Archive for January, 2009

Catching up….

Whew…. it’s been an interesting week-and-a-few-days…

First off, and most recently, Neil Gaiman news…. he’s won the Newberry for The Graveyard Book. I think it’s cool, even if traditional critcs of “the establishment” think it’s weird. And it’s one that I can attest to its being not just a “kid’s book”, even if that’s where it tends to be put in bookstores.

And I already have my copies of the Neil Gaiman Batman issues reserved through my local comics shop.

Now, last week we here in the South East had something we don’t get very often… snow! Lots of it. There was enough that two days of classes were cancelled. Fortunately, it happened to be the two days that my classes are, so there was a reprieve on some readings/projects for another week.

Last night was the first “real” session (thanks to the snow day) for my Research class. Since it’s Resaerch from the Writer’s Perspective, the big final project will be some form of creative work, “strongly influenced” by research. As the instructor went around the room, asking each person if they had anything in mind (just an idea, nothing that would be set in stone), and I was one of the few people that already had a form and subject in mind…

My tentative revelation: I will be writing a script or short story about the 1904 World Series. Or, more to the point, about how and why it didn’t happen. It’s something that’s been bubbling around for a couple of years, and seems to be one that will lend itself quite well to the requirements of that assignment.

The “teaching” class, which meets tonight may be something else. The reading has been tough… the first two chapters “read like stereo instructions” as the author goes into some of the background and theory (or, “This is how I got to my ideas.”). Really… fifty-four pages of build-up, and “this is what is going on behind what I think”, before actually getting to “here is what I think about teaching, and ways you can encourage writing in a classroom”?

It’s an academic text, I know, but the first two chapters just seemed to drag on. There were several moments that I found myself rereading the same lines, my eyes crossed trying to finish a paragraph or a page – anything to get to a point where I could do a “clean break” from the text. Right now, I couldn’t tell you much about the first two chapters, other than, “a lot of theory, and somebody that had the epiphany to come up with assignments that get the students involved in the material. Something to get them interested.” Duh.

*sigh* At least some of my pleasure reading is taking me back to the edge, and to an interesting future, by reading some William Gibson (his short stories). Over the long weekend, last week, I picked up two Harry Turtledove books… Opening Atlantis, and the Gladiator. I also found a copy of The Family Trade by Charles Stross – first book in a series that Chris had suggested to me back around the wedding. Two of the three have already been added to my book stack for the year. (Seriously, I already have most of my “pleasure” reading picked out. Since I have so many books on the shelves to choose from, I had to do something to streamline the process.)

Back to the grindstone… I have a class I need to try and finish prepping for, and only a little bitof time left at work for the day…

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I live on the east coast, in the mid-Atlantic region. We don’t get snow here very often, especially not enough to do more than freak people out, make them raid the grocery store, then complain when no powder falls, or there is nothing more than a delay.

When I got up this morning and saw this…

I was quit happy… in the “I like seeing snow” sort of way. I wasn’t quite thrilled about having to come in to work. But classes are actually cancelled, so I will not have to go in this evening.

[And I tried actually embedding the image, by code, and it wouldn’t let me…. Grr…]

[Edit to add – there was enough snow and weather activity to lead most of the other offices at work to close early. And I got a caller later in the day who, after I intially mentioned that the offices were closed, before I could mention the inclimate weather, asked, “Oh, were you closed for the inauguration?” This isn’t DC, lady… Geez…]

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Just a brief note on the classes… They have started, and things will be “interesting”… this will likely be one of my more “project heavy” semesters, even though the reading may be lighter.

I am happy to report that the Research class, while “having a consistent format is important” when citing sources, the instructor is not too OCD about the MLA format. If things are not 100% perfect, it sounds like no shakes – where other instructors may burn people for a period instead of a comma, etc.

I have spent the better part of the last couple of (work) days – between calls – surfing Wikipedia and other sites for a project we have already been given. The project: Researching the literary culture of a particular year [mine is 1940] – looking at Pulitzers and Nobels (in Literature)… I’ve already decided to go a little further, and have also looked into the Hollywood circle of the time, looking at the Oscars.

Of course, that’s the problem with surfing… too many tangents can be found (I hit a major detour and ended up spending a lot of time reading about GI Joe characters and story lines, after seeing something about the movie slated for Summer 2009 release)… But I have several web sources already, I just need to spend a little time in the library next week, showing that I know (or, remember) how to find some “real” sources, and can look things up in a library. The instructor did make a comment that he was interested to see how many web sources would be used.

Back to the grindstone… I have my rough list started, I just need to look for critiques of the works.

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Works in Progress…

I was thinking about my plans for the year, in terms of the Resolutions (past and present years), and started listing some of the projects I want to work on. The conclusion that I came to (initially triggered by spending a lot of time yesterday afternoon looking at Stephen King’s recently revamped site), is that I want to try something a little different. I don’t write know how I made the connection – maybe it was also the fact that I was thinking about my class tonight… the “Research for Writers”.

