, an amusing storyline, a new selection of limited edition gear, seasonal tricks and treats, and, again, new quests.

But probably the most useful thing for me about HabitRPG is, it's a list repository. Lists are my favorite coping mechanism. Lists help keep me from losing track of, or getting overwhelmed by, all the things I gotta do. HabitRPG is my one-stop list shop.

On a day-to-day basis, the list of dailies keeps me from forgetting household chores when it's my turn to do them. The 30-day fitness challenge I'm participating in with some of my derby friends, that's a daily too. So are my various writing tasks. I've made "Morning pages," "Freewriting," "Friday Fictionette Preparation," and "actually writing blog" into dailies, not to mention "Five hours of writing every workday!" with a checkbox for each hour so I can at least get partial credit if I poop out an hour early. Some of these are due every day, some only Monday through Friday, and the five-hour writing task is only Tuesdays through Fridays. Thus HabitRPG organizes my approach to the work day.

On a long-term basis, I can make one-time tasks into To-Dos. You know the way a procrastinated task gets heavier and heavier in your head the longer you put it off? I've found that if I encode the task as a to-do, preferably broken down into a bunch of sub-task checkboxes, it weighs less. This is not least because part of the weight of a long-delayed task is "I have to remember. I have to remember. I mustn't forget I have to do this!" Well, once I've made it into a To-Do, I won't forget. It's there, written down.

And then when I do it, I get to check it off and get a ton of gold and XP for doing it. The longer it's been waiting for me to check it off, the more reward I get--and the bigger a whallop it delivers to any boss monsters we might be fighting. That makes checking off to-dos very satisfying.

Today I realized that despite having been home from our trip for almost a week, I still hadn't unpacked my suitcase. Every day I've been tripping over that thought (and also over that suitcase). Today, I said, "Enough already," and I made the task into a HabitRPG to-do. Then I unpacked my damn suitcase already. Then I checked off the to-do. It's amazing, and kind of stupid really, how much motivation the to-do interface added.

Brains! They are so weirdly manipulatable!

Anyway, this week is my "clean up my to-do" list week. I contributed to that goal today by

  • unpacking my suitcase
  • mailing fruitcake and New Year's cards
  • deciding, with John, what appetizer we'd contribute to the BCB Black & Blue Ball potluck
  • and doing my bit to help spread the word about our State Line Roll Out roller derby tournament this Saturday.

Tomorrow, I'll continue by...

  • putting together one writing resume for WFTDA, for their volunteer editor position
  • putting together another, more focused writing resume for Demand Media Studios, for access to the Home & Garden channel
  • doing the books, which task came due on Friday,
  • and making some progress on the revision of "Caroline's Wake."

Because that story revision is a to-do, as well. And my other goal for this week was to have "perfect days" all week long, which is to day, completing all my dailies every day, including the five-hours-of-writing one. Which will be achieved by working on my actual writing.

It's going to be a solid work week, y'all. Hopefully the first of many.

So that's my goal, and that's how HabitRPG helps me achieve my goals. If you're inspired to try it out, I'm playing under the handle "vortexae". If you see me, shoot me a note!

recommend that you not
Tue 2014-10-28 23:13:06 (single post)

So this is my latest trick. (It is not a smart trick.)

I seem to have returned to Second Life. I logged in for the first time in about three years: firstly, because you cannot leave Groups without logging in, and I had some Groups I didn't need to belong to anymore, nor get their emails; secondly, because I wanted to blog about doing NaNoWriMo on Second Life with the Milk Wood Writers and Virtual Writers, Inc.

There will, by the way, be more blog posts of this nature as November arrives and NaNoWriMo proceeds. I may no longer be one of Boulder's Municipal Liaison--emphatically not!--but I'm still your friendly neighborhood Boulder Writing Example, and NaNoWriMo is a big damn writerly deal.

Anyway, so, Second Life. And apparently I had some L$1,350 (in-game currency) sitting in my account along with about $10 (real world money). Now, I used to blog for the Metaverse Tribune. I'd make L$500 per post, and when my balance got to L$1,500 I'd exchange it for U.S. currency (about five or six dollars, depending on the market that day); and this was how I made a little pocket change off Second Life. But the reason I got into that gig was, I was wearing the Earn2Life HUD and participating in their Pay4Visit program. They send you places, you walk around and look at the place for a certain amount of time, they pay you a few Linden Dollars for your visit. So my blog series at the Metaverse Tribune, "Have Avatar, Will Travel," involved writing reviews of the places that Earn2Life's Pay4Visit program sent me.

I had to branch out a bit from there to keep the blog interesting. The places featured in the Pay4Visit program tend to be shopping malls, skill gaming locations, and strip clubs.

