“"...till by the end you feel you have lived many lives: which is perhaps the greatest gift a novel can give."”
Ursula K. Le Guin

author: Nicole J. LeBoeuf

actually writing blog

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!

Live on Patreon, it's Friday Fictionettes! Also: A new monster of derby.
Mon 2014-09-01 23:55:51 (single post)
  • 1,242 wds. long

It's September 1, and I've launched my Patreon page. Go ahead, click it, see what you think. Basically, it's a short-short story subscription service, except they're not so much fully formed short stories but rather highly polished excerpts from my daily freewriting sessions. I'm calling these story-like objects "fictionettes." Pledging a dollar or more per month gets you access to the fictionettes I post every first through fourth Friday in PDF format, and at the end of the month I make one of those fictionettes free for all to read. At higher pledge levels, I will read my fictionettes to you, podcast-style, or even mail them to you in handmade collectible editions (limited supplies available).

The first fictionette, "Breaking and Entering," is up on my creations stream. You can also read it right here on the actually writing blog, or on my brand new WattPad account. I'll have an audio version of it up soon so potential patrons can get an idea of whether they like my reading style before they subscribe. I also intend to create a simple cover image sometime this week.

Both Patreon and Wattpad are new interfaces for me, and they're both boggling me in different ways. I can't seem to convince Wattpad that "Breaking and Entering" is its own piece, complete in and of itself, and not a chapter in a larger piece called "Breaking and Entering." And Patreon's creation-posting, creation-editing, and creation-navigating interfaces have so many issues I could write a whole post about them.

But I will not. Instead, I will hang in there and see if things get easier to deal with as I go forward, or if I'll at least figure out smart ways to cope with and around the seeming inadequacies.

Why am I doing this? Several reasons.

  • The possibility of making more money by writing stories than I'm making by blogging at Examiner has a certain appeal. (Hint: It wouldn't take much.)
  • A new weekly deadline means I'm going to be finishing more story-like objects more often, which can't be a bad thing.
  • I'm teaching myself to relax and let go of this whole "Every piece of writing must be saved and its first rights preserved against the day it will become a real publishable story!" Seriously, at the rate of a new freewriting vignette produced almost every day, there will be more of them taking up space in my Daily Ideas .scrivx than I'll ever develop into commercially viable stories. They aren't exactly precious.
  • I like the sound of the word "prolific." I like the thought of applying it to myself.

Call it the crossroads of self-publishing and self-improvement. We'll see how it goes.

In roller derby news, my Bombshells lost to 10th Mountain, and the score was 201 to 207. It was a mirror image of last season's bout against the Mountaineers, with a heroic come-back in the second half and an epic final jam that included two penalties to the 10th Mountain jammer and an amazing effort by our jammer, Sauce, to put huge amounts of points on the board. (Sauce is my hero, y'all. Not even kidding a little bit.) Every pass was a screamingly exciting fight for both teams' very lives, as the Mountaineers blockers clung to their lead and the Bombshells blockers pulled out every trick they knew to get their jammer through the pack.

In the end, I think, if you can't make it through the season undefeated, I think a single loss by a squeaky 6-point margin isn't so terrible. And doesn't every team need a nemesis?

I'm going to call the afterparty a tie. Both teams represented on the dance floor well into the wee hours, and not as separate monochrome bunches, either. We mixed it up real good.

Er. Also. The Bombshells MVPs that 10th Mountain chose for the night were Skinny DipHer as jammer... and myself as blocker. *flabbergasted* Everyone was all, "That's two games in a row, Fleur!" and I'm all, "I know! I don't get it!" I'm not being coy or cute here, I seriously don't get it. But I'm thankful. I hope I managed to show it. I know I hugged a lot of people in 10th Mountain uniforms.

John declared the distinction well deserved and proceeded to explain to me, in great detail and with much enthusiasm, why he thought so. (Have I mentioned how much I love this man?) He also had a lot to say about bout our bout and the "back to school" themed mix-up that preceded it. He and our friend Stras had carpooled to the bout, and when I got home from the afterparty by about 1:00 AM they were in the middle of watching an archived bout on WFTDA.tv (last year's Division 1 game between Windy City and RMRG). They were analyzing the footage, play by play. They paused their viewing to talk derby with me until something like 2:30, and then after Stras went home John and I kept talking until 3:00. By the time I finally fell asleep, my brain was like a computer running a screensaver, and the screensaver featured an endless procession of jammers and blockers whizzing counterclockwise around a derby track.

I've created a derby monster here. John's always been excited to watch derby with me, but this weekend seems to have launched his enthusiasm through the roof. I repeat: He went home from our bout and immediately queued up more derby to watch on his computer. Then we watched more archived bout footage together today (two of this year's D2 bouts featuring Sin City), during which he pressed pause oodles of times to discuss nuances of plays and penalties. There was rewinding and rewatching in slo-mo. There was pausing to look up official rules. There was massive geeking out over derby, y'all.