Sue Grafton compiles a file for each book she is working on – adding her research notes, thought processes, etc. A production journal, of sorts. I know this because she mentions it on her website. And I have gotten a little restless with some of my “older” habits. Creating a short story is not too difficult – in the context of it relying on only a couple of tension points, or addressing only one or two events. My attempts at writing a novel, though, have fallen apart for one of two reasons. Either I’ve outlined it well, and I’ve lost interest by the time the outline is done – especially true for a trilogy that I planned out (eight years ago), or I go into it with an idea, and try to make it all up as I go.

I am going to try an outline approach… working on some character sketches, and do some “brainstorming/free association” plotting, to explore the ideas. I’m going to go way back to my sixth grade English classes, and Elementary school classes, where we were encouraged to brainstorm and think about something for a little bit, plotting out the events.

I am going to spend most of the rest of January working from this angle on a couple of projects – both stories and scripts – before jumping (too far) into the other creative maelstrom that I want to pursue. Stephen King (in his FAQ) mentions, “As long as I’m a couple ideas ahead, I’m fine.” With the list of projects that I put together last night, I think I’ll have more than enough to keep my busy for the year, and well into the next.

I just need to finish them, so I can shop them around.

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I’m Back in the Classroom, Again…

+1 Aerosmith level if you can identify the song that I had running through my head when I came up with the title…

It’s that time again… classes officially started last week (Friday, of all days), but my first class is tonight. I have a Tuesday and a Wednesday night class (two different classes, two different nights). I managed to pull off a similar (sort of) schedule last Spring, so here’s to hoping I can do it again.

In case anyone is interested, I am taking: Research from the Writer’s Perspective, and Teaching Composition: Theory & Practice. The last one is the “If you want to teach, you really should take this class” class.

The only thing that really puts me in a bind is the fact that I am, technically, ineligible for any traditional “TA” or “Teaching Assistantships,” since I already work for the same institution I would be teaching at. (The whole “double-dipping” thing…). But taking that class should help any other issues I may have when I get to the point of going in to seriously discuss my options (which, at this rate, would be after next fall… or whenever I complete 18 hours of Graduate level classes).

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Picture Pages…

I am goingto breifly touch on my “photo” resolution (hah!)… While on our honeymoon, I took over 1,000 pictures. That’s right. One. THOUSAND. pictures. I will be the first to admit that of those, there will probably be close to two-hundred of them that can be “tossed” – as fuzzy, or bad lighting, or ones that look okay on the camera, but not so good when viewed on a computer screen.

Going back to my gaming days – long before the manufactured “Collectible Miniatures” games, when we used real miniatures (some of which may have had lead in them) that we had to hand-paint, ourselves* – we used the Battle Systems & Skirmishes rulebooks. And I liked taking pictures of landscapes, especially of areas that I thought would translate well to dioramas and game settings.

That’s something that has stayed with me… I’m a sucker for a good mountain shot, or a sweeping lanscape with a variety of foliage and natural dynamics. On the cruise, going around Cape Horn, I took a variety of shots of the actual Cape, where the only difference was where a spot of sunlight was falling on the side of the mountain. I am still going through the pictures, putting together a movie/slideshow (WELL over an hour… more like two… with only a handful of pictures removed), but I will (and have already been asked by coworkers) to load them to my Flickr stream… And when I do, you will notice some of them inthe widget on the left (the one cycling the pictures)… I may even put a post (series) together of some really cool pictures…

*The painting thing was what our group called the “Silver Surfer” rule – if a miniature was going to be used in a game, it had to be in some stage (preferably finished) of being painted. This was to prevent anyone from dropping some money buying a ton of figures on their way to a gaming session.

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The 2009 Resolutions…

At long last, I am finally getting the chance to post these… I sat down the other night and put them together, and proceeded to get some good-natured grief from MC – “How many of last year’s did you accomplish?” I guessed at about 4-5 out of about 21… “That’s not a good average,” she replied.

As usual, she was right. I looked over the list from last year, and realized that with the life changes (moving, marriage, and taking classes again), some of the other items became moot (like, Christmas shopping by early November – was struck entirely, since we got things on the honeymoon)… On the other hand, some of them started as good ideas, but didn’t have a defined timeline associated…

Without having a detailed timeline, for the moment, here’s the 2009 list – and a shorter one than in years past…

1) Get weight down to between 175-185 (target). [Especially motivating, with a late fall trip already planned for the Carribean.]

2) Read 26-30 “new” books. [I have already gone through and pulled about twenty books, so far, to work on…]

3) (a) Write. The daily routine (500-1000 words per day), with the year’s target being at least: 2 books (50k+ words), 6 short stories/novellas, 2 scripts (long form), and 2 scripts (1 act/short form).

3) (b) Marketing and sending submissions out.