Anyway, upon logging in the other day, I thought, "I wonder if the Pay4Visit thing is still happening?" And of course it was. And following that rabbit trail led to the Fruit Mania traffic boost program, and following that led to the Bletaverse traffic cones, and the traffic cones led to the Gold Rush thingie, and the freeplay casino games, and the Coin Mania sphere, and mini-raffles, and so on, and so forth, and...

That's how I ended up using some random casino's L$1/15min dance pad, rather than FocusBooster, to time my freewriting today. "It's kind of like getting paid to do my timed writing session! Sort of. At a rate of a penny and a half per hour, but that's not the point--"

Don't do this, y'all. It does not end well.

Here we see the problem. One of these things is not like the other, and the other is not like the one.
If only both sets of phone jack equipment looked like this, I would be set.
This took way more time and effort than it was probably worth. Also way more spackle.
i fought the phone jack and i think it was a draw
Tue 2014-10-21 23:53:26 (single post)

I may have mentioned that John and I are trying to sell our third-floor condo unit. The goal is to move into something that's a little more like a house, but that isn't too far from where we are now. And now that the roof has been replaced and last year's storm damage has been addressed, we're trying to get all of our home improvement assignments done so we can list the place. We've been moving so slowly, like, "OK, today we did the three polycrylic finish coats on the front side of new sliding closet door number two. Woot! Tomorrow, we'll stain the back side of sliding closet door number three." At this rate, there'd be no question of selling during the beautiful fall weather. At this rate, we wouldn't be able to list until spring.

And even at this lackadaisical pace, I've begun to doubt whether writing and home improvement projects can coexist.

Well, today they could not, not least because we resolved to step up the pace. Today we went to McGuckin Hardware and brought home everything we'll need for everything we still have to do. Well, most of everything, anyway. I detached a kitchen cabinet door and brought it to McGuckin so we could find the right color stain to touch up the below-sink cabinets whose finish was pretty destroyed. We bought grout cleaner, door pulls, more white paint for the kitchen and the shower room, more pre-stain and stain and polycrylic and poly-foam brushes. And then we came home and we did finish clear-coating the front side of new sliding closet door number two. And I just about almost finished spackling the gap around the air conditioner unit so that it isn't floating in a wall-hole lined with black foam insulation. And I cleaned up all the glass from when I broke my quarters jar this morning while getting ready to do some laundry. (Yes, I also did laundry.)

And I finally resolved the phone jack situation. This is the phone jack situation: The phone conduit boxes that live behind the drywall in the bedroom and in the office have their screw holes on the diagonal. But the nice brass wall plates we wish to install over them have a vertical pair of screw holes. All the parts that come with the new nice brass wall plates assume a vertical pair of screw holes. I'm specifically thinking about the steel ring to which is attached the actual phone jack--the module that the telephone plug goes in the front side of, and the four wires that emerge from the wall connect to the back side of it.

(This is difficult to describe because I don't know the proper terms for everything. Please to see attached photos.)

In the bedroom, this is not a problem, because the steel ring for mounting the phone jack has taken care of everything. Instead of being a small ring the size of the phone jack with vertical extensions, it's a wide ring with three pairs of holes: one pair at the diagonal for mounting onto the conduit box, and two pairs on the vertical for attaching the phone jack and the wall plate. It is perfect. The picture of it is not perfect; it is blurry. But the actual implement is exactly what we needed.

So we brought it to McGuckin and said, "Another one like this, please," and they said "We have never seen anything like that before ever. What is that?"

We stumped McGuckin, y'all.

So we're left with the vertical-install jack that comes with the brass plate, and the round steel ring that came with the crappy and unnecessary dual-port jack in the office. That steel ring is almost like the perfect one in the bedroom, only--and this is key--it only has holes for mounting the phone jack to the steel ring. It has no holes for screwing the wall plate onto the ring. Now that I think about it, it's probably meant for an entirely different kind of wall plate. Possibly, now that I think about it, a round one. That's probably where that perfect steel ring came from in the first place. A round modular phone jack. Which we probably could have bought and used. *facepalm*

But here's what I did. I used a pair of long screws to attach the phone jack to the vertical mounting ring to the diagonal mounting ring, all through the same pair of holes. So now I had the diagonal holes on the big wide ring ready to attach it to the conduit box, and the vertical holes on the vertically-extended ring for attaching the wall plate. And this whole unholy cross-wise chimera, which you can see in the third photo, I made flush with the wall by cutting out chunks of drywall with an X-Acto knife.

Spackle is my very best friend.

Anyway, I won the battle! But I lost the war--I'm now entirely out of juice. I didn't even make it to roller derby practice, because all these processes went longer than expected and utterly exhausted me. So I had to declare the productive part of my day over. Damn you, Tuesday! Why have you not more hours and also more energy for me to use?

Dear Wednesday: I have put all my hope in you. Please do not let me down! Yes, yes, I know I'm having lunch down at Cherry Creek with visiting family members. I don't care. I am being optimistic about you, Wednesday. You can do it!

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