John said, "I now know why I could never be an official, as much as I want to get involved. I can't be unbiased. I'm too invested in rooting for the Boulder County Bombers."

I thought about this. "Well, with your strategic observations and your tendency to pick plays apart, maybe you could be an assistant coach."

Gods bless him, he didn't say no. In fact, he's seriously considering it. We broached the idea to other league members at the annual league birthday get-together yesterday, to skaters and coaches alike, and everyone thought he'd be a fantastic addition to the team. Gods know we have a need for more coaches, assistant or otherwise, having recently lost a handful of them to the various changing demands of their lives.

He's said he'll come with me to scrimmage on Thursday, and maybe practice on Wednesday too depending on what's on the agenda. We'll see how it goes.

sometimes you just come up flat
Thu 2014-08-28 23:38:50 (single post)

And then there are days that no amount of specificity can help. They start out already so full of things that the schedule consists of an hour here and an hour eked out there, and then they change. Appointments get postponed. Cars get flats.

True. The rear left wheel split its outer sidewall in response to no observable incident whatsoever, and John and I got an opportunity to relearn how to install a spare tire. We were helped by the late '90s legacy of Saturn manufacturers who included numbered and illustrated instructions on the spare wheel access panel. We were not at all helped by the Conoco corner store counter clerk who opined, "Well, if you've got a husband with you, you don't need to change any tires, right?"

I'm reminded of a mid-90s Seattle encounter, wherein some guy, some stranger, encountered me on the sidewalk where I was adjusting the brake pads of my bicycle, and asked me, "Don't you have a man to do that for you?" I seriously don't understand why people say things like this. I guess they think they're being funny. They can't possibly think they're helping in any way.

Anyway, one spare wheel installation and inflation later, I'm spending my next hour at Big O getting the tire replaced, which operation finished just in time for me to rendezvous with my carpool to roller derby practice. Why, yes I've had practice three nights in a row. It's bout week. And if tonight's scrimmage is any indication, it's going to be very physical and hard-fought.

No derby tomorrow--just resting up before the big event. But tomorrow is a big day where the house is concerned--we finally get to move back in. The new carpet went in yesterday, and tomorrow morning is final clean-up, walk-through, and furniture relocation. That's going to eat up my morning some good, but, despite that and the afternoon appointment that's also scheduled, I'm optimistic about getting some writing in. At least, more than I got in today. And I'll get to do it at my own desk, in my own office. Finally.

Until then!

also we research our avoidance processes meticulously
Thu 2014-08-21 22:36:32 (single post)
  • 4,400 wds. long

Holy cow, hotel business centers are super techy these days. You open up the "printerOn" webpage for your particular hotel--if your hotel does have one--you upload your document, you give it your email address and a fresh 5-digit security code you made up on the fly, and then you saunter down to the business center, enter your security code, and you tell it to print on their fancy laser printer. It was a none-too-fast fancy laser printer, but it got the job done. I now have a printed copy of "A Wish for Captain Hook" for me to deface at my leisure.

Now, our household printer is here in the room with us. I was all set to use it. But because the printer got here less with plans for using it and more for just getting it the hell out of the house and out of the way of the restoration project, it has not sufficient paper with it for the job at hand. Our supply of paper, you see, was already stowed at the top of a closet and out of harm's way.

So that's where half the time I spent on the story went today: Printing the draft. (Like I said, slow printer.) Also getting the draft ready to print in the first plase--for reasons I no longer recall, it was a text document with its italics indicated by underscore characters before and after the text to be italicized.

I spent the other half of the time researching.

No, look, it all started with good intentions. I was scribbling away on the freshly printed draft, honest! But I was scribbling things like, "This was true in 1984, but was it true in 2005?" and "When did different libraries reopen after Katrina?" and "Maybe by then you could get an Orleans Parish library card as a Jefferson Parish resident? Again, 2005 v. 1984" and "Double-check: Nov 24 was Thanksgiving that year?"

Next thing I knew, I was looking up not only the days of the week that the story takes place on (yes, November 24 was indeed a fourth Thursday in 2005, thus Thanksgiving) but also sunrise and sunset, moonrise and moonset, and phases of the moon. So now I know for sure that the last scene really can take place on a night with no moon, and when the sun comes up after the characters' long vigil, I will know precisely what time that means.

So, yes, the metaphorical cat has been metaphorically vacuumed within an inch of its remaining fur. This is just one of the many valuable services we writers provide. For an additional charge, we will also metaphorically wax your metaphorical cat. The cat will not appreciate it, metaphorically speaking, but haven't you always wanted your metaphorical cat to really shine?

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