4) Train for the local Biathlon (to be held 5 April 09 – 3 mile run, and 15 mile ride).

5) Get “A”s in my classes.

6) Finish cleaning out at the old house.

7) Travel – like last year, 1-2 “good” trips, just me and MC, with a few weekend jaunts free of any familial obligations. [One is already planned… the previously mentioned “Carribean” trip.]

8) Christmas shopping done by early November. [All of it, hopefully, but unlikely. At least enough to make the traditional “Thanksgiving to Christmas” madness easier to bear.]

9) Send out birthday and anniversary cards, etc. in a timely manner.

10) Work on the photography skills… [Which means, actually, taking a lot of pictures, and carrying a camera around on some of the expeditions… or plan “photo trips”…]

11) Process the Netflix queue – watch 100 movies from the queue.

12) Work on my Wii Fit age (which, I suppose, goes with # 1).

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2008 Review – The last update…

As I mentioned, I have some notes regarding the cruise, and how it impacted by Reading and Viewing lists…

Books first…
I finished Gaiman’s Fragile Things, and it was a very good collection. There are a couple of notes that I made (while reading) that sparked some possible story ideas for me… based on a line, or image, and not a other support documents. (Right, you follow that?) Technically, I did not finish until after the 1st, but all things considered, I credited it towards 2008. (Last year’s holdovers actually had other books read at the same time, instead of being read straight through)…

Despite my hopes and plans for my travel reading (LOTS of airport time!), I only got through the one book while I was gone.

So, that brings the 2008 books read to: 23 (new), and 2 carry-overs.


They were plentiful on the ship, with some being shown at night on a huge jumbotron-type screen, and others being shown on rotation onthe television channels. We watched several snippets of a lot of movies, and managed to add about a half-dozen to the “watched” list…

Journey to the Center of the Earth (2008) – was handled better than I was expecting… an interesting twist on what has now become an almost cliche movie idea…

Kung Fu Panda (2008) – Also very good, with several subtle story points and ideas that can appeal across generations.

The Dark Knight (2008) – No, I did not see it during its (original) theatrical run (I hear there’s plans to bring it back out for a possible Oscar run for Heath Ledger)… But there was something really cool about watching it in the middle of the ocean, under a clear night sky… Very good movie, that lived up to most of the hype.

Hancock (2008) – Mixed reviews prompted me to avoid the theatrical run, but I thought the idea was very good. I thought the “really big plot twist” worked, but it also felt a little off by the end of the movie… that it went from being about “Hancock” to “Hancock and the others”… Not a bad movie, but I am kinda glad I didn’t try to take in the theatrical run…

There were snippets of other movies that were watched, but not the complete films, to mention some of them, and the fact that several will probably show up on the Netflix list at some point in the future: Baby Mama, Across the Universe, Sex and the City, Golden Compass, Juno, Devil Wears Prada, Alvin and the Chipmunks, Wall-E…

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Many Happy Returns…

I wanted to say something about a friend of mine, but wanted to make sure it was something that stood alone, instead of just being tacked on to another post.

I have a friend of mine, someone that I have known since starting college (way back in 1994)… We were in Air Force ROTC together, played Magic and D&D together, and even took a couple of non-ROTC classes together… And I was also in a few classes (and in ROTC) with his wife… I consider both of them to be some of the closest people that I have in my life (he was one of the first people I asked to be a groomsman for both my weddings… and when he couldn’t make it to the 2nd – which is something I’m getting to in a moment – I asked her to be involved)… I could list a few other points, but to keep it short: I hold them both in very high regard, and despite our geographic distance, we have always tried to maintain some form of contact since we graduated and went off into the world.

Scott was sent over to Afganistan last year, actually flying over just after the new year started. We spoke on the phone before he left, talking about the area he would be in – in general terms (one of the top 5 “hot zones” at the time, if I recall correctly), and the most sincere thing that I could think to say was, “watch you six”. There were other words involved, but that was the ultimate point that I was trying to get out.

Flash forward almost a year, and Jenn (his wife) is down for the wedding, when she tells me, “Scott will be coming home, Sunday” (the day after the wedding). So, I am taking this chance to publicly say, “Welcome home, Scott.” It’s good to have you back, stateside, and if you need anything – eh-knee-thing!! – don’t hesitate to ask.

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I’m Back…

Just in time for the new year… well, not really, since we’re almost a week after the ball has dropped… but I (we) have returned from our South American honeymoon. To many things that I would like to try and post, but I am and work, and don’t have everything lined up that I would like to say (including pictures, etc.)… so that will have to be pending….

I also need to make some corrections and updates, with regards to the “movies watched and books read” items, but that will also come in the “recap” post. As will the “2009 Resolutions” be in the works… I’m working on the “To Do” list as I type this, and it is just going to take a bit of time to put it all together…

Right, now it’s off to Flickr, to get a space ready for pictures…